The Daniel E. Offutt III
Arts & Culture Empowerment Awards


The Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County is proud to host the annual Arts & Culture Empowerment Awards breakfast, celebrating individuals, organizations, and businesses that have made significant contributions to the Fairfield County community through arts and culture.

On August 6, 2021, The Board of Directors of the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County announced the award of funds from the Daniel E. Offutt, III Charitable Trust. A portion of this award is to be used to fund and support the ACE Awards, now to be known as The Daniel E. Offutt III Arts & Culture Empowerment Awards.

The Awards are as follows:

NEW! Community Accelerator Award: Recognizes an individual who has contributed significantly to driving culture, enriching the coastal Fairfield County community, and who serves as a champion of arts and culture through volunteerism, financial support, and/or advocacy.

Artist Award: Recognizes a creative individual or group in Fairfield County who has demonstrated a commitment to artistic excellence as well as working for access, awareness, and/or advocacy for the arts and culture community.

Corporate Award: Recognizes a business that has helped to excite the interest and support of arts and culture in Fairfield County through encouragement, exposure and patronage; or that has made a significant contribution to the economic development of Fairfield County with an emphasis on elevating the creative sector.

Educator Award: Recognizes an individual, nonprofit or creative business that has made a substantial impact on the arts and cultural education of students and citizens of Fairfield County through innovative approaches to programming, access and/or advocacy.

Nonprofit Award: Recognizes an organization or leader that has made a distinct contribution to arts and culture in Fairfield County through visionary leadership, commitment to advancement, community engagement and/or creative innovation.


20232022 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 |

The Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County is the proud host of the annual Daniel E. Offutt III Arts & Culture Empowerment (ACE) Awards breakfast, celebrating individuals, organizations, and businesses that have made significant contributions to the Fairfield County community through arts and culture.



The 2023 ACE Awards Breakfast was held on June 21, 2023. A video of the event can be seen at; a 1-minute highlights video is at: See the Program Book at:


This year, the ACE Awards event highlighted the significant role that artists and arts and cultural institutions play in connecting communities across government, businesses, nonprofit agencies, educational institutions and municipalities.

In addition to our regular 5 awards, in 2023 we made an additional President’s Award to Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in honor of their significant impact on the arts, culture, and children’s health in Fairfield County.

SPEAKERS: Michelle Lapine McCabe, Executive Director, Connecticut Main Street Center, gave a keynote address that focused on her own role in bringing communities together to invigorate and sustain our downtowns. In addition to Michelle, speakers included Elizabeth Shapiro, Director of Arts, Preservation and Museums (DECD) and Jason Mancini, Executive Director, Connecticut Humanities. Our MC will again be Tony-Award winner James Naughton.


Artist: Cris Dam is an artist-entrepreneur who has pioneered artists spaces in Berlin, Williamsburg and now Bridgeport. A productive artist himself, he is also a curator, entrepreneur and community organizer. After establishing his studio in Bridgeport, and reviving the art events at the historic Arcade Mall, he went on to establish Ursa Gallery in 2020, with his partner architect-designer Dustin Malstrom. Ursa’s shows not only give space to Fairfield County artists but add to the mix artists from around the world. Cris is now keen to introduce Bridgeport artists to the world, organizing the first Bridgeport booth at Art Basel Miami in 2022 and planning participation in future international art fairs. He is currently developing real estate on Fairfield Avenue in Bridgeport to create working spaces for fellow artists, raise community awareness, host events, and open a coffee roaster. Cris also teaches children in community art and leadership programs at Norwalk Community College. His vision as both an artist and promoter of the arts is unparalleled and will continue to grow. His presence as an artist, curator, colleague, teacher and entrepreneur have helped catapult Bridgeport into a new era.


