Trinity Rep’s 2018 Pell Awards honor local Jewish residents


Two Jewish Rhode Islanders were honored at Trinity Rep’s 2018 Pell Awards Gala on Monday, May 21 in Providence. Pawtucket-based designer and artist Morris Nathanson received a Rhode Island Pell Award for Excellence in the Arts, and longtime Providence philanthropist and arts advocate Jane S. Nelson received the Charles Sullivan Award for Distinguished Service in the Arts. (Additionally, the Pell Award for Outstanding Leadership in the Arts went to Jeannine Chartier in recognition of her work with VSA arts Rhode Island, and two-time Oscar nominee Mary McDonnell was honored with the 2018 Pell Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts.)

An awards gala was held at the WaterFire Arts Center in Providence. The creative black-tie event began with a VIP cocktail reception that was followed by the awards ceremony and seated gourmet dinner reception. Sally Lapides and Art Solomon and Jonathan M. Nelson co-chaired the annual fundraising event. Honorary co-chairs were Clay Pell, Nick and Annie Pell, Tripler Pell and Tawfik Hammoud, Christina Neal Pell and Eames Yates, Jr. The honorary event committee included the entire Rhode Island congressional delegation: Sen. Jack Reed, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rep. James Langevin and Rep. David Cicilline. Guests enjoyed mixing and mingling with artists as well as business, political and social leaders.

Trinity Rep’s Pell Awards were established in 1997 to honor the legacy of Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-RI) and to celebrate national and local excellence in the arts.

“There is no better way to honor Senator Claiborne Pell’s dedication to the arts than by recognizing the talents and hearts of [these] deserving honorees,” said Curt Columbus, artistic director of Trinity Rep.

Morris Nathanson is widely recognized as the father of modern restaurant and hospitality design. He has lived his life on the international stage as an urban designer and creator of award-winning restaurants, concert spaces and hospitality venues. Nathanson was a founding board member of Trinity Repertory Company. One of Trinity Rep’s earliest set designers, he was also in charge of its relocation to the former historical vaudeville performance house known as the Emery Majestic Theater. The renamed Lederer Theater Center has been Trinity Rep’s home for more than 50 years.

Jane Nelson became one of the original subscribers of Trinity Repertory Company more than 50 years ago. She fondly remembers making cakes and cookies and then carrying them upstairs at the Trinity Church to serve (for free!) at intermission. Nelson’s interest in, and support of the arts extends to Festival Ballet Providence and the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra. She has been a volunteer and supporter of many charitable organizations including the Jewish Alliance, and her philanthropy covers a wide range of interests.

“Each of the 2018 Pell Award winners demonstrates the significant impact that a life spent in dedication to the creative arts, community and philanthropy can make,” said Columbus. “The work these honorees have done over their lifetimes continues to reach worldwide. It gives me deep pleasure to recognize [them] for their many years of service to Trinity Rep and to Rhode Island.”