Jeff Lynch and Bebe Mullaugh were munching on some lunch with Mike Greenwald at Mangia Qui when Greenwald announced to the pair that they would be recipients of an award recognizing their contributions to the area’s cultural life.
“We were surprised and deeply flattered to be in the company of past recipients, many of whom are also friends,” Lynch said later.
Flattered? Yes, and for good reason. The 2017 Awards for Distinguished Service to the Arts in the Capital Region (aka the “Arts Awards”) is now in its 25th year of celebrating extraordinary individuals (Stuart Malina, Lois Lehrman Grass, Steve Rudolph to name a past few) whose magic touch is felt throughout art arenas.
Surprised? The pair, Harrisburg residents, shouldn’t have been. Lynch, a commercial filmmaker, designer, photographer, musician and local impresario, has presented, produced, performed, mentored and supported some of the major music organizations in the region. Mullaugh, an attorney with McNees Wallace & Nurick and president of the Capital Area School for the Arts Charter School, shepherded the plan that led to the school’s creation. She also served as past board member and board chair of Concertante, the chamber music ensemble.
“The level of artistry available to this community is on a strikingly high level and, in many cases, equal to or exceeding many major metros,” Lynch said. “For us, it’s particularly satisfying to provide some degree of support and guidance to aspiring artists as they work to create inspiring work going forward.”
Lynch and Mullaugh will be joined by other honorees whose accomplishments are just as impressive.
The Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (CPYB) is a recipient this time around, 25 years after its founder, Marcia Dale Weary, received the award for her solo efforts in bringing this Carlisle-based organization worldwide recognition for offering the finest in classical ballet training. Many alumni have gone on to perform as principals, soloists and corps de ballet members in some of the most prestigious ballet companies in the world, including the American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet and National Ballet of Canada.
“Right now, 81 of our dancers are active and performing professionally,” said Nicholas Ade, CPYB’s chief executive officer. “But there are much more than 81 who are lawyers and doctors and working in other professions who have been trained by us, and we are equally proud of both. Dance teaches life skills. It teaches resilience, strength, self-confidence. It creates a more well-rounded person. It creates better lives.”
Despite all sorts of accolades CPYB has received over the decades, receiving this award is special. Ade admits he was thrilled when Greenwald phoned him to let him know that the group would be added to a historic list of arts honorees.
“I was elated,” Ade said. “I immediately called our board members to let them know about this high honor. At the ceremony, we are planning to have our youngest dancers perform and our older current dancers. We will also have a surprise alumni guest.”
Another recipient, Dr. George Orthey of Newport, will be given a special achievement award at the ceremony in June. Orthey is a premier autoharp maker who has had a folk arts award named after him. In fact, he annually hosts the Mountain Laurel Autoharp Gathering at Little Buffalo State Park, where hundreds of autoharpists from around the world arrive for five days of workshops and concerts.
Greenwald, the producer for the event, a noted arts advocate and the bearer of good news for this year’s winners, was himself an honoree last year, though a reluctant one.
“I initially declined it because I didn’t see myself as a candidate,” he said. “I felt my role was as a producer and not wanting or needing to be chosen. After further consideration—and encouragement and sentiments expressed to me by past recipients—I felt terribly honored to be embraced in such a way and ultimately decided to accept.”
Using the Kennedy Center Honors concept, the Arts Awards were initially staged as “Accolades & Applause” by Harrisburg Community Theatre, now Theatre Harrisburg. Barbara L. Schell, a former theater board member, chaired the special events committee when the concept turned into reality.
“So many wonderful people have been involved over the years,” she said. “To that end, the Arts Awards event has continued to evolve over the years from honoring just artists and philanthropists to including corporations and foundations. This award represents their achievements in our community and is a way of saying thank you for bringing their talents to life for all of us to enjoy.”
The 2017 Awards for Distinguished Service to the Arts in the Capital Region will be presented June 4, 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., at Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, 222 Market St., Harrisburg. For more information about the awards and the event, visit theatreharrisburg.com.