Meet 14 of the hardest working people in the arts. They’ve not only succeeded in their respective fields — including architecture, construction, education, energy, finance, the law, marketing and public relations — but they’ve also donated much time to guiding the development of what is now ArtsWestchester, thus serving the arts throughout the county.
As ArtsWestchester celebrates its golden anniversary, the flagship arts council in New York state salutes the current and past presidents of its board of directors (all photographs courtesy ArtsWestchester):
FROMA BENEROFE, the current ArtsWestchester president, hopes her tenure will be marked by raising significant funds for an ArtsWestchester endowment. Having served as chair of the Grants Committee for six years, she knows well the needs of the cultural community.
Benerofe has dedicated her life to helping others. She has done this through her work as a clinical psychologist specializing in trauma and child abuse, which earned her an award from The Westchester Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect. A lifelong arts advocate, she has served on the board of the Steffi Nossen Dance in Education Fund and the Parsons School of Dance. She has also served as regional chair of the Westchester UJA Federation. Benerofe holds a bachelor of arts degree from Vassar College, a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University and certification in interpersonal trauma from Fordham University. She lives in Purchase with her husband, Andrew.
“Arts are an integral part of life and living. Too often, people go through life and don’t see all of the art around them … both in buildings, design features of offices, artwork on the walls, landscapes … and all the creativity around them.”
“ArtsWestchester is the hub of the arts community in Westchester – both in supporting and building a stronger cultural presence. As board president, I have had the joy and opportunity to meet and work with an incredible group of professional and volunteer leaders who are so diverse and yet so cohesive.”
JACQUELINE A. WALKER raised the bar on giving at ArtsWestchester by jumpstarting a Friends Organization and revving up the arts council for a Campaign for the Arts. An active and dedicated board member since 2002, Walker and her husband, Arthur, received ArtsWestchester’s highest tribute in 2010 for their support of exhibitions and performances at ArtsWestchester’s historic Arts Exchange building.
Walker, a former director of human resources at American Express and Lever Brothers, holds a bachelor’s degree from Elmira College and a master’s degree in teaching from Columbia University. She has served on the boards of the Scarsdale Adult Schools and the Neuberger Museum of Art.
“The arts foster creativity, express our values and build bridges between cultures. The arts enrich our everyday lives by inviting conversation and reflection and promoting an intellectual experience for the participants.”
“I am so proud of the work our staff does to promote and ensure that the residents of Westchester have a marvelous cultural component to their lives …Bravo, ArtsWestchester.”
JOSEPH OATS’ presidency was defined by his guiding the board through a process that resulted in a five-year strategic plan. He helped ArtsWestchester navigate a difficult economic period, providing the leadership to make tough financial decisions. Throughout his 12 years on the board, Oates has enjoyed fame as auctioneer par excellence at ArtsWestchester’s annual golf outing.
Currently senior vice president, Corporate Shared Services for Con Edison, Oates, a mechanical engineer, has also held positions in the construction, auditing, generation planning, energy management and corporate planning departments of the utility.
A resident of White Plains, he holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees in mechanical engineering from Manhattan College and an MBA from Fordham University. He also serves on the boards for the 100 Club of Westchester and the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp.
“I believe that art, in all of its forms, makes Westchester County the wonderful place it is to live and work. The arts energize Westchester.”
“Con Edison has supported ArtsWestchester for many years. I have enjoyed supporting the organization since 2003 as a board member, and as president for two years.”
STEPHEN DISHART, president of Dishart Communications and Crisis Management Consultants, led a rebranding of ArtsWestchester during his term as board president. His expertise in communications helped position ArtsWestchester for the future with a new logo and marketing strategy.
He began his career as a broadcast journalist, where he won a number of journalism awards for news reporting. Subsequently, he served in high-level global communications positions for the Mellon Financial Corp. and Swiss Re.
He serves on the boards of Green Chimneys Children’s Services and the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund. A resident of Cortlandt Manor, Dishart is also active in Bridges to Community, which builds homes in the poorest regions of Nicaragua, and is a part-time graduate faculty member of Baruch College’s Department of Communications Studies.
“The arts invigorate our communities, expand our minds and enhance our perspective. ArtsWestchester takes this a step further by bringing art not only into our communities at various venues across all of Westchester, but right into our schools for the precious education of our children.”
JOHN PECKHAM’s leadership has been a mainstay of the ArtsWestchester organization since he joined the Board of Directors in 1999. His board membership was preceded by his late mother, Janet Peckham, who was a leading member of the Westchester arts and business community. As president and later as chairman of the board, John Peckham has worked to develop the ArtsWestchester building as a beacon for the arts and continues to help guide the organization for the future.
