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Past Honorees
Award Descriptions

Since our inception, the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston and our Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts of Massachusetts program strive to meet the needs of the cultural community. At each annual event, we honor individuals and organizations who share this mission and work to bridge business and legal gaps in Greater Boston. These awards include:

The Robert B. Fraser Award for Pro Bono Excellence is given annually by the VLA to an individual lawyer and law firm that shows a sincere dedication to serving the legal needs of the cultural and artistic communities of Massachusetts.

The Champion for the Arts Award is given to distinguished individuals who have contributed extended time and resources to foster the professional success of artists and cultural organizations in the Greater Boston area. The Arts & Business Council can only pursue its mission with the help of such champions who understand the value of artists as entrepreneurs and the support they need to thrive. 

The VLA Founders Appreciation Award recognizes the ever-constant guidance and support of an exceptional individual who, without fail or hesitation, continues to follow this challenging mission.

The VLA Founders Appreciation Award “UNSUNG HERO” recognizes an exceptional individual who is typically unrecognized for their pursuit of legal equity for artists and arts organizations in Greater Boston.

Past Honorees

2020
Robert B. Fraser Award for Pro Bono Excellence
Robert Chow of Burns & Levinson LLP was honored for his support of Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts through his exceptional and long-standing work with Matt McArthur and The Record Co. The dedication, energy, and advocacy that Chow has shown for Matt and The Record Co. inspire confidence in the future of pro bono legal assistance. 

2019
Robert B. Fraser Award for Pro Bono Excellence
McCarter & English, LLP and Associate Nicholas Allen were honored for their decade-long representation of artists and inventors. Nick is a commercial litigation attorney who has time and time again represented artists and organizations in times of crisis, including a theater company facing legal action from a theatrical publishing company and an artist whose works were lost when the gallery holding them was evicted.

Champion for the Arts Award
Edmund Barry Gaither is the Founder, Director, and Curator of the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists in Roxbury and a Special Consultant at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. He has served as Curator at the MFA for eight exhibitions including Afro-American Artists: New York and Boston, a ground-breaking show of 1970. He has taught courses on African-American Art at Harvard University, Wellesley College, Massachusetts College of Art, Boston University, and Spelman College. In addition, Gaither has served as Panel Chairman for the National Endowment for the Arts and on President George W. Bush’s Advisory Board on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

2018
The Robert B. Fraser Award for Pro Bono Excellence
Penelope Pint, Pro Bono Coordinator of Proskauer Rose LLP was honored for their support of the mission of the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston, and the dedication, energy, and advocacy they showed for its programs make us confident in the future of pro bono legal assistance.

Champion for the Arts Award
Sue and Bernie Pucker of the Pucker Gallery were honored for their enduring support of artists, social entrepreneurs, and nonprofit organizations. 

2017
Champion for the Arts Award
Peter Nessen was honored for his extraordinary advocacy, leadership, and dedication to the arts and cultural community of Greater Boston. Peter is the founder and president of Nessen Associates. He has served as a chair on the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Governor’s Commission evaluating school reform.

The Arts and Community Leadership Award
Candelaria Silva-Collins was recognized for her tremendous leadership and support of the arts as well as her tireless work to connect arts, culture, and community. Candelaria Silva-Collins is a consultant, writer, and trainer/facilitator who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. Her areas of expertise include cultural economic development, community outreach and engagement, and facilitation and training.

The Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award
Fred Taylor was honored for his lifelong commitment to jazz and his remarkable stewardship of Boston’s Jazz scene for over 50 years. 

2016
The Robert B. Fraser Award for Pro Bono Excellence
Hilary J. Libka of Cooley LLP was recognized for their support of the A&BC and its mission. The dedication, energy, and advocacy she has shown for our programs inspire confidence in the future of pro bono legal assistance. Hilary is an associate in Cooley’s Litigation Department and a member of the Patent Counseling & Prosecution practice group. Under her leadership, the firm helmed numerous pro bono cases for the VLA, representing artists, creative entrepreneurs, and cultural groups throughout Massachusetts. 

Champion for the Arts Award
Timothy Gillette was honored for his philanthropic commitment to nonprofit music organizations and significant contributions towards music ensembles of all levels. Tim has left an indelible mark on the Boston arts scene, from his past work as a board member of Opera Boston, to his current support of nearly 20 different local arts organizations.

2015
The Robert B. Fraser Award for Pro Bono Excellence
Neal Rosen of Bingham/Morgan Lewis was recognized for his committed representation of artists’ rights. Formerly the pro-bono coordinator at Bingham McCutchen (now Morgan Lewis), Neal was a long-term champion of the VLA by taking and placing pro-bono cases for over 15 years.

Champion for the Arts Award
Eve Rounds is a Boston philanthropist and arts governance leader with a highly successful, decades-long track record. Eve Rounds is a great advocate for the arts, particularly for children’s programming and independent dancers in Boston, and held a successful showcase of independent choreographers at the BB’s studio space “on the seventh floor.”

2014
The Robert B. Fraser Award for Pro Bono Excellence
Andrew Schwartz & Josh Pemstein of Foley Hoag were honored for their exemplary work and commitment to representing the artists in the Wynne matter. Through many years of pro bono work with the VLA, Foley Hoag has demonstrated a strong commitment to the arts community of Massachusetts and the representation of artists’ rights.

Steven Levine & Nicolas Dunn of Brown Rudnick were also recognized for dedicating their time and contributing their esteemed expertise in drafting the amicus brief on the VLA’s behalf in the Wynne matter. Through many years of pro bono work with the VLA, Brown Rudnick has also demonstrated a strong commitment to the arts community of Massachusetts and the representation of artists’ rights. Their time and advocacy ensure that the arts can thrive.

