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Achievement in the Arts Inaugural awardees 

Alfred V. Fedak ’71

Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, organist and composer Alfred V. Fedak attended the Pingry School and graduated from Hope College in 1975 with degrees in Organ Performance and Music History. He subsequently earned a Masters’ degree in Organ Performance from Montclair State University and has done additional study at Westminster Choir College (church music), Eastman School of Music (harpsichord continuo), the Institute for European Studies in Vienna, Austria (music history), and in England at the first Cambridge Choral Studies Seminar at Clare College, Cambridge. His organ studies were with Prudence Curtis, Roger Davis, Roger Rietberg, and Jon Gillock. A Fellow of the American Guild of Organists, Mr. Fedak also holds the Guild’s Choirmaster Certificate, and from 1995 to 2000 served as Director of the AGO’s national Professional Certification Committee. Since 1986 he has been a member of the guild’s national Board of Examiners: his own grade of 95% on the AGO’s Fellowship paperwork remains the highest score ever achieved on that demanding, seven-hour examination since the founding of the Guild in 1896.

A widely-published and well-known composer of church music, Mr. Fedak has over 200 choral and organ works in print, and more than 100 of his hymntunes appear in hymnals and collections throughout the US, Canada, England, Scotland, New Zealand, China and Japan. Three anthologies of his hymns have been published by Selah Publishing Company: The Alfred V. Fedak Hymnary (1990), Sing to the Lord No Threadbare Song (2001), and God of the Future (2009). A review of the latter volume in The Hymn (the  journal of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada) called Fedak “the finest composer of hymn tunes working today.”

Mr. Fedak has earned many awards in organ performance and composition, including the AGO’s prestigious S. Lewis Elmer Award, as well as grants and prizes from the New York State Council on the Arts, the Hymn Society, and the John Ness Beck Foundation, and has received  ASCAP composition awards annually since 2001. In 1995 he was named a Visiting Fellow in Church Music at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas. He served on the editorial committee for Sing! A New Creation, a hymnal supplement prepared jointly by the Reformed Church in America, the Christian Reformed Church, and the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, and he now serves as a member of the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song (the committee preparing a new hymnal for the PCUSA).

Recently called “one of the country’s leading church musicians” by The American Organist, Mr. Fedak has performed and lectured widely throughout the US, including at national and regional conferences of the AGO and the Hymn Society (of which he is a Life Member). In addition to his many solo appearances, he has performed with numerous choral and instrumental ensembles, including Albany Pro Musica, the New York Catholic Chorale, Saratoga Chamber Singers, Octavo Singers, the Schenectady Choral Society, the St. Rose Masterworks Chorale, Battenkill Chorale, Oneida Area Civic Chorale, Germany’s Harmonic Brass, Chicago’s Foster Street Brass, the Catskill Brass, the Catskill Chamber Players, the Catskill Symphony, the St. Cecilia Chamber Orchestra, and the Franciscan Chamber Orchestra. He serves as accompanist for both the Burnt Hills Oratorio Society and the Mohawk Valley Chorus, and also appears regularly in concert as harpsichordist and organist with the Capitol Chamber Artists. As a soloist or accompanist, he has performed throughout much of the US, as well as in Canada, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Russia, and Anguilla.

He has composed music on commission for numerous churches, cathedrals, schools, colleges, individuals, community choruses, and for chapters of the AGO, Choristers Guild, and the Organ Historical Society. His choral and organ works have been heard on national TV broadcasts, including The Joy of Music, and  The Hour of Power, and on the syndicated radio programs Sing for Joy and Pipedreams. He has written articles and reviews for The American Organist, The Hymn, Reformed Worship, and Music and Worship. His highly-reviewed CD, Come, Creator Spirit, was released in 2008 and features nearly 80 minutes of his original organ music.

