BATAVIA — A group of nine honorees were praised Saturday for enriching the cultural life locally with theater, paintings, music and varied efforts to preserve and promote local heritage.
Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council presented its annual community arts awards and announced a new honor will presented annually in 2013. That award will bear the name of former director Linda Blanchet.
She was among the honorees on Saturday, the biggest class since the GO ART! began the awards program in 2001.
Blanchet was recognized for leading GO ART! for 22 years until she retired in 2009. Blanchet also directed about two dozen local Rotary musical productions and led the restoration efforts for GO ART!’s current home, the former Batavia Club.
“She has made a tremendous contribution to our cultural community,” said Laurie Mastin, a former GO ART! board president.
Blanchet will help organization establish criteria for the annual recipient. It may be someone honored for lifetime achievement, or someone who is instrumental in pushing forward a major community initiative.
Blanchet was praised by Pat Burk, one of the 2012 honorees, for encouraging him to return to directing theater shows.
Burk is one of the leaders of Batavia Players. He also spearheaded the establishment of Harvester 56, a 100-seat theater at a former sheet metal operation on Harvester Avenue. The Players will put on 10 different productions in 2013, up from seven this year.
Other honorees include:
— The Holland Land Office Museum for its work developing new exhibits and putting on other community events, including a two-week summer camp for students to learn about local history and heroes.
— The Le Roy Barn Quilt Project for integrating art and culture to highlight the area’s rural heritage. Lynne Belluscio, director of the Le Roy Historical Society, last year helped start the project. Organizers wanted 24 - 30 barn quilts in time for the town’s bicentennial on June 8, 2012. The community responded with 75, which has grown to 110, attracting bus loads of tourists.
“It kind of mushroomed and snowballed,” Belluscio said during the awards event at Terry Hills Golf Course and Banquet facility. Some of the barn quilts will be featured on a calendar that will soon be available in the Le Roy area. The quilt trail is spreading to neighboring towns, which is fine with Belluscio.
“We think the more, the merrier,” she said.
— Bill McDonald, “Wild Bill,” a long-time local musician who performs with the Ghost Riders and is instrumental in the annual Ramble Music Festival. He has mentored many local musicians.
— The Mason family. Nina Mason Booth, Max Mason and Roy Martell Mason –were well-known local artists. Roy Mason was the most successful commercially with his landscape paintings, in particular his images of hunting and fishing. Beth Carr, the nominator of the three late artists, said they were ambassadors for Western New York.
— Another local artist, Lorie Longhany of Le Roy, teaches art classes to school children and senior citizens. Her works are displayed in many local homes and offices.
— Chris Busch, vice president of the Orleans Renaissance Group, has been pushing to restore the Bent’s Opera House in Medina. The ORG also has worked to bring orchestras and other entertainment into Medina. Busch also leads Medina’s tree planting program and annual Arbor Day celebration.
“We’re all in this together, making our region a better place to live,” he told the 125 attendees at the arts gala.
— The Medina Sandstone Society promotes the community’s sandstone legacy. The organization has started a “Sandstone Trust” that will fund annual awards for tourism projects, local publications, sponsorship of historic walks and markers for heritage sites.
“We have a lot of fun being community boosters,” said Bob Waters, Sandstone president. “We’ve had a great time the past eight years.”
Craig Lacy, the sandstone treasurer, called Waters the group’s “rock.” Lacy said the group’s members want to embrace the community’s sandstone heritage.
“Medina Sandstone is a symbol of durability and everlasting quality,” Lacy said.