Citizen: Vic Mulaire. In 1987, when Vic Mulaire moved his Cricket Hosiery Co to Bridgeport, he had no idea he would be establishing the first of the five artists’ spaces that now thrive across Bridgeport. As one of the first companies to use the combination of knitting machines with computers, graphic artists were employed to design socks distributed internationally. In the early 90s, artist John Carnright set up a studio in extra space and other artists soon  followed – much to Vic’s delight. Before long, an arts community had formed, adopting the name, Nest Arts Factory. In 2012, Cricket Hosiery and the Nest moved to the current Fairfield Ave. location. The sock company was sold, but the building lease was kept for the growing arts community. Easels and drawing tables replaced knitting machines and warehousing. Today, the Nest continues as a thriving community of artists working in a wide variety of media, with open space and a dedicated gallery allowing performing and visual artists to share their work with the community. Resident artists speak glowingly of Vic’s selfless generosity, kindness, patience, and dedication. Encouraging creative expression, he maintains a respectful, safe, and supportive atmosphere for the group and continues to foster a vibrant community within the space and the community at large.

Corporate: David Genovese. Since founding Baywater Properties in 2001, David Genovese has demonstrated a strong commitment to community needs in Fairfield County through both corporate philanthropy and working with nonprofit organizations. In 2007, he developed the Wilson Avenue Loft Artists in Norwalk, providing 15 studio spaces for artists, and that year was named one of the “40 under 40” business leaders in Fairfield County. Since 2008, he and his partner, Penny Glassmeyer, have sponsored the Darien Summer Nights Concert Series, bringing in musicians from around the country, and organize “Art on the Plaza,” where dozens of artists show their work in downtown each summer. To enliven the urban fabric, David is working with muralist Brian Kaspr, and, to stimulate discussion around mental health issues, with the You are Not Alone Murals Project. In 2018, David was presented with the Founders Award by The Connecticut Main Street Center, in recognition of his firm’s work on The Corbin District, a transformational mixed-use redevelopment in downtown. David has been a board member of the Human Services Council of Norwalk, the Darien Historical Society, the Darien YMCA, and many other nonprofits, and is highly respected in the business and real estate community.

Educator: Jenny Nelson has been an educator in theatre and music for over 20 years. She has two Master’s Degrees in Theatre — from the University of Arizona and Fairfield University — was a professor at City College of New York’s Graduate Program for Theatre Educators, has worked with many theatres, including Long Wharf, The Shubert, and Yale Rep., and with the Regional Center for the Arts. She is also Associate Artistic Director of Collective Consciousness Theatre. An exceptional educator, Jenny built the entire arts education program for the Westport Country Playhouse. She is deeply committed to engaging with Pre-K-12 students and adults through the art of theater to create experiences that inspire lifelong learning as well as fostering lasting partnerships with our community. Her education program is built on four tenets: empathy, literacy, collaboration, and activism. She lives these values every day, through her programs, such as the Playhouse Mobile Unit, a fully-staged play traveling to schools and surrounding communities building sustainable relationships with historically underserved audiences. Jenny is actively engaged in Westport DEI Education, in partnership with TEAM Westport and Westport Library. She is an inspiration to all who work with her, and has inspired thousands of young people in CT with her work.

Nonprofit: Fairfield Museum and History Center. Fairfield Museum and History Center is a community-centered museum that uses the power of the arts and humanities to inspire imagination, stimulate thought, spark important dialogue, and catalyze meaningful collaborations in a safe, trustworthy environment. Under the visionary leadership of executive director Michael Jehle, the Museum has become a vibrant and growing nexus of community life that welcomes more than 30,000 visitors annually. Fairfield Museum presents a broad range of humanities exhibitions that delve deeply into the issues of our time, as well as art exhibitions like the decade-long IMAGES photography show, that have encouraged and inspired up-and-coming artists from throughout Fairfield County. The Museum works closely with regional schools to support national, state, and local learning goals, by offering high-quality educational programs to more than 4,000 students and teachers from 65 schools in the region. Fairfield Museum believes that sharing diverse stories about our past, celebrating the individual’s role in creating and catalyzing social change, and promoting the value of an informed and active citizenry help empower students and their families to become active lifelong learners. The Museum partners with and supports dozens of artists, artisans, musicians, and performers, and collaborates with many fellow organizations in fostering a vibrant arts and culture community for Fairfield County.

