Saturday, June 19, 2010
Trinity Rep bestows Pell Awards honoring arts
By Channing Gray
Journal Arts Writer
Sunday, June 20, 2010 12:02 a.m
The Providence Journal / Ruben W. Perez
About 440 fans of Trinity Rep turned out Saturday night at the Foundry complex for the theater’s annual Pell Awards, which recognize excellence in the arts. The event, which benefits programs at Trinity Rep, raised an estimated $230,000.
Guests munched on sushi and other Asian delights as they mingled with the likes of Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed, who introduced the award for jazz promoter George Wein, one of three recipients.
“It seems to grow every year,” said the Oscar-nominated actor Richard Jenkins, a Rhode Islander who was there with wife, Sharon. “Senator Pell did so much for the arts, it’s just a great legacy.”
Sitting at a table with the late Claiborne Pell’s daughter Dallas Pell was his widow, Nuala, who said she wished her husband could have seen the festivities. “He would have loved it,” she said.
The awards were given to Wein, Umberto Crenca, founder of AS220, and Liza Minnelli, who mingled with the patrons who paid $1,000 for a VIP reception with the star. Minnelli said little at the reception and sang a song when she was given the award.
Minnelli was not only recognized for her career as a performer but for her charitable causes, such as support for AIDS research.
Curt Columbus, artistic director of Trinity Rep, said that the awards are given not just for an artist’s creative output but for their contribution to the community.
“A big part of it is how art fits into society, not as a precious thing, but how it fits into everyday life.”
Crenca, the head of AS220, the artists’ cooperative that provides gallery space and studios, said he was accepting the award for “thousands of artists and staff” who have taken part in AS220 programs. After a brief acceptance speech, he joked that he hoped Trinity would split the proceeds of the night with his organization. That got a laugh.
The awards were scheduled from 5 to 10 p.m., with dinner and dancing after the awards ceremony.
“I’m excited to see all this excitement in Providence, said WaterFire creator Barnaby Evans.
“It’s a great evening for anyone who cares about the arts,” said Providence Mayor David Cicilline.
This is the 14th year for the awards, which have honored such luminaries as Jason Robards, Arthur Miller and Robert Redford. Last year, the event, which honored actor Kevin Spacy, raised about $300,000. Richard Jaffe, head of external affairs for Trinity, said there were many gifts last year because of Senator Pell’s passing.
Along with the speech-making, there were a couple of musical tributes. Joe Wilson Jr., a member of the Trinity acting troupe, gave a heartfelt rendition of “Looking at You,” to introduce Minnelli. And Rachael Warren, another Trinity actor, joined forces with a ninth grader from Classical High School for Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” Senator Reed read a message from President Obama praising the arts and wishing everyone at the affair a good time.