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Puffin Gallery on NYC Activism Opens at Musuem of the City of NY
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New York City’s Dramatic 350-year History as a Focal Point of Social Activism Explored in New Puffin Gallery at the Museum of the City of New York

 

Museum of the City of New York Inaugurates the Puffin Foundation Gallery with Activist New York

 

(New York, NY) – Activist New York, the inaugural exhibition in the Museum’s new Puffin Foundation Gallery, examines the ways in which ordinary New Yorkers have advocated, agitated, and exercised their power to shape the city’s - and the nation’s - future. Centuries of activist efforts, representing the full spectrum of political ideologies, are illuminated through a series of installations featuring 14 New York movements ranging from the mid-17th century to today.

The exhibition features historic artifacts and images from the Museum’s celebrated collection as well as pieces on loan from other collections, along with interactive elements that enable visitors to explore and express their own views.  For the first three weeks of the exhibition attendees will have a chance to view the original “Flushing Remonstrance,” the 1657 landmark document protesting restrictions against Quakers in New Amsterdam.

The Puffin Foundation Gallery is situated in a newly renovated and climate-controlled 2000 square foot south gallery on the Museum’s second floor, and named for the foundation that has supported the gallery with a gift of $3.25 million. “Activism is a banner for all people to share their hopes and dreams of a better world,” said Perry Rosenstein, president of the Puffin Foundation.  "We are particularly pleased that the gallery gives guests the opportunity to connect with modern day activist organizations working on the pressing issues of today.  Along with the ability for activists and the public to update images of current activism across the city, this exhibit enable viewers to learn about the past, present and future of activism in New York," added Rosenstein.

Susan Henshaw Jones, Ronay Menschel Director of the Museum said, “An understanding of New York City’s historic distinctiveness is incomplete without grasping the motivations and issues for which activists have struggled and fought to bring about change. Virtually every aspect of life in the city has been affected by the actions of passionate and committed New Yorkers who have not been content with the world as they found it. We are enormously grateful to the Puffin Foundation for enabling the Museum to tell the stories of New Yorkers who demonstrated their passion publicly and in great numbers.”

View the NY1 story and images of the gallery here.

View images of the gallery at the gothamist.com here.

 
Puffin Gallery on NYC Activism to Open at Musuem of the City of NY
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First-of-Its-Kind Exhibition on Social Activism Opens; Explores New York City’s Dramatic 350-year History as a Focal Point of Social Activism

Museum of the City of New York Inaugurates the Puffin Foundation Gallery with Activist New York

Strike Pickets, 1910, Bain News Service photograph, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

New York, NY (PRWEB) April 25, 2012

Activist New York, the inaugural exhibition in the Museum’s new Puffin Foundation Gallery, will examine the ways in which ordinary New Yorkers have advocated, agitated, and exercised their power to shape the city’s - and the nation’s - future. Centuries of activist efforts, representing the full spectrum of political ideologies, will be illuminated through a series of installations featuring 14 New York movements ranging from the mid-17th century to today.

The exhibition will feature historic artifacts and images from the Museum’s celebrated collection as well as pieces on loan from other collections, along with interactive elements that enable visitors to explore and express their own views. For the first three weeks of the exhibition attendees will have a chance to view the original “Flushing Remonstrance,” the 1657 landmark document protesting restrictions against Quakers in New Amsterdam.

Susan Henshaw Jones, Ronay Menschel Director of the Museum said, “An understanding of New York City’s historic distinctiveness is incomplete without grasping the motivations and issues for which activists have struggled and fought to bring about change. Virtually every aspect of life in the city has been affected by the actions of passionate and committed New Yorkers who have not been content with the world as they found it. We are enormously grateful to the Puffin Foundation for enabling the Museum to tell the stories of New Yorkers who demonstrated their passion publicly and in great numbers.”

The Puffin Foundation Gallery is situated in a newly renovated and climate-controlled 2000 square foot south gallery on the Museum’s second floor, and named for the foundation that has supported the gallery with a gift of $3.25 million.

Activist New York begins and ends with questions of religious freedom, from the struggle for religious tolerance in Dutch New Netherland, to today’s debate over a Muslim Cultural Center near Ground Zero. In between, the exhibition examines a wide range of social movements that transformed laws and assumptions regarding race, gender, class, sexuality, economic justice, and other issues.

The exhibition unfolds through a series of 14 examples of New York activism:

1. Let Us Stay: The Struggle for Religious Tolerance in Dutch New Netherland, 1650-1664
The exhibition features the Flushing Remonstrance, one of the earliest arguments for religious liberty and tolerance in American history.