President’s Award: Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, in recognition of their significant impact on arts, culture, children’s education and illness, and environmental preservation in our region. The couple met in 1953 and moved to Westport in 1960. While known as Hollywood’s power couple, in their private life they surrounded themselves with the people and philanthropic causes they cherished the most, opting to live quietly and raise their family out of the limelight as much as possible. 

Over the years they actively supported many organizations, including The Westport Public Library, the Westport Historical Society, and the Westport Country Playhouse.  Joanne also served as artistic director of the Playhouse from 2001-2005 and directed and acted in many Playhouse productions. Paul famously starred in a revival of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” at the Playhouse in 2002, directed by James Naughton, which quickly transferred to Broadway. They also dedicated themselves to land preservation around CT, including working to save Troutbrook Valley (now The Newman-Poses Preserve). 

Paul’s entrepreneurial successes included founding, with AE Hotchner, the well-known food company, Newman’s Own and Newman’s Own Foundation. Since 1982, Newman’s Own Foundation has given more than $600 million to worthy causes. Paul’s interest in helping children with serious illnesses lead to the establishment of The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, CT, in 1988, providing opportunities for children to experience the transformational spirit of camp. That sparked a movement through which Paul and others would open similar camps around the world, and today, the SeriousFun Children’s Network consists of 30 camps and programs that has served 1.7 million children living with more than 130 serious and rare medical conditions, totally free of charge. Paul and Joanne’s daughter Clea Newman Soderlund proudly serves as the Ambassador for SeriousFun, and the family continues to support many social and environmental causes, as well as their parents’ philanthropic legacy.


Here are the details of previous ACE Awards (2016-2022):


The 2022 Awards Breakfast, the first live ACE event since COVID, was held on June 15, 2022, back at the Shore and Country Club, Norwalk. The breakfast event celebrated the joyful resilience of arts and culture, and their power to bring communities together, especially in times of crisis.

CAFC President, Cheryl Williams, opened the proceedings, and James Naughton was once again our entertaining Master of Ceremonies. Keynote David Lehman, Commissioner of Connecticut’s Dept of Economic and Community Development, testified how during the pandemic, he learned from colleagues Elizabeth Shapiro, head of the CT Office of the Arts, and Jason Mancini, ED of CT Humanities, not only about the economic impact of the arts in CT ($10 billion in 2020), but also how arts and culture operate as a tool for healing, for creating spaces to have nuanced conversations about complex issues, for bringing virtual classes and performances to those isolated during COVID, as a bridge to facilitating conversations about inequity and injustice, and more. Shapiro and Mancini also spoke at the event, and Lehman, Shapiro, and Mancini will continue working closely together to remake the funding of the state’s cultural infrastructure.


Artist: Alicia Cobb is a multi-faceted visual artist and emerging leader who is a source of inspiration for the local community and beyond. Alicia’s signature medium is body painting. She treats the human body as a sacred canvas, has been praised for her artistry, and placed in the top ten of a national competition. Her 2020 PBS interview with Ray Hardman on his “Where Art Thou?” series on Connecticut’s cultural identity was selected as one of the top 5 in the series. Alicia is also an accomplished muralist: several of her works are featured throughout the city of Bridgeport. She is a member of the Marketing Committee of the Bridgeport Downtown Special Services District and has been Co-Chair of the annual, day-long Jane’s Walk celebration of local, civic and community leaders.  Alicia’s intersectional lived experience as a biracial woman has been omnipresent throughout her work. She is also a teaching artist who connects with students through arts integration residencies, and curricular enhancement programs. She specializes in designing curricula to foster creativity, curiosity, self-awareness, and authenticity, using visual art as a conduit to help others process the world and events around them more fluidly. Alicia’s devotion to young artists is especially inspiring.