A Katonah resident with his wife, Amy, and four children, he is president and CEO of Peckham Industries Inc., a position he has held since 1993. Headquartered in White Plains, Peckham Industries is a leading producer of highway building materials in New York state, with plant locations in Connecticut and Vermont, as well as in Westchester and throughout the Hudson Valley region.
A lifelong Westchester resident and a graduate of Chappaqua schools and Union College, Peckham has been an active member in industry and community organizations, including The Masters School, The Down Town Association, The Moles, Seven Bridges and Dorset Field Clubs.
Professionally, he has served as president of the Empire State Concrete and Aggregate Producers Association and is a past president and current director of The Associated General Contractors Association of New York. He is also a director on the boards of the National Associated General Contractors and the Construction Industry Council.
“The arts are magical for children, thought provoking for adults, inspirational for communities and economically important to our County.”
JAMIE SHENKMAN became a member of ArtsWestchester’s Board of Directors in 1995, continuing a love for the arts that began in her childhood. As a board president who valued the art of collaboration, she led ArtsWestchester’s engagement and partnerships with its vast array of affiliate organizations. At the same time, she oversaw the completion of the organization’s first capital campaign in which the Sally and Melvin Shenkman Gallery at ArtsWestchester was established in memory of her parents.
A writer and aficionado of antique jewelry, Shenkman holds a master of fine arts degree from Pratt Institute and is the owner of Jamie’s Antiques, a business that specializes in vintage jewelry. Shenkman serves on the board of the Teatown Lake Reservation and is a trustee of the Jacob Burns Foundation, which is named for her grandfather, the late Jacob Burns, a Manhattan attorney and philanthropist for whom the film center in Pleasantville is also named.
In addition to publishing her own short stories, Shenkman enjoyed a long career as associate vice president of Thompson & Bender, a public relations and marketing firm. She lives in Croton-on-Hudson with her husband, artist Chris Magadini.
“Art is transcendent. Whether you appreciate it or create it, the experience can be transformative and give greater meaning to life.”
“ArtsWestchester supports the arts in myriad ways and on many levels. Its mission and good works remind us that we must not lose sight of how much joy the arts contribute to our lives.”
LARUTH GRAY has dedicated her life to children by working to improve their quality of education and their quality of life. An ArtsWestchester board member since 1997, Gray has a passion for the arts that runs as deep as her commitment to ensuring the accessibility and diversity of the arts in Westchester
A retired superintendent of schools for the Abbott Union Free School District in Irvington, Gray serves as scholar in residence for the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education (Metro Center) at New York University. Prior to this appointment, she served as deputy director of Metro Center and as affiliate professor in the Administration, Leadership and Technology Program at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. She began her career in education as a teacher in the New Rochelle public schools and moved up in the ranks to become chairman of the Language Arts Department. From there, she was named first principal, then director of instruction and finally assistant superintendent before becoming superintendent of the Abbott Union Free District. Among her accomplishments are the design, development and execution of a plan for the reorganization of the New Rochelle public schools to address the problems of minority isolation and declining enrollment. A lifelong arts advocate, Gray was honored by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Alliance for Arts Education as an outstanding educator.
A graduate of Howard University, Nova University and Columbia University Teacher’s College, Gray is married to Joseph Morgan, who is also an educator.
“I grew up in rural East Texas during the roughest years of segregation in that part of the country. The arts were an incredible window to the world for me and provided hope for the future.”
A. MAREN HEXTER of Armonk, a resident of Westchester since 1970, is a dedicated and tireless advocate of the arts in this county. Hexter has served on ArtsWestchester’s board since 1997 and led the organization as president during the acquisition of its headquarters at 31 Mamaroneck Ave. in White Plains. The purchase and the renovation of a historic bank building was a huge step for the organization. However, Hexter was an enthusiastic proponent of the transformative role the arts could play in the economic revitalization of the downtown. She believed that the presence of ArtsWestchester would activate the streetscape and would further engage the diverse members of our community in the arts.
Hexter has played a leadership role on the boards of The Music Conservatory of Westchester, the Mount Kisco Concert Association and the United Way of Northern Westchester, where she served as president. She remains connected to her alma mater, Middlebury College, as a member of its arts council. Additionally, she has served on the boards of directors of the Westchester Chapter of the American Field Service, the Chamber Dance Project, the Rondo Dance Theater, the SPCA of Westchester, the Westchester Community Foundation and the International Programs of Bedford. A dance and film enthusiast, Hexter is a competitive ballroom dancer and the proud grandmother of four grandchildren.
