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.
"This Annie award came as such a surprise to learn that what I've been doing hasn't been ignored with the fruits of my labor acknowledged," he said after the ceremony.
Another historical first winner was arts educator award winner Malmgren, son of 2006 lifetime achievement winner Ebby Malmgren, making them the first mother-son Annie winners. A former fine arts instructor at St. John's College and current chair of the visual arts and humanities department at Anne Arundel Community College, Rick Malmgren is committed to inspiring artists. His work has been exhibited widely and he has been published in "Ceramics Monthly, "Potters Guide." He has been featured in seven books including Susan Peterson's "Working with Clay," published 2009.
In accepting his award, Malmgren described his "days now filled with the joys, accomplishments and complexities of leading 75 faculty members who meet with 2,600 students each week to teach them to paint, draw, sculpt, design games, make videos, design Web sites - they think, talk, make and write about art."
Despite today's economy, Malmgren noted that the department's enrollment is up 25 percent, "showing that our students see their lives as inseparable from art."
Lifetime achievement award recipient Waidner is a lifetime Annapolis resident. She developed an interest in dance at age 4 when she performed at local dance studios, including her mother's Grace Clark School of the Dance. She later became an educator for Anne Arundel public schools, serving eight years as a teacher and 36 years as an administrator, was named "Principal of Excellence" and received the Washington Post annual Distinguished Educational Leadership Award. A current member and former trustee of the Anne Arundel County Arts Council, Waidner is a trustee and former vice president of the Annapolis Opera and donor to numerous county arts organizations.
Accepting the award, Waidner said, "I'm thrilled to be here, and my mother, Grace Clark, would be proud. Today I'm remembering my violin teacher and other teachers who influenced me."
Nominations for the 2010 Annie Awards are now being accepted. Applications can be downloaded from the Web site at annearundelartscouncil.org.