Citizen: William D. Felton has been the chairman of the board of directors at the Westport Arts Center for over ten years. A leader among leaders who inspires the best in those around him, he has fostered and developed a board community that strives for excellence and productivity. He was key in moving the Westport Art Center to its next level of success, leading the multi-year effort to find, secure and improve its new home, as MoCA Westport, on Newtown Turnpike. His bold selection of the new name, physical location, and supervision of its design and construction, matched his choices of a world-class professional team to curate and produce shows and performances through the pandemic. The new building will serve the organization, and Fairfield County, for generations to come with many notable exhibits, concerts, programs and opportunities to unite our various towns through the arts.  The Felton family has provided strong financial support not only to MoCA Westport but also to many other Fairfield County arts institutions and artists. His unwavering commitment to the arts, his leadership, guidance, passion and philanthropy, is an inspiration for others to follow. Sponsored by Gary Cosgrave and Lundberg Family Foundation.


Corporate: For more than 150 years, Fairfield County Bank’s community leadership has extended far beyond banking. The Bank, and its President Daniel Berta, have been strong supporters of the arts in Fairfield County for decades, giving financial support and  participating in the arts and cultural life in each town they touch. A good neighbor, community champion, and generous benefactor, the Bank is well known for its commitment and a passion for giving back.  In 2021, Fairfield County Bank donated more than $1MM to local non-profits, and the Bank’s employees collectively volunteered more than 3,500 hours with charities throughout Fairfield County. Over the last five years, the Bank has donated $700,000 in corporate contributions specifically to 55 arts and culture nonprofits, providing over 675 volunteer hours. Ten employees have volunteered in leadership roles with arts and culture organizations, and the Bank places many more volunteers and gives professional advice to the sector. Overall, these and many other examples demonstrate Fairfield County Bank’s dedication to making arts and culture available to everyone in our community through the organizations that make it possible.


Educator: Pam Lewis/Connect-Us has led a life of creating innovative and developmental after-school programs. Her work as a youth organizer began in 1984 as a producer of grassroots community talent shows in New York City. Throughout her decades-long career, Pam has worked with thousands of young people to create new performances in their lives. In 2017, Pam established the Bridgeport-based nonprofit Connect-Us, a youth development organization that connects suburban and urban neighbors in Fairfield County through a suite of free after-school programs that leverage a performance-based approach to youth and community development. Pam is dedicated to creating meaningful partnerships with local schools, nonprofits, businesses, and residents across Fairfield County. Connect-Us’s programs help young people to develop the skills they need to be successful in life –– whether it’s writing a resume, discussing social issues, working as part of a team, or finding their voice. As one former participant put it: “This organization feels to me like a kind of heartbeat for young Bridgeport creatives.”


Nonprofit: City Lights/Bridgeport Art Trail is an artist-led nonprofit organization that “serves the community through art.” Under the leadership of Suzanne Kachmar, City Lights and Co is an art gallery but is also much more. City Lights has tirelessly promoted the artists of Bridgeport, giving them their first art exhibitions, training artists as educators, assisting them to write grants to provide culturally enriching programming, championing public arts projects, organizing participation in Make  Music Day, and much more. City Lights may be best known for creating the Bridgeport Art Trail (BAT), the largest celebration of the arts in Fairfield County, with more than 6,000 visitors streaming through city-wide open studios and attending gallery shows, music, and poetry slams during the 13th BAT in 2021. City Lights also created the annual Greater Bridgeport Pride event in 2010 and represents for many the furnace of creativity that is growing in Bridgeport.  Sponsored by Spinnaker Real Estate Partners.




President’s Award: Alexandra Davern Korry (1959-2020) was a trailblazing lawyer, educator, and civil rights advocate, who was instrumental in the abolition of solitary confinement for juvenile inmates in New York City, was head of the New York State Advisory Committee to the US Commission on Civil Rights, and chair of the Harlem Educational Activities Fund, serving 300 young people a year, changing lives from middle school through college, with academic enrichment, social and cultural exposure, and individual attention. That commitment sparked another project: the Norwalk Art Space. Alexandra envisioned the space before her diagnosis of ovarian cancer. She found the property, a 1935 former Christian Science Church, adjacent to Mathews Park, Norwalk, realizing it was perfect for an art gallery, studios and classrooms. She envisioned a space that would enhance educational opportunities for under-served students, promote under-represented local artists, and provide the public a welcoming space to enjoy art and music.  Alexandra worked with Westport architect Rick Hoag, shepherded it along while sick, but passed away before construction was completed. The Norwalk Art Space building, ADK House, is named in her honor. The renovated building was recently recognized by Preservation CT with an Award of Merit.