2. Beware of Foreign Influence: Nativists and Immigrants, 1830-1860
This section explores efforts to prohibit or limit immigration and contain its impact on 19th-century New York. Nativists fought to curtail the largely Catholic immigrant community’s access to citizenship, the vote, and public office. The section also illustrates the ways Catholic New Yorkers combated nativism by establishing their own independent institutions to support their community.

3. What Has New York to Do with Slavery? 1827-1865
While New York City was a center of the abolitionist movement, it was also home to many people who sided with the Southern slave owners. This conflict was dramatically revealed in the Draft Riots of July 1863, where the issues of class and race came to a head in a harrowing, violent confrontation. The exhibition chronicles the efforts of both sides of the debate.

4. New York is the Battleground: Woman Suffrage, 1900-1920
In the early 20th century, New York became the epicenter for organizational activity of the national woman suffrage movement, with suffragists pioneering new methods of behind-the-scenes organizing and media-savvy publicity. The installation also documents the movement against woman suffrage through anti-suffrage images and messages published by a New York lithograph firm.

5. Houses of Welcome: The Settlement House Movement, 1890-1925
Immigrants in New York at the turn of the 20th century faced overcrowding, illness, and poverty. This section of the exhibition shows how a new type of agent for change—the settlement house worker—combated those conditions by moving into slum neighborhoods to provide instructions in parenting, health, and citizenship.

6. I Am a Working Girl! Upheaval in the Garment Trades, 1909-1915
This installation examines the events that led to reform and improvement of deplorable workplace conditions, including the 1909 "Uprising of the 20,000," an industry-wide strike by workers affiliated with the fledgling International Ladies' Garment Workers Union, and the 1911 Triangle Waist factory fire tragedy.

7. Art for the Masses: An Activist Theater, 1930-1945
This movement looks at the politically engaged New York theater groups that used their art to confront Depression-era poverty, labor exploitation, political corruption, racial tension, and the rise of Fascism and Nazism in Europe.

8. We Shall Not Be Moved: New York and Civil Rights, 1945-1964
This installation reveals New York City’s role in the early Civil Rights struggle of the post-World War II era, from the “Boycott Jim Crow” and anti-lynching movements through the emergence of CORE and SNCC, to the Black Power era of the mid-1960s.

9. What's Wrong with New York? Conservative Activism, 1962-1973
This segment of the exhibition looks at groups, such as “Parents and Taxpayers,” that were unhappy with a leftward drift in the city and blamed it for an increase in disorder, crime, and the swelling municipal budget. Many joined a new third party, the Conservative Party of New York, formed in 1962.

10. Stop the Wrecking Ball! Preserving Historic New York, 1955-1970
This case study shows how the loss of some of the city’s greatest cultural and architectural landmarks fed the efforts of the early historic preservation movement and eventually led to the creation of New York’s groundbreaking Landmarks Preservation Law.

11. “Gay Is Good”: Civil Rights for Gays and Lesbians, 1969-2012
This installation shows how the Stonewall Riots galvanized the modern gay rights movement in New York and led to the creation of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, ACT UP, and other organizations. The installation brings the story up to date with the successful campaign to secure the legalization of gay marriages in New York State.

12. “Don’t Move, Improve”: Reviving the South Bronx, 1970-2012
The South Bronx became an international icon of urban blight in the 1970s. This section of the exhibition examines grassroots advocacy groups, community organizations, and church congregations that took ownership of the rebuilding of their neighborhoods into livable, affordable communities.

13. Love Your Lane: Bicycle Advocacy, 1965-2011
Amid concerns about ecology, traffic congestion, and pollution, pioneering activists lobbied for changes in the traffic laws. Today, as part of the Bloomberg administration PlaNYC’s effort to build a greener, more sustainable city, bike lanes proliferate, as does agitation against for and against them, as this installation documents.

14. Park51: 2010-2012
This section provides a detailed exploration of the controversy over the construction of an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, which is reminiscent of the long and turbulent saga of activism surrounding issues of religious expression in New York City.

Interactive elements throughout the exhibition will provide opportunities to dig more deeply and bring the historic stories up to date. A series of touch screens will present a timeline of the history of activism in the city, with more than two hundred examples ranging from slave revolts of the 18th century to the Newsboys’ Strike of 1899 to the woman behind the movement that led to New York’s 1978 “pooper scooper” law. Additional kiosks with touch screens invite visitors to explore the work of contemporary activist groups and send email messages to these groups expressing the visitors’ views on current activism. In addition, members of the general public may submit photographs of contemporary activist in the city to a photo blog housed on the Museum’s website (http://www.mcny.org) and carried live in the Puffin Foundation Gallery.

