Fringe arts may just be getting the attention they deserve in New Haven.
The Arts Council of Greater New Haven announced Monday that it will give out six awards Dec. 2 to honor people and local organizations that have served the local community through art. This year’s honorees range from a New Haven alderwoman to a local retailer. Cynthia Clair, executive director of the council, said the luncheon has been held for over 20 years and is “very inclusive” in choosing its recipients.
“It’s not just theater and opera [being honored],” she said. “We’re also honoring art forms that are on the fringes.”
It is only after members of the general public choose the nominees that the selection process can begin, Clair said.
While a jury comprising members of the greater New Haven community chooses the recipients of five of the awards, the Arts Council Board of Directors chooses the recipient of the “C. Newton Schenck III Award for Lifetime Achievement in and Contribution to the Arts.”
The Lifetime Achievement Award this year will go to Frances “Bitsie” Clark, the Ward 7 alderwoman, and three more awards will be presented to local skate shop owner Lou Cox, musician Bill Collins, and Rosalyn Cama, who is the president of a New Haven-based interior design firm. Two more awards will recognize the work of Connecticut arts organizations Project Storefronts and the Shoreline Arts Alliance.
The theme for this year’s awards, “Giant Steps,” alludes to the leaps of artistic faith taken by the award recipients, the council stated in a press release on Monday.
The awards highlight unusual artistic endeavors, such as the development of a skateboard shop and art gallery hybrid in New Haven — Channel 1, located on 220 State St. — which Cox co-founded with his wife in 2005.
“We started off exhibiting works from friends of ours,” Cox said. “Gradually, the creative side of our business began to rival the skateboard side.”
Cox eventually realized that his business, with its combination of urban and artistic influences, was the perfect setting for community service. He began reaching out to the kids who came into his shop and eventually began to work with local youth advocacy groups.
After a while, Cox noticed that, to him, art and skateboarding could not be separated.
“Art comes from the individual, like skateboarding,” Cox noted. “It’s you and your ability that allows you to progress.”
In the same vein of community improvement, Barbara Lamb, the City of New Haven Department of Cultural Affairs director, and Margaret Bodell, a curator of public art, started Project Storefronts, an endeavor funded by the Economic Development Corporation of New Haven.
“It’s an idea that grew out of [the Department of Cultural Affairs],” Lamb said. “To create a storefront to fit in with the mission of economic development for the city and to engage artists.”
Lamb said this economic development effort, which aims to create more jobs and generate new tax revenue streams, encourages artists to test out their business ideas and to determine if they want to continue in entrepreneurial endeavors.
The awards will be presented at a luncheon at the New Haven Lawn Club on 193 Whitney Ave. All six recipients will receive bronze sculptures designed by Ruth Lapides, a local artist.