We are very grateful to our sponsors who supported this important annual event: Cindy Raney & Team and Fairfield County Bank (Gold Sponsors), WSHU a gold-sponsor-level media partner, Gary Cosgrave, The Lundberg Family Foundation and Spinnaker Real Estate Partners (Award Sponsors), and Cohen and Wolf and Leifer properties (Silver Sponsors). We also wish to thank Elizabeth P. Ball and an anonymous donor as “Champions” of the event, and New Revenue Consulting for sponsoring this event at the “Friend” level.

Photographs of the event are by Barbara Loss. The video recording of the 2022 ACE Awards was made by Daniel Recinos and is available here. A 2-minute highlights reel is here. A short report is available here – and the program booklet is available here, at



The 2020 ACE Awards were a virtual, cocktail hour celebration, held on October 22, 5:30pm, with James Naughton as our live host and MC, who introduced short filmed interviews he conducted with our awardees. Tony Award winner Joanna Gleason then gave a live address on the essential role of music and arts education in her life and that of the wider community. Our vice president, Cheryl Williams, introduced the evening with comments on this tumultuous year for arts and culture, and Elizabeth Shapiro, Director of Arts, Museums and Preservation at the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development spoke about the resilience of the arts and culture in this difficult period in which we continue to struggle to survive the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

The awardees are as follows:

Artist: Miggs Burroughs is a lifelong resident of Westport, a full-time graphic artist, who has designed hundreds of logos, ads, brochures, and websites for commercial and non-profit clients throughout Fairfield County since 1972. He has won much acclaim for his lenticular photographs, that explore change and transition in his subjects, seen in many solo shows across Fairfield County. A graduate of Carnegie-Mellon University, Miggs has taught graphic design at Fairfield University and UCONN Stamford. He is a founding member of the Artists Collective of Westport, and was the first Artist in Residence at the Westport Library. Knowing how the art world works, Miggs rolls up his sleeves to help wherever he can. A mentor to many, Miggs is an indefatigable volunteer, who has been named Volunteer of the Year by several local nonprofits. Artist Award sponsored by Gary Cosgrave.


Citizen: Bernicestine McLeod and Harold Bailey are committed to working in tandem to extend their philanthropic and civic impact. Both attended Brown University and are now both Brown trustees emeriti. Bernicestine is President and Founder of McLeod Associates, an IT consulting firm, and was previously a Systems Engineer with IBM. Prior to his retirement as IBM’s Vice President of Lotus Marketing Integration, Harold worked at IBM for 30 years in marketing, sales, and services. They are now principals in a family-owned toy company — Aisha & Co, LLC. Both have leadership roles in TEAM Westport (Together Effectively Achieving Multiculturalism), a committee of the Town of Westport since 2005 — Harold as Chair and Bernicestine as Secretary. Harold is a board member of the Westport Country Playhouse and was a founding member of the Stamford chapter of 100 Black Men. Bernicestine has served on many local boards including the Westport Library and Fairfield County’s Community Foundation and is currently Board Chair of Bridgeport’s Mary & Eliza Freeman Center For History and Community, taking the lead in new capacity building, development, restoration, and advancement efforts.

