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A Round of Applause for the 2021 Arts Awardees

Every year, leaders from Westchester’s arts and business community gather to celebrate the stellar accomplishments of ArtsWestchester’s Arts Award Honorees at an event that recognizes artists, cultural organizations, educators and civic leaders who enrich the cultural life of the County, its communities and its citizens. This year’s virtual celebration takes place on April 7 at 6pm, and can be viewed at artsw.org/artsaward. 

Benjamin Boykin
President’s Award

     As an esteemed government leader and Chairman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, Benjamin Boykin has sponsored legislation and numerous bills to protect the safety, security and quality of life for the residents of Westchester County. Chairman Boykin is very active in Westchester’s community and is a steadfast supporter of the non-profit sector. He served as a member of the White Plains Common Council for fourteen years and as a member of the White Plains School Board. Education, youth services, childcare, hunger, affordable housing and the arts are all causes about which he is passionate. In fact, when it comes to the arts, he thinks outside the box. Even during a time when the arts and culture sector was struggling to survive during COVID-19, Boykin championed an increase of $250,000 for ArtsWestchester’s already successful Art$WChallenge grant program, for both the 2020 and 2021 budget years.

Last year alone, the matching grant program leveraged more than $757,000 in funds from private donors for 84 Westchester organizations, which was matched by $353,753 in County funding. Chairman Boykin’s longtime support of the arts runs deep. From JazzFest White Plains to the White Plains Outdoor Arts Festival, he knows how music and art enlivens cities and counties and heals hearts and minds. His 40-plus years as a business executive gives Boykin a unique perspective on government operations, and today he is serving his fourth term on the County Board of Legislators, as Chairman since 2018. During his career, Legislator Boykin has worked extensively with educational and not-for-profit organizations, recognizing early on that public-private partnerships work the best, providing valuable benefits for the economy.

     Boykin has been a White Plains resident for more than 30 years and believes in giving back to his community.  He is a member of the White Plains Outdoor Arts Festival, Meals-on-Wheels of White Plains, a member and District Leader of the City of White Plains Democratic Committee, the Black Democrats of Westchester County and the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. Boykin has an MBA and has been a CPA for 47 years. He is married to Carsandra Spearman Boykin and has two daughters.

Dr. Judith Schwartz
Emily & Eugene Grant Arts Patron Award

A professor, curator, critic, author, lecturer, artist and collector, Dr. Judith S. Schwartz lives and breathes the arts – the ceramic arts that is. Her love of ceramic sculpture and studio pottery began as a ceramics student at Ohio State University, where she first started collecting ceramic artwork from artist colleagues. Her support of ceramic artists, and artists in general, has never wavered. With thousands of pieces in her collection, including works by Howard Kottler, Viola Frey, Peter Voulkos and Robert Arneson, Dr. Schwartz has always had a collector’s eye and a soft spot in her heart for artists. As an educator, Dr. Schwartz served as Professor in the Department of Art and Art Professions at New York University, where she taught studio classes and mentored doctoral students.

She pioneered research on the use of satire in ceramic work and turned it into a book, Confrontational Ceramics, a study of the history of the use of clay as a tool for social commentary. The book so inspired ArtsWestchester, where Dr. Schwartz is a board member, that the organization mounted an exhibition of the same name curated by Dr. Schwartz. Her leadership in the arts has enriched the many boards on which she has served, from the Clay Art Center in Port Chester to the International Academy of Ceramics in Geneva. Dr. Schwartz initiated a project for the International Academy of Ceramics, called “Ceramic World Destinations,” a searchable online resource for ceramic lovers around the world. When not travelling to China, Japan, Korea and places near and far, she and her husband Marty open their Armonk home to arts groups who enjoy their hospitality and stellar art collection.

The Westchester Chordsmen
Arts Organization Award

Since 1953, The Westchester Chordsmen Chorus has served Westchester through song. The Chordsmen is a renowned male chorus dedicated to the singing of the finest a cappella music. Their repertoire extends to Broadway, doo wop, contemporary and more, all in the Barbershop style. Their commitment to musical excellence as well as to having a good time makes them the perfect outlet for creating a unique sound loved by audiences of all ages.

The Westchester Chordsmen is made up of more than 60 men, aged 16-91, from Westchester County and beyond who foster the well-established Barbershop tradition of quartet and chorus singing. The Westchester Chordsmen welcome all voices to its group, from veteran vocalists to those who are just getting started.  They perform at countywide concerts, free community events, senior and rehab centers, and also perform for anniversaries and special events. They even perform private Singing Valentines.  The group also competes at the regional and international levels. The Westchester Chordsmen present an annual Youth A Cappella Festival, free singing lessons programs, scholarships and more, including its annual OVERTONES Magazine. The Chordsmen are the only Westchester Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society.

