The Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County is proud to host the annual Arts & Culture Empowerment Awards breakfast, celebrating individuals, organizations, and businesses who have made significant contributions to the Fairfield County community through arts and culture.
This year’s 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.
ACE Award, 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.
ACE Award, 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.
ACE Award, 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.
ACE Award, 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.
ACE Award, 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.
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.
ACE Award, 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.
ACE Award, 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.
ACE Award, 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.
ACE Award, 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.
ACE Award, Citizen: Dennis Bradbury is 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.
See a video of the 2018 presentations here.
In 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.”
ACE Award, 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.
ACE Award, 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.”
ACE Award, 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.
ACE Award, 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.
ACE Award, 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.
The inagural Arts & Culture 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.
ACE Award, 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
ACE Award, Nonprofit: Lou Ursone chief executive officer and artistic director of Curtain Call
ACE Award, 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
ACE Award, Educator: The educational staff of the Bruce Museum for their exemplary work in arts and science education.
ACE Award, Citizen: Richard J. Wenning, executive director of BeFoundation, a family foundation devoted to dramatic improvement in the education of underserved children in Connecticut.