There was plenty to love about last weekend’s Westport Arts Center gala.
A full house at the Westport Country Playhouse honored Joyce Thompson, and Cindy and John Vaccaro, for their many contributions to cultural life. The WAC announced a $1.2 million gift from the Artur and Heida Hermanns Holde Foundation.
There was even time to tango.
But the highlight of the evening may have been Cynthia Gibb‘s passionate speech about the importance of the arts to her life — and to Westport.
The actor/singer/dancer — whose career includes TV (“Search for Tomorrow,” “Fame”), movies, commercial and voice-overs (and who got her start as a model while still at Staples, and dating “Blue Lagoon” star Christopher Atkins) — says that her talk helped her realize how much her youth in Westport impacted who she is today.
“I realize now that the arts were very healing for me,” she said earlier this week.
“They gave me the freedom to explore my life in ways I might not have. The arts have been joyful, cathartic, painful, and ultimately a gift that’s been so emotionally satisfying.”
In fact, Cynthia — whose parents moved from Vermont to Westport in 1967 specifically for the arts — said, “I don’t know if I’d had done all this if I hadn’t grown up here. From the beginning of school, and throughout the years, I was exposed to drama, music and dance. Dorothy Straub, John Hanulik, Al Pia — where would I be without those people?”
She noted that it’s not just artists who benefit from the arts. Westport history classes, for example, teach that what goes on in society — politically, religiously and economically — is reflected in its art.
Cynthia spent 30 years in Los Angeles, “surrounded by people who make their living in the arts.” Even there, though, she did not find the same support for the arts as here.
People still move to Westport for the arts, she said. Two years ago, she did too.
Her children are enjoying arts education here — and academics, and athletics.
Meanwhile, Cynthia offers singers, actors and public speakers instruction in vocal technique, performance coaching and career management advice.
So there she was onstage at last weekend’s event. She talked about Westport and the arts, and appreciated the chance to give back to the town. She’s still doing what she loves, in the town that instilled a passion for it in her.
Though, she said, “I had a tough time doing the tango up there.”