Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department Celebrates Outstanding Citizen Contribution


On Thursday, March 3, the City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department, in cooperation with the Gainesville-Alachua County Cultural Affairs Board, the Nature Centers Commission, the Public Recreation and Parks Board and Gainesville-Alachua County Art in Public Places Trust will present the Arts Awards, Star Awards, Albert “Ray” Massey Citizen Volunteer Award and the Public Art Award at the Citizen Awards Reception to citizens who have made outstanding efforts to promote cultural and arts activities, environmental awareness and recreational activities in 2015.

The Gainesville-Alachua County Cultural Affairs Board will award a 2015 Individual Arts Award, the Business Arts Award and the Lennie Kesl Lifetime Arts Award to honor significant and sustained contributions to the arts in our community.

The 2015 Individual Arts Award is being presented to Joseph Saccocci. Joseph Saccocci has long understood the power of music to lift an audience to a higher level. Saccocci has brought outstanding contribution to the City of Gainesville and its cultural growth as the collaborating producer of the Jewel Box Concerts at the Thomas Center. After recognizing the strength of Saccocci’s ability to produce world-class artists of superb quality, the City of Gainesville partnered with him to present more than a dozen concerts, most of which were met by full houses, standing ovations and unanimous praise. His kindness, grace and professionalism are attributes that make Saccocci a true gem to our community. With the purest of motivations he has presented the highest quality events to his audiences, working long hours to create a memorable experience for both artists and attendees. His concerts are integral components in the city’s goal to engage the community in the arts in new and exciting ways.

The 2015 Business Arts Award will be awarded to David Arrighi and the Thornebrook Gallery. David Arrighi has spent more than 30 years promoting artists in Gainesville and making their continued creative existence possible by selling their work. Arrighi and the Thornebrook Gallery have been a nexus for presenting and exhibiting many of the best artists of north Florida and beyond. Arrighi has prioritized north Florida artists and shown their works with respect and insightful presentation, and his sales have greatly helped many artists, who can therefore continue to work and produce based in the Gainesville area. The Gainesville community is very fortunate to have such an insightful gallerist in our midst.

The 2015 Lennie Kesl Lifetime Arts Award is being presented to Vicki J. Sabatella. Sabatella exemplifies an individual who enriches the Gainesville community through her passion for children, their well-being and the enrichment of their lives through service and arts. Sabatella’s history with the Gainesville Youth Chorus (GYC) begins with bringing her niece to the GYC auditions, where her love for children and music solidified into a dedicated, life-long passion. Through the years, Sabatella quickly became part of the management team for the GYC and served as President of the Parent Association, President of the Board of Directors and ultimately as the Executive Director. In this capacity, Sabatella has been instrumental in the organizational restructuring of GYC and in propelling of the fledgling organization into a regional children’s chorus that has performed on local, regional and internationally renowned stages. Sabatella has been a mentor, encourager and supporter of countless adults and children. When presented with a challenge, her faith in children inspires her to find a conscientious resolution to further help the community and its youth.

The Art in Public Places Trust will award the 2015 Public Art Award to individuals who have made significant and sustained contributions to the enhancement of the greater environment through public art.

The 2015 Public Art Award is being presented to Iryna Kanishcheva. Iryna Kanishcheva has been a pivotal part in the creation of various significant pieces of public art and worked tirelessly to make the inaugural 352walls/Gainesville Urban Art Initiative come to fruition. Kanishcheva searched internationally for the best muralists in the world to ensure that the 352walls included the highest quality art. Her commitment to public art’s growth and to this new and innovative community and economic development program makes Kanishcheva a true gem to the City of Gainesville.

The Nature Centers Commission presents the Star Awards to citizens who have made significant and beneficial contributions to Gainesville’s natural environment and conservation. The Nature Centers Commission will award a Star Volunteer Award and Star Good Neighbor Award.

The 2015 Star Volunteer Award recipients are the Baker family, Shirley and her sons Andy, Arthur and Alex. The Baker family have participated in and supported environmental and cultural history programs at Morningside Nature Center since before the boys could walk or talk! The Bakers have taken an active role in Morningside’s Living History programs, eagerly assisting this past year and half on the first Saturday of the month and during special events. Over the past year, they have volunteered nearly 400 hours of service. Andy, Arthur and Alex all volunteer as Junior Naturalists at Earth Academy Day Camp. The family actively participates in the city’s annual Great Air Potato Round-Up (now called Great Invader Raider Rally).

The 2015 Star Good Neighbor Award is being presented to Maria Huff-Edwards. For years, Maria Huff-Edwards has been making great contributions within Gainesville’s Grove Street neighborhood. She has volunteered as a site coordinator for Dreamers Garden and expanded her efforts to include the beautification of the surrounding neighborhood. Huff-Edwards understands that trees are an important part of Gainesville’s image as a place where residents value the environment. Over the past year, she has coordinated the installation of more than 30 trees, recruiting volunteers from the neighborhood and educating them about the importance of maintaining one of our city’s greatest assets - our tree canopy! Huff- Edwards is well-deserving of the Star Good Neighbor Award. Her noble efforts express a selfless devotion to her community and the City of Gainesville.

The Public Recreation and Parks Board presents the Albert “Ray” Massey Citizen Volunteer Awards to citizens who have worked to enhance or improve recreational activities in the community.

This 2015, three deserving volunteers will be presented the Albert “Ray” Massey Citizen Volunteer Award. The first recipient is the Denahan family, representing three generations with mother Barbara, father Steve, son Nathan and granddaughter Sage Denahan. Barbara, Steve, Nathan and Sage Denahan have been enlivening the first-person historical interpretation of our Living History program at Morningside Nature Center since spring 2014. Barbara’s love of textiles returned knowledge and skills to the program. She has entertained and educated many with the art of working with wool. Steve has shown his dedication and generosity by reproducing pieces that enhance the interpretation and help bring history to life for our visitors. Nathan’s abilities in the woodshop have introduced many to a made-by-hand time. He inspires the youth to try their skills at woodworking. Sage’s is an outgoing child ambassador, inviting young visitors to open up and experience fun and educational activities at the farm. As a whole, they present an extremely intelligent, adaptable and dedicated team that has greatly enriched the community.

The second recipient of the 2015 Albert “Ray” Massey Citizen Volunteer Award is Fredrick Doby. Doby has been a volunteer coach for the city’s football and basketball programs for the past two years, spending about 20 hours a week working with the youth of the City of Gainesville. Coach Doby has been pivotal to the success of the sports programs, and has actively assisted recreation leaders in recruiting other coaches for the league. His priority is to meet and exceed the needs and concerns of the children making him an active role model for our youth. His good character and positive attitude has enhanced the quality of learning for youth, not only on the playing field but also in the biggest game of all, life.

The third recipient of the 2015 Albert “Ray” Massey Citizen Volunteer Award is Carrie Russell. Russell has been a dedicated volunteer mom for the City of Gainesville’s football program for the past two years. She has devoted time and money to ensure that all of the children’s needs during practices and games are always met. Russell has gone above and beyond as a volunteer by not only helping the teams on the field, but also by gracefully offering to help with the preparation of certification books, collecting forms and communicating with other parents. Russell’s caring manner and selfless nature has positively impacted the youth in Gainesville.

The awards presentations will begin with the reading of the proclamations by Gainesville Mayor Ed Braddy in the City Commission auditorium, which is located at City Hall, 200 E. University Ave., at 5:30 p.m., followed by a reception at the Thomas Center’s Spanish Court at 302 NE Sixth Ave. in Gainesville.