The Daily Gazette
The Locally Owned Voice Of The Capital Region

Proud to be part of 'Tribute to Black Women in the Arts'

Gathering at Albany's Empire State Plaza on Saturday, Aug. 6, with the other honorees for the African American Family Day "Tribute to Black Women In the Arts" was a spectacular moment for me, professionally and personally.

This public event highlighted the contributions made by local women in the arts and honored their individual and collective visions and strategic outlook and creative skills in promoting the arts in all forms as a critical element in personal and community development.

As I shared the stage with so many multifaceted and diverse women of color, my feelings transcended words: each –- a proactive advocate for the arts in the region –- had distinguished herself and the organization she represented through innovative ideas, noteworthy deeds and just old-fashioned hard work. To grace the same stage with others, who take pride and sustenance in being arts advocates, frontrunners and worker-bees acting individually and in concert to build bridges between arts-and-culture and community was a dazzling experience.

Despite the sweet drizzle of the afternoon rain, the group (12 of us) assembled on the main stage at the Empire State Plaza for the presentation of certificates. I watched, amazed, as each advocate and supporter of Black Women In The Arts awaited for her name to be called. As fellow travelers joined in a common mission, we greeted one another with joy and mutual recognition.

I felt blessed to be joined by Proctors Partner, Producing Artistic Director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill of Albany's Capital Repertory Theatre. Just last month, she stirred my soul with the uplifting production of Leslie Uggams’ "Uptown Downtown" at Capital Rep, which followed quickly on the heels of the moving May production of the awe-inspiring "Crowns."

Arts advocate Miki Conn, former executive director of Schenectady's Hamilton Hill Arts Center and arts advocate, represented the center. As a young girl, I grew up under the direction of her mom, Margaret Cunningham. Through her, I had participated in creative arts and storytelling. She encouraged me to pursue my love of the arts.

I stood alongside of leading arts educators, writers, painters, on-air personalities, actress and business owners who were just as proud to be with me as I was with them. With respect and joy, I watched these women of such deep grace and style.

As the last in line to walk to the stage to receive the certificate of appreciation presented to Proctors, I welled up with pride knowing that in this moment of my life I was where I was supposed to be and where I wanted to be -- back in the Capital Region after grateful lessons learned at one of New York City’s leading theaters.

Proctors has played a significant role in my own coming of age. As a child, I grew up watching movies there as an integral part of my own downtown experience. Today, I am honored to be part of what is now an expanded –- and evolving -- multi-staged arts and entertainment complex admired by so many throughout the extended Capital Region. I had come full circle -– always true to my focus on the arts.

Proctors CEO Philip Morris also serves as chief administrative officer of Capital Rep. I was touched by his comments recognizing me, Maggie, Proctors and Capital Rep:

“Proctors and Capital Rep continue to embrace the communities that comprise the rich diversity of our region and contribute to the quality of life for all of us,” he said. “Our relationships with the community are at the heart of everything we do and we are keenly aware of our impact and responsibility to connect to residents in every community we serve.

“On behalf of the Boards of Capital Rep and Proctors –- as well as the employees and supporters of both these premier institutions -- I congratulate Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill and Sara Hill for their dedication and commitment to programming and marketing efforts that heighten awareness -– and enjoyment -– of the arts in our region. Their efforts heighten the power of the arts to transform individuals and communities throughout the Capital Region.”

After the presentation, we gathered for a group photo. We hugged -– and shared warmth, emotion and justified pride. I headed onto the plaza with my family. Despite the rain, a spectacular glow of sunshine lingered over the main stage. I left encouraged by the day and by the achievements of all who were honored that day. Together, I know that we will strive even harder to better our communities -– and our own lives through the life-changing power and beauty of the arts.

Sara Hill is marketing manager at Proctors and founder of Sista Factory (Soulful Inspirational Sounds To Admire). She will co-present "Gospel Jubilee" in the Spring of 2012 at Proctors.

To learn even more about Proctors, click here.

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