Point of View

Adrienne Arsht – Outstanding Philanthropist of the Year
November 23, 2009, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Adrienne Arsht

Adrienne Arsht was honored at the National Philanthropy Day 25th Anniversary Celebration on November 18, during a luncheon hosted by The Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Miami Chapter. The Outstanding Philanthropist award is presented to an individual with a proven record of exceptional generosity who, through financial support, has demonstrated outstanding civic and charitable responsibility, and whose generosity encourages others to take philanthropic leadership role on a community, nation and/or international level.

Adrienne was recognized for her generosity of spirit and exemplary service to the Miami community. As Outstanding Philanthropist of 2009, Adrienne has been an extra-ordinary supporter of the Adrienne Arsht Center, and the Center would like to share with POV readers the winning nomination it submitted in her honor.


One person can indeed make a difference in a community.

The Greek author Plutarch said: “What we achieve inwardly will change our outer reality.” That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people’s lives simply by existing.

Adrienne Arsht touches thousands of peoples’ lives simply by existing. Arsht personifies all that a philanthropist should be. She is a visionary, willing to take risks, active in the community, collaborative and practical. She endeavors to help humankind through her extraordinary philanthropic accomplishments. Adrienne Arsht is uniquely qualified to receive the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Outstanding Philanthropist Award because she sets the standard for philanthropic giving not only in South Florida, but throughout the nation.

To say that Adrienne Arsht exceeds the expectations of philanthropy would be an understatement. With a $30 million donation to the performing arts center in January 2008, Arsht single-handedly altered the course of Miami’s cultural landscape. The entire amount, pledged over three years, is a true example of Arsht’s commitment to the South Florida community. In recognition of this gift, it was only fitting for the Center to honor this incomparable contribution by changing its name to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. Thanks to Adrienne Arsht, the Center welcomed its one millionth patron in April 2009, a feat accomplished in less than three full seasons since opening. Thriving programming and burgeoning commercial activity reflect the Center’s institutional progress. Arsht’s gift secured the Center’s financial footing and ensured the quality of cultural programming for future generations and the growth of Miami as a world-class city.

Arsht’s main goal in all of her varied endeavors has always remained the same – to improve her community through action. The powerhouse philanthropist plays a key role in supporting several worthy organizations through her tireless volunteer efforts and generous donations. In 2004, she became the first woman to join the Million Dollar Roundtable of United Way of Miami-Dade. In 2005, Arsht announced a $2 million gift to Goucher College, creating the Roxana Cannon Arsht Center for Ethics and Leadership, in honor of her late mother, a Goucher graduate. She announced a $3 million gift to the University of Miami for the creation of the Arsht Ethics Programs at UM; $1 million to the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute of the University of Miami; and $750,000 to Best Buddies International for the development of a Delaware chapter, specifically serving Hispanics and African-Americans with mental disabilities. Most recently, she announced a $5 million contribution to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to support musical theater programming. In January 2009, The Chronicle of Philanthropy ranked Arsht number 39 on its 2008 America’s 50 biggest donors list.

Adrienne Arsht has numerous leadership roles in the community as she promotes artistic, business and civic growth and development in her adopted hometown of Miami, Florida and throughout other communities in the U.S. She co-founded a program called “Arts in Crisis: A Kennedy Center Initiative,” which provides free, confidential planning assistance and consulting to struggling arts organizations. This is one of the innovative approaches Arsht undertook to solve problems within the nonprofit community in response to the emergency facing arts organizations throughout the U.S. in this current economic climate.

Arsht also serves on various national boards, including the Metropolitan Opera, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, American Ballet Theatre, Best Buddies International and The Global Advisory Board of the Washington National Opera. In South Florida, she is Chairman of the Adrienne Arsht Center Foundation, and also sits on the board of the University of Miami and Amigos for Kids. Arsht is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Fine Arts Committee of the U.S. State Department, a lifetime trustee of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens and a fellow of The Aspen Institute.

As the Adrienne Arsht Center works to promote its mission, dedicated volunteers like Adrienne Arsht promote philanthropy. She is widely recognized as the driving force that secured the future of the Center. In her role at the Adrienne Arsht Center Foundation, she made a bold statement about her strong support for the Center when she made a personal pledge of $30 million and openly encouraged others to give and take leadership roles in philanthropy- whether by giving or volunteering.

