Arundel Arts Council hands out 'Annie' awards for achievement

In celebration of Ballet Theatre of Maryland artistic director Dianna Cuatto's receiving this year's Performing Arts Annie, BTM dancers entertained at the start of the 12th annual Annie Awards ceremony, offering excerpts from their "1812 Ballet" and from "Aladdin," along with Spanish and Irish dances.

On Oct. 19 in the Key Auditorium at St. John's College, the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County awarded Annies to six people for their contributions to performing, literary and visual arts, and to arts education, patronage and lifetime achievement. The council also awarded grants to more than 30 local arts organizations.


Cuatto was recognized for her work since 2003 as artistic director of Ballet Theatre of Maryland, where she has choreographed award-winning works and built a strong, 35-member company of professional dancers while heading BTM's school of classical and contemporary dance.

Accepting her award, Cuatto said she remains "committed to the dream and vision shared by BTM founder Edward Stewart and the belief that dance is a dynamic expression of a dancer's spirit, a state of being and of life."

Diane Bragdon, principal of Bates School, was the recipient of the Annie Award for arts education. She was recognized for her dedication to the federal Supporting Arts Integrated Learning program. Illustrating how art can benefit a student, Bragdon spoke of an average student who received a grade of A in dance. "Dance," the student explained, "helps me manage my anger."

This year's Arts Patron Annie recipient, Ellenor Alvarez, has for decades raised money for the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, and has also worked for the Heifetz International Music Institute to bring young musicians to Annapolis.

The Literary Arts Annie was awarded to Iris Krasnow, author of five novels, who is on tour promoting her latest book and did not attend the ceremony. Her husband, Chuck Anthony, accepted the award on her behalf and read a message from his wife: "I am deeply honored to win this award," she wrote. "I have written five books and raised four sons while living for the last 18 years in a home overlooking the Severn River in Annapolis."

The Visual Arts Annie went to Richard Niewerth, who has spent his entire teaching career at Anne Arundel Community College, heading the art department for 18 years. Accepting his award, Niewerth said, "It's not as easy to be an artist as it is to be a lawyer or physician. I never see ads seeking a landscape painter or abstract expressionist. Yet artists who can see what others may not are needed."

The 2011 Annie Lifetime Achievement Award went to Linnell Bowen, executive director of Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts since 1996, who is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the 30-year-old arts center. More than 5,000 people take classes at Maryland Hall, whose 850-seat auditorium is also home to four resident companies: the Annapolis Chorale, the Annapolis Opera, the symphony and the ballet theater.

In accepting her Annie, Bowen indicated she intends to stay at Maryland Hall, recalling that a stroke seven years ago convinced her to subscribe "to the belief that it's not how many breaths we take but how many moments take our breath away that counts."