Corporate: The SoNo Collection, owned by global real estate services company Brookfield Properties, opened in 2019 in South Norwalk as a modern boutique shopping center, with a commitment to supporting the arts, culture and community in Fairfield County. Arts Brookfield is a program of Brookfield Properties to present concerts, theater, dance, film screenings, and art exhibitions to bring public spaces to life through art. The SoNo Collection has already demonstrated its commitment to the Fairfield County community in many ways and has shown it to be a leader in corporate support for the arts. From initially seeking input and feedback from the arts and cultural community to hosting ongoing gatherings to explore collaborations, it has set a great example of corporate responsibility. Its current “Art at SoNo” program, featuring a wide array of local, national and international artists, is a testament to its creative thinking and expansive support for the arts. Award received by Matthew Seebeck, Senior General Manager. Sponsored by Spinnaker Real Estate Partners.


Educator: Elizabeth M. Gaynor has been a dancer, teacher, arts advocate and pivotal figure in the performing arts in Connecticut for more than 50 years. In 1970, she founded the Elizabeth Gaynor Studio with a single class for five-year-olds in a small studio in her home. She served as principal teacher and director as the school grew and evolved first into the Southport Ballet School, then the Connecticut Ballet Theatre School and finally, in 1994, the Connecticut Dance School, widely known for its excellent standard of dance technique for its students. She has retired as director, but continues to serve as president of the not-for-profit organization. Beside teaching students, the school she founded offers scholarships to area children and provides outstanding performances in and for the public schools in the greater Bridgeport area. As a result, thousands of local children have the opportunity to experience the joy of a live dance performance.


Nonprofit: KEYS offers music education to Bridgeport students whose schools cannot provide it and whose families cannot afford it. It was founded by jazz musician, composer and music educator Rob Silvan, the current director, in 2004 in a hallway at Columbus School in Bridgeport, with its first four piano students. KEYS now operates in 25 Bridgeport schools, providing free one-to-one music education to over 600 Bridgeport children every year, as well as instruments for students, as needed, during the program. KEYS also offers after-school practice sessions, group music instruction and workshops, a non-audition orchestra, concert band, and chorus at Bridgeport’s Klein Auditorium, summer programs, an extensive Saturday program, and active collaborations with other non-profit organizations. KEYS believes a well-rounded education, including arts education, is a vital means of breaking the cycle of poverty. Its objective is to provide this essential part of an education that many are denied because of arts-starved school budgets and limited family financial resources.


Photographs of awardees are by Joseph Michael Lopez. The video recording of the 2020 ACE Awards is available here. The Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County expresses its greatest gratitude to Douglas Tirola and 4th Row Films for their superb professionalism and generosity in filming the award interviews for us. The program is available here, at



The 2019 ACE Awards Breakfast keynote focused on nurturing the creative side in all of us. TV Producer and writer Chris Ambrose shared his experience as an artist on how to keep the creative juices flowing, even when he’s asked to rewrite, edit and go back to the drawing board. For more than 20 years, Chris has been a writer of network television dramas. He is currently working on a new show for NBC. He shares his lifelong passion for writing as a mentor in LA and NY, helping young writers hone their skills and encouraging them to believe that everything is possible.

Artist: Jane Davila, a fiber and mixed-media artist who incorporates many printmaking techniques in her work. She teaches printmaking, surface design, and art business workshops extensively across the U.S. as well as internationally. For the last 15 years, Jane has mentored artists, in groups, in workshops, and one-on-one, to empower them to monetize their art careers, to create and manage their digital and online presences, and to efficiently and easily handle marketing and promoting tasks. Jane works from a studio at the NEST Arts Factory in Bridgeport, where she is also the Managing Director.

Citizen: Nick Visconti was a philanthropist and restauranteur in Westport when he was invited by its founder to serve on the board of the Drew Friedman Community Arts Center Foundation. After Drew’s passing, Nick resurrected the foundation and, along with artist/photographer Miggs Burroughs and Nick’s sister Louise Fusco, continues to serve on the board of the foundation which has provided financial support to Project Return, Homes with Hope, Homes for the Brave, CLASP Homes, Artists Collective of Westport, Westport Permanent Art Collection, Downtown Merchants Association and various art scholarships. Last year, with Nick’s leadership, the foundation expanded its focus to new audiences, funding art programs for homeless women and their children, homeless veterans and special needs. children.