Mr. Fedak has served as organist and choir director for churches and synagogues in the East and Midwest. Since 1990 he has held the position of Minister of Music and Arts at Westminster Presbyterian Church on Capitol Hill in Albany, where he plays a recently-restored four-manual, 1929 E. M. Skinner pipe organ. He has taught organ and keyboard harmony at the College of St. Rose, is a Past Dean of the Eastern New York Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, and is Chapel Organist at Emma Willard School in Troy, New York, where he plays a 1970 two-manual tracker organ built and newly restored by Fritz Noack. He and his wife Susan are the parents of two grown sons: Peter and Benjamin.

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Jonathan Sarkin ’71

Jonathan Sarkin is a self-taught contemporary American artist.

Jon Sarkin is a prolific artist who creates elaborate drawings and paintings filled with words and images, among other artistic endeavors. Sarkin has been painting for over 20 years. His work has been featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times, ABC Primetime, This American Life, GQ, ARTNews, and galleries in New York, Los Angeles, and around the world. He lives and works in Cape Ann, Massachusetts.

Born in 1953 in Newark, New Jersey, and raised in Hillside, New Jersey, Jon Sarkin is the middle child of Stanley Sarkin and Elaine Sarkin Zheutlin. He graduated from the Pingry School in Elizabeth, New Jersey (since moved to Martinsville, New Jersey), in 1971. His father, a dentist in Elizabeth, New Jersey, died of a heart attack in 1972 at age 49.

In 1975, Jon graduated with a BA degree in Biology from The University of Pennsylvania, and received his MS degree in Environmental Science from Rutgers University in 1977. He received his DC (Doctor of Chiropractic) from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1980. His older brother, Richard, was a pediatrician, while his younger sister, Jane, is Features Editor for Vanity Fair. In 1982, Jon opened a Chiropractic office in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. In 1986 he married Kim Richardson.

In 1988 at the age of 35, Jon suddenly developed tinnitus, a ringing in the ears caused by a blood vessel in his head pushing against an acoustic nerve, as well as hyperacusis, an over-sensitivity to certain frequency ranges of sound. In 1989, to alleviate the condition, he underwent surgery after which he suffered a cerebellar hemorrhage and a subsequent stroke. Jon awoke from the surgery deaf in one ear, his vision splintered, and his balance permanently skewed. Neurologists told him his brain had been permanently changed through the surgery, with parts sliced and removed to alleviate the condition. The neurons that were left had to make new connections and find new meaning.

As a result, it became increasingly difficult to maintain the semblance of his former life. Sarkin became obsessed with drawing, but different from the kinds of focused sketches he had made before the stroke. Instead of visual jokes and puns he drew before, his new works were akin to distorted cartoon faces with symbols that sometimes overlapped the features, like Jean Giraud's Moebius strips. Influenced by comics and popular culture, the images kept coming, spilling out of some dark unknown place in his brain.

While strokes are common, the effects differ from patient to patient; Jon’s condition, known as “sudden artistic output”, is one of only three cases caused by brain injury to have ever been documented. Jon is unable to see the world as a whole, and unable to ignore it in its infinite detail. There are no filters, no chance for his brain to slow everything down and order the world into meaningful images and scenes. His brain constantly tries to make sense of the world, and he constantly tries to make sense of his brain’s failure - through colors and images and words. He cannot stop. He does not want to stop. In fact, he is afraid to stop. He is an accidental artist. He has the need to draw, to put it all down on paper. It is his engine, his purpose for living.

Jon has been featured in Vanity Fair, ABC Medical Mysteries Discovery Channel Documentary “Tormented by Genius,” GQ, ARTNews, and the American Visionary Art Museum. In addition, he has been featured in Art New England, 2011.

Jon created the album art for Guster's latest album, Easy Wonderful, and he also created art for (and appears in) their music video/single "Do You Love Me?"  Tom Cruise's production company is developing a movie based on his life story.  In 2011, Pulitzer Prize winning author Amy Ellis Nutt wrote a book about Jon Sarkin, "Shadows Bright as Glass," for which she and Jon were interviewed by Terry Gross of NPR, Fresh Air.