Vinnie Bagwell
Artist Award

Vinnie Bagwell is an American sculptor. Bagwell, a representational-figurative artist who casts in bronze and bronze resin, uses traditional bas-relief techniques as visual narratives to expand her storytelling.

Bagwell was born in Yonkers, and raised in the Town of Greenburgh. An alumna of Morgan State University, she began sculpting in 1993. She has since won 20 public art commissions around the United States and is credited with reframing public art to include historic Black images. Presently, The Enslaved Africans’ Rain Garden –an urban-heritage, public art project for Yonkers – is slated to be installed in spring 2021. Bagwell is also developing the conceptual design for The Sacred Place of My Ancestors, an African burial ground located in Montgomery, NY. In addition, the City of New York has released $1M in funding to enable her to commence Victory Beyond Sims to replace the J. Marion Sims sculpture on Fifth Avenue in Central Park. Vinnie Bagwell has won numerous awards during her career. Civic engagement is the keystone to her practice. In 2020, she won the Americans for the Arts inaugural Jorge and Darlene Perez Prize ($30K) for her civic-engagement practices. She is passionate about her work, and continues to pursue public art commissions.

The Village of Sleepy Hollow Wishing Wall
Community Award

In early fall of 2020, in the midst of the pandemic and when the Village of Sleepy Hollow was unable to hold its second annual multicultural festival, it undertook an ambitious and complex community mural project entitled The Wishing Wall. People from all throughout the community came together to transform a 520’ long, 10’ high, old, curvy concrete wall, (a relic of the GM assembly plant) into an inspiring expression of hope and unity alongside the Hudson River. For four weeks, more than 250 local residents, from children to seniors, contributed to the design and painting of the mural — including planners, artists, writers, arts educators and volunteer painters of all ages. Paint was donated, artists of all kinds were welcomed and peoples’ ideas and wishes painted upon the wall. Now many new volunteers want to be involved in future projects and The Wishing Wall has become a catalyst to expand community arts programming and a signal of the value placed on public space by the Village.

Jazz Forum Arts: Jitterbugs Program
Sophia Abeles Arts Education Award

In February 2020, the Jazz Forum Arts team was exploring hot to outreach to younger audiences. Within their mission to enhance the appreciation of Jazz, America’s preeminent indigenous musical art form, the jazz-focused family music program Jitterbugs was born.

Jazz Forum Arts planned for in-person classes; then COVID hit. Instead, the organization launched Jitterbugs online in May 2020 as monthly 30-minute sessions for families with 2-5 year-olds. The lead teacher was Jody Redhage Ferber, a musician and educator whose young children were avid participants. Jitterbugs sold out its first class and held nine more for 150+ families.

Each session had a special theme, including improvisation, percussion, Brazilian Jazz and rhythm. Redhage Ferber complemented her approach with guest artists: saxophonist Tia Fuller, percussionist Valtinho Anastacio, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, pianist Pablo Mayor and others.

In 2021, Jazz Forum Arts paused the early childhood program and launched a six-week winter series (through March 27) with a New Orleans Jazz theme, aimed at children aged 4-9 and their families. These workshops are led by guitarist and educator Matt Butterman. The plan is to continue this program seasonally and refresh the early childhood program. When the Jazz Forum is able to reopen, Jitterbugs: Jazz for Kids will hold in-person sessions at the club.

Elijah Goodwin
Larry Salley Photography Award

Photographer Elijah Goodwin has a passion for nature, science, water, flowers, animals, the wilderness, biology and the beauty in our environment that is often overlooked. His goal is to help others to appreciate this beauty through his photography. Goodwin is also a lover of fantasy and science-fiction, an influence that is evident in some of his dreamy landscapes. Goodwin strives to create images that have high aesthetic quality, but also that move beyond the aesthetic. In his nature photography, he creates images that go beyond illustrating the beauty of the natural world, creating images that also illustrate a scientific concept, interesting behavior or a conservation concern. In his fine art digital images, he creates multi-layered photographs steeped in symbolism that attempt to express a scientific concept or human truth. Goodwin has exhibited his photographs at the Blue Door Art Center, Ossining Arts Council Firehouse Gallery, the Art Gallery at the Rockefeller Park Preserve, A. I. Friedman Gallery, Greenburgh Public Library and more.

A version of this article first appeared in the March issue of ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNews is distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at artsw.org/artsnews.

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