Corporate: Since its founding six decades ago by two enterprising lawyers, Herbert L. Cohen and Austin K. Wolf, Cohen and Wolf, P.C. prides itself on its level of involvement in the community. Today, the full-service firm of over 50 lawyers, with four offices in Fairfield and New Haven counties, encourages its attorneys to give of their time, talent and treasure. As a result, Cohen and Wolf attorneys are currently serving in the leadership of more than 100 organizations, associations, commissions, and boards throughout the area, including Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Westport Arts Center, Quick Center for the Arts, Westport Country Playhouse, the Shubert Theater and many other arts organizations.

Educator: Gina Scarpa is the Director of Education at Center Stage. She is the founder of the Center Stage Education Center, which serves over 115 students from across Fairfield County and beyond each semester. She oversees all classes, camp programs and staff both at Center Stage and at area schools. Gina prides herself on creating a positive and supportive atmosphere where kids use musical theater to gain confidence. A graduate of Post University with a degree in Marketing, Gina is also an accomplished voiceover artist with an extensive background in radio broadcasting.

Nonprofit: Founded in 2011, INTEMPO provides high-quality music education to children predominantly from immigrant or first-generation backgrounds and from communities underrepresented in the arts, helping them build critical emotional, cognitive, and behavioral skills, and empowering them to leverage these skills to achieve life success. INTEMPO has been recognized by the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC), the Sphinx Organization, and the State of Connecticut Office of the Arts. Founder and Executive Director Angelica Durrell is an Ecuadorian-born violinist, educator and social entrepreneur. In 2017, she became the first Latina commissioner of the City of Stamford’s Arts and Culture Commission. She is also an artist ambassador for SpreadMusicNow.

See a video of the 2019 presentations here.


In 2018, we were pleased to welcome Robin Tauck, business leader, philanthropist and co-owner/former president and CEO of Tauck, Inc., a leading, third-generation global luxury travel company as the ACE Awards keynote speaker. As the founder and president of Tauck Ritzau Innovative Philanthropy (TRIP), a private family foundation, Robin spoke first hand about the importance of supporting cultural organizations, working to create economic development and improve the quality of life for people around the world.

2018 Recipients
Artist: Megan Bonneau McCool is a multi-talented artist who danced as an apprentice with the New York City Ballet and choreographed more than 30 commissioned ballets at area colleges. She teaches at local ballet schools, choreographs musicals for her town’s public schools, and volunteers with Stratford Academy’s Cultural Arts Program to bring enriching hands-on experiences and multi-cultural performances to the students.

Citizen: Dennis Bradbury is the founder and curator of 22 Haviland Street Gallery in South Norwalk. A successful photographer and active promoter of Norwalk and area artists, she strives to bring people together through art; encouraging understanding, inclusiveness, professional collaboration, and friendships, all of which has enhanced the cultural experience in Fairfield County.

Corporate: Valerie Cooper, founder of Picture That Art Consultants, a Stamford-based international fine art experts and appraisers known for their culture of collaboration, commitment to strengthening the communities they serve, and their ability to create private/public partnerships with state, community and nonprofit stakeholders to produce projects of lasting value.

Educator: Jim Royle teaches percussion in his Bridgeport Drums & Percussion Studio to students of all ages and levels. While Jim enjoys his own performance career, his love of music and the pleasure of passing this love onto future musicians are his passion. His studio is well known for turning out remarkable performers who are skilled in many aspects of percussion, advancing from Drum to World, Latin, Afro-Cuban, Orchestra, Steel Drums, Timpani, and Mallet studies.

Nonprofit: New England Dance Theater is inspired to create awareness, access and appreciation of the arts through dance, reaching Fairfield County residents regardless of ability to pay. Community outreach efforts include educational programming and dance performances at schools, hospitals, and senior care facilities, as well as the annual Nutcracker Benefit Show for guests from local family and youth service organizations.

See a video of the 2018 presentations here.


