Champions of cultural community earn Laurel Awards

Jacob Craig with Don deLora and Willie Reagan [Photo: Denise Ritchie]

At the 2019 Laurel Awards Celebration last Wednesday evening at Riverside Theatre, the Cultural Council of Indian River County honored several individuals who have demonstrated exceptional support of the arts through philanthropy, volunteerism, education and leadership.

Guests gathered in the lobby for a VIP wine reception to mingle with fellow arts aficionados, nibble on delicious hors d’oeuvres by Wild Thyme Catering and peruse an extensive Lobby Art Gallery Exhibit of 150 pieces of work, curated by Alicia Quinn and her committee.

“What a great evening to be with you and to be celebrating our marvelous cultural arts community here in Vero Beach and Indian River County,” said event emcee John Moore, after being introduced by Barbara Hoffman, Cultural Council executive director.

The Richard A. Stark Award for Cultural Leadership was presented to Susan Schuyler Smith and Suzan Phillips by Diana Stark and Jon Moses, Riverside Theatre managing director/COO.

Moses said Smith and Phillips emulated the late Mr. Stark’s talent for recognizing a need and rallying people to get things done, noting that they “literally dug in; they got dirty. They were instrumental in the preservation of McKee Jungle Gardens and its restoration as McKee Botanical Gardens.”

“I have the privilege of letting the community know that McKee has just finished raising all the money for their Children’s Garden,” said Smith. “Under the direction of Christine Hobart, our fabulous executive director, we raised $5 million for the Children’s Garden and another $2 million for the endowment fund. That’s thanks to all of you.”

Former award winners Don Croteau and Susan Grandpierre presented, on her behalf, the Alma Lee Loy Award for Volunteer Leadership to Carol Ludwig, Center for Spiritual Care founder.

“Carol is an amazing resource and catalyst for the local community,” said Croteau. Since 2000 the Center has promoted and celebrated local artists while also allowing people to strengthen their inner beings.

“I accept this award tonight on the shoulders of many others,” said Ludwig. “Integrating body, mind, spirit and creativity became the hallmark of the Center and we really haven’t looked back or questioned or doubted that commitment.”

The Willie C. Reagan Award for Educational Arts Leadership was presented by Reagan and wife Don to Jacob Craig, director of Music and Arts at First Presbyterian Church, and Pipe Major of Vero Beach Pipes and Drums.

Reagan said Craig has “demonstrated musical excellence and enormous vision” in a wide variety of local arts education venues, and has “inspired and trained hundreds of middle and high school students to pursue their passion for music.” An accomplished pianist, organist, bagpiper and choral director, Craig has collaborated on numerous other programs to provide musical opportunities for amateur and professional musicians of all ages.

“I would like to view this award as being shared, for while I have a great desire to learn and to keep learning, anything good that has come from that endeavor is only so because of the reciprocal nature of this community,” said Craig.

The John J. Schumann Jr. Award for Business Leadership was presented on his behalf by former award winner Keith Kite, to Dr. Alan and Roxanne Durkin, owners of Ocean Drive Plastic Surgery and Med Spa, for their support of Under the Oaks and other Vero Beach Art Club shows, the Cultural Council and the Vero Beach Museum of Art.

“We do know that art is one of the real stalwarts of what makes life worth living,” said Dr. Durkin. “And we know that we have an amazing arts community, and that’s what makes Vero truly an amazing place to live.”

Former award winner Mark Wygonik directed a showcase of Visual Arts Performances on the Stark Stage, interspersed between presentations.

Performances included the OPUS Student Orchestra featuring students from Oslo and Storm Grove Middle Schools, directed by Richard Ballinger; Vero Classical Ballet dancers Rylee Green and Barry Trammell dancing Prokofiev’s Cinderella Pas de Deux; and Mickey Freeman, accompanied by Craig, singing a selection of jazz numbers.

Craig also played a solo composition and another remarkably creative piece, accompanied by David Israel, Leif Clark, Andrew Miller and Thomas Miller who ‘played’ the inside of the piano, plucking wires and rhythmically thumping its sides. The final performance showcased Flamenco guitarist Greg Reiter, accompanied by violinist Samuel Bormett and Ryan Nietz on bass.

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Photos by: Denise Ritchie
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