“The arts open new vistas into the world around us. I am forever grateful to the artists whose hard work raises my appreciation and understanding of that world.”
“ArtsWestchester is for me a vast learning experience among some of the finest and most dedicated individuals in Westchester.”
BETTY HIMMEL of Purchase, who was presented with the 2001 Arts Award, is a dedicated arts advocate and passionate supporter of the cultural and educational life in Westchester County. A member of ArtsWestchester’s Board of Directors, serving nonconsecutive terms since 1982, Himmel has played a significant role in the growth of the organization, including her tenure as its board president from 1995 to 1997. During that time, the foundation for ArtsWestchester’s nationally recognized arts-in-education program was strengthened and expanded. A strong leader known for running a “tight ship,” Himmel helped build close relationships with the cadre of arts organizations affiliated with ArtsWestchester and structured the guidelines for the emerging gallery and performance space at the ground-level of the ArtsWestchester building.
At the Katonah Museum of Art, Himmel was instrumental in guiding and expanding the museum, first volunteering in 1968 and later becoming board president in 1976 and again in 1991. She nurtured that museum into what has become one of the county’s cultural jewels. She is a major presence on the board of the Westchester Community College Foundation and ardently speaks for the importance of a college education for all. Himmel is a graduate of Western Reserve University with a degree in political science and a master’s degree in history from Columbia University.
“Art expands our horizons, stimulates our minds and nourishes our souls – our lives would be barren without art – and ArtsWestchester plays a vital role in providing this stimulation and nourishment to our community.”
KENNETH GOULD is a lifelong resident of White Plains where he has practiced law for more than 40 years. Gould came to what was then known as the Westchester Arts Council in 1986, becoming president of the board in 1992, shortly after Janet Langsam took over the helm as executive director. A priority for Gould was to maintain the council’s partnerships with Westchester County government, its corporate supporters and the arts affiliates. Gould was adept at balancing the needs of individual artists, emerging arts organizations and Westchester’s cultural destinations.
His involvement and understanding of the organization played a vital role in the negotiations for the purchase of the building at 31 Mamaroneck Ave. in White Plain, which ArtsWestchester owns and operates as its home. Gould has continued to guide ArtsWestchester as legal counsel for more than 25 years, assisting the board and staff in real estate, financing and contract work.
He is also a longtime member of the Board of Trustees of United Way of Westchester and Putnam and serves as vice chairman of its board and chair of its Community Initiatives Committee. He has also served as president of The Music Conservatory of Westchester.
Gould received his undergraduate degree from Cornell University and his juris doctor degree from George Washington University Law School.
“I see art as the human activity by which we express and communicate our thoughts, emotions, values and our humanity to each other. Art gives us pleasure when we experience beauty and it inspires, teaches and guides us in our lives.”
“I have experienced ArtsWestchester as the local organization which assembles and distributes resources, both financial and otherwise, to further the arts in Westchester, enhancing our communities and therefore the lives of all who are exposed to the arts organizations and artists whom it supports.”
TIMOTHY CURTIN first joined ArtsWestchester’s board in 1983. He shared his leadership and expertise as chairman of the Westchester Arts Fund Campaign and later as president of the board from 1987 to ’90, during which time he celebrated the organization’s 25th anniversary.
After 12 years with the FBI, Curtin joined the Corporate Relations Department of Ciba-Geigy Corp. in Ardsley. As director of the department, he was responsible for its corporate public affairs, federal and state government relations, communications, art services and Washington office.
Retiring from Ciba-Geigy, Curtin served on then Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy’s transition team and cabinet as an unsalaried special assistant. He spearheaded many projects to promote public art throughout that city and was named Stamford Citizen of the Year in 2013. It has been said, “Tim’s heart is in the area of how to make this world better in the form of art.”
Curtin served as president of the 100 Club of Westchester, a member of the Government Liaison Committee of the Westchester County Association and in a variety of positions with the Westchester County United Way Campaign. He is a past member of the Stamford Planning Board and served as chairman of the Stamford Fire Commission for two years.
Curtin holds a B.S. from Boston College, a J.D. degree from Seton Hall University Law School and an MBA from the University of Connecticut. He completed Brooking Institution’s program for business executives on federal government relations and the Columbia University executive program in business administration.
“Life without art is unimaginable. It is central to our very existence.”
“I believe that ArtsWestchester played a major role in creating awareness of the many cultural opportunities that exist in Westchester County. Its focus on supporting small, struggling startup arts organizations led to an increase in the quality and diversity of programs available to Westchester residents.”
