`Annie' goes to the best local artists

Award: The first "Annie" awards from the Cultural Arts Foundation of Anne Arundel County honor six who have enriched the arts scene.

June 29, 2000|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The television industry has its Emmy, Broadway theater its Tony, and film its Oscar, each associated with ceremonies staged inside theaters, where the atmosphere is charged with intense rivalries.

The Cultural Arts Foundation of Anne Arundel County added a new dimension to the opening of its eighth annual Waterfront Arts Festival on the banks of College Creek at St. John's College last week. For the first time, the art-focused fund-raiser opened with a gala Annie awards ceremony to honor six people whose talents enrich the county's arts scene.

Inside tents, partygoers enjoyed jazz, sampled local caterers' specialties and bid on an array of art -- photographs, paintings, pottery and jewelry -- at the silent auction. The mood was festive, the guests friendly, their chatter blending with the sounds of jazz.

The Annies ceremony drew an enthusiastic crowd. Among local luminaries was Annapolis Symphony Orchestra President Anna Greenberg, regal in a simple maize dress and mingling with the crowd. Resort chic described former Annapolis Opera presidents Thea and Harry Lindauer -- Thea, in Hollywood shades, wore a Kelly-green dress topped by a beribboned straw boater.

Wayne Shipley, of Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts and a Cultural Arts Foundation board member, displayed a cool casual look, reflecting his relaxed easy manner despite long hours spent as the Annie show organizer.

Our table included art patrons Clarence and Adrienne Goldberg, Jim and Sylvia Earl, Annapolis Opera President Anna Marie Darlington-Gilmour, and the talented thespian couple of Peter Kaiser, president of Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre, and Mary Armour-Kaiser, already a local legend.

Actor Gary Wheeler, host of the ceremony, moved things along with graceful efficiency.

Foundation President Jean Jackson, in a bold black-and-white print skimmer, acknowledged people who made the Annie awards a reality and introduced County Executive Janet S. Owens, the first presenter of the evening.

Making her own fashion statement in a white-jacketed black ensemble complete with sailor collar, Owens introduced Lawrence Mintline Jr., recipient of the Annie educator award.

A drama teacher at Arundel High School and director of its Arundel Players, Mintline thanked the school for supporting the "choices of theater productions" and in time-honored award tradition, thanked "mom, dad and sister for supporting me all my life in my interest in the theater."

The next presenter was Annapolis Mayor Dean L. Johnson, giving the arts patron award to Dennis Younger, president of the board of Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts for five years and dedicated volunteer for 20 years.

The mayor and Younger, in navy blazers with khaki trousers, gave new meaning to the term "Annapolis formal."

Earlier, Younger confided how "genuinely pleased to the bone" he was to receive the Annie and noted that "three of the recipients are from Maryland Hall."

In his acceptance speech, Younger, whose hairline resembles Sean Connery's, said that upon learning he'd been given the award "the hair on my head literally bristled, so now you know how special that was."

Accepting the Annie for performing arts, choreographer Eileen Carson, founder of Footworks, said she was grateful to her "storytelling family of singers, dancers and jokesters" who encouraged her growth and "Maryland Hall for being where it is."

Visual arts recipient John Ebersberger, wearing modified preppy with charcoal trousers and navy jacket, noted that until now he'd "thought there was still a chance I'd become a rock 'n' roll star." Impressionist artist Ebersberger thanked Cynthia McBride for nominating him.

An artist in residence at Maryland Hall for more than 10 years, Ebersberger paid tribute to his classes, where he "learns from the students."

Literary arts winner Lucia St. Clair Robson, author of six historical novels including the best-seller "Ride the Wind," enlivened the evening with her own Anne Arundel blend of Manhattan chic and California trendy. Robson wore local designer Ahni's creation, a short black number with long sleeves adorned by a silver spoon bracelet, a summer straw hat completing the unique outfit.

In her acceptance speech, Robson told the story of writers arriving first in hell and later in heaven -- "the only difference to their slavelike existence, chained to their desks, pushed to write ever faster was that in heaven they were published."

The lifetime achievement award went to a longtime Annapolis resident, the late legendary guitarist Charlie Byrd. His widow, Becky Byrd, accepted, saying that "Charlie never stopped practicing. He practiced every day and loved to practice."

Before his death, she said, "Charlie decided to donate his music to Peabody, where a friend started a $100,000 guitar scholarship in his memory, which became $200,000 through a matching grant."

The amount has grown to $225,000, and Becky Byrd hopes it will continue to grow and support "a deserving guitar student, who one day may become another Charlie Byrd."

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