Arsht has received numerous award and honors for her life-long contributions to both business and community. In 2005, the Florida Council on Economic Education inducted Arsht into its Business Hall of Fame. Other awards include: the prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Finance for Florida; the Essie Silva Community Builder Award from the United Way; Dade Partners Exemplary Business Leader Award from the Miami-Dade County Public schools; Shining Star Award by the Arts & Business Council of Miami; and Woman Banker of the Year by the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Adrienne Arsht is a leader for others to emulate and inspires everyone around her to join with her dedication and caring. Her intelligence, capacity for hard work, the education she has earned and received, give her unique status and unique responsibilities. That she chooses to use her status and influence to support the community’s most pressing needs; that she retains the ability to imagine herself into the lives of those who do not have her advantages, then it is not only the Adrienne Arsht Center who celebrates her existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality she has helped transform for the better.

The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County feels fortunate to have the opportunity to know and work with a truly outstanding individual, a lover of the arts, and a great human being in every sense of the word. On behalf of everyone who has benefited from her phenomenal philanthropic service, we nominate Adrienne Arsht for the Outstanding Philanthropist Award of 2009.

Starry Nights at the Knight Concert Hall
November 23, 2009, 10:03 pm
Filed under: At the Center

When Joan Rivers, Anthony Bourdain and Julian Marley took the stage of the Knight Concert Hall on recent evenings, they generated more than enough star power to turn night into day.

She’s funny, she’s famous, and when she’s on stage…no one is safe! Emmy Award-winning comedienne and best-selling author Joan Rivers brought forth a wave of funny November 11. Known for her quick (and sometimes dirty) tongue, she delivered the politically incorrect punch lines she is known for and the audience loved every minute of it! As an equal opportunity offender, the comedy star dished her age, celebrities, and was also quick to turn her own personal foibles and tragedies into comic fodder.

As soon as she entered in a glittering floor-length robe flanked with boa feathers, she charmed the audience into submission, serving up a laugh after laugh with eye-opening views, insights and reminiscence. So how funny was she? Puhleez…can we talk?

Megastar chef Anthony Bourdain appeared humbled while introducing the incomparable Chef Jacques Pepin and his best friend Chef Eric Ripert at the Celebrity Chef Series on November 13 .  Bourdain’s conversation with the two European-borne Chefs focused on their years of traditional training and their opinions about “Celebrity Chef” culture today. Pepin and Ripert engaged in a friendly “Mystery Basket Cooking Competition” where each prepared dishes with chicken, branzino, roasted red peppers, fennel and quinoa. The evening ended with a Q&A from the audience where Bourdain and Ripert agreed that Christopher Walken and Jack Nicholson would be appropriate actors in their hypothetical biographic movies. Afterward, at the VIP event, fans had their photo taken with the Chefs and enjoyed the French inspired menu of hors d’oeuvres prepared by Johnson & Wales University.

And this past Sunday night, a culturally diverse audience of all ages and hair lengths came out to see the Miami leg of music star Julian Marley & the Uprising 2009 North American tour. To the crowd’s delight, Stephen and Damian “Jr Gong” Marley joined their brother on stage to close the concert with a few Bob Marley classics such as “Could You Be Loved” that got the full house singing in unison. The Marley Brothers partnered with their non-profit organization Ghetto Youth Foundation to collect food for the Thanksgiving season that went to CHARLEE Homes for Children, a foster care agency here in Miami.

Adrienne Arsht Center Unites with Resident Companies to Celebrate Arts Odyssey
November 23, 2009, 9:48 pm
Filed under: Gala

In an unprecedented collaboration, the Adrienne Arsht Center, Miami City Ballet, Florida Grand Opera, and the New World Symphony, America’s Orchestral Academy, celebrated a singular fundraising effort for their 2009 Annual Gala.  Generously underwritten by the Yachts of Seabourn, and with the support of Carnival Corporation, the overnight cruise treated guests to an evening filled with beautiful vistas, delicious cuisine, and first-class entertainment.

The Odyssey set sail from Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades on Friday afternoon.  Guests enjoyed a sail away reception on the ship’s pool deck and were treated to a breathtaking sunset as the Fort Lauderdale skyline faded into the distance.  Then it was time to change and prepare for the black tie Gala dinner, which was held in the Odyssey’s elegant dining room.  Attendees – a who’s who of South Florida’s top arts enthusiasts, philanthropists, and business leaders – paused for a commemorative photograph before entering for dinner.