DANIEL IDZIK first joined the board of the then-Council for the Arts in Westchester in 1980, having previously served as president of the Rye Arts Center. In 1983, he succeeded Kay Niles as president of the board of directors. In that capacity, Idzik had the great pleasure of working with a highly energetic and dedicated board and particularly valued his close relationship with Chris Bruhl, the then-executive director. Under Idzik’s leadership, the arts council reorganized and strengthened its committee structure and completed its first long-range strategic plan.
While maintaining his day job as general counsel of Booz Allen Hamilton, an international management and technology consulting firm, Idzik completed his board term in 1986, going on to serve the Philharmonia Virtuosi and the Neuberger Museum of Art as a board member and president. He also was appointed vice chairman of the Westchester 2000 Education and Arts Committee. In 1990, Idzik was honored with an ArtsWestchester’s Arts Award.
Most recently, Idzik served for 13 years as a board member of the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.He retired in 1998 with his wife, Kathleen Osborne, and moved from New York City to Longboat Key, Fla. They share six children and 18 grandchildren.
“Westchester County has been blessed with a vibrant and highly diverse arts community that has contributed immeasurably to making the county a wonderful place to live. I am proud and privileged to have been a member of that community.”
CORWIN FROST was president during a pivotal time for the arts council, guiding the development of an Arts Action Plan that envisioned a larger and broader role for the organization. A graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy, Princeton University and the Rhode Island School of Design, he is a third-generation architect who practiced architecture in New York City with Frost Associates. He subsequently became responsible for architecture and engineering services as director of facilities engineering for CBS Inc. and then as deputy director of design, construction & management for the City University of New York. Later, he became an architectural and planning consultant for several clients, including the Newark, N.J. public schools. He has served as a trustee of the Rhode Island School of Design, chairman of the Bronxville Planning Board and was president of the then-Council for the Arts in Westchester from 1974 to 1995.
Frost lives in Bronxville with his wife, Randy Frost, also a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. Randy is a fiber artist and was active for many years as an artist-in-residence with ArtsWestchester, working in several Westchester schools.
“With father and grandfather architects, a mother who was a devoted reader, writer and patron of the arts, and a wife who is an artist, and as an active architect for many years, the arts are and always have been integral to my life.”
“ArtsWestchester, as now constituted, evolved from the Council for the Arts in Westchester. I had the honor of serving as president in 1974-75, which was the pivotal time during which the Arts Action Plan was developed with an arts consultant and envisioned the larger and broader-based organization that exists and thrives today.”
GEORGE NEWLIN, attorney, financier, pianist, opera singer, author and bon vivant, was the first president of ArtsWestchester, which 50 years ago was inaugurated as the Council for the Arts in Westchester. He, along with a group of visionary residents, were instrumental in building support for the then-fledgling arts organization. His expertise, vision and passion for the arts laid the foundation for the vibrant leadership organization that ArtsWestchester has become – 50 years later.
Newlin has always been caught between the law and the arts and has tried to keep a hand in both. From Yale Law School, he went straight to Vienna to study opera and piano and, after his military service, he continued music studies in New York City. While working as an attorney, Newlin wrote the charter and bylaws for the then-Council for the Arts in Westchester and filed them in December of 1965. He later worked at an investment bank, spending time in assets management and venture capital, all the while studying singing and playing piano concerts. In 1988, Newlin got badly bit by a literary bug and focused on creating a new type of single author anthology, first with Charles Dickens (six volumes published), then Anthony Trollope (four volumes) and George Eliot (two volumes). He led a reading series on Trollope for 10 years that covered all 47 of his novels, and he has just started a new one on Henry James. Every five years, beginning when Newlin turned 70, he has played a piano concert centered on a Beethoven piano concerto. Next February, for his 85th birthday, he’ll play two late Beethoven sonatas.
Newlin has a son, a daughter and six grandchildren. He lives in Princeton, N.J., the home of his alma mater (Class of 1952).
“The ‘arts’ for me are primarily music and literature. As a performer in music, I can choose my collaborators — Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, whomever. What a privilege and delight. And I love to read and to share what I read, a deep and ongoing satisfaction.”
“I’m thrilled at how the Council, now ArtsWestchester, has survived and made an impact for nearly five decades so far. I salute founders Ogden Reid, Jeanne Thayer, Larry Valenstein, Hans Wolflisberg, Thelma Rost and Al and Dee DelBello, who were at the forefront of the arts movement in the county. Other vitally important contributors were Olcutt Sanders, Nelson Rockefeller, Bill Ruder, Mark Schubart, Kay Niles and, of course, Corky Frost, my successor as president/chairman, as well as phenomenal benefactor Eugene Grant. They have my undying thanks.”