O Pioneers!

The Austin Arts Hall of Fame Class of 2004 led the way to culture

A city's cultural scene doesn't just appear. It has to be willed into being by people who live in the place, people who understand the value of the arts in human life and society and will spread the word and do the work and make the sacrifices that are necessary for the visual arts, dance, theatre, and classical music to take root in a community and flourish – in short, people who can lead the way in establishing a cultural scene. The eight individuals being inducted into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame this year are all leaders. They are our city's cultural pioneers, blazing new trails in the arts; founding institutions and supporting their growth; creating opportunities for aspiring artists to develop and showcase their talents; sharing the stories of artists so that their work might connect with an audience. These Austinites have shown a steadfast commitment to the arts that has enabled our cultural scene not only to come into being but to develop into one of the liveliest, busiest, and most watched in the country. The Austin Critics Table, that loose affiliation of local arts writers who recognize outstanding creative work in the city, is proud to recognize the contributions of these cultural heroes and will welcome them into the Hall of Fame on Monday, June 7, at the Cap City Comedy Club, 8120 Research. Here is an introduction to this year's honorees and why we honor them.

O Pioneers!

Felicity Coltman

Chamber music by nature suggests the small and intimate, yet through her passion and drive, Felicity Coltman has made it something that touches thousands and spans continents. In 1981, she started a summer workshop for 60 local music students, and its success led her to found the Austin Chamber Music Center, a nonprofit through which Coltman and other classical musicians hone the skills of young artists year-round. In her 22 years directing the center, Coltman has initiated international exchanges that allow ACMC students to study and perform abroad and students from Europe to come to Austin; started the Intimate Concerts series of professional performances; and created the Austin Chamber Music Festival, bringing national and international artists to town to perform and teach. An accomplished pianist, Coltman has performed with orchestras in South Africa and chamber ensembles in Europe and the United States. Her honors include Chamber Music America's Gruber Award for Excellence in Chamber Music Teaching and the Austin Circle of Theaters' Payne Award for Outstanding Artistic Spirit.
O Pioneers!

Karen Kuykendall

If Austin theatre had a royal family, this actor, singer, and arts patron would surely reign at its head. She has set the standard for style, her effortless poise and presence commanding attention, her gloriously deep and smoky alto as intoxicating as brandy. Though a hometown girl who grew up at a time when Austin was more town than city, Kuykendall radiates the urban chic of NYC, a quality she's employed to excellent effect in numerous productions and her longtime Cafe Manhattan cabaret act with composer/pianist Sterling Price-McKinney. Her 1980s work with then local playwright Marty Martin and more recent performances in Angels in America at Zachary Scott Theatre Center and Big Love with the Rude Mechanicals show her to be an artist who has consistently supported new work and challenged herself creatively. She has also championed many other artists and companies, most notably Ballet Austin. Kuykendall has won several Critics Table and Payne awards and was dubbed Best Diva in the Chronicle's 1999 Best of Austin poll.

Sarah and Ernest Butler

There are people who give to get – their name on a building, for instance – and people who give to give. This philanthropic couple is the latter. For decades they've been leaders in supporting local arts, and their very generous donations – sometimes in excess of $1 million – have always been about the institutions, giving them new outlets to reach more diverse audiences or to expand the kinds of art they can present. The Butlers' financial contributions, which include major gifts to Arts Center Stage, Austin Lyric Opera, the Austin Museum of Art, the Austin Symphony, Ballet Austin, and the Blanton Museum of Art, are matched by their active service in community organizations. Ernest, a retired otolaryngologist, has been a member of the boards of ASO, AMOA, and the Austin Community Foundation. Sarah has served on the boards of ALO and the Ballet Austin Foundation and is active with the Austin Nature and Science Center. They are recipients of the 2003-2004 Joe and Teresa Long Award.
O Pioneers!

Chris Cowden

When Chris Cowden joined Women & Their Work as director, the organization didn't have an exhibition space, just a one-room office over a drug store. Six weeks after signing on, Cowden gave birth to her first child. Three months later, the Austin economy went south in the real estate bust. At that point, she had more than enough cause to bail on the small nonprofit, but 18 years later, she's still there, and her commitment has transformed the organization and the face of the Austin arts community. Under her leadership, W&TW not only survived the Eighties bust but managed to land its first gallery space – a humble spot on East Fifth – and grow, drawing statewide attention to art created by women (not an easy thing in Texas). She has steered W&TW through a succession of spaces to its current 2,000-square-foot home on Lavaca, where it hosts 50 events a year and has now served more than 1,700 artists in all creative disciplines.

Barbara Carson

If you appreciate Ballet Austin and all that its presence adds to this city, thank Barbara Carson. It all began with her, at a time when cultural organizations were still in short supply in the capital city. In 1956, Austin boasted a symphony, a community theatre, and little else. Then came Carson, a dancer and choreographer who was inspired to found the Austin Ballet Society, a civic, volunteer organization offering ballet classes. It was a far cry from the professional company we know today – performances initially featured only senior-level students – but Carson's efforts gave ballet a toehold in Austin, creating an appetite for classical dance in the city and giving dancers a place to learn and be trained in it. The Ballet Austin Academy has established an annual scholarship in her honor.
O Pioneers!

Jim Swift

In a medium that typically displays an astonishing indifference to the arts, TV reporter Jim Swift has distinguished himself by taking culture seriously and regularly showcasing it on the air. After a succession of radio jobs around Central Texas in the mid-1970s, Swift landed at KXAN-TV, where his coverage of fires, crimes, and politics was soon outshone by his human-interest features. His treatment of personal stories with sensitivity and style won him the regular segment on the 10pm news now known as "Out on the Porch." In these reports, Swift treats artists with respect and gives them that rare opportunity to show their work to a television audience. For 26 years, Swift's intelligent, incisive, and insightful features have connected thousands of central Texans with the art of Austin and enhanced the public's appreciation of culture. He has received the Barbara Jordan Medallion from the Governor's Committee on People With Disabilities, first-place awards in the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters competition, and repeated wins as "Best TV Reporter" in the Chronicle's Best of Austin polls.
O Pioneers!

Boyd Vance

The time may come when Boyd Vance slows down, but don't expect to be around to see it. He's been on the scene for 25 years, going full-tilt as actor, singer, director, producer, arts advocate, and community activist, and is no less energetic now than when he made his local debut in a 1978 staging of Purlie. Vance's irrepressible energy has made him memorable onstage in everything from Esther's Follies to Shakespeare – most notably as the Emcee in Gaslight Theatre's Cabaret and as Tony the hairdresser in the three-year run of Shear Madness at the Zachary Scott Theatre Center. It's also kept him directing shows, singing for bands, serving on boards, teaching, and, since 1993, running Pro Arts Collective, a multi-disciplinary company he founded to promote African-American arts. Through its art exhibitions, theatre productions, African American Festival of Dance, and educational programs highlighting black history, fire safety, and AIDS awareness, Vance has proven himself to be, as he is fond of saying, "the real deal." end story

The induction of the 2004 class of the Austin Arts Hall of Fame will take place at the Austin Critics Table Awards ceremony, Monday, June 7, 7pm, at the Cap City Comedy Club, 8120 Research.

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