Some of the 2017 Obelisk Awardees were wondering why the pre-luncheon VIP reception at the Belo on Wednesday, November 15, was starting at 10 a.m. After all, the luncheon wasn’t scheduled to start until noon. Still there were group photos to be taken and individual ones with VIP types like Business Council for the Arts Chair Nancy Nasher and mic tests. But this group was well versed into production and found themselves done with all the preparations within a half hour.
Luckily, there were plenty of things to catch up about and check out like the arrangement of the awards that were strategically positioned in front of the ballroom. The beautiful pieces of glass were the artwork by Dallas artisan Jim Bowman. This collection would be Jim’s swan song, since he and his wife Mary Lynn Devereux-Bowman were moving to North Carolina.
And speaking of swan songs, little did anyone suspect that this would be one of the awardee’s farewell appearances. But more about that later.
Across the room, the late art scribe Patsy Swank’s son, Sam Swank played his guitar as around 500 guests like David Haemisegger, Business Council for the Arts Larry Glasgow, NorthPark crew (Billy Hines and Lona Crabb), Neiman’s Kevin Hurst, Nasher Sculpture Center’s Jeremy Strick, Jo Staffelbach Heinz and Andre Staffelbach, James Faust, Dotti Reeder, Carolyn Brown, Patricia Meadows and Dr. Richard Sachson waited for the ballroom doors to open.
At one point the entry of the guests came to a standstill as one Mercedes driver forgot something in her care and searched and searched for it with cars coming to a standstill in the Belo circular drive.
At 11:41 a.m. the doors opened and the room filled, but it took a couple of call-to-chairs by a voice over the PA. Even after taking their places, the crowd was in a talkative mood. Due to the chatter in the room, many didn’t realized that art-loving/real estate kingpin Craig Hall was appearing in a video on the screens at the front of the room. He was introducing the backstory of Jim’s creating the awards. Too bad because the process was both fascinating and a salute to the artist.
Following the videos, Business Council for the Arts Board Chair Larry Glasgow addressed the group and immediately the talk stopped. Perhaps if he had introduced the videos, more folks would have learned about the work that went into the awards that were underwritten by Craig.
Luncheon Co-Chairs Dr. Thai-Lan Tran and Steven Roth spoked how the arts contribute to the well-being of people and that Keynote Speaker Karen Brooks Hopkins would be addressing the group in a few minutes.
For the next ten minutes, guests were put to the test of Etiquette 101. At many tables, some guests were served their lunches, while others didn’t. As forks stayed in place waiting for the rest of the table to be served, the chicken Provencal with asparagus and crispy potatoes cooled. A floor managed walked the room appearing to be satisfied with the progress, while more than one guest tried to grabbed the attention of a passing server. Eventually, plates made their way to the empty spots and no one starved.
At 12:15, Karen posed the question if the arts and business can help and provide real service? She believed the answer was a definite, “Yes.” Highlights of her talk included
- Art is the only thing that endures over the years.
- Too often art is dismissed as frivolous.
- The arts only receive 5% of corporate philanthropy.
- Inclusion of arts in low income neighborhoods results in positive ways.
- The arts can be a powerful force for change.
- Businesses must be incorporated in supporting the arts to get the job done.
In emphasizing the need for the need to appreciate corporate support, she recalled that during the 2008 recession, she was involved in a gala at which the head of the sponsoring bank was called to the stage and he was boo-ed. “It would be the long time before the bank would sign up again. I learned a hard lesson that night.”
Finishing her talk at 12:28, Karen said that business should be creative in giving.
Next up was Nancy, who like a general taking command said, “We’re going to keep on schedule.” That said, she didn’t mince words and introduce Dallas Symphony Orchestra Lead Trumpet Ryan Anthony, who played three tunes making it seem so effortless. He finished up with “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from “Carousel.”
At 12:39 North Texas Public Broadcasting President/CEO Mary Anne Alhadeff took her place at the podium on the left side of the stage to announce the recipients including
- The Arts Partnership Award
- Large Business — Target
- Medium Business — Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
- Small Business — Angelika Film Center
- The New Initiatives Award
- Large Business — Corgan
- Medium Business — West Village
- Small Business — C.C. Communications
- The Distinguished Cultural Organization Award — The Cliburn
- The Business Champion for the Arts Award — Nancy Carlson
- The Visionary Nonprofit Arts Leader Award — Keith Cerny
- The Arts Education Award — Neiman Marcus Group
- The Lifetime Achievement Award — Ask Me About Art/Gail Sachson
- The Community Champion Award — Kathy Litinas
All gave touching and revealing acceptance speeches. They ranged from Nancy Carlson’s “It’s my privilege to support the arts” to Gail Sachson’s “Art is good for your eyes and all your other body parts. But it especially good for your heart. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Ironically, the last recipient was The Dallas Opera General Director/CEO Keith Cerny who sounded like he was doing a Reader’s Digest version of the State-Of-The-Opera. In addition to achieving financial stability and gaining international recognition, his proudest achievement was the Linda and Mitch Hart program for women conductors.
Exactly one month later to the day, Keith would announce he was leaving The Dallas Opera to head up the Calgary Opera.