Activist New York has been organized by an exhibition team led by Sarah M. Henry, the Museum’s Deputy Director and Chief Curator. Steven H. Jaffe served as guest curator, and Christina Ziegler-McPherson as associate guest curator. The exhibition team was aided by the Puffin Foundation Gallery Advisory Committee, chaired by Peter G. Carroll, Executive Director, Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, and comprising scholars and activists Esther Cohen, Joshua Freeman, Victor Navasky, Bruno Quinson, Christopher Rhomberg, Tom Roderick, and Perry, Gladys, and Neal Rosenstein.

###

ABOUT THE MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK

Founded in 1923 as a private, nonprofit corporation, the Museum of the City of New York celebrates and interprets the city, educating the public about its distinctive character, especially its heritage of diversity, opportunity, and perpetual transformation. The Museum connects the past, present, and future of New York City, and serves the people of the city as well as visitors from around the world through exhibitions, school and public programs, publications, and collections.

 

 
Puffin-ALBA Award for Human Rights 2012
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The Puffin Foundation and the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA) Announce
Second Award for Human Rights Activism


Contact: Marina Garde
212-674-5398
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE info@alba-valb.org• www.alba-valb.org

Para más información en español sobre el Premio ALBA/Puffin al Activismo en pro de los Derechos Humanos de este año, pinche aquí.

New York — On May 13, 2012, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives will present the Second ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism, in the amount of $100,000, to Fredy Peccerelli, Executive Director of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation, and Kate Doyle, Senior Analyst of U.S. policy in Latin America at the National Security Archive. The award ceremony will take place at the Museum of the City of New York.

“Both Doyle and Peccerelli are indefatigable defenders of human rights who have played a seminal role in the fight against impunity in Latin America,” said Sebastiaan Faber, Chair of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA).

A determined and creative researcher-activist, Doyle has spent twenty years working tirelessly with Latin American human rights organizations and truth commissions — in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Peru— to obtain the declassification of U.S. government archives in support of their investigations.

Peccerelli is an innovative forensic anthropologist whose work has been instrumental to the first-ever conviction of Guatemalan military forces for crimes against humanity. As founding director of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation (FAFG), Peccerelli leads a team that, over the past fifteen years, has exhumed hundreds of mass graves filled with victims of Guatemala’s civil war.

The ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism, one of the largest human rights awards in the world, is granted annually by ALBA and the Puffin Foundation.

“The award is designed,” said Puffin Foundation President Perry Rosenstein, “to give public recognition, support, and encouragement to individuals or groups whose work has an exceptionally positive impact on the advancement and/or defense of human rights. It is intended to help educate students and the general public about the importance of defending human rights against arbitrary powers that violate democratic principles.”

The ALBA/Puffin Award is part of a program connecting the inspiring legacy of the International Brigades — the 40,000 volunteers who helped fight fascism during the Spanish Civil War — to international activist causes of today. Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón received the first ALBA/Puffin Award in May 2011.

Award Ceremony – Sunday, May 13th at 2:30pm
Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street
New York, NY 10029

BACKGROUND

Kate Doyle and the National Security Archive
For two decades, Kate Doyle has worked to shed light on the history of state violence and repression in the Americas. Through her research at the National Security Archive, she has obtained the disclosure of thousands of U.S. and Latin American government records from secret archives for human rights investigators, truth commissions, prosecutors and judges. She has testified as an expert witness in human rights hearings, including the 2008 trial of Peru’s former President Alberto Fujimori that ended in his conviction for crimes against humanity; the Guatemalan genocide case and the case of the 1989 assassination of the Jesuits in El Salvador, both before Spain’s National Court; the 2010 trial of Guatemalan police officials for the disappearance of labor activist Edgar Fernando García in 1984; and multiple hearings before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission on the “death squad dossier,” charging the Guatemalan government with the abduction and disappearance of dozens of citizens in the mid-1980s.

Ms. Doyle has edited two of the National Security Archive's collections of declassified records - Death Squads, Guerrilla War, Covert Operations, and Genocide: Guatemala and the United States, 1954-1999 and El Salvador: War, Peace and Human Rights, 1980-1994. Doyle also works with citizens groups throughout the Americas on their campaigns for government transparency, accountability and freedom of information, and has written about the right to information in Latin America and the United States. Recently her work was featured in the award-winning documentary Granito, by Pamela Yates and Paco de Onís, which narrates her involvement in the effort to indict former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt for crimes against humanity.

The National Security Archive (http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/) was founded in 1985 by journalists and scholars to check rising government secrecy. It combines a unique range of functions: investigative journalism center, research institute on international affairs, library and archive of declassified U.S. documents, leading non-profit user of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, public interest law firm defending and expanding public access to government information, global advocate of open government, and indexer and publisher of former secrets. The Archive is housed at George Washington University.

