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Awarded annually since 2015, The Golden Mango was established by The Studios to recognize “a person who fosters aesthetic, social, intellectual, and monetary contributions to our island arts community and its reputation as a center for the arts.”
The award itself is designed and fabricated by the visual artist Helen Harrison.
The Studios Hero Award was created as a response to Hurricane Irma in 2018, “to recognize members of Key West’s creative community, whose response to a time of need is an extraordinary call to service, helping their neighbors with selflessness and in the true spirit of One Human Family.” The Studios Hero Award is not an annual award but is given only when exceptional circumstances are the occasion for exceptional acts of generosity. The real challenge is selecting just a few individuals who embody the spirit of selflessness and direct action that has helped Key West survive whatever comes her way.
Ben and Helen Harrison have served as advocates and mentors to countless artists, writers, and musicians. In fact, over the past 35 years, Harrison Gallery has represented 172 artists and is widely recognized for the eclectic contemporary works exhibited inside its walls.
The Studios of Key West is grateful to Helen and Ben for all they’ve contributed to our community, helping to grow and preserve Key West’s reputation as an island of the arts.
Lynn Kaufelt, a third generation Japanese American, was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. After marrying novelist David A. Kaufelt and giving birth to their son, Jackson, the family divided their time between Manhattan, Sag Harbor, Long Island, and Key West. Her love for the Keys is unmistakable from her tireless work and support for Monroe County arts and service organizations.
Though Christopher Peterson is perhaps best known for his live show “Eyecons” which he’s performed at La-Te-Da since 2001, he is also a passionate advocate for community causes. His charitable efforts as a comedian, impersonator and master of ceremonies have benefitted many organizations over the past two decades including AIDS Help, Equality Florida, Special Olympics, Key West Business Guild, The Studios of Key West, Queen Mother Pageant, Royal Coronation and many others. He is tireless in his devotion to Key West and its motto of “One Human Family.” Peterson’s Key West roots run deep. He arrived in Key West in 1998 with his husband of 37 years, the late James Mill. His extraordinary talents were recognized immediately, and he has become a local legend as one of the foremost female impersonators who sing “live.” He’s known for his masterful characterizations of Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, Joan Rivers, Reba McEntire, Bette Midler, Tina Turner, Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland, Cher, Bette Davis, Lucille Ball, Lady GaGa and others. In addition, his skills as a costume designer and fabricator are unparalleled, manifesting in both his stage performances and charitable work. He is featured in the award-winning documentary “We’re Funny That Way,” which detailed the first gay and lesbian comedy festival in Canada and was later released on Showtime, Cinemax and HBO.
image credit: Johnny White
Judy Blume is one of America’s most beloved authors and one of its most vigilant and committed anti-censorship activists. She has been a funny and knowing voice for children and adolescents for nearly five decades. Blume’s books have sold more than 85 million copies in 32 languages. She works with National Coalition Against Censorship to support teachers and librarians committed to keeping all books accessible.
Cooper, a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Harvard Law School and member of the Law Review, was a professor of Taxation and Civil Rights Law at Columbia University for 20 years. Active in civil rights policy and litigation in the 1960s and 1970s, and editor of textbooks on Equal Employment and Poverty Law, he spent 1979 in South Africa where he helped establish the Legal Resources Centre, an anti-apartheid legal aid program. Also a successful writer, Cooper focused on historic true crime.
Closer to home, Blume and Cooper are at the center of philanthropic life in Key West. Cooper, an independent film enthusiast, was the driving force behind the development of the nonprofit Tropic Cinema which Florida Monthly has named “Best Florida Cinema.”
Blume’s passion for books led her to become a board member of Key West Literary Seminar, a nonprofit organization that supports young writers, librarians and teachers. In 2016, she and Cooper opened Books & Books @ The Studios, a