On June 7, 2017, the ACE Awards breakfast was kicked off by Master of Ceremonies, James Naughton, Tony Award winning actor and singer, followed by keynote speaker Kelli O’Hara, unequivocally one of Broadway’s great leading ladies. She spoke about growing up in Oklahoma, where her parents encouraged her to explore the arts beyond her small community. Today, Kelli is an award-winning Broadway actress, opera singer and television star.

Kristina Newman-Scott, Director of Culture for the Connecticut Office of the Arts, also addressed the ACE Award breakfast attendees about how arts and culture can be an important economic driver for communities.

“The arts are extremely important to our community and to our future,” said Kristina. “We know that the thing that attracts people to a region, especially millennials, is culture. So, when we talk about economic development, we are talking about the arts and everything that entails.”

2017 Recipients:
Artist: Shanna Melton is an award-winning poet, painter and art consultant based in Bridgeport. In addition to sharing her words, paintings, and ideas with audiences around the world, she has curated numerous artistic events, bringing artists and musicians together to share their work and inspire others. In 2011, Shanna was presented with the State of Connecticut’s Woman to Know Award, given to those who create positive change in their communities and earlier this year, she received the 2017 Humanitarian Award from The Al-Aziz Islamic Center for “Being a Positive Example in the Community.”

Citizen: Michael Widland, attorney with Shipman & Goodwin, has a passion for the arts and has been involved in many arts and cultural institutions in Fairfield County throughout his career. He currently serves on the board of the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk and the Mill River Park Collaborative, among others. In 2012, Michael played a pivotal role in saving the Stamford Center for the Arts (SCA), using his experience with both corporate restructurings and not-for-profits to successfully guide this major cultural arts organization through bankruptcy, reorganization and —ultimately— revitalization.

Corporate: Spinnaker Real Estate Partners maintains a high level of commitment to strengthening of the communities it serves. It is known for a culture of collaboration and the ability to create private/public partnerships with state, community and nonprofit stakeholders to produce projects of lasting value.

Educator: Pamela Kuhn is an operatic soprano who has dedicated her life to the art of singing. Pamela has performed more than 20 operatic roles in her career, on operatic stages in Vienna, London, Venice, Paris and numerous cities across the United States. Locally, she serves as the creator, music director and conductor of the Angel Choir, dedicated to performing for cancer patients, survivors, caregivers and others who benefit from the rehabilitative power of music. Pamela has also conducted numerous chorale groups, produced “The Art of Song,” providing a stage to foster young talent and hosts a weekly radio talk show on 1490 WGCH about the arts and the artists behind their work.

Nonprofit: Silvermine Arts Center has produced cutting-edge shows over the years, bringing in curators and artists from progressive art enclaves throughout the Northeast. The Center prides itself on giving Connecticut artists opportunities for recognition on a larger stage. Its commitment to inclusion has increased awareness of the rich arts scene throughout Fairfield County.


The inaugural Arts & Culture Empowerment (ACE) Awards breakfast was held on May 19, 2016. It featured keynote speaker Arthur Levitt, the 25th and longest serving Chairman of the SEC, with an introduction by Karen Brooks Hopkins, President Emeritus of the Brooklyn Academy of Music and current Senior Fellow in Residence at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The keynote focused on the vital ecomonic role that arts and culture provide to our communities.

2016 Recipients:
Artist: Westport Artists’ Collective founders Duvian Montoya, Nina Bentley, Miggs Burroughs, Tammy Winser, Helen Klisser During and Jahmane West, recognized for encouraging the careers and talents of local artists and contributing to our diverse artistic community

Citizen: Richard J. Wenning, executive director of BeFoundation, a family foundation devoted to dramatic improvement in the education of underserved children in Connecticut.

Corporate: Bank of America, a leading supporter of the arts and sponsor of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation’s Giving Day, which raised more than $1 million in 24 hours for local nonprofits

Educator: The educational staff of the Bruce Museum for their exemplary work in arts and science education.

Nonprofit: Lou Ursone chief executive officer and artistic director of Curtain Call.

See a report on Arthur Levitt’s speech: “How To Best Value Creative Art”