Fredy Peccerelli and the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation

A courageous and innovative forensic anthropologist, Fredy Peccerelli has made crucial contributions to the first-ever conviction of Guatemalan military forces for crimes against humanity. As founding director of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation (FAFG), Peccerelli leads a team that, over the past twenty years, has exhumed hundreds of mass graves of victims from Guatemala’s Internal Conflict.
Using cutting-edge scientific tools, he has been able to identify victims of the Guatemalan genocide, gathering evidence for use in court and also providing closure to family members. Peccerelli has also created a national DNA database for the identification of victims of forced disappearance. When Fredy was nine, his own family was forced to flee Guatemala for the Bronx, after his father received death threats.
In 1999 Peccerelli was named by Time Magazine and CNN as one of the fifty Latin American Leaders for the New Millennium.In 2006 he was the recipient of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)’s Human Rights Award and in 2008 he received the Heinz R. Pagels Human Rights of Scientists Award from the New York Academy of Sciences for his work. Like Kate Doyle, Peccerelli’s work was also featured in the award-winning documentary Granito, by Pamela Yates and Paco de Onís, which narrates his involvement as a forensic expert in the efforts to seek justice for crimes against humanity.
The Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation (www.fafg.org) is an autonomous, non-profit, technical and scientific NGO. Its aim is to strengthen the Guatemalan justice system and respect for human rights by gathering evidence, investigating, documenting, and raising awareness about past instances of human rights violations, particularly massacres and extrajudicial killings that occurred during Guatemala’s 36- year-long Internal Armed Conflict. Its main tools in pursuing this goal are the application of forensic anthropology, forensic archaeology and forensic genetic (DNA) techniques in exhumations of clandestine mass graves and the analysis of the remains of victims from the Internal Conflict.

The Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA)
During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) nearly 40,000 men and women from 52 countries, including 2,800 Americans, traveled to Spain to join the International Brigades to help fight fascism. The U.S. volunteers came to be known collectively as the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Founded in 1979, The Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA) is a non-profit educational organization that promotes public awareness, research and discussion related to that war and its historical, political, artistic and biographical significance. ALBA has also preserved and cataloged the letters, pamphlets, posters, writings and photographs of the period. The Archives are housed at New York University’s Tamiment Library and are used by scholars and students from all over the world. ALBA also presents cultural and educational programs for high school teachers, working to preserve the legacy of progressive activism of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade as an inspiration for present and future generations.

The Puffin Foundation
Since it was founded in 1983, the Puffin Foundation Ltd. has sought to open the doors of artistic expression by providing grants to artists and art organizations who are often excluded from mainstream opportunities due to their race, gender, or social philosophy. The Puffin, a species whose nesting sites were endangered by encroaching civilization, were encouraged to return to their native habitats through the constructive efforts of a concerned citizenry. The Foundation has adopted the name Puffin as a metaphor for how it perceives its mission, which is to ensure that the arts continue to grow and enrich our lives. In so doing it has joined with other concerned groups and individuals toward achieving that goal. The Puffin Foundation is also a long-standing supporter of ALBA’s educational mission.

xxx | forward to a friend Copyright © *|2012|* ALBA|*, All rights reserved. Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA) 799 Broadway, Suite 341 New York, NY 10003 Tel. +1 212 674 5398 Fax. +1 212 674 2101 www.alba-valb.org info@alba-valb.org

 

 
Puffin donation helps Teaneck restart literacy program
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"A $120,000 donation from the Puffin Foundation will allow the school district to reinstate a summer literacy and math program that was eliminated this year because of budget cuts, officials said.

'I think it might be one of the largest donations – without a grant attached to it – that we have had,' Schools Superintendent Barbara Pinsak said.

The district has already received $60,000, said Gladys Miller-Rosenstein, executive director of the township-based Puffin Foundation, and Perry Rosenstein, the foundation's president. The remaining $60,000 will be donated in 2012, in time for the program's start in July, Miller-Rosenstein said.

'We thought it was a really needed program, and they have proof that it had been successful,' she said. 'They have had this program before and it had been very helpful to the youngsters. … From listening to what they told us, we thought it was exactly what we would like to do for the school this year.'

The program, which will run for four weeks, will be open to students in Grades 1-8, said Vincent McHale, the district's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. He said he expects about 300 students to participate."

Read the full article from The Bergen Record here.

 

 
Kushner to Donate $100,000 Puffin Nation Prize to CUNY Students
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Nation Institute

Tony Kushner Makes the News

Posted by Jayati Vora, December 7, 2011 to the Nation Institute Blog

JOHN MUNSON

Neal Rosenstein (left), of the Puffin Foundation, presents the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship to Tony Kushner (right) at The Nation Institute's annual dinner gala, December 5, 2011

It's big news when Tony Kushner wins a large cash award from the Puffin Foundation. It's even bigger when the acclaimed Jewish playwright is embroiled in a scandal, as he was this past May when the CUNY board blocked him from receiving an honorary degree for his allegedly anti-Israel beliefs. And it gets more interesting when Kushner, in his acceptance speech on Monday night, states that he plans to donate the money to a scholarship for the students at the university's John Jay College campus and jokes that he'll name it after the CUNY board member who denounced him. (The scholarship part is real; the naming part undoubtedly not.)

