Williamson Honored by GNBAA

(The following story about the Greater New Britain Arts Alliance 2017 Annual Meeting appeared in the Thursday, May 4 edition of The New Britain Herald. Retiring Community Foundation of Greater New Britain President Jim Williamson was presented with the Alliance’s Individual Contribution to the Arts Award.)

Greater New Britain Arts Alliance Honors Cultural Contributors

By Christopher Fortier, Staff Writer

SOUTHINGTON – With a cloud of funding uncertainty lingering over hundreds of the region’s arts programs, the Greater New Britain Arts Alliance hosted its annual meeting Wednesday night in a facility that has come to epitomize the perseverance of the artistic community.

Jim Williamson, left, with GNBAA executive director Stephen Hard.

Jim Williamson, left, with GNBAA executive director Stephen Hard (photo courtesy GNBAA and Ben Jordan).

Several speakers invoked the state of the George M. Gura Building prior to an exhaustive transformation into the Southington Community Cultural Arts Center. The nearly century old former police station had been condemned by the town at least twice and was slated for demolition to accommodate additional parking.

Enter a group of artistic-minded residents who envisioned a hub for fledgling and veteran artists looking to share their talents and expand cultural offerings in the community.

Six years later, it was standing room only in the center’s Hopko Performance Hall as the Arts Alliance celebrated the leaders of the greater New Britain arts community.

The 20th annual meeting featured the presentation of five awards and the election of eight board members seated for a three-year term.

The new directors are Gerry Amodio, Paul Baylock, Leona Clerkin, Christopher Edge, Mark Giulietti, Kathleen Marsan, Patricia Tanger and Zeena Tawfik.

South Church, the venerable downtown New Britain house of worship, was presented with the Special Recognition of an Arts Organization for making a meaningful contribution to the cultural vitality of the city “for longer than New Britain has even been a city, over 160 years,” said Mayor Erin Stewart in presenting the award.

South Church, Stewart said, “reflects the very best of the arts in New Britain and our region: quality to the highest standards, a warm and welcoming orientation to all, the charm and loveliness of the past coupled with openness to the use of wonderful new technologies…”

Jim Williamson speaks at the GNBAA annual meeting after accepting his award, as Dave Davison, past president & CEO and current member of the board of directors of the American Savings Foundation, looks on.

Jim Williamson speaks at the GNBAA annual meeting after accepting his award, as Dave Davison, past president & CEO and current member of the board of directors of the American Savings Foundation, looks on (photo courtesy GNBAA and Ben Jordan).

James Williamson, the retiring president of the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain, was presented with the Individual Contributions to the Arts award. Amodio and David Davison, former leader of the American Savings Foundation, feted Williamson and his commitment to initiatives that, in part, bolster the arts.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that the Community Foundation with Jim at the helm has been behind every major arts initiative in our area and supported virtually every area arts organization through their grants programs,” said Amodio. “Jim has continuously and reliably shown tremendous interest in the activities and plans of the organizations and been eager to figure out how the foundation could help.”

Stephen Hard, executive director of the GNBAA, presented the Plainville Wind Ensemble with the Special Recognition of an Arts Organization award. Hard credited the 30-year-old organization with bringing quality music to the community and allowing, at present, 77 musicians to have a way to share their talents and passion for the arts with the region.

The Lifetime Contribution to the Arts honor was bestowed upon Catherine Fellows, director of the Central Connecticut State University Dance Education Program. Dr. Michael Alfano of CCSU said Fellows has long been recognized for developing events and programs that engage the community and brought prominence to the university’s dance curriculum.

“Professor Fellows is passionate about her work in dance education and is determined to make it possible for all young people to have the opportunity to be educated through dance by making sure that Connecticut public and private schools employ certified dance teachers,” said Alfano. “Her mantra is ‘Don’t ever give up.’ She never has and we are the richer for it.”

The recipient of the Unsung Hero award, as is customary, was not announced until the ceremony.

A successful arts community needs participants who actively provide feedback and are willing to get involved in a meaningful way to support and advance the mission of an organization, said Karen Hudkins, director of the New Britain Industrial Museum. Dr. J. Fenton Williams has come to epitomize that mission, said Hudkins, as a volunteer who has donated hundreds of hours to the Main Street museum.

“(He) doesn’t just attend programs. … He is committed, from a user’s standpoint, to making the museum and arts experience better and is not shy about pointing out ways it can be improved or contributing the means of making the improvements,” said Hudkins.

Following the awards ceremony, the board met to organize for the upcoming year. Hanna Hurwitz succeeds Donna Veach as president, while Richard Charnick will serve as vice president, David Tompkins as treasurer and Clerkin as secretary.