Local leaders honored with Cultural Council Laurel Awards

VERO BEACH — The 15th Annual Laurel Awards Presentation Ceremony was held this year at Riverside Theatre, celebrating both the significant contributions made to the community by its award recipients, and the 15th Anniversary of the Cultural Council of Indian River County.

As guests gathered in the Theatre’s Orchid Lobby for a cocktail reception, mingling with friends and supporters, they were treated to music by the Seaside Strings Ensemble, under the direction of Matt Stott. 

Organizers had opted for a simple cocktail reception format, which everyone seemed to enjoy, as they moved about and socialized with one another, before moving into the Waxlax Stage, which had been set up cabaret style for the Founders Tribute and Laurel Awards Presentation.

Susan Grandpierre, Cultural Council Board Chair thanked Allen Cornell, Riverside Theatre Artistic Director for the use of the facility and quipped, “It’s such a special venue.  It feels kind of like the Academy Awards, but without the suspense.”

Giving a brief overview about the Cultural Council, Grandpierre noted that it was designated as the County’s Local Arts Agency in 1995, promoting the development of artists and nurturing a cooperative environment for organizations engaged in arts and culture, humanities, sciences, wildlife and ecology.

Grandpierre welcomed Cultural Council founding member Alma Lee Loy to the stage who recognized the organization’s 17 founders and the role they played in contributing to the quality of life in Indian River County.  “We have an ongoing obligation to raise the bar and open new doors,” said Loy.

Barbara Hoffman, Cultural Council vice Chair began the award presentations with the introduction of Cathie Callery, who she described as a dream volunteer.  Callery received the Volunteer/Activist Award for her community-wide volunteer activities, particularly as a board member of Vero Heritage Inc. and as a volunteer with Main Street Vero Beach.

As she accepted her award, to loud cheers from what she later called her Callery gallery, she laughed and said, “I feel like a rock star.”

Callery added that she found her volunteer activities very rewarding saying, “I’ve gotten as much out of it as the organizations have.”

The Philanthropic/Business Award was presented to Jafar Falasiri, owner of Falasiri Oriental Rugs.  For the past 10 years, Falasiri has funded the weekly Cultural Connection in the Press Journal, a tremendous benefit to the Cultural Council and to the many organizations and artists whose events have highlighted and whose work has been showcased.  A man of few words, Falasiri thanked everyone and said he would cut his acceptance speech short to keep a balance.

Warren Obluck was presented with the Cultural/Professional Award for his work with the Vero Beach Museum of Art.  Obluck, a former U.S. diplomat, began directing the Museum’s Off-Center Cinema Club in 1998 which transitioned into the Art Film Studies program in 2000.

Obluck said he was accepting the award on behalf of everyone at the Museum who had a hand in the Film Studies program, adding, “The staff at the Museum sacrificed 25 Tuesday evenings over the past year for the series.”

Artists Del and Jeanne Peterson were honored with the Artist Award for their tireless efforts with the Vero Beach Art Club.  Over the past 15 years, the couple has contributed to the overwhelming success of the annual Under the Oaks Fine Arts and Crafts Show.

Jeanne said, “We owe thanks to the members of the Vero Beach Art Club, one of the oldest continuously running art clubs in the United States.”

Del added, “When we stumbled onto Vero Beach in 1957, we never could have envisioned the wonderful Museum we now have; it’s been a privilege to work and volunteer there.”

The final award of the evening, the Carolyn K. Eggert Award, was presented to Roman and Joan Ortega-Cowan for their steadfast contributions to Vero Beach Opera.  Roman serves as the artistic director and Joan serves as president of the organization, and through their devotion, Vero Beach Opera has brought world class opera and performers to Vero Beach.

“Volunteering is what keeps organizations alive, and provides a better quality of life, because it comes from the heart; hands helping hands helping all of us” said Roman. {igallery 185}

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