The award, called the Puffin / Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship, which is jointly offered by The Nation Institute and the Puffin Foundation, is accompanied by a $100,000 prize. It is given each year at the Institute's dinner gala, which took place this year at the Metropolitan Pavilion on December 5. The event is closed to the press, but Kushner's humorous remarks must have been too good to resist, for quotes leaked out into the New York Observer the following day. The Observer scribe wrote that Kushner said

he felt a little bit guilty since anytime he heard of anyone winning an award, he always felt a twinge of jealousy. Jokingly, Mr. Kushner gave an example of being aggrieved that Israeli scientist Dan Shechtman won the Nobel Prize this year for the discovery of quasicrystals. "I don't even understand what quasicrystals are," Mr. Kushner said. "But I still thought, 'Aww, why didn't I win?'"

The news got picked up in the Guardian (UK), and was reposted on an L Magazine blog.

The announcement last month also made the news. The New York Times' Art Beat blog led the way on November 28, while theater websites such as Theater Mania followed suit. The Jewish Daily Forward ran a round-up post on its Arty Semite blog. The Jewish Journal, in its Hollywood Jew blog, filed a longer piece quoting from their own earlier coverage of the CUNY fracas as well as from the Nation Institute press release, in which Kushner said, in his inimitably humorous way:

To be a good citizen, much less a creative one, is a tall order, and while I hope I can say I've never taken the blessings of citizenship (however abridged these remain, despite recent advances, for the entire LGBT community) for granted, I feel certain that I've achieved at best a rudimentary level of sufficiency regarding the obligations that come with the franchise. I can only add that since this will make me feel terrible every time I fail to be a creative citizen, it'll be a goad to step up my game — since citizenship, like playwriting or the violin, requires practice, practice, practice.  I'm so grateful to The Institute and the Puffin Foundation for their wayward taste and misguided judgment, and I plan to keep blushing for several years to come.

The Journal blog post was also picked up by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz online. The Forward ran a profile of Kushner in their December 6, 2011 issue — written prior to the award ceremony on Monday night — which detailed his upbringing:

Kushner's grandfather was a glazier who was locked out for attempting to organize, which meant that his mother grew up in "terrible poverty in the Bronx" and Kushner himself grew up with an understanding of how labor, society and the production of goods and wealth should relate. Over the past two decades, though, he notes ruefully, those assumptions have been dismantled as the conversation about the right to organized labor has disappeared and the "right to work" state has become the unquestioned norm. "It seems there’s no such thing," he remarked, "as the category of economic justice."

Watch this space for the unedited speech that Kushner gave.

----------------

The Huffington Post featured Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin's comments from the annual gala dinner, where she "held up the protests over Gov. Scott Walker's anti-collective bargaining law that started in Wisconsin in February, as well as the Occupy protests around the nation, as indicators of the power of progressivism." The post quoted her as saying, "We have learned something important in recent months. Something none of us should ever forget. The truth is, no amount of corporate money or right-wing lies can defeat a progressive movement that is energized and mobilized." If elected to the Wisconsin Senate, Baldwin would be the first openly gay senator in the United States.

 
Tony Kushner Puffin/Nation 2011 Creative Citizen Award Winner donates $100,000 prize
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"American playwright Tony Kushner has donated $100,000 in prize money to the university whose board originally blocked a decision to award him an honorary degree earlier this year.

In May, John Jay College, part of the City University of New York (CUNY), was initially prevented from honouring Kushner following criticism from one of the university's trustees, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, over what he perceived as the playwright's anti-Israel stance. Four days later, following a media firestorm, the decision was rescinded.

However, accepting a Creative Citizenship award at a ceremony in New York on Monday night, the playwright, best known for his epic Angels in America, said he would nonetheless be donating the $100,000 prize money to CUNY.

The award, which is jointly presented by The Nation Institute and Puffin Foundation, officially marks Kushner's 'lifetime of artistic work and activism that has given voice to the marginalised and explored the most challenging issues of the past 50 years'.

Kushner's work has always placed issues of social justice at its centre. Angels in America, arguably his masterpiece, tackled the conservative backlash against Aids, while other plays have looked at the relationship between Afghanistan and the west (Homebody/Kabul) and the rise of capitalism online casino (Hydriotaphia, or the Death of Dr Browne).

Though the CUNY incident is not directly mentioned, Kushner's subsequent conduct has been cited as a motivating factor behind the award.

