Town Hall was filled Sunday with the hauntingly beautiful violin caprice from the 1998 film "The Red Violin," the words of playwright David Wiltse from his "Triangles for Two," and film clips from four major motion pictures.
Although disparate in their disciplines, those performances, and others, shared one thing in common: Recognition from the Westport Arts Advisory Committee over the last two decades for the creative minds behind each and for the performers who brought those works to the audience of about 300 people.
The committee has honored more than 200 theatrical, literary, music and dance, and visual artists, up-and-coming artists who show exceptional promise in their art form, and champions of the arts from Westport and Weston since the awards were founded in 1994.
Leslie Greene, the event chairwoman, said the committee has a keen eye for spotting the potential of young men and woman. "All of our Horizon winners (up-and-comers) have gone on to do great things in their chosen fields," including photojournalists Lynsey Addario and Tyler Hicks, contemporary painter Jordan Wolfson and trumpeter Joshua Frank.
The 20th annual Westport Arts Awards event Sunday opened with a short film by Martin West, which event Co-Chairman David Rubenstein called "an incredible chronicle of the town's cultural vitality." Rubenstein said it's fitting that October is designated National Arts and Humanities Month, "a time to reaffirm the importance of the arts in America."
Rubenstein took a moment to remember David Rogers, a member of the first Westport Arts Advisory Committee. Rogers died as the group was planning the 20th annual event, and he "was dedicated to enhancing the role of the arts in Westport."
The program served as a retrospective of the town's artistic heritage and celebrated its recipients.
Award recipient Igor Pikayzen performed the violin caprice, which was composed by recipient John Corigliano Jr. Actress Joanna Gleason and recipient James Naughton performed a staged reading of a scene from "Triangles for Two." Wiltse is also a recipient of the honor. Film clips from "M*A*S*H," "The Great Gatsby," "Rally Round the Flag, Boys!" and "Spartacus," featured the literary, directorial and acting talents of Westport Arts Awards recipients.
Author, illustrator and recipient Hans Wilhelm read from his children's book "I'm Not Scared," and nine members of the Staples Players sang and danced to "Forget about the Boy" from the musical "Thoroughly Modern Millie." The Staples Players troupe received a Horizon Award from the committee.
But only one person received a new award Sunday. First Selectman Gordon Joseloff was honored for his support for the arts in Westport and his journalistic career. The Special Recognition for Lifetime Excellence in Journalism was presented by Spencer Platt, an award-winning photojournalist and one of the WAAC's first Horizon Award winners.
"Gordon's stories and passion were more encouraging than any journalism class ... Gordon (definitely) had ink in his blood from a very young age," Platt said.
Joseloff, who had worked for CBS News and UPI, and in 2003 founded the local website WestportNow, joked about the eight-year "interruption" in his news career to serve as first selectman. Being beaten up, shot at and tear-gassed in his years as a foreign correspondent helped to prepare im for politics in Westport.
State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg said, after eight years of being the news, he was glad to honor Joseloff for reporting the news. Joseloff, who is not running for re-elecction this year, remains the publisher of WestportNow.
A reception followed the anniversary program at the Westport Historical Society, where attendees viewed the work of Visual Arts Awards recipients in an exhibit titled Framing the Past, Present and Future: 20 Years of the Westport Arts Awards.
For information about the WAAC, visit www.westportartsawards.org.