In addition to elaborate drawings and paintings cluttered with words and images, Jon also paints portraiture, landscapes, and color fields devoid of complicated, overlapping images. Jon's current studio is located in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Jon lives in Rockport, Massachusetts with his wife Kim and son Curtis, and daughters Robin and Caroline. Jon continues to show his artwork around the world.

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Harry Allen '82 

Harry Allen is the founder and president of Harry Allen Design.

After receiving a Masters in Industrial Design from the Pratt Institute, Harry Allen worked for Prescriptives Cosmetics designing counters and point-of purchase displays. With ideas he developed in his Master’s thesis and on the job, Allen opened a studio and produced a line of furniture called “Living Systems” which he showed at New York’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair in 1993. Today his furniture is in production with a variety of clients including Habitat, Dune, and Magis.

In addition to his success as a furniture designer, Allen has achieved noteworthy status for his interior design. His first major project, the Moss design gallery in New York’s Soho district, received international praise. Since then, he has designed a number of successful retail interiors including the Union street wear store in Los Angeles, Supreme skateboard apparel stores in the States and Japan, the Dragonfly Selects Jewelry store in Taiwan, and the Hushush family clothing stores in Japan. He also designed the SX137 restaurant/nightclub in New York City, offices for Metropolis Magazine and the Guggenheim Museum, and a variety of residential interiors.

Allen’s vision has also been translated into the area of product design. He designed an extensive range of home furnishings for Wireworks, a medicine chest for Magis, glassware for Steuben, and picture frames for Umbra. He recently redesigned the lipstick case, compact, and foundation bottles for Aveda’s make-up line. New projects include packaging for Target and DuPont, visual display design for various Estee Lauder brands, and the Reality product line for upstart design company Areaware.

Also notable is Allen’s innovation in lighting, which often showcases his interest in using new and uncommon materials. Besides producing countless experimental pieces in his studio, Allen has designed for George Kovacs, Sputnik, and Swarovski. His ceramic foam lamps were featured in the Museum of Modern Art’s 1994 show “Mutant Material in Contemporary Design” and have since been added to the Museum’s permanent design collection. Despite all the attention, Mr. Allen’s lighting designs are not exclusive – his Kila desk lamp sells for $14.99 in Ikea stores worldwide.

Due to his versatile nature, Allen is often asked to span multiple design disciplines, including graphic design and identity development. In 2001, he designed store windows, merchandising displays, and holiday packaging for Dom Perignon. For the Typeface retail chain in Japan Mr. Allen was responsible for development of the brand’s complete identity. This included the store itself, the logo, fixtures, packaging, and all visual displays. Most recently, Allen was part of a long-term rebranding project for luxury cosmetics purveyor La Mer.

From the beginning, Harry Allen’s work has been recognized with honors and awards. He won the Fashion Group International’s Rising Star Award in the area of interior design, the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s Modernism/Young Designer Award, and Interiors magazine’s George Nelson Design Award for innovation in lighting. Three of his projects were selected for the Denver Museum of Art’s “US Design 1975-2000” exhibition and subsequently acquired by the Museum. His design of the Aveda Uruku lipstick packaging won the International Package Design Award, a Bronze IDEA Award, and Design Distinction in ID magazine’s 2004 Design Review. His Kila desk lamp also received Honorable Mention in ID’s 2004 Design Review. In 2006, he again won the International Package Design Award for his solid fragrance compact for Target’s Sonia Kashuk cosmetics line.

In 2006, Allen opened the Harry Allen Studio Work adjacent to his Manhattan studio. The studio Work serves as a showcase and retail outlet for studio and collaborative projects including furniture, lighting, and objects for the home.

Harry Allen does not underestimate his audience. His systematic design process, long-standing interest in art and new materials, and desire to innovate have lead to some of the most intelligent products and interiors in the world today.

