The Santa Monica Arts Foundation recognized “the
contributions of local leaders instrumental in
making Santa Monica a vital arts community” in an
awards ceremony on Thursday, February 28. It was the
inaugural event of what will henceforth be an annual
Arts Leadership Awards program. The honorees are:
Wayne Blank: Creative Community Innovator. The award is
given to an individual or small or mid-size commercial
creative business contributing to making Santa Monica’s
arts and culture sector ‘cutting edge’ through experimen-
tation, design, or cultural sustainability.
Abby Sher: Arts Patron. The award is given to an indi-
vidual or business leader providing extensive support for
the arts in Santa Monica
Jon Swihart: Artist in the Community/Bruria Finkel Award.
The award is given to an artist who has contributed
significantly to Santa Monica’s arts community through
activism, patronage, and/or volunteerism.
Also honored was artist Bruria Finkel in recognition for
her lifetime of leadership in making Santa Monica a place
that values artists and the arts. The Artist in the
Community award was named in her honor.
“Volunteers, philanthropists, and creative entrepreneurs
are essential to Santa Monica’s extraordinary arts community,”
said George Minardos, Foundation Chairperson, “and these
awards highlight the importance of their contributions.”
Honorees of the nonmonetary award received a signed litho-
graph by artist Lita Albuquerque, a widely renowned Santa
Monica artist. Assembly member Richard Bloom, representing
the 50th Assembly District, presented the honorees with
State Certificates of Recognition.
The Arts Leadership Awards program was launched in November
by the Foundation to “celebrate leadership and recognize the
breadth of efforts that support Santa Monica’s artistic,
creative, and cultural community.” A selection committee of
Santa Monica Arts Foundation board members and representatives
of the local arts and business communities met in December
to review nominations and make the final selections based
on the award guidelines.
The Foundation is a 501c3 organization established to assist
in developing support for the arts in Santa Monica. It serves
as the non-profit arm of the City’s Arts Commission and Cultural
Affairs Division. It also provides support for “Glow.” Glow
2013 will take place Saturday, September 28.
Wayne Blank is an “entrepreneurial arts advocate, dealer, and
developer.” He has been involved in several cultural/civic
realestate projects with the City of Santa Monica, including
convertng a vacant city-owned hanger at the Santa Monica Airport
into artists’ studios, co-developing Bergamot Station, the
Santa Monica Museum of Art, and other nonprofits. In 1994,
Blank transformed an abandoned trolley-car station and industrial
space into an important cultural destination. It is being
expanded now and will be a stop on the Expo Light Rail Line.
Bruria Finkel “personifies how artists can shape life in a
community.An award-winning painter, sculptor, and install-
ation artist of both temporary and permanent spaces,” she
has participated in more than 60 solo and group exhibitions
in the United States and Europe since the 1970s, and curated
a number of important exhibitions. Ms. Finkel is one of the
pioneers of the Los Angeles feminist art movement, helping
to found the Los Angeles Council of Women Artists(LACWA)
to protest gender discrimination at the Los Angeles County
Museum of Art in 1968 and serving as a board member
of the groundbreaking alternative institution, Womanspace,
in 1970. Ms. Finkel served as a founding member and Chair
of the Santa Monica Arts Commission (1982–1996), founded
the Arts Foundation in the 1980s, presided as Chair of the
City’s Rent Control Board (1995–2002) and sat on many civic
committees over the years. Not only has Ms.Finkel contri-
buted to shaping art in California, but she has been a
longtime leader in making Santa Monica a vital community
for artists as well as the arts.
Abby Sher’s “leadership, vision, and patronage have been
instrumental in establishing Santa Monica as a vital mecca
for contemporary art.” In 1984, she conceived of a cultural
and commercial center for Santa Monica, and commissioned
architect Frank Gehry to transform the former Edgemar Farms
egg-processing plant into an innovative mixed-use cultural
and commercial center and public art space on Main Street,
which she creatively oversaw for 20 years.
Though Gehry has lived and worked in Santa Monica for 40
years,is a Pritzker Prize winner, the architectural equivalent
of the Nobel Prize, and is seen by many as the most influen-
tial architect in the world today, Edgemar is the only building
he has designed here, though this week it was announced that
he has designed a hotel for an Ocean Avenue location.
In 1985, Sher founded the Santa Monica Museum of Art in Edgemar.
In addition to her long-standing support of the museum, which
is now located at Bergamot Station, She helped develop a wide
range of creative businesses at Edgemar, inspired some unique
aesthetic experiments, encouraged and supported local arts
organizations such as Jacaranda, and encouraged many local
artists. Sher has been a seminal figure in the forging of
Santa Monica’s national profile in cutting-edge contemporary
art, music, and design.
Jon Swihart is “a Santa Monica artist known for figurative
paintings that are crafted in the nineteenth century French
style. A self-taught artist, he is also popular as a portrait
painter and has been commissioned to paint portraits of well-
known politicians and celebrities. His meticulous artwork
is evocative of an earlier era, and his influential monthly
salon series, which hosts artists, curators, collectors,
and art students in his home for presentations and conversa-
tions about art, has provided a notable community-building
and educational service since 2003. The salon series recently
reached a milestone with its 100th presentation.