Eric Hankin, Adrienne Arsht, Richard Milstein

After dinner it was time for entertainment in the Odyssey’s Grand Salon.  The show began with a moving performance from Florida Grand Opera soloist Elizabeth Caballero.  She was followed by a performance from New World Symphony fellows Tarn Travers (Violin), Edward Abrams (Piano), Kevin Businsky (Trumpet), Carrie Schafer (Trumpet), Jonas Van Dyke (Horn), Douglas Rosenthal (Trombone), and Karl Wiederwohl (Bass Trombone).  For the evening’s long-awaited act, guests were treated to fantastic performance from stage and screen star Bernadette Peters.  The activities continued long into the night. Once the ship reached international waters, the casino was open for players to try their luck, with all proceeds benefitting the Adrienne Arsht Center and the resident companies.

The Odyssey returned to port early Saturday morning, but the benefits will continue on land throughout the 2009-2010 season. Most of the Gala packages included exclusive artistic experiences with each of the collaborating organizations, such as an in-home concert by the New World Symphony; an invitation to a private black-tie dinner following an opening night performance by Florida Grand Opera; an invitation from Adrienne Arsht Center President and CEO John Richard for six guests to join him in the President’s Box for an Adrienne Arsht Center Presents performance; and six premier box tickets for an opening night performance by Miami City Ballet, including a backstage tour and champagne toast.

John Richard and Bernadette Peters

The entire community can still participate in this collaboration by purchasing a ticket to win a Volkswagen Eos, the award-winning hardtop convertible from Volkswagen, living in the lobby of the Ziff Ballet Opera House for the next few months. With this generous donation by the Esserman Automotive Group, the Arsht Center and its resident companies will be able to reach their fundraising goal. Drawing ticket sales will continue through the holidays, with the drawing scheduled to take place on the evening of Valentine’s Day – February 14, 2010 at the Adrienne Arsht Center (event and time to be announced).

The suggested minimum contribution is $100 per ticket—limit of 10 tickets per person.  There will be a sales close-out after 1,000 tickets are sold. If you’re feeling lucky, enter the drawing at the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Ziff Ballet Opera House Lobby during performances or call 786.468.2243.

For more information visit www.arshtcenter.org/gala09/drawing.aspx

Kids Want More Hot Peas and Butter
November 23, 2009, 9:32 pm
Filed under: Family Fun

A child’s early experiences with plays and concerts are adventures. I loved my 5-year-old daughter’s reaction when she heard the opening song at the Hot Peas & Butter show on Sunday: she looked at me with wide eyes and said, “Mommy, this is not a ‘show’, this is a rock and roll concert!” Accustomed to attending shows like Annie, she was in awe of being able to dance in the “kiddie mosh pit” and let her body do what it naturally wanted to.

To be a parent in 2009 — especially a contemporary-minded one — is to be blasted by possibilities for nurturing cultural awareness and entertainment possibilities in one’s offspring. The commercial successes have been widely noted on television ratings, Billboard charts, and in shopping carts. But they eclipse a more “indie” kid music where hipster meets high chair that is encouraging more parental connoisseurship.

Hot Peas & Butter falls into this genre. These two hipster guys (who were quite obviously dads, themselves, or at least really cool uncles) had the house movin’ from their second verse. With an expert bongo beat and some sweet harmony, they sang about sneezes, chickens, humming, the railroad, and the rain and there wasn’t a second where I felt that I wanted the music to STOP like I often feel with children’s music.

Not only did my children and I bond over a shared love for the tunes, we created a memory that will last long past the usual Sunday trip to the park. Theater-going allows my children to experience something I love as a grown-up and exposes them to the value of the arts—even if at the end of the day it was really a rock and roll concert.

Odebrecht Construction, Inc. Contributes to Building Communities
November 23, 2009, 5:41 pm
Filed under: At the Center

Odebrecht Construction, Inc., the Coral Gables-based construction and engineering firm, has distinguished itself by building some of Miami’s most iconic structures. Honored in 2008 by the Miami Chapter of the American Institute of Architects as “Contractor of the Year,” the Brazilian Odebrecht Group subsidiary’s projects are integral to the Miami downtown cityscape.

Gilberto Neves, CEO of Odebrecht Construction in the United States, has been quoted as saying, “One of our company’s core beliefs is that we do not build structures, but we also contribute to building communities.” Nowhere is this more evident than Odebrecht’s financial support and on-going involvement in the Adrienne Arsht Center. As a part of the Performing Arts Center Builders, a joint venture with The Haskell Co. of Jacksonville, Florida and EllisDon Corp. of Ontario, Canada, Odebrecht realized the architectural vision of Cesar Pelli when the Center’s doors opened in 2006 to Miami and the world.

