The television industry has its Emmy, Broadway theater has its Tony and film has its Oscar, all awarded at ceremonies steeped in rivalry. Anne Arundel County has its Annie Award, bestowed on seven local arts contributors at a casual ceremony.
In recent years this ceremony has been staged at Severn School's Price Auditorium, where local arts celebrities gather in camaraderie with their peers.
At the 10th annual Annie Awards program, founding Arts Council member Cynthia McBride gave a brief history of how the award was designed, and the early decision to award Annies to a select few who had made lasting contributions to Anne Arundel arts.
Recalling the first awards ceremony, McBride said, "The Annies were born on June 23, 2000, on the banks of College Creek at St. John's College. Among those first recipients were artist John Ebersberger and posthumously honored Annapolis guitarist Charlie Byrd for lifetime achievement."
On Oct. 21, the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County awarded Annies to Victoria Clark Waidner for lifetime achievement, Lee Boynton for visual arts, Nadja Maril for literary arts, William B. Ray for performing arts, James and Sylvia Earl for arts patronage and Rick Malmgren for arts education. After the Annies were accepted, the Arts Council distributed grant awards totaling $291,500 to 31 nonprofit county arts and cultural institutions.
Recipient of the 2009 award in literary arts, journalist/editor Maril accepted the honor in reflective comments recalling writing a play in first grade and noting the satisfaction budding writers experience when their first work is published. In 2005, Maril became editor of "What's Up, Annapolis" and after expanding the contents of that publication, helped to create two sister publications. A past president of the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County, she currently serves as vice president on Bay Theatre Company's board of trustees and on the advisory board of Mitchell Gallery of St. John's College.
Recipient of the visual arts award, Boynton acknowledged the influence of Cedric Egeli when he arrived in Annapolis, along with Cynthia McBride, owner of McBride Gallery.
Of Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, Boynton said, "Here was established an incubator for the arts where emerging artists could create quality work," a place where Boynton has worked for 25 years, painting and teaching. Boynton co-wrote a book, "Painting the Impressionist Watercolor," and is founder and president of Mid Atlantic Plein Air Painters Association. Creator of commissioned City Hall historical murals, Boynton's paintings and watercolors are prized for their luminous capture of light.
The Earls, married for more than 55 years, are financial supporters of the arts and board members of several organizations. Their Helena Foundation is named in honor of James' mother, Margaret Helena Earl. Formed in 1988, this foundation supports Maryland Hall, the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County, Mitchell Gallery, Annapolis Opera, Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, Bay Theatre, World Artists Experiences, Pasadena Theatre and Children's Theatre of Annapolis. The Earls moved to Crownsville in 1995, and soon after James Earl began classes with Boynton at Maryland Hall. He continues his art studies today, and might be described as an artist-philanthropist, known for his meticulously detailed travel drawings.
After the ceremony, Sylvia Earl recalled working as a volunteer for Annapolis Opera, where she recognized a need to support the annual vocal competition.
"The vocal competition can be considered educational, as everything we do is geared to education," she said. "For Annapolis Symphony we chose to give to the Music Van, and we go at least once a year to observe the children in class being visited by the ASO musicians to have hands-on experience with instruments."
Comfortably into his eighties and the first African-American Annie recipient, Ray, a 27-year resident of Anne Arundel County, received the 2009 performing arts award. Ray pursued his dream of having an operatic career in Europe in the 1950s, when it would have been unlikely if not impossible in his own country. In his remarks, Ray recalled attending segregated schools in Lexington, Ky., and serving in a segregated U.S. Army. "All along the way, I had people who saw what I could become and helped me on the journey. As a school child I was encouraged to sing, and later as an adult I was advised to pursue an operatic career in Europe."
After establishing a remarkable operatic career singing leading roles in "Il Tabarro" and "Rigoletto" among others, Ray also enjoyed a successful television career in Europe. He returned to the United States to teach voice at Peabody Conservatory and later headed the voice department at Howard University. Today Ray works with young singers and serves on several boards.