Arts Council Director Has Fostered Vibrant Collaboration
Hartford Courant Editorial
January 25, 2009
The breadth and depth of Ken Kahn's involvement in the community and his efforts to recognize and celebrate the stunning diversity of its cultural and artistic activities made his selection for The Courant's 10th annual Tapestry Award a natural.
The award is designed to honor those who do the most to foster a weaving together of the people in our region. Mr. Kahn, who is the executive director of the Greater Hartford Arts Council, has spent a decade looking for and creating the kinds of connections that give residents a greater exposure to and appreciation of the region's richly creative arts and cultural activities. He will receive his award at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Greater Hartford Arts Council board meeting.
This year the Tapestry Award is being given in two categories, to an individual and to a corporation. United Technologies Corp. has been chosen to receive the corporate award, which is to be given in a ceremony later this year.
Rie Poirier-Campbell, deputy director of the arts council, praised Mr. Kahn's sense of engagement with the entire community in her essay nominating him for the award.
"Ken has the innate ability to connect people from different cultures, races, political bents and social statures, bringing them together for a common purpose," she said. "As a leader in Greater Hartford's arts world for nearly 10 years and communities across the country for decades more, he speaks art — a language that transcends all differences."
Mr. Kahn, who is known for his bow ties, plans to step down from his post running the arts council in June. His tenure has been marked by a nuts and bolts attention to fundraising, having nearly doubled the size of the annual United Arts Campaign to $4.3 million, and using the resources of the council to help individuals and groups in music, visual arts, dance and cultural celebrations.
Under his direction, the council has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to support neighborhood and regional activities such as the West Indian Festival and Parade, the Monday Night Jazz Series, the Caribbean American Festival and Keney Park Family Day.
For individuals, the council has provided fellowships to allow artists to pursue their interests in disciplines including African storytelling, ceramics, photography and poetry.
"Ken has also become the behind-the-scenes convener-in-chief in the cultural community, bringing together fractious groups and getting them to find common purposes and collaborate in ways that strengthen their organizations while providing the public with superior programming," according to Ms. Poirier-Campbell. "Under his guidance, the Greater Hartford Dance Umbrella was born to bolster our community's rich dance heritage, pulling together dance groups from a variety of cultures and dance disciplines, from Asian to Caribbean."
Beyond the organizations that he has helped strengthen and the energy he has given the arts regionally, Mr. Kahn has helped create a lasting visual artistic legacy through public art. Thirty permanent pieces have been installed in the past six years. Hartford now has two new sculpture parks with 16 spectacular pieces along the Riverfront and five more at the Learning Corridor. Ms. Poirier-Campbell notes his hand behind new public sculpture at The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Ancient Burying Grounds, Elizabeth Park, Keney Park and Pope Park. He also promoted the installation of murals at city schools and in neighborhood centers.
In helping artists and organizations, Mr. Kahn has also brought the joy and challenges of artistic expression to hundreds of thousands of audience members, festival goers and casual passers-by, all of whom go away richer for his efforts.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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