The International Festival of Arts & Ideas, which likes to keep the excitement up year-round, though its main event lasts for a fortnight in June, bestows a “Visionary Leadership Award” every year.
They’ve just announced who this year’s honoree will be: Angelique Kidjo, who’s performed at Arts & Ideas both as a solo act and with the Sing the Truth! trio of her, Dianne Reeves and Lizz Wright. (In the video of Sing the Truth! at A&I above, that’s Kidjo in the middle.)
Besides being an inspiring singer-songwriter, Kidjo’s also been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2002. She co-founded an educational foundation to help young women in Africa. And she’s been a high-profile activist for everything from Peace in Darfur to global warming and international civil rights concerns.
It was announced a couple of weeks ago that Kidjo will be performing a benefit concert for the Yale Africa Initiative Student Scholarships program.That event, Dec. 6 at Woolsey Hall, features the Yale Concert Band and the Yale Symphony Orchestra.
The Visionary Leadership Award will be given to Kidjo at a special luncheon on Jan. 28.
The award is a fairly recent innovation. There’ve been five. The first two ceremonies were originally held in November of their respective years, but since then it’s a been a January or February thing.
They’ve all gone to women, who’ve ranged from artists to arts administrators. Gender isn’t mentioned in A&I’s own description of its award, though the award was inspired by Jean Handley, one of the festival’s co-founders. Handley died in 2010, and is recalled by A&I as “a role model for women.
The previous winners:
2010: Zainab Salbi of Women for Women International.
2011: Jill Abramson, first woman to serve as Executive Editor of The New York Times. (A&I honored Abramson within months of her getting the Times gig, which she was booted from in 2014.)
2012: Charlayne Hunter-Gault, the public-radio reporter and human rights activist.
2013: Sheilia Nevins, the president of the HBO Documentary Films division.
The award itself is a plate with a star on it, based on a design done 30 years ago by the late Sol Lewitt.