Richard Arenella, who has played an enormous role in overseeing The Great Neck Arts Center's rapid expansion, has been selected to receive the organization's Founders Award.
Arts Center Executive Director Regina Gil and Gala 2002 honoree Richard Arenella review plans for the expansion of The Arts Center.
The presentation will be made at The Arts Center's eighth annual dinner dance, called "Gala 2002," to be held at the Lake Success Country Club on Nov. 14. "I urge the community to show their support for The Arts Center and all the work Richard has done by joining us in saluting him at the gala," said Arts Center Executive Director Regina Gil.
Also being honored is Morris Levy, named The Arts Center's "Man of the Year," and Joe Butler, lead singer of the rock group Lovin' Spoonful, and Savion and Yvette Glover, who will be recognized as "Artists of Distinction."
Mr. Arenella chairs The Arts Center's building committee, which oversaw the construction of the organization's current state-of-the art facility at 113 Middle Neck Road, above Great Neck's Squire Theater. The committee is gearing up for the next phase of Arts Center construction, to begin shortly, which will see the facility expand to the entire floor of the building above the theater.
Mr. Arenella was instrumental in the formulation of The Arts Center's by-laws and constitution, formally establishing the facility. He also chairs The Arts Center's nominating committee, which recommends members of the organization's board of trustees and officers.
"Richard Arenella is a force of nature," said Arts Center Executive Director Regina Gil. "His energy, dynamism, hard work and team style of management makes him an asset in any group working situation. He never fails to see a project through. His word is his bond and we are lucky that he placed himself in the service of The Great Neck Arts Center.
"He has served on so many committees. I count on his advice, experience and guidance. His sense of humor and camaraderie make it a joy to be around him. Above all, he is a modest person and I literally had to beg him to allow The Arts Center to thank him with our Founders Award."
Mr. Arenella has held a wide variety of community leadership roles during the more than 30 years he has worked for the Great Neck Park District. He retired as superintendent of parks and recreation last April. Since that time he has headed a recreation development and consulting firm, Leisure Solutions, Inc.
In addition to being a founding member of The Arts Center, he has served in various capacities on the Great Neck United Community Fund since 1988, including president of the organization for three years. He is also a director of the Great Neck Chamber of Commerce, on the Business Advisory Council of Adults and Children with Learning Disabilities and a board member of FOCUS, a community residence for handicapped children.
In 1996, he was the first recipient of the prestigious Giraffe Award, presented by the Great Neck Chamber of Commerce to those who "stick their neck out for Great Neck." He was the recipient of the United Community Fund Leo M. Friend Award in 1977 and an honoree of the Great Neck United Community Fund in 1987 and again in 1999. He received the Great Neck PTA Special Education Award and certificates of achievement from the New York State Disability Council, the Great Neck Police Athletic League, the American Association of Retired Persons, the United States Merchant Marine Academy, the Great Neck Senior Citizen Center, the Great Neck Library and the Great Neck Lions Club.
Mr. Arenella was the co-chair of the homecoming parade for Sarah Hughes, the 2002 ice skating Olympic Gold Medalist. He also served as master of ceremonies of the homecoming ceremony, along with Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender, which was broadcast live on several television stations and covered by more than 60 international media representatives.
The Arts Center has always been dear to his heart. "I believe strongly in what The Arts Center and Executive Director Regina Gil are doing," he said. "Great Neck is a wonderful community. Of all the communities on Long Island, I felt that this one could certainly use an arts center. My involvement is an extension of my belief that Great Neck should constantly be made a more diversified, appealing community.
"There will be a time when people won't travel to New York City to meet their cultural needs. With the enthusiasm of Regina Gil and the board of The Arts Center, the facility could go wherever it is needed to bring the arts to the people." He said he could see a coalition of arts centers forming to service all areas of Long Island. "And, The Great Neck Arts Center could be in the forefront. All arts centers could get together and provide classes and foster cultural activities where they are needed."
Looking back at the achievements of The Arts Center during its relatively short lifetime, he said: "No one could have anticipated The Arts Center coming this far this soon. Credit has to go to Regina Gil and her ability to attract quality people from the community, as well as the obvious need for such a facility.
"I love to see kids coming to The Arts Center to take music lessons and pottery classes and dance and art lessons. The Arts Center provides terrific activities for the young people of our community. And for adults there are classes too, and Salon Concerts in private homes, a movie series bringing premieres to the community, art shows and so much more. Wow, The Arts Center has come so far!"
Sponsors of Gala 2002 The Inn at Great Neck, Israel Discount Bank of New York, Mr. Jay Furman, Mr. and Mrs. Sol Tawil, Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Levy, Fleet Bank, Mr. and Mrs. David Levy, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Luxenberg, Mr. and Mrs. Dohn Schildkraut, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Gil and Hunter Ambulette.
For further information about Gala 2002, sponsorship opportunities, and information about a journal to be published in coordination with the event, call The Arts Center at 829-2570.