Art Accolades: Poetry theme perfect backdrop for 6th annual Goyette Arts Awards

Telegraph photo by DEAN SHALHOUP Nashua artist Michaila Sheehan works on the painting she created during Sunday's Meri Goyette Arts Awards Luncheon. It was later auctioned off.

NASHUA – Poetry flowed from hearts, souls, the printed word and through the work of Nashua artist Michaila Sheehan on Sunday, putting the perfect touch on yet another successful Meri Goyette Arts Awards Luncheon that each spring celebrates the folks and businesses that make a positive impact on the city’s arts and culture scene.

“A vibrant arts community draws new employees to the (local) workforce … people who want to play, work and stay in a a city with a vibrant arts and culture scene,” Mayor Jim Donchess said at the outset of the awards presentation portion of Sunday’s program.

A successful and vibrant arts community “requires a public-private partnership, with citizen volunteers getting support from local government,” the mayor added.

Held once again at Sky Meadow Country Club, Sunday’s sixth annual luncheon honored school district arts coordinator Meghan Durden in the individual arts award category; Stella Blu, downtown Nashua’s “stylish tapas restaurant,” in the small business category; and Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in the large business category, for its new, art-focused program geared toward patients and visitors to the hospital’s behavioral health unit.

As for the fourth category – arts hero award – Sunday’s attendees paid tribute to Brian McCarthy, the 25-year city alderman who tirelessly championed the arts since he came to Nashua more than 30 years ago.

Telegraph photo by DEAN SHALHOUP Betsy Houde, right, is all smiles as City Arts Nashua president Lisa Bisonnette presents her the award she and Michael Rose received for "The Art of Hope," the new program they created at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center. Behind them is Mayor Jim Donchess

Regrettably, the award was presented posthumously; McCarthy, 64, died unexpectedly about six months ago.

His widow, Gloria, and their son, John, graciously accepted the award from Donchess and Lisa Bissonnette, president of City Arts Nashua, which co-sponsors the luncheon with the Nashua Arts Commission.

Given the opportunity to address the gathering, Gloria McCarthy yielded to her son, who was brief but to the point: “My dad’s passion was to get this Performing Arts Center done,” John McCarthy said. “So let’s see this thing through – and get it done,” he added to robust applause.

Donchess said by selecting McCarthy as this year’s arts hero, arts leaders “are honoring the memory of a great supporter of the arts here in Nashua,” and someone who championed “the arts and culture in both Nashua schools and the community.

“Brian McCarthy is truly the definition of an arts hero,” Donchess added.

Courtesy photo by ALLEGRA BOVERMAN The late Brian McCarthy, a 25-year Nashua alderman and longtime supporter of City Arts Nashua and its work in the community, received the Arts Hero award posthumously at Sunday's Meri Goyette Arts Awards Luncheon. His wife, Gloria, and son, John, accepted the award on his behalf.

Meanwhile, Southern New Hampshire Medical Center was selected for a new, innovative program created by Michael Rose and Betsy Houde called “The Art of Hope,” which, Houde said after receiving the award, is based on their belief “that the most beautiful way to give people hope is through art.”

Houde, for years the director of the Nashua Youth Council who joined SNHMC in August, said it was shortly after she arrived that it “became clear we really need to change the conversation” regarding the opioid crisis.

Rather than “just fighting the crisis,” she said, their focus changed to “make it about giving people hope.”

Durden, the individual arts award winner, was chosen “for her outstanding commitment to, and participation in, the Gallery at the Wall project in downtown Nashua,” Donchess said in presenting her the award.

And Stella Blu owners Jim Lespasio and Greg Stevens, upon being called forward to receive the small business award on behalf of their staff, turned the tables by announcing they had a presentation to make as well.

Telegraph photo by DEAN SHALHOUP Members of a dance troupe from Y Dance in Motion perform for attendees at Sunday's sixth annual Meri Goyette Arts Awards Luncheon.

Noting the celebration takes place in a building surrounded by a golf course during “probably the biggest golf weekend of the year, with the Masters being played down in Augusta,” he produced a green jacket – the gift traditionally received by the winner of each year’s Masters.

In presenting the jacket to Bissonnette, the City Arts Nashua president, Lespasio and Stevens said they felt she should “have her own ‘Masters Sunday’ green jacket.”

On the subject of tradition, Great American Downtown executive director Paul Shea, who served as master of ceremonies, called on attendees to stand and sing a rendition of “Happy Birthday” to Meri Goyette, perhaps the city’s most visible and tireless supporter, sponsor and promoter of the arts for whom the luncheon is named.

The program also featured New Hampshire’s junior poet laureate, Exeter High School student Cate Dixson, who shared some of her work with the gathering, and a reading by Yvonne Dunetz of “Seeing Me,” one of several poems Goyette recently wrote.

Also taking the dance floor for performances were four groups of girls representing the “Y Dance in Motion” program, their selections alternating between contemporary and hip-hop dance pieces.

Telegraph photo by DEAN SHALHOUP Members of a dance troupe from Y Dance in Motion perform for attendees at Sunday's sixth annual Meri Goyette Arts Awards Luncheon.

Telegraph photo by DEAN SHALHOUP Gloria McCarthy and her son, John, right, hold the arts hero award presented posthumously to their husband and father, Brian McCarthy, at Sunday's Meri Goyette Arts Awards Luncheon. Mayor Jim Donchess is at left.

Telegraph photo by DEAN SHALHOUP Meghan Durden, left, a K-5 school district arts coordinator who was presented the individual arts award at Sunday's Meri Goyette Arts Awards Luncheon, stands with City Arts Nashua president Lisa Bissonnette.

Telegraph photo by DEAN SHALHOUP Meri Goyette, the longtime Nashuan for whom the annual Arts Awards Luncheon is named, chats with Great American Downtown executive director Paul Shea during Sunday's sixth annual luncheon.

Telegraph photo by DEAN SHALHOUP Stella Blu owners Greg Stevens, left, and Jim Lespasio are joined by City Arts Nashua president Lisa Bissonnette, who presented them the small business award at Sunday's Meri Goyette Arts Awards Luncheon.

Telegraph photo by DEAN SHALHOUP Betsy Houde, center, is all smiles as Mayor Jim Donchess presents her the award she and Michael Rose received for "The Art of Hope," the new program they created at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center. City Arts Nashua president Lisa Bisonnette is at right.

Telegraph photo by DEAN SHALHOUP Nashua artist Michaila Sheehan works on the painting she created during Sunday's Meri Goyette Arts Awards Luncheon. It was later auctioned off.