Westport, CT -- The Westport Arts Center has announced the honorees for its 2016 “Club Havana” fundraiser gala. Howard Aibel and Elizabeth Strick will be honored for their significant contributions to the Westport Arts Center and the greater arts community.
The “Club Havana” gala will take place on Saturday, May 7 at Vespa restaurant and the National Hall Campus in downtown Westport. The event will celebrate the unique and diverse culture of the island country, immersing guests in Cuba’s rich and expressive arts heritage, its food and drinks, and its music.
Arts activist and philanthropist Howard Aibel of Weston is a long-time supporter of the arts in Fairfield County with a special affinity for theater, visual arts, and chamber music. A previous Westport Arts Center Board Member and Chamber Music sponsor, he has also sponsored the South Shore Music and Music for Youth programs. He is currently chairman emeritus of the Alliance of Resident Theatres/NY, a theatrical arts service and advocacy organization, and is a Westport County Playhouse board of trustees vice chairman.
In addition to his support of the arts, he has a diverse history of community service, including his role as chairman of the Dean’s advisory committee at the University of Bridgeport’s School of Law and as a representative of the UB Law School on the University’s board of trustees.
Aibel also served as a member of the Conservation Commission of the Town of Weston, and as a trustee of Sacred Heart University, Fairfield. He is currently a member of the Board of Trustees for the Unitarian Church of Westport. He served two terms as president of the Harvard Law School Association of New York and is a former vice president-at-large of the Harvard Law School Association.
Of his affiliation with the arts, Aibel explained, “I became interested in the arts as I traveled a great deal on business [as a lawyer], and I would visit museums in different cities between meetings,” he stated. “When we moved to Westport from New York in the early 1960s, we realized Westport was an artists’ community and we could continue to be involved in the arts. My wife Kathy and I became involved in the early days of the Westport-Weston Arts Council. This gave us an opportunity to be near artists.”
Honoree and current Westport Arts Center Board Member Elizabeth Strick has taken a very hands-on approach to the ways she has given back to the arts community. She has been a Westport Arts Center Chamber Music and Visual Arts sponsor, and has twice served as Chair of the Westport Arts Center gala.
Like Aibel, Strick was involved in the early days of the Westport-Weston Arts Council and the Westport Arts Center, and is currently an appointed member of the Westport Arts Advisory Committee. She has curated shows for the Arts Center, has assisted the Westport Historical Society with several of its exhibitions, and served as a docent for the Whitney Museum of American Art satellite gallery in Stamford, CT until it closed in 2001.
Both Aibel and Strick developed a passion for the arts early in their careers and recall moments that cemented their love for art.
Aibel said, “My first art purchase was a significant moment for me. I was looking at galleries in New York City and I saw a painting that struck me in a window, and I bought it on the spot. It was an Albert Alcalay painting and I still have it today,” he said.
Strick’s love for the arts began during her childhood in England, where she was exposed to both formal paintings and Asian art due to her father’s time living in Burma. Throughout her artistic career, she has worked in fashion, started a children’s clothing line, and later designed and successfully produced pillows created from remnants of kilim rugs that were distributed in upscale New York City locations.
Strick shared her passion for the arts, for visiting museums, and for collecting with her late husband Louis. “One of the moments that had the greatest impact on me was when I worked with the Guggenheim as a curator for the Westport Arts Center -- I was able to enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at the Hilla Rebay collection. I also have always loved going to artists’ studios and viewing the artist’s work in their own spaces,” she stated.
Of her service to the arts, Strick noted, “Even as a child, I always wanted to help. When I came to this community, it was the same. I have always had a service mentality and have found ways to help the community through the arts. I have loved giving my time to the Westport Arts Center and to watching the Arts Center grow.”
Aibel concluded, “There are institutions in the community that make it what it is, and my wife and I wanted to support the arts and be a part of it. I am happy to be a part of the efforts to keep the Westport Arts Center going for years to come.”
The annual fundraiser gala plays a significant role in supporting Westport Arts Center’s arts and outreach programs in Westport and the greater Fairfield County community.
In support of the gala, the Westport Arts Center has launched a raffle with tickets available for $100 each. With only 500 raffle tickets available, and a grand prize of $10,000, the raffle features amazing odds (1 in 500). The winner will be announced at the gala, but you need not be present to win. Raffle tickets now available on westportartscenter.org or by calling 203.222-7070.