Champion for the Arts Award
Scott Fraser was honored for his investments in dance education, his highly successful efforts to sustain the José Mateo Ballet Theatre, and his commitment to inclusion and diversity.

Thomas Burger was recognized for his commitment and important contributions to Boston’s vibrancy and the whole creative sector of Greater Boston. 

2013
The Robert B. Fraser Award for Pro Bono Excellence
Regina Pisa of Goodwin Procter was honored for her sincere dedication to public service and longstanding support of the VLA and the arts community of Massachusetts. This year also marked the 10th anniversary of our partnership with Goodwin Procter in offering the Nonprofit Incorporation Seminar, a program that educates and develops many wonderful new arts organizations in the community. 

Champion for the Arts Award
Panos Panay is the founder and CEO of Sonicbids, the leading platform for bands to book gigs and market themselves online.

Dr. Lisa M. Wong was Longwood Symphony Orchestra’s president from 1991-2012 and is a musician and practicing doctor dedicated to promoting music in the community to promote healing and social change. 

2012
The Robert B. Fraser Award for Pro Bono Excellence
Andrew Strehle of Brown Rudnick was recognized for their longstanding support of the VLA and sincere dedication to our mission. This is especially exemplified by his leadership of the artists’ collection group within Brown Rudnick.

Champion for the Arts Award
Ricardo D. Barreto was honored for his personal work towards the A&BC’s mission and longstanding support of the local arts community and overall creative economy of Greater Boston. This award recognizes his leadership as director of the Urban Arts Institute for more than ten years and his work with the Massachusetts Cultural Council as well as many other arts and cultural organizations.

Mario Nicosia, the Founder and Owner of GTI properties was recognized for his commitment to supporting and developing SoWa, Boston’s thriving arts district. He is also honored for his many years of creating artist-centric developments and his leadership in the transformation of a neighborhood.

2011
The Robert B. Fraser Award for Pro Bono Excellence 

Prince Lobel Tye LLP was recognized for the firm’s longstanding support of the VLA and Peter J. Caruso’s sincere dedication and personal work to our mission, as well as serving the legal needs of the cultural and artistic communities of Massachusetts.

Ian Roffman, Shane Early, and Mary Ryan of Nutter McClennen & Fish also received the award on behalf of the firm for their strong commitment to and support of the arts community of Massachusetts through their many years of pro bono work with the VLA. The depth and diversity of the firm’s pro bono work, both locally and nationally, distinguishes Nutter McClennen & Fish as a firm at the forefront of public service in the law.

Champion for the Arts Award
Madeleine Steczynski is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Zumix, an organization dedicated to using music to build community, foster cultural understanding, and encourage self-expression among urban youth. 

2010
The Robert B. Fraser Award for Pro Bono Excellence  

Anne Bowie and Wilmer Hale were honored for their commitment to and support of the arts community of Massachusetts, as well as the depth and diversity of the firm’s pro bono work.

Steve Young, Josh Miller, and Holland & Knight were recognized for their sincere dedication to serving the legal needs of the cultural and artistic communities of Massachusetts.

Pioneer of the Arts Award

Arts & Business Council Founder Celeste Wilson was honored and thanked for being the “Mother” of the Arts & Business Council and for her leadership, commitment, and dedication to the artists of Massachusetts.

The New England Council and the New England Foundation for the Arts were also presented the award on the 10th anniversary of their groundbreaking study: “The Creative Economy Initiative: The Role of Arts and Culture In New England’s Economic Competitiveness.” The report began the creative economy movement, not just in Massachusetts but throughout the United States, and served as a blueprint for investment in New England.

2009
The Robert B. Fraser Award for Pro Bono Excellence 

The law firm of Seyfarth Shaw LLP was recognized for helping raise the standards of pro bono service with their continuous dedication, strong commitment, and compassion for the arts community. The firms’ understanding of artists’ unique issues makes them stand out as a leader in public service. 

Heidi Harvey, Esq. of Fish & Richardson P.C. was also honored for demonstrating unwavering dedication to providing free legal services for many of the VLA’s most challenging cases. Her sensitivity to the needs of individual artists, her dogged determination to provide the highest quality services to her clients, and the depth and breadth of her experience was an invaluable asset to the VLA and the artists it supports.

Corporate Philanthropy Award

The Boston Business Journal was recognized for its outstanding corporate philanthropy and for the creation and continuing support of the annual Corporate Citizenship Summit, which honors corporations, companies, and law firms for their contributions to the community. The award was accepted by Mike Olivieri, the Journal’s Publisher. By recognizing leaders in corporate giving, not only through financial means but also in terms of vision, effectiveness, and passion, the Summit has inspired companies and provided best practices for others to emulate.

2008
The Robert B. Fraser Award for Pro Bono Excellence 

McDermott, Will & Emery 

The VLA Founders Appreciation Award

Deborah Benson, Esq. was acknowledged and thanked for being the “Mother” of the VLA of Massachusetts and for her leadership, commitment, and dedication to the artists of Massachusetts.

Carolyn Rosenthal, Esq. was honored for her many years of service as a director and founding staff member of the VLA as well as her long-standing dedication and commitment to the artists of Massachusetts.

Alain Geismer, Esq of Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, P.C was also recognized for his leadership, commitment, and dedication to the VLA, as well as his commitment to the arts and cultural community of Massachusetts over the last two decades.

The VLA Founders Appreciation Award “UNSUNG HERO”

Cheryl Forte was honored for her enduring guidance and support in upholding the VLA’s mission to meet the recognizable gap in pro bono legal services available to the state’s artistic and cultural communities. 

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