Mariama Whyte channels Dorothy Dandridge, singing “Dat’s Love,” from Carmen Jones.

Patrick Warner performs an excerpt from “Becoming Langston Hughes.”

Wilma Salisbury, retired Plain Dealer arts reporter, with Dennis Dooley, author, CAP 1986 Cleveland Arts Prize awardee.

With an open-air picnic in the lush Cleveland Botanical Garden, the Cleveland Arts Prize embraced a return to in-person galas by catching up and looking forward. Smiling patrons meandered along the arbored paths in the company of honored artists and community leaders, enjoying the emergence from a year-long social cocoon. The garden party guests then gravitated to the Geis Terrace, where diners opened bright green picnic baskets filled with gourmet treats prepared by Marigold Catering.
In his welcoming remarks, Harold Freedman, CAP board chair, toasted the 2020 Special Prize winners:  Chuck and Char Fowler, Helen Forbes Fields, Roe Green, Scott Mueller, Jerry Sue Thornton, John “Jack” Katzenmeyer (posthumous) and Steven Minter (posthumous).

Chuck Fowler, a 2020 Special Prize recipient, left, and Howard Freedman, Cleveland Arts Prize board chair.

The evening, chaired by board member Meg Harris Stanton, also launched “Past Masters: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants,” to honor 60 regional artists of national and international stature whose work preceded the Cleveland Arts Prize establis

hment in1960. The project, researched by Dennis Dooley, CAP 1986 and emeritus trustee, initiates a year-long program to celebrate work of Cleveland-related writers, actors of stage and screen, artists, composers, architects and designers.
The stage then brought the Past Masters project to life, with signature representations of Dorothy Dandridge, (“Dat’s Love,” from Carmen Jones performed by Mariama Whyte), Margaret Hamilton (“Defying Gravity,” from Wicked, performed by Sandra Emerick), and Langston Hughes (“Becoming Langston Hughes,” performed by Patrick Warner, and poetry reading by Daniel Gray-Kontar). The final performance honored Howard Swanson (“The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” compos

Helen Forbes Fields, 2020 Special Prize honoree, left, with Lisa Kurzner.

ed by Swanson to words by Langston Hughes and performed by Reginald Bowens).
Clips of films by international screen stars Paul Newman and Bob Hope ran on monitors throughout the evening in Clark Hall, where contemporary art representing other Past Masters was also displayed for sale: painter Anthony Mastromatteo in the style of Roy Lichtenstein, and glass artist Bob Pozarksi in the style of Clara Wolcotts Driscoll, lead designer for Tiffany glass. Rounding out the Past Masters roster was Frank R. Walker, designer of several Cleveland landmarks, including the Hope Memorial Bridge – yes, the one with massive stone figures known as the Guardians of Traffic that inspired the new moniker for Cleveland’s beloved baseball team. The coincidence marked one more example of the past meeting the present and moving on. — Story and photographs by Peggy Turbett