Americans for the Arts Celebrates National Arts Awards

by Wendy Sy Photographed by Carolyn Powers, Sarah Arison
Tuesday, October 18, 2016

“Thank you for joining us tonight for the third presidential debate,” said Caroline Clark Powers, who started the Americans for the Arts 56th Annual 2016 National Arts Awards last night with a joke and a room filled with laughter at Cipriani 42nd Street. Powers, chair of the event, served alongside AFTA CEO Robert L. Lynch and co-chairs Sarah Arison, Justine and Jeff Koons, Martha Goode Mielnik and Nora C. Orphanides for the evening celebrating artists and art leaders whose work demonstrates extraordinary achievement.

The black tie event honored Esperanza Spalding with the Ted Arison Young Artist Award, Doug Aitken with the Outstanding Contributions to the Arts Award, The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation with the Arts Education Award accepted by its president Felice Mancini, Susan and David Goode with the Legacy Award, Roselyne Chroman Swig with the Philanthropy in the Arts Award and the legendary Tony Bennett with the Carolyn Clark Powers Lifetime Achievement Award.

Each recipient accepted their awards (golden balloon rabbit sculptures by artist Jeff Koons) with a heartfelt speech and expressed their passion for the arts. “It’s so exciting for me to be here and to be accepted so well,” said Bennett. “I can’t remember a night where I haven’t had a full house [when performing] and I thank God for the gift he has given me personally. I love doing what I do and I’m going to keep going at it.”

The evening included dinner and musical performance by the YoungArts Alumni with musical director Jake Goldbas and special guests from the members of Frank Sinatra School of the Arts Chamber Singers.

Over $700,000 was raised to help support Americans for the Arts’ core programs and activities, which serve the needs of more than 150,000 members and stakeholders across the country each year.

As the dessert was served, Powers made the closing remarks of the evening. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming out tonight,” she said. “I hope this has been better than watching the debate.” Indeed it was.

Photos by Max Lakner and Joe Schildhorn/


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