Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Americans for the Arts honored seven exceptional individuals at its National Arts Awards black tie gala Oct. 17 at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City. The annual awards recognize artists and arts leaders who exhibit exemplary national leadership and whose work demonstrates extraordinary achievement. This year’s honorees included musicians Tony Bennett and Esperanza Spalding, filmmaker Doug Aitken, philanthropist Roselyne “Cissie” Chroman Swig, leaders Susan and David Goode, and the educational nonprofit Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation.

Bennett was presented the Carolyn Clark Powers Lifetime Achievement Award, honoring a career that has spanned more than seven decades. “I’m 90, but I don’t feel 90,” Bennett said in his acceptance speech. “I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing!” Members of the YoungArts Ensemble and the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts Chamber Singers delighted the crowd with performances of songs Bennett made famous, including “When in Rome” and “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”

By comparison, Esperanza Spalding’s career is still young, though the four-time Grammy Award winner has released five solo albums since her 2006 debut “Junjo.” As the recipient of Americans for the Arts’ Young Artist Award, she said, “When you realize people are paying attention to your work and appreciating it, it's a big boost, of course, for any creator. So I feel grateful.”

The Arts Education award was presented to The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation by Brianna Perez, a New York City teenager whose life was changed by the Foundation’s mission to put musical instruments in the hands of students who can’t afford to buy or rent instruments. “Our work is more important in schools than ever,” said Felice Mancini, who accepted the award for the Foundation. “We have a responsibility to help kids in every way we can.” Brianna’s story is part of the short documentary film “Joe’s Violin,” which traces the violin she received from the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation to a Holocaust survivor who donated the instrument.

Learn more about the awards and all the honorees here