The Pell Awards Recognizes RI Artists

Trinity Repertory’s Company’s 19th Annual Pell Awards takes place June 15 and honors a diverse foursome. The Pell Awards, developed by former Artistic Director Oscar Eustis, honor Senator Claiborne Pell, who worked to support the arts and provide new opportunities for artists. He was responsible for establishing the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities in 1965 and chaired the Senate Education and Arts subcommittee. These awards not only recognize artistic excellence, but showcase the artist’s commitment to social justice.

Debra Messing, the actress known for “Will and Grace,” “Smash” and “The Mysteries of Laura,” is winning the Pell Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Arts. Messing, who grew up in East Greenwich, devoted much of her childhood to musical theater. She graduated Summa Cum Laude in Theatre Arts at Brandeis University, was accepted into NYU’s elite Graduate Acting Program and received her MFA three years later. Messing’s charitable work is extensive, with a particular focus on HIV/AIDS awareness with The Gay Men’s Health Crisis, AmFAR, HRC (Human Rights Campaign), The Trevor Project and GLAAD.

John Chan, Jazz Promoter and Owner of Chan’s Fine Oriental Dining in Woonsocket, is winning the Rhode Island Pell Award for Excellence in the Arts. Mr. Chan is an impressionist painter and photographer whose paintings can be seen on the walls of the legendary Four Seasons Jazz and Blues Club. He is responsible for making his restaurant a staple of the local jazz and blues club scene. His musical guests include some of the biggest names in the industry, and Leon Redbone has made an annual appearance for 30 years.

Michael Gennaro, executive director of Goodspeed Musicals in Connecticut, formerly of Trinity Rep, is winning the Pell Award for Outstanding Leadership in the Arts. Prior to Trinity, he served as managing director at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, executive director at Pennsylvania Ballet in Philadelphia, producing director at Paper Mill Playhouse in NJ, and as executive director at the prestigious Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. During his tenure at Trinity Rep, Michael was instrumental in leading a coalition of nine RI performing arts organizations to secure a $35 million bond referendum providing state funding to private organizations, the first of its kind in the state.

Julie Strandberg, dancer/choreographer, and founding director of dance at Brown University, is winning the Charles Sullivan Award for Distinguished Service in the Arts. She is the artistic director of American Dance Legacy Initiative (ADLI), which she co-founded in 1993. She is the co-founder of Artists and Scientists as Partners, an organization that researches the role of dance and music for people with neurological disorders, specifically Parkinson’s disease and autism. She founded Brown’s dance program in 1969. From 1971-78 she was artistic director of The Rhode Island Dance Repertory Company. In 1973, she co-founded The Harlem Dance Foundation with her parents and sister.

The Pell Awards will be held at Trinity Repertory Company and Providence Public Library, PVD; VIP Reception at 6pm, Ceremony at 7pm, Cocktail Reception from 8 – 11pm; Black-tie optional, festive attire encouraged. For ticket information, call 401.453.9237

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