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Jazz Legend Wynton Marsalis to Perform at ArtsWestchester’s Gala

Wynton Marsalis (photo credit: Frank Stewart)
Wynton Marsalis (photo credit: Frank Stewart)

ArtsWestchester has announced that it will be joined by world-renowned trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis for its virtual gala on November 21.

The fundraiser comes at a critical time, during which the arts industry is devastated by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and when the survival of many Westchester County arts groups is at stake.

During the “Maskquerade” event, Entergy will be honored with the 2020 Corporate Award for its longtime support of the arts in Westchester, and three local arts champions will receive Leadership Awards: Kenneth Jenkins, Deputy County Executive; Kevin J. Plunkett, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Simone Development Companies; and Jeffrey P. Haydon, President/CEO at Ravinia Festival and former CEO of Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts.

ArtsWestchester, as the County’s largest funder of the arts, is appealing to the community for help in keeping the arts in Westchester alive at this unprecedented time. CEO Janet Langsam explains: “This year, we’re not asking people to sponsor gala tables. Instead, we’re asking them to support a community arts program, like an artist residency, art exhibition, public art mural or teen scholarship.”

Nationally, COVID-19 has dealt an estimated economic blow of  $14 billion to America’s arts and cultural sector since mid-March. “This moment of crisis has put the life-affirming value of the arts into sharper focus,” said Marsalis, who is Managing & Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. The musician will perform for the event, as well as speak about the importance of the arts.

He continues: “Art has always been an indispensable tool of survival, teaching us about our history, helping us to process turmoil and grief, and delivering serious meaning with joy. Let’s face this challenge by challenging ourselves and by choosing to rise to the occasion.”

According to Langsam, there are many ways to rise to the occasion this fall. She explains: “While the arts community has been incredible in pivoting to virtual arts education, streaming concerts and online exhibitions, the toll on their revenue streams has been staggering. There are many ways in which people can help right now: bidding in our online gala auction, sponsoring an arts scholarship, making a donation, or by simply buying a journal ad to celebrate the outstanding 2020 gala honorees. It all helps the arts to survive in your hometown.”

ArtsWestchester’s 2020 Gala Honorees are:

Entergy, ArtsWestchester Corporate Award:

A pumpkin sculpture installation at The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze, organized by Historic Hudson Valley and supported by Entergy (photo courtesy of Historic Hudson Valley)
A pumpkin sculpture installation at The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze, organized by Historic Hudson Valley and supported by Entergy (photo courtesy of Historic Hudson Valley)

“Since Entergy purchased Indian Point Energy Center in 2000, the company has served as the embodiment of a good corporate citizen with its generous philanthropy and leadership support of arts and culture in New York State, especially in Westchester County,” says Janet Langsam, CEO of ArtsWestchester. The company has partnered with a host of not-for-profit organizations, including important players in the arts community, throughout the lower Hudson Valley and New York City. With more than $30 million in contributions to 100 worthwhile organizations, including grants exceeding $2.5 million to ArtsWestchester and Jazz at Lincoln Center, Entergy’s commitment to artists in the region has been a critical piece that helps to expand opportunities and access to all communities.

Entergy has been a friend to organizations large and small. In 2006, Entergy partnered with the Paramount Theater in Peekskill on an ambitious restoration project that helped recapture the initial glory of the facility, which sits on the National Register of Historic Places. Entergy supports arts education through partnerships with organizations like The Daisy Jopling Foundation and Historic Hudson Valley, in addition to direct support of local museums, libraries and schools of music.

Because local needs are best served by initiatives from those communities, Entergy utilizes employees who are part of the community and knowledgeable about their area’s unique needs. These employees serve on local contributions committees that make funding decisions. In fact, employees from its Indian Point Energy Center volunteer with many not-for-profits and devote time and money to important causes.

Last year Entergy Corp. was again named to the Civic 50 by Points of Light, the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service, as one of the top 50 community-minded corporations in the nation. The award serves as the national standard for outstanding corporate citizenship and showcases how effectively the company uses its resources to impact communities. This is the fourth consecutive year Entergy was named to the list and is one of only two electric utility companies in the nation to receive such recognition.

Kenneth Jenkins at ArtsWestchester's ArtsBash 2019 (photo credit: Leslye Smith)

Kenneth Jenkins, ArtsWestchester Leadership Award:

As Deputy County Executive, former Chairman, and member of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, Kenneth Jenkins has put forth a great deal of time and effort to expand the County’s vision of the arts to include many forms of creative expression that organically spring forth from the grassroots community. Jenkins has strengthened the public-private partnership between the arts and government by supporting innovative programs, particularly those for our underserved communities, recognizing the arts as a critical economic engine. Jenkins was instrumental in launching the very successful “Yonkers Arts Initiative,” an innovative approach to promoting arts in the City.