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Miguel Gutierrez ’89

Miguel Gutierrez is a New York based dance and music artist who has been called “one of our most provocative and necessary artistic voices” by Eva Yaa Asantewaa of Dance Magazine. He makes solo and group pieces with a variety of artists under the moniker Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People. Interested in enduring philosophical questions about desire, longing, and the search for meaning, Gutierrez's work sits inside a legacy of process-focused experimental dance while drawing on far-reaching influences such as endurance based performance art, noise music, ecstatic experience in social and religious rituals, the study of mind/body somatic systems, and various histories of spectacle including Broadway, Vegas, and queer performance in alternative clubs from the 80’s until now.

HIs pieces include HEAVENS WHAT HAVE I DONE (2010), I SAY THE WORD (2010, collaboration with Jenny Holzer), Last Meadow (2009, Bessie Award for Creative Team), Nothing, No thing (2008), Everyone (2007), myendlesslove (2006), Retrospective Exhibitionist (2005, Bessie Award for Choreography), among others.

His work has been presented at festivals and venues nationally and internationally, including the American Realness Festival in NY; Festival D’Automne in Paris; Antipodes Festival in Brest, France; TBA/PICA in Portland, Oregon; Out There Festival at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; UNAM in Mexico City, and ImPulsTanz in Vienna, Austria. Most recently he performed a multi-city tour of HEAVENS at the Festival Universitaria in Bogota and Barranquilla, Colombia, La Batie in Geneva, Switzerland, Black Box Theater in Oslo, Norway, and Festival Steirischer Herbst in Graz, Austria.

He has received support from Creative Capital, Jerome Foundation, Rockefeller MAP Fund, NYFA, NEA and NPN. In 2010 he received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Foundation for Contemporary Art, and United States Artists. Along with the two Bessies he received for his own work, he received a Bessie Award in 2002 as a dancer for John Jasperse Company. WHEN YOU RISE UP, a book of his performance texts, is available from 53rd State Press. He also invented DEEP AEROBICS, an absurdist workout for the radical in all of us. He teaches classes and workshops in technique, composition and creative process throughout the world.

He has engaged a wide variety of projects. In 2011 he choreographed and performed in a music video for Holcombe Waller (Hardliners). He is also the choreographer and featured performer in Le Tigre's music video for Aerobicon, which went viral and spawned various memes. In 2010 he worked with Sydney based company The Fondue Set on a project where he delivered remote suggestions via email for their new creative process. He created a commission for Philip Adams' BalletLab in Melbourne, Australia, in 2007, which toured to Canada and Denmark. He served as the curator for The Kitchen's Dance and Process program for two years, and was the curator for Chez Bushwick's infamous SHTUDIO SHOW. As a singer he has performed with Antony and the Johnsons (in Turning, Antony's 2004 collaboration with Charles Atlas) as well as French cellist/guitarist Vincent Segal. In addition he has recorded with My Robot Friend, Chris Forsyth, and played in the seminal wuss-rock band Princess from 1997 to 2001.

Gutierrez assembled the first incarnation of the Powerful People in 2001. Committed to working outside the traditional model of a dance company, Gutierrez sees the participating artists in his work – dancers, composers, designers and visual artists – as part of an ever-expanding net of inspiring collaborators. Regardless of the scale of the project, Gutierrez’s goal is to create challenging and thought-provoking performance experiences.

Currently Miguel is working on And lose the name of action, a new evening length piece for six award winning performers – Michelle Boulé, Hilary Clark, Luke George, Miguel Gutierrez, K.J. Holmes and Ishmael Houston-Jones- with sound design by Neal Medlyn, lighting by Lenore Doxsee, and visuals by Boru O'Brien O'Connell. The piece is the result of three years of research into the various conceptions of mind/body in the fields of neurology, philosophy, somatic practice, improvisation and the paranormal. It will have its world premiere at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in September 2012 and its New York premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music 2012 Next Wave Festival.

Miguel is also currently training to become a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner.

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