Last month, Andy Breslau, president of the Nation Institute, said: 'Tony's refusal to submit to the mischaracterisation of his statements on Israel at a moment of great public controversy struck the jury as not only commendable, but also in keeping with his career-long commitment to the public responsibilities of the artist.' "

-via The Guardian, full article here.

 

 
2011 Honoree Tony Kushner
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The Puffin Foundation is pleased to announce the winner of the 2011 Puffin Nation Award for Creative Citizenship, Tony Kushner.

********************************************************************

UPDATE:  Nation Institute

Tony Kushner Makes the News

Posted by Jayati Vora, December 7, 2011 to the Nation Institute Blog

Photo: John Munson

Neal Rosenstein (left), of the Puffin Foundation, presents the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship to Tony Kushner (right) at The Nation Institute's annual dinner gala, December 5, 2011

It's big news when Tony Kushner wins a large cash award from the Puffin Foundation. It's even bigger when the acclaimed Jewish playwright is embroiled in a scandal, as he was this past May when the CUNY board blocked him from receiving an honorary degree for his allegedly anti-Israel beliefs. And it gets more interesting when Kushner, in his acceptance speech on Monday night, states that he plans to donate the money to a scholarship for the students at the university's John Jay College campus and jokes that he'll name it after the CUNY board member who denounced him. (The scholarship part is real; the naming part undoubtedly not.)

The award, called the Puffin / Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship, which is jointly offered by The Nation Institute and the Puffin Foundation, is accompanied by a $100,000 prize. It is given each year at the Institute's dinner gala, which took place this year at the Metropolitan Pavilion on December 5. The event is closed to the press, but Kushner's humorous remarks must have been too good to resist, for quotes leaked out into the New York Observer the following day. The Observer scribe wrote that Kushner said

he felt a little bit guilty since anytime he heard of anyone winning an award, he always felt a twinge of jealousy. Jokingly, Mr. Kushner gave an example of being aggrieved that Israeli scientist Dan Shechtman won the Nobel Prize this year for the discovery of quasicrystals. "I don't even understand what quasicrystals are," Mr. Kushner said. "But I still thought, 'Aww, why didn't I win?'"

The news got picked up in the Guardian (UK), and was reposted on an L Magazine blog.

The announcement last month also made the news. The New York Times' Art Beat blog led the way on November 28, while theater websites such as Theater Mania followed suit. The Jewish Daily Forward ran a round-up post on its Arty Semite blog. The Jewish Journal, in its Hollywood Jew blog, filed a longer piece quoting from their own earlier coverage of the CUNY fracas as well as from the Nation Institute press release, in which Kushner said, in his inimitably humorous way:

To be a good citizen, much less a creative one, is a tall order, and while I hope I can say I've never taken the blessings of citizenship (however abridged these remain, despite recent advances, for the entire LGBT community) for granted, I feel certain that I've achieved at best a rudimentary level of sufficiency regarding the obligations that come with the franchise. I can only add that since this will make me feel terrible every time I fail to be a creative citizen, it'll be a goad to step up my game — since citizenship, like playwriting or the violin, requires practice, practice, practice.  I'm so grateful to The Institute and the Puffin Foundation for their wayward taste and misguided judgment, and I plan to keep blushing for several years to come.

The Journal blog post was also picked up by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz online. The Forward ran a profile of Kushner in their December 6, 2011 issue — written prior to the award ceremony on Monday night — which detailed his upbringing:

Kushner's grandfather was a glazier who was locked out for attempting to organize, which meant that his mother grew up in "terrible poverty in the Bronx" and Kushner himself grew up with an understanding of how labor, society and the production of goods and wealth should relate. Over the past two decades, though, he notes ruefully, those assumptions have been dismantled as the conversation about the right to organized labor has disappeared and the "right to work" state has become the unquestioned norm. "It seems there’s no such thing," he remarked, "as the category of economic justice."

Watch this space for the unedited speech that Kushner gave.

----------------

The Huffington Post featured Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin's comments from the annual gala dinner, where she "held up the protests over Gov. Scott Walker's anti-collective bargaining law that started in Wisconsin in February, as well as the Occupy protests around the nation, as indicators of the power of progressivism." The post quoted her as saying, "We have learned something important in recent months. Something none of us should ever forget. The truth is, no amount of corporate money or right-wing lies can defeat a progressive movement that is energized and mobilized." If elected to the Wisconsin Senate, Baldwin would be the first openly gay senator in the United States.

********************************************************************

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT:
Dan Levitan, (646) 200-5315

Tony Kushner Announced as Winner of the 2011 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship

November 28, 2011 (New York, NY): The Nation Institute announced today that playwright, screenwriter, and activist Tony Kushner will receive the annual $100,000 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship. This prestigious award will be presented to Kushner on Monday, December 5, 2011 at The Nation Institute’s Annual Dinner Gala in New York City.

