On The Avenue

The Skowhegan School’s Prickly Gala

by Ben Diamond Photographed by Benjamin Lozovsky/BFA.com
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
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Last night, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture held its annual awards dinner at the Plaza. The school—an intensive nine-week summer program in the woods of Maine—has been training artists since 1946, and counts acknowledged masters like Robert Indiana, Alex Katz and Ellsworth Kelly as alumni. “What makes the school special is its mixture of participant independence and faculty guidance,” said the gallerist David Beitzel, an alumnus and one of the evening’s co-chairs. “The participants can spend time in the studio experimenting, but have fantastic, world-renowned faculty available for a critique. On top of that, they’re out in the middle of nowhere with no distractions. You can’t get cellphone coverage up there.”

And while there were some big-name donors in room, the crowd was largely young artists. “It’s a kind of reunion—it may be at the Plaza, but with all the alumni, it gives you a small connection to Skowhegan,” said alumna and dinner co-chair Ellen Altfest. “It has a warmth to it that other fancy events might not.” Even though the event was held at the Plaza, it was anything but stuffy. During cocktails in the second floor ballroom, an experimental ensemble played a John Cage piece on saxophone, theremin, toy organ and an amplified cactus.

After cocktails, guests made their way to the third floor for dinner and presentation of the evening’s awards. The night’s honorees were Pollock-Krasner Foundation CEO and Chairman Charles C. Bergman; Studio Museum In Harlem director Thelma Golden and artists Jack Whitten and William T. William. Others in attendance included Beth Rudin DeWoody, Liliana Cavendish, Hunt Slonem, Cathy Lasry, Whitney director Adam Weinberg, and Agnes Gund.


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