Jenkins has been a leader in Democratic politics for over 25 years. During that time he has been actively engaged in serving the public and the community through his work on key committees, and as a leader in cultural and ethnic diversity issues. Jenkins is a people-person, and nowhere is that more evident than in his hometown of Yonkers where he was President, for over five years, of the Yonkers Branch of the NAACP, and as host of a public access cable show discussing issues relevant to the African-American community. Jenkins has served on numerous prestigious boards of community groups and organizations that improve the lives of Westchester residents, including Greyston Foundation; the United Way; Westchester County Crimestoppers; among others.

Ken and his wife Deborah have three children and are longtime Yonkers residents.

Kevin J. Plunkett and his grandson, who is wearing an ArtsWestchester hat (photo courtesy of Kevin Plunkett)

Kevin J. Plunkett, ArtsWestchester Leadership Award:

Currently Kevin J. Plunkett serves as Director of Strategic Initiatives for Simone Development Companies, a major healthcare and commercial real estate development firm in the tri-state area. As Deputy County Executive of Westchester from 2010 to 2018 and long-time ArtsWestchester Board Member, Plunkett understands the intrinsic power of the arts to bring joy, connection and learning to Westchester residents. He has been a steadfast advocate of the vital role arts and culture play in keeping communities economically vibrant and thriving. Throughout a long and distinguished career in both the public and private sectors, Plunkett has helped make the case for investment in the cultural sector that pre-COVID generated $172.3 Million in total economic activity in Westchester County annually. He is keenly aware that investment in the arts is good business for Westchester, with the cultural industry delivering more than approximately $25 Million in local and state government revenue each year.

Plunkett, who has practiced law for more than three decades, is currently a member of the American, the New York State, Florida, Westchester and Westchester Women’s Bar Associations. He served on four Governor Judicial Screening committees from 1997 to 2017. He is currently on the board of Tompkins Mahopac Bank and has served on the boards of numerous not-for-profit and educational institutions including Westchester ARC Foundation and Iona College in addition to ArtsWestchester. He is a lifetime resident of Tarrytown and he and his wife Rosemary have five children and seven grandchildren.

Jeffrey P. Haydon, on stage during Caramoor's American Roots Music Festival (photo courtesy of Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts)

Jeffrey P. Haydon, ArtsWestchester Leadership Award:

With 25 years of arts management experience and a lifelong love of music, former CEO of Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, Jeffrey P. Haydon has played a significant role in partnering with ArtsWestchester annually on countywide arts advocacy efforts. With his leadership, he has worked with Arts Westchester successfully communicating the vital role that the arts play in people’s lives and as part of Westchester’s economy. Haydon has spent the past eight years leading a renaissance at Caramoor, including raising more than $40 million to quadruple the endowment and to invest over $15 million into the Center’s historic Rosen House, as well as the grounds and gardens on the 90-acre estate. During his tenure, Haydon has also launched several new initiatives, including a collaboration of more than six years with Jazz at Lincoln Center, an expansion of Caramoor’s American Roots series, and its acclaimed In the Garden of Sonic Delights sound art exhibition. He also led Caramoor to expand its yearly programming by over 80 percent and initiated numerous community collaborations, all while improving Caramoor’s financial performance by more than 20 percent. We wish Jeff further success at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois, where he now serves as President and CEO of the nation’s oldest music festival.

Special Gala Guest Legendary Jazz Musician Wynton Marsalis:

Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis is Managing and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, of which Entergy is a sponsor. Marsalis, a world-renowned trumpeter and composer born in New Orleans, Louisiana, began his classical training on trumpet at age 12, entered The Juilliard School at age 17, and then joined Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. He made his recording debut as a leader in 1982, and has since recorded more than 60 jazz and classical recordings, which have won him nine Grammy Awards. In 1983, he became the first and only artist to win both classical and jazz Grammys in the same year and repeated this feat in 1984. In 1997, Marsalis became the first jazz artist to be awarded the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in Music for his oratorio Blood on the Fields, which was commissioned by Jazz at Lincoln Center. In 2001, he was appointed Messenger of Peace by Kofi Annan, Secretary- General of the United Nations, and he has also been designated cultural ambassador to the United States of America by the U.S. State Department through its CultureConnect program. Marsalis helped to lead efforts to construct Jazz at Lincoln Center’s home— Frederick P. Rose Hall—the first education, performance and broadcast facility devoted to jazz, which opened in October 2004.

To find out how to support ArtsWestchester and tune into its 2020 Virtual Arts Gala on Saturday, November 21 at 6pm, visit artsw.org/gala2020. Please consider helping the arts at this challenging time any way you are able.

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

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