The Puffin Foundation and The Nation Institute co-sponsor this annual award, given to an individual who has challenged the status quo through distinctive, courageous, imaginative, and socially responsible work of significance. Recipients are drawn from a broad range of occupations and pursuits, including academia, journalism, public health, literature, art, the environmental sciences, labor, and the humanities. The prize is intended to encourage the recipients to continue their work, and to inspire others to challenge the prevailing orthodoxies they face in their careers.


Kushner is receiving the award for a lifetime of artistic work and activism that has given voice to the marginalized and explored the most challenging issues of the past fifty years. He has tackled everything from AIDS and the conservative backlash (Angels in America), and the civil rights movement in the South (Caroline, or Change), to Afghanistan and the West (Homebody / Kabul), and the rise of capitalism (Hydriotaphia, or the Death of Dr. Browne). As John Lahr wrote in the New Yorker
, “He gives voice to characters who have been rendered powerless by the forces of circumstances — a drag queen dying of AIDS, an uneducated Southern maid, contemporary Afghans — and his attempt to see all sides of their predicament has a sly subversiveness. He forces the audience to identify with the marginalized — a humanizing act of the imagination.”

From his award-winning plays to his political writing, Kushner has faith in the power of an engaged citizenry to transform society. As he wrote in an inspiring 2004 essay, “
I do not believe the wicked always win. . . . . Not any single one of us has to or possibly can save the world, but . . . with all of us working where we see work to be done, the world will change.”

Kushner is currently on location on the set of his latest project, Lincoln, a film adaptation of Doris Kearns Goodwin's best-selling biography, Team of Rivals, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and directed by Steven Spielberg, to be released in 2012.

Tony Kushner said, “I was surprised
shocked, even that I’ve been chosen to be the recipient of this year’s Puffin/Nation Prize.  As to my fitness as recipient of an honor that’s gone previously to some of my heroes, I can only say that I’m aghast at The Nation Institute and Puffin Foundation’s decision, and can easily name many others more deserving; and I’m appalled at how I’m pleased that the committee didn’t pick one of them.  Like most progressive Americans, I depend on The Nation magazine for serious, scrupulous, courageous reportage and analysis; I’m very proud to have been published in its pages and proud of my association with The Nation Institute.”

In May 2011, the trustees of the City University of New York (CUNY) blocked Kushner from receiving an honorary degree from one of their campuses, John Jay College, after a member of their board objected to – and mischaracterized – Kushner’s views on Israel. Their decision was met by public outrage, with the New York Times editorializing that CUNY “should have embraced the artist and tossed the board member out.” One month later they reversed their decision, and in his graceful acceptance speech Kushner said, “there stands a shining community of people, of spirits of whom I’m proud to be able to call myself kindred, who believe in the necessity of honest exchanges of ideas and opinions, who understand that life is a struggle to synthesize, to find a balance between responsibility and freedom, strategy and truth, survival and ethical humanity.”

Perry Rosenstein, President of the Puffin Foundation, Ltd., the co-sponsor of the Creative Citizenship award, said "Tony Kushner once wrote ‘Our despair is a lie we are telling ourselves.’ Whether it is in his epochal work for the stage, his screenwriting, or his activism, Tony manages to balance realism, rigor, and hope. He has weathered distortions of his thinking with grace and determination. His consistent vision of a just, more thoughtful, less fearful world isn't rooted in an easy sentimentality, but in an understanding that true justice will only be achieved through patience and hard work. For his inspiring contributions to our culture and the world of ideas, we are proud and thrilled to honor him with the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship."

Andrew Breslau, President of The Nation Institute, the co-sponsor of the prize, said, “Tony Kushner’s intellectual force and bravery has shaped our times. Whether it’s on the stage or in the broader world of ideas, Tony’s commitment to intellectual honesty, moral reflection, and the responsibilities of citizenship is an inspiration to us all.”

Kushner added, “To be a good citizen, much less a creative one, is a tall order, and while I hope I can say I’ve never taken the blessings of citizenship (however abridged these remain, despite recent advances, for the entire LGBT community) for granted, I feel certain that I’ve achieved at best a rudimentary level of sufficiency regarding the obligations that come with the franchise. I can only add that since this will make me feel terrible every time I fail to be a creative citizen, it’ll be a goad to step up my game
since citizenship, like playwriting or the violin, requires practice, practice, practice.  I’m so grateful to The Institute and the Puffin Foundation for their wayward taste and misguided judgment, and I plan to keep blushing for several years to come.” 

