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PR- 443-08
November 10, 2008


Mayor Presents Legendary New York City Playwright Neil Simon with the 2008 NYC Handel Medallion, the City's Highest Award for Achievement in the Arts

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg tonight presented the 2008 Mayor's Awards for Arts & Culture to six individuals and organizations in celebration of their outstanding contributions to New York City's cultural life. The Mayor also presented the 2008 NYC Handel Medallion, New York City's highest award for achievement in the arts, to playwright and Bronx native Neil Simon. The event, held at the world famous Apollo Theater, was hosted by Ugly Betty star Vanessa Williams and featured live performances by the Queens Jazz Orchestra, an American Sign Language poet and his students, and the cast of Hair. The Mayor was also joined at the awards ceremony by First Deputy Mayor Patricia E. Harris, Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate D. Levin, Cultural Advisory Commission Chair Agnes Gund, Apollo Theater Foundation President Jonelle Procope, actor Matthew Broderick, and Statler & Waldorf of the Muppets.

"New York City is known around the globe as a destination for the best art and culture.  We invest more in arts and culture than any other place in the United States, which is what makes the City a home to some of the best artists, institutions and audiences," said Mayor Bloomberg. "During tough economic times, it's important to celebrate the people who make New York City a great place to live, work and play.  That is why I'm thrilled to present the Mayor's Awards for Arts and Culture to tonight's honorees, and to present the Handel Medallion to Neil Simon. Neil is one of Broadway's favorite sons, whose work reflects this City's humor, romance and energy."

Bronx native Neil Simon is one of America's most eminent, prolific and popular playwrights. Born in New York City in 1927, Mr. Simon has drawn extensively on his own life and experience for his material. His first hit came in 1964 with "Come Blow Your Horn" and was followed soon after by "Barefoot in the Park".  Many of his works take place in the working-class New York neighborhoods he knew as a child, including his autobiographical trilogy: "Brighton Beach Memoirs" (1983), "Biloxi Blues" (1985), and "Broadway Bound" (1986). In 1991, he received the Pulitzer Prize for "Lost in Yonkers."

The NYC Handel Medallion was established in 1959 by Mayor Robert F. Wagner to honor outstanding achievement in the fields of art and music.  Named for the composer George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), the award was first presented at the Handel Festival, a series of 32 concerts held in New York City in 1959 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Handel's death. Past NYC Handel Medallion recipients have included Alvin Ailey, Benny Goodman, Richard Rodgers, Charlie Chaplin, Dizzy Gillespie, Lena Horne and Merce Cunningham.

"I'm honored to receive the Handel Medallion," said Neil Simon. "I like writing more than talking. But when the Mayor calls, I'm always glad to answer."

The Mayor's Awards for Arts and Culture were created in 1974 by the Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission to honor individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the cultural life of New York City.  The Awards acknowledge and celebrate the role individual artist, art educators, cultural organizations, corporations and philanthropists play in the public-private partnership that sustains our City's creative vitality and economic well-being.  The Bloomberg Administration revived the awards in 2004.

"The Commission has been proud to work with Mayor Bloomberg for the last five years on the Mayor's Awards for Arts and Culture," said Agnes Gund.  "This evening reminds us how lucky we are to have artists and organizations of this caliber making their homes in New York City.  All of us on the Commission are honored to work with Commissioner Levin and her staff throughout the year in helping to support and sustain our City's cultural community."

"The Mayor's awards allow us to recognize the work of extraordinary artists, organizations and educators that do so much for this City," said Commissioner Levin. Their accomplishments also help us celebrate our entire creative community, which defines our city as a world capital, attracting visitors, residents, artists and audiences from around the corner, and around the world."

2008 Mayor's Awards Recipients

Alliance of Resident Theatres / New York
For their thoughtful and inspired service to over 330 member theatre companies.  ART/NY provides advocacy, technical assistance, financial services, loans, grant opportunities, and affordable office and rehearsal space, helping to make the challenging work of making theatre that much easier for artists and administrators throughout the City.

Arthur Aviles
For founding the Arthur Aviles Typical Theatre and the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD!).  Mr. Aviles was born in the Bronx and has chosen to make his artistic home there as a dancer and choreographer. He brings the excitement of contemporary dance to local, national, and international audiences.

Dr. Sharon Dunn
For over three decades of work in arts education for New York City's public school students.  A tireless and inventive educator and administrator, most recently Dr. Dunn oversaw the creation of the Blueprints for Teaching and Learning in the Arts and inaugurated the annual Arts in Schools Report.

Galt MacDermott
For his work as a composer and pianist, creating and performing musicals, ballet settings, film scores, chamber music, incidental music, and band repertoire.  Best known as the composer of HAIR and Two Gentlemen of Verona, Mr. MacDermott has also composed and presented his other work through the New Pulse Jazz Band that he founded in 1979.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
For its longstanding and innovative commitment to the performing arts, and museums and art conservation.  The Foundation works to build, strengthen and sustain institutions and their core capacities, developing long-term collaborations with grant recipients and investing in them for an extended period of time.

Rush Arts Gallery & Corridor Gallery
For offering exhibition opportunities to underrepresented artists and artists of color, and for providing disadvantaged urban youth with exposure and access to the arts.  The Galleries present the work of 40 to 50 artists each year and expose 10,000 New Yorkers to that work annually, including 1,500 public school students.


Stu Loeser / Andrew Brent   (212) 788-2958

Kate deRosset   (Cultural Affairs)
(212) 513-9323

Nina Flowers (Apollo Theater Foundation)   (212) 531-5334

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