Honoring Our Arts

The Westport calendar is filled with little events that should be big ones.

They’re the ones you vaguely hear about before they happen.  Afterward, someone tells you how great it was to be there.  You vow you’ll go next year — but don’t.

The Westport Arts Awards is one of those you-really-shouldn’t-miss events.  This year’s 19th annual ceremony is Sunday, October 21 (2 p.m., Town Hall).  If you want to see all that’s right with this town — its long-time residents, its young people, its support of creativity and achievement — save the date right now.

The event honors artists in 6 disciplines — art, music, film/new media, visual arts/photography, theater and literature — as well as 3 young people, 2 Westporters who work quietly in the background, and 10 artists with local ties who died this year.

Tyler Hicks

The biggest name is Tyler Hicks. The 1988 Staples grad — a staff photographer for the New York Times — has covered conflict in Kosovo, Chechnya, Congo, Ethiopia, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan, and been captured by the Libyan government. When Times correspondent Anthony Shahid died in Syria, Tyler carried his body across the border to Turkey.

In 2009 Tyler, fellow Times photographer (and Staples ’99 grad) Lynsey Addario, and the Times staff shared the Pulitzer Prize for “masterful, groundbreaking coverage” of the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

He’s the youngest recipient ever of a Westport Arts Award Lifetime Achievement Honor. He lives in Istanbul, so his mother will accept it for him.

Other Lifetime Achievements go to author, screenwriter and essayist Mary-Lou Weisman; Anne Keefe, artistic advisor at the Westport Country Playhouse; filmmakers Frank Jacoby and Doris Storm; English horn player Doris Goltzer, and artist, painter and printmaker Jak Kovatch.

Horizon Awards — presented to artists under the age of 32 who have already demonstrated excellence — are some of the most intriguing honors at the ceremony. This Sunday, there are 3.

Peter Duchan

Peter Duchan co-wrote the screenplay, and was associate producer for the South by Southwest film “Breaking Upwards.” He also wrote the book for the recent Off-Broadway musical “Dogfight” (scored by previous Westport Arts Award honoree Justin Paul).

Playwright, screenwriter and director Leslye Headland‘s credits include “Bachelorette,” “Assistance” and the rest of the “Seven Deadly Plays” series. She recently wrote a remake of “About Last Night” for Screen Gems. Like Peter, she is a Staples grad.

Nicholas Britell is a composer, pianist and producer. He scored the film “Gimme the Loot, ” which won the Grand Jury Prize at SXSW last March. His music was featured in “New York, I Love You” and elsewhere. Nick is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard.

Longtime Westporter John Franklin will be honored as a Champion of the Arts. Former head of the Westport Arts Center, and a consistent and generous supporter of music, dance and the arts, he’s one of those real good guys who does so much for so many, so quietly.

Joan Miller

So does Joan Miller For her decades of  work on the Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection — a pet project of Mollie Donovan — as well as many other volunteer efforts, Joan is an apt recipient of the Mollie Award, for tireless service.

Ten names will be added to the Heritage Honor Roll.  J.D. Salinger, Hilton Kramer, David Levine, Natalie Maynard, Arlene Skutch, Albert Goltzer, Paul Rand, Marianne Liberatore, Burry Fredrik and Jerome Kilty were all connected to Westport. All died in within the past year, or were not honored while alive.

If you think the Westport Arts Awards are a dull, stand-up-and-give-a-speech affair:  think again.

These are creative people.  There are short videos, along with brief presentations.

And, of course, a reception afterward.

The Westport Arts Awards are Westport at its best.

Its artistic, photographic, musical, theatrical, literary — and very, very talented — best.

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