Congratulations to the 2018 Arts Award Honorees

The Arts Award has been presented since 1976 to recognize individuals and organizations whose vision, commitment, and leadership have enriched the cultural life of Westchester, its communities and its citizens.

President’s Award


Among its many roles, Tarrytown’s The Pocantico Center, which is managed by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, offers cultural events and lectures as part of its support of artists and arts organizations in the greater New York City area. In fact, the Center’s Presenting Series, which began featuring Westchester based artists for the first time in 2016, is designed to showcase works by resident and nominated artists in a unique and dynamic setting. The Pocantico Center shares with the public the 100-year history of Kykuit, the Rockefeller family home. It also produces experiences that share the creative process with the public through on-site performances, readings, exhibits and more, often utilizing its Tennis Court performance space at Kykuit. The Pocantico Center has set out to create a first-rate artist residency program and showcase venue that supports the arts ecosystem of the New York metropolitan area.


Artist Award


Will Crutchfield is a household name in the opera world and a familiar figure on the concert stage, both at home and abroad. In 2018, he will depart Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, where he founded the popular “Bel Canto” program. He will be initiating his new organization, Teatro Nuovo, with a nine-day festival at the Performing Arts Center at Purchase College in July. Crutchfield made his name as a writer and musicologist in the mid-1980s, becoming the youngest music critic in the history of The New York Times, and returned to his theater roots in the mid-1990s to conduct opera. A vocal coach and rehearsal pianist, he is also dedicated to training the next generation of singers by serving on the faculties of all three New York conservatories – Juilliard, Manhattan and Mannes.


Cultural Organization Award


The Performing Arts Center at Purchase College (PAC), now celebrating its 40th season, is a professional, non-profit arts presenter in the tristate region. In fact, it is the largest performing arts venue outside of New York City. The PAC presents a diverse season of programming with a variety of artists and a repertoire that includes multi-cultural and “popular” genres. The Center attracts more than 125,000 people with its more than 200 public performances and events each year. Its arts-in-education program is regionally recognized for providing high quality, low-cost education to students in the region. It reaches approximately 16,000 school children from over 40 school districts in six counties. By presenting a broad range of influences and traditions, its programming appeals to a broad demographic.


Leadership Award


Dr. LaRuth Gray dedicates herself to improving the quality of education, the quality of life for children, particularly those of vulnerable populations, and the state of social issues that address equity and opportunity. A retired Superintendent of Schools in Westchester County, she currently serves as Scholar in Residence at New York University (NYU)’s Steinhardt School of Education’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools. Prior to that, she served as affiliate faculty at New York University and Deputy Director of the Metropolitan Center. Among Dr. Gray’s accomplishments is the design and development of the plan, process, and implementation to reorganize New Rochelle Public Schools in order to address the twin problems of minority isolation and declining enrollment. Dr. LaRuth Gray is a former President of the Board of Trustees of ArtsWestchester, where she is a current board member, serving as a committed trustee for more than 20 years.


Emily & Eugene Grant Arts Patron Award


Deborah (Debbie) and Alan Simon are a Renaissance couple – collectors, patrons, trustees and friends of many cultural organizations, including the American Museum of Natural History, Friends of the Neuberger Museum of Art, Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, The Bruce Museum, Clay Art Center, Performing Arts Center at Purchase College and ArtsWestchester, where Debbie serves as Secretary of the Board of Trustees. Debbie is a founding member of the Friends of ArtsWestchester group and also serves as an energetic member of the organization’s Gala Auction Committee, Arts Committee and Development Committee. She and Alan have a lifelong love of travel, collecting favorite pieces of art in their travels to exotic places to display in their home in Greenwich, CT. The Simons have made the arts a focus in their lives and have shared that focus through their support of the local cultural community.


Community Awards


Lifetime Arts is the quintessential advocate and service organization promoting the arts as a lifetime pursuit. This nonprofit arts service organization works nationally to encourage creative aging by promoting the inclusion of professional arts programs that serve older adults. Lifetime Arts, established in Westchester County by Maura O’Malley and Ed Friedman in 2008, helps artists to encourage the creative capacity of older adult learners. It also fosters lifelong learning in and through the arts by increasing opportunities for participation in community-based programming. Lifetime Arts is nationally recognized as the leader in development and dissemination of Creative Aging policies, best practices, information services, artists’ training resources, technical assistance and advocacy. Most recently, it has been awarded a three-year $1.5M grant from Aroha Philanthropies to continue transforming the creative aging landscape on a national level.


Leandra (Lee) Pope is the legendary person behind The Schoolhouse Theater and Arts Center, which has become a landmark home for the arts in Westchester County. Pope founded the Theater when, in 1983, she transformed an old elementary school building in Croton Falls into a visual arts center. At that time, the cafeteria/gym was simply a white-walled room with twelve borrowed lights and no risers. The classrooms were turned into galleries and studio spaces that exhibit paintings and sculptures by many of Westchester’s most acclaimed artists. The curtain went up on Westchester’s oldest non-profit professional theater in 1986, when Jack Palance’s daughter Brooke and actor Michael Wilding opened Bedroom Farce. Since then, playwrights Jules Feiffer and Tina Howe, and director and Royal Shakespeare Company co-founder John Barton, have all seen their work produced at The Schoolhouse Theater. Devoted to the highest possible standard, no less than six of the Theater’s shows have moved to Off- Broadway and Los Angeles.



The Sophia Abeles Education Award


The Play Group Theatre is a non-profit educational theatre organization dedicated to providing process-oriented theatre training and diverse performance opportunities to children and teenagers. The Play Group Theatre enables students to develop collaborative and communication skills while improving self-esteem, a love of theatre, and a dedication to the community as a whole. It successfully accomplishes this through classes, schools residencies, technical internships, summer programs and a varied and continual performance calendar. The Play Group Theatre is true to its name, making theater like play and making play like theater. Its Artist-In-Residence program allows students the opportunity to work with professional artists in their own classroom environment. The Play Group Theatre residency programs has brought teaching artists to many areas throughout Westchester. These artists enhance class curriculum and lessons by facilitating creative expression with programs such as playwriting, spoken word, public speaking and more.


The Larry Salley Photography Award


Peekskill photographer Ocean Morisset was chosen among a pool of nominees for the inaugural Larry Salley Photography Award. Morisset aims to tell stories with his candid portraits and frank representations of everyday life. He specializes in photojournalism and documentary (or “street”) photography, the practice of capturing candid images in public spaces. His works often capture the authentic lives of people whom he observes on the streets of Westchester County and New York City. His ongoing series Dad Duty depicts African American fathers with their children in an effort to help dismantle the stereotype of the absent black father. Morisset teaches photography to Peekskill teenagers and sits on the board of Peekskill Arts Alliance, for which he organized a “truckstop gallery” during its Peekskill Open Studios event last summer. His work will be on view in ArtsWestchester’s gallery in March.

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

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