May 15, 201501:49 PMArt Beat

The 2015 Arts Awards

May 15, 2015 - 01:49 PM
The 2015 Arts Awards

Photos by Tim Wier

If you’ve ever watched an awards show, you know what to expect – a self-aggrandizing host, never-ending acceptance speeches and a glossy video or brief performance or two to break up the monotony.  Ultimately, everything worth seeing can be whittled down to a TMZ headline and a choice video clip making its rounds on YouTube and social media. But if past presentations are any indication, on Sunday, May 31, the Arts Awards will elevate two deserving honorees in a vastly different way.


A successful event by any measure, the awards show is heading into its 23rd year, and it remains as vital today as it was when it had first begun by placing the focus of the awards show on the “show” itself.

Theatre Harrisburg, formerly Harrisburg Community Theatre, has a long and storied history of its own as it now heads into its 90th season this fall, and it owes a debt of gratitude to its forward-thinking board for creating the Accolades & Applause event in 1988. At the time, and even now, this elegant and upscale evening remains the premier, prestigious event that recognizes distinguished contributions to the arts in the region.


While it has morphed over the years into what is now called the Arts Awards for Distinguished Service to the Arts in the Capital Region, the initial intent remains steadfast: to showcase the region’s burgeoning art scene and highlight its greatest benefactors and contributors.


Mike Greenwald speaks from experience when he says, “There is nothing like it, because it is a production.”


Greenwald has produced the event each year, and he and the Arts Awards committee have seen to it that the performances and presentations, which account for over an hour’s worth of content, are woven through with the threads of the artistic passions of the year’s honorees.


At any point, you may find – hard at work on planning the evening’s festivities – professional music directors, choreographers, writers and performers. One honoree was surprised with a Mummers band as they entered the auditorium and marched through the aisles in his honor, while another year’s reception and dinner was officially kicked off in style with a fanfare played by a brass quartet. There have been jazz vocalists, internationally renowned chamber musicians and endlessly varied performances showcasing the artistically inclined and their creations.

Two awards will be given out this year – one for an individual or couple who has shown an “extraordinary contribution to the arts through one’s leadership, service, support or artistic achievement,” and one award will be given to an organization that has contributed “to the region’s artistic and cultural development through consistent leadership, vision and persistence.”


William and Beverly Lehr and PNC Bank of Central Pennsylvania have earned these grand recognitions, and they have both been noted as having broad interests in the arts, so expect the unexpected at this year’s event.


The show is juried, secret ballots are cast by distinguished leaders in the arts and the highly selective process adheres to admirable guidelines. My favorite of these criteria falls under the awards to the individuals as it “recognizes ‘lifetime’ achievement […] over a sustained period of years.” Prestigious indeed.


One can be assured that the Tiffany & Co. crystal award is being handed out to men and women who have earned the accolades from years of commitment to the arts in the region.


If you can still get a ticket for this event, you should. And you should certainly prepare to be entertained.

About This Blog

Art matters from a financial, cultural vibrancy and economic growth perspective, and ultimately it affects the quality of life for those with access to it. It's the visceral impact of the arts that hits hard and lingers long:  the way that an indelible image may worm its imprint into your eye and then mind and then dreams.  The forlorn droop of a melody, and the sign of resignation from a local trumpet player's final note. The unbearably gorgeous and aching silence of the final scene of a film shot in our region.  Every one of these offerings exists here in the midstate, and beats strong with art, and we must support it.


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