United Arts+ Awards at SeaWorld Orlando

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Secily Wilson and Margot Knight host the United Arts Arts+ Awards

On Monday night, October 3rd, United Arts of Central Florida handed out their 2011 Arts+ Awards to honor some of the most significant contributors to Orlando's arts scene. The ten year old event was hosted at SeaWorld's “Ports of Call” ballroom, and was the culmination of UA's “The Arts Matter” campaign. Hosts Secily Wilson (a local TV personality infamous for her explicit answer as a contestant on “Family Feud”) and departing United Arts CEO Margot Knight handed out the evening's eight awards, selected by a five-person panel from over 100 public nominations.

In between the awards, there were performances from MicheLee Puppets, Orlando REP's Power Chords, Voci Dance, and the Bach Festival Society, who finished the evening with an absurdly baroque interpretation of “Happy Birthday.” The best entertainment of the evening, however, came from watching Knight smile through clenched teeth while Wilson read a farewell letter to her from Mayor Buddy Dyer, with whom she's had an uneasy working relationship. Second-best was the fully-grown barking seal, who was rolled out on a wagon amongst the hors d'oeuvres and posed for photos.

[UPDATE: Margot Knight writes in to clarify regarding my subjective interpretation of her reaction: “That is certainly the wrong characterization—I actually enjoyed the letter.”]

Here's a list of the evening's awardees, with congratulations to all the winners and nominees:

Excellence in Arts Education: Orlando REP

Arts Educator of the Year: Andrew Lane (Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra)

Outstanding Business Partner: Festival Bay Mall

Collaborative Partnership: MicheLee Puppets and Harbor House

Community Engagement Program: Bay Street Players and The Garden Theatre

Volunteer Individual of the Year: Henry Maldonado

Volunteer Organization of the Year: Messiah Choral Society

John Meyer Tiedtke Lifetime Achievement: Ron Blocker (Orange County Schools)

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