Tony Kushner's plays include: A Bright Room Called Day; Angels in America, Parts One and Two; Slavs!; Homebody/Kabul; Caroline, or Change, a musical with composer Jeanine Tesori; and The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide To Capitalism And Socialism With A Key To The Scriptures. He wrote the libretto for the opera A Blizzard on Marblehead Neck, also with Tesori. He has adapted and translated Pierre Corneille's The Illusion, S.Y. Ansky's The Dybbuk, Bertolt Brecht's The Good Person of Szechwan and Mother Courage and Her Children; and the English-language libretto for the opera Brundibár by Hans Krasa. He wrote the screenplays for Mike Nichols' film of Angels In America, and Steven Spielberg's Munich. His books include Brundibar, with illustrations by Maurice Sendak; The Art of Maurice Sendak, 1980 to the Present; and Wrestling With Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict, co-edited with Alisa Solomon.

Kushner is the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize, two Tony Awards, three Obie Awards, two Evening Standard Awards, an Olivier Award, an Emmy Award and an Oscar nomination, among other honors. In 2008, he was the first recipient of the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award. He lives in Manhattan with his husband, Mark Harris.

Kushner is the 12th winner of the award. Last year Cecile Richards and Bill McKibben were co-recipients of the prize. Previous winners are environmental activist Van Jones; former Texas State agriculture commissioner Jim Hightower; human rights lawyer Michael Ratner; Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman; educator and author Jonathan Kozol; journalist and author Barbara Ehrenreich; professor and anti-death penalty advocate David Protess; labor activist Dolores Huerta; and civil rights pioneer Robert Parris Moses.

Since its founding in 1983, the Puffin Foundation has sought to open the doors of artistic expression by providing grants to artists and art organizations who are often excluded from mainstream opportunities due to their race, gender, or social philosophy. The puffin, a species whose nesting sites were endangered by encroaching civilization, were encouraged to return to their native habitats through the constructive efforts of a concerned citizenry. The Foundation adopted the name Puffin as a metaphor for how it sees its mission, which is to ensure that the arts continue to grow and enrich our lives.

A nonprofit media center, The Nation Institute was established to extend the reach of progressive ideas and strengthen the independent press. Its dynamic range of programs include a bestselling book publishing imprint, Nation Books; an award-winning Investigative Fund, which supports groundbreaking investigative journalism; the widely read and syndicated website TomDispatch; an internship program at The Nation magazine; and Journalism Fellowships that fund up to 20 high-profile reporters every year. Work produced by The Nation Institute has sparked Congressional hearings, new legislation, FBI investigations, and the resignation of government officials, has changed the debate, and has a regular impact on the most urgent social and political issues of our day.


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For more about the award and Tony Kushner you can read the following articles: NY Times and Playbill.com

 
Peace Pole Ceremony at Puffin Foundation: Event Photos
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This ceremony took place Wednesday November 9th at the Puffin Foundation.

We have sought to have our voice for peace heard. A world without war is a universal desire by untold millions of people. We have erected a “Peace Pole” on The Puffin Foundation Ltd. property located at 20 Puffin Way in Teaneck, NJ and in doing so have become a member of the Peace Pole family in the state of New Jersey.

The Peace Pole states in 8 languages “Let Peace prevail on Earth.” There are presently 264 peace sites throughout New Jersey. We are proud to be one of the new sites.

A ceremony was held on November 9, 2011 outside the Foundation offices. In attendance to dedicate the Peace Pole were State Senator Loretta Weinberg, Teaneck Town Council member Barbara Toffler, Judith Arnold Peace Pole official(New Jersey Peace Action and National Peace Action), Jules Orkin Puffin Foundation Peace Fellow, Supt. of schools Barbara Pinsack, Assistant Supt. of schools Vincent McHale, Walter Nygard of Veterans for Peace, executives of the Puffin Foundation Perry Rosenstein, President, Gladys Miller-Rosenstein Executive Director and Neal Rosenstein Vice President. The student band and ensemble group from Thomas Jefferson Middle School led by music teacher Vincent Pittman, provided entertainment. Anyone who wished to make a statement about world peace was invited to address the audience.

The Peace Pole ceremony will become an annual event.

Photos by: Rachel Banai


Gladys Miller-Rosenstein, Executive Director of The Puffin Foundation, Ltd.
Judith Arnold of New Jersey Peace Action and National Peace Action


Jules Orkin, Puffin Peace Fellow


Barbara Pinsack, Superintendent of Teaneck Public Schools
Vincent McHale, Assistant Superintendent of Teaneck Public Schools


Barbara Toffler, Town Council Member


State Senator Loretta Weinberg


Walt Nygard, Vice President of Veterans for Peace Chapter 21


Walt Nygard, Sarah Davol, and Vanessa DiBona


Neal Rosenstein, Vice President of The Puffin Foundation, Ltd.



Thomas Jefferson Middle School Bands
Vincent Pittman, Music Teacher

 
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