Business Supports the Arts Awards Breakfast reaffirms the arts are valued resources

by Lisa Scails | September 5

This year marks the Cultural Alliance of Western Connecticut’s 12th Annual Business Supports the Arts Awards breakfast – held on October 11th at the Amber Room Colonnade. And, I look forward to it with great enthusiasm.

Yes, it’s a fundraiser. And we’re fortunate that partners and participants find the breakfast to be a favorite time to network and to support the work of the Cultural Alliance. Contributions at this event go a long way to helping arts in the region. So, we especially appreciate the support we receive so we can continue providing services as a connector and collaborator.

Still, the Awards Breakfast is far more than a fundraiser to me.

Our aspiration is to improve access and growth of arts and culture, in order to improve quality of life and the economy. The business and arts connection is an important conversation in this effort. Once a year, we celebrate the arts in many forms with over 300 stakeholders, representing business, arts, and community, to highlight this symbiotic relationship – which may be obvious to some but not to others.

The Awards Breakfast is an occasion to put a spotlight on business leaders and volunteers, who fundamentally get it. These leaders understand the value of the arts in our lives and for a growing community. They understand the impact the arts have on our well-being, on our ability to innovate, to build awareness, and to spur the economy.

Many of these leaders are in the room each year as partners and past award recipients. So, it’s a celebration with those who participate in a meaningful relationship with the arts ongoing but it’s also an opportunity to raise the conversation with others.

In addition, new awards presented each year inspire me and hopefully others too. Honorees remind me and reaffirm that it’s not just art for art sake to make a difference. Their priorities are marked by integrating the arts through programming, volunteerism, and funding. Acknowledging them is a new opportunity to connect, to collaborate, and to grow.

This year it will be our honor to present the 2018 awards to: The Makery Coworking in New Milford, Perry Salvagne Jr. in Danbury, Mary Rindfleisch (posthumously) in Sherman, and the Harambee Youth Center in Danbury.

Our top award, the Business Supports the Arts Award goes to Makery Coworking on Bank Street in New Milford. Makery Coworking began as a business incubator and a space for entrepreneurs to start-up outside of their home. The space has quickly become a go-to community center for the arts. It offers open mic nights, plays, comedy, dance, film and video. In addition, there are visual art exhibits and studio space for photographers and videographers to create.

Founder Tony Vengrove says his mission “is to instigate creativity and build an entrepreneurial community that catalyzes innovation and change in the greater New Milford community. We are bullish on our community and believe if we bring the right people together to collaborate, we will ultimately spur innovation and change — the kind of change that empowers entrepreneurs, stimulates business growth and creates more jobs.”

The Arts in the Community Award will be presented to Perry Salvagne Jr., president of Hodge Insurance Agency on Main Street in Danbury. Salvagne is the vice president of the CityCenter Danbury Board of Commissioners and well known as a long-time advocate for vibrancy on Main Street. We got our first glimpse of Salvagne’s passion for the arts when he was the local leader for YES Danbury (Young Energetic Solutions). YES is a statewide initiative seeking to empower young people to create a vibrant Connecticut. During that time, Salvagne was first in line to support the Accessible Art Project: Arts in the Window presented by the Cultural Alliance.

The Heart of the Arts Award will be given posthumously to Mary Rindfleisch of Sherman. Mary Rindfleisch supported the arts in several communities while working at the Ridgefield Library for more than 20 years. Known to all as completely selfless, Mary was a former and beloved member of the Cultural Alliance Board of Directors and executive director of the Sherman Chamber Ensemble. In addition, we will formally announce the change of name for this award in Mary’s honor.

The Harambee Youth Center of Danbury will be honored with the Arts Impact Life Award. Under the leadership of Executive Director Larry Moore, the Harambee Youth Center supports youth development through their arts and cultural programming. Many cultural events are geared toward African American and Hispanic/Latino culture. Programming includes African drumming, African and Latino dance, African art, and cultural dinner and dance events.

On top of it all, the Awards Breakfast is significant to our mission, but it’s also really fun. Thanks to a wonderful team of committed staff and volunteers this will be another lively time with just enough music and performance, and visual displays to almost make you forget it’s 7:30 in the morning.

There’s lots to look forward to, not the least of which is Christine O’Leary, local comic will be master of ceremonies this year. She’s a real treat for us and sure to be “icing on the cake.”

Lisa Scails is the Executive Director of the Cultural Alliance of Western Connecticut