Left to right: Tony Ojeda, ITC Executive Director, M. John Richard, President & CEO, Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, Bill Johnson, Seaport Director, Port of Miami, Ralph Gazitua, ITC Board Member, and Adam Peters, Senior Sister Cities Coordinator

In the days, weeks, months and years following the time of hard hats, construction boots and chain link fences, the Odebrecht family continues to spend plenty of time inside the Adrienne Arsht Center. Gilberto Neves, who also serves as chairman of the YMCA board of directors, brought the YMCA’s 90th Anniversary Gala to the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Knight Concert Hall in the fall of our very first season! In December 2006, Odebrecht chose none other than the Knight Concert Hall to commemorate and celebrate in style its 60th Anniversary and the holiday season. In October of 2009, Odebrecht hosted the beautiful “Phantom Gala” in the Carnival Studio Theater for the YMCA. And in November 2009, Odebrecht was the title sponsor of the Brazilian Classical Series, a tribute to Heitor Villa-Lobos, one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. This special presentation of Villa-Lobos’ compositions, which were inspired by Brazil’s natural splendors and the Amazon rainforest, benefited a youth orchestra project called NEOJIBÁ in the State of Bahia, Brazil.

Left to Right the four gentlemen speaking: Ralph Gazitua, ITC Board Member, Tony Ojeda, ITC Executive Director, Honorable Sergio Barroso, State Secretary for Economic Development for the State of Minas Gerais, and Gilberto Neves, Oderbrecht.

Gilberto Neves and Odebrecht continue to play an active role at the Adrienne Arsht Center as a Corporate Underwriter and in the community at large. Most recently, Odebrecht sponsored the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Trustee Luncheon honoring the Center’s Official Airline, American Airlines and a networking reception for an inbound delegation from Brazil hosted at the Center by the International Trade Consortium in the Terra Group Patrons Salon in the Ziff Ballet Opera House.

Odebrecht’s presence in Miami is experienced in its skyline, cityscape, and within the walls of some of its most important buildings, like the Adrienne Arsht Center. The support that we have enjoyed extends beyond the success of our fundraising team and permeates the community we serve in our programming and outreach activities.

Holiday Toy Drive Kicks Off
November 23, 2009, 5:33 pm
Filed under: At the Center

This week kicks off the Adrienne Arsht Center’s third annual holiday toy drive in partnership with the United Way. What better way to celebrate the real meaning of the season than by donating a toy for a child in need?

“Last year we doubled our donations from our first toy drive from 200 to 300 gifts!” said Ali Bibeau, the Center’s Group Sales Manager who also serves as the toy drive coordinator. “I am hopeful that we can once again beat our goal and serve these needy children who may not get any other gifts during these holidays. I anticipate that together, with the support of our patrons, volunteers and staff, we can beat last year’s toy drive donations!” 

From November 16 – December 18, patrons are asked to bring a new, unwrapped toy for youth between the ages of 1-18. Gifts will be distributed to United Way’s neediest agencies just before the holidays. Toy Drive donation drop- off boxes are located in the lobby of each performance space. During regular box office hours, the main drop off location is in the Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House Lobby. 

“We are grateful for this partnership with the Adrienne Arsht Center.  As a result, throughout the year, individuals in our community who might otherwise not have the opportunity, are able to experience the arts and the many wonderful performances at the Adrienne Arsht Center.  Each year, the partnership culminates with an amazing toy drive, bringing hope and cheer to hundreds of young children in our community,” stated Harve A. Mogul, President and CEO, United Way Miami-Dade.

Lincoln Bicentennial
November 10, 2009, 6:47 pm
Filed under: At the Center

When Abraham Lincoln was a young man, he feared he would not achieve anything that he would be remembered for. Today, the 16th American President tops the list of most influential and honored citizens of our time. Lincoln is commemorated in music, poetry and sculpture. Cities, highways and schools bearing his name are endless. His words are quoted by poets and politicians, and his face appears on stamps, coins, mountains and currency. 

Abraham Lincoln turns 200 years old this year, so indeed, the occasion called for a grand celebration. Miami was one of just 11 cities chosen by the congressionally-established Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission for a national series of events celebrating the life and achievements of our most revered President. The Adrienne Arsht Center and the local Lincoln Bicentennial Committee, along with the generous support of the John S. James L. Knight Foundation joined forces to make it an affair to remember in our community.

“We are delighted to bring the celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s life and legacy to Miami, a city that embraces and celebrates its cultural and ethnic diversity perhaps more than any other American city,” said Eileen Mackevich, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.  “It’s fitting that we gather in Miami to talk about his life and about the American Dream.  In so many ways, Abraham Lincoln exemplified that dream and, during his life, worked tirelessly to make the American Dream a worthy and attainable pursuit for generations to come.”

The festivities celebrated in our community throughout past months included a Chautauqua-style conversation at Coral Gables Congressional Church, where national-scholar actors held a discussion dressed as Lincoln and Frederick Douglas, the well-renowned civil-war era activist. There is also an exhibit open through January 24 at The Historical Museum of Southern Florida, including artifacts and court records – among many other things – exploring South Florida and its history of African Americans.

The grand finale of the Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration took place on November 1st at the Adrienne Arsht Center in the John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall. The event was called “A Lincoln Town Hall: Lincoln, Miami and the American Dream,” and over a thousand excited South Florida residents showed up for the festivities. “This has been a remarkable event on behalf of the lessons of a remarkable man’s life,” said David Lawrence Jr., who chaired the organizing committee and was the driving force behind this event.  “It speaks so well to Miami that we had the largest crowd — almost double the size — of any other of the cities hosting Lincoln bicentennial events.”

When attendees first entered the Knight Concert Hall, they were met with a display of Lincoln memorabilia from Miami citizen Norman Braman’s collection, including a portrait of Lincoln taken by Mathew Brady, a well-known Civil War era photographer; a clipping from the Hartford Evening Press announcing Lincoln’s assassination in 1865; and a playbill for “Our American Cousin,” the comedic play Lincoln was attending the night of his assassination.

The night began with orchestral and choral performances by the New World School of the Arts’ Wind Ensemble conducted by Lee Michael Morrison and the Florida Memorial University Ambassador Chorale directed by Mel White featuring music from Lincoln’s era, including “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, which received the first of several standing ovations throughout the night.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., author of Lincoln on Race and Slavery, delivered a keynote address on Lincoln’s lessons for Miami. Dr. Gates, who is also director of the W.E.B Du Bois Institute for African and African American Studies at Harvard University, spoke of Lincoln’s morality, and the struggles he faced with his own beliefs on equality and discrimination. Eventually, Lincoln would be on the forefront of abolishing slavery.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Studies, Harvard University 2

Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Studies, Harvard University; Photo by Manny Diaz

Lincoln was born in 1809 in Kentucky in a tiny log cabin. The family moved to Indiana where he was raised. In Illinois, Lincoln became a frontier lawyer, served as a state legislator and won election to the Presidency at a time when the nation’s very survival was at risk. Inaugurated in 1861, he served throughout the Civil War, working to break the grip of slavery and to put the country back together until an assassin, John Wilkes Booth, brought him down. He felt his most enduring achievement was the Emancipation Proclamation, which helped free thousands of slaves.

Following Dr. Gates address was a panel discussion, as well as a question and answer session with audience members, moderated by CBS Channel 4 Anchorman Antonio Mora. The panel included: Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, Florida Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Author and former FIU professor Dr. Marvin Dunn, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen, Florida Immigrant and Advocacy Center Executive Director Cheryl Little, Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center Executive Director Gepsie Metellus, Florida International University American history professor Dr. Darden Pyron and Dade Community Foundation retired President Ruth Shack.


During the discussion, one audience member asked how Lincoln would handle current economic issues in Miami-Dade County, specifically budget cuts. Alvarez said the county was in fact facing difficult times; however, he said the fearless Lincoln would have tackled the issues head on. Another audience member asked how Lincoln would deal with children in foster care in our communities. Carvalho said more focus would have to be put on those children while they are in the crucial ages of Kindergarten through 3rd grade. Alvarez topped it off by urging attendees to get involved by contacting their State Representatives and voicing their opinions.

The Lincoln Town Hall ended with an emotional performance of Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait,” by the orchestra with narration by philanthropist and Former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning to which the crowd gave an overwhelming standing ovation.

The Lincoln Town Hall was followed by a reception at the Freedom Tower, where guests were treated to featured music from the Lincoln-era, as well as hors d’oeuvres and refreshments inspired by Lincoln White House menus. Lincoln artifacts on loan from the Henry Ford Museum were also on display, including a bronze cast of Lincoln’s hand and memorabilia related to the 1860 presidential election.

Alvarez said that if Lincoln visited Miami-Dade County today, he would be proud to see his legacy of equality among people is alive and well.

“In Miami-Dade County, we find genuine strength in our diversity and our rich cultural heritage.  It’s what sets this community apart from any other I know,” he said.  “But merely embracing our differences is not enough. We always need to find ways to strengthen communities by bringing people from diverse backgrounds closer together. Tonight’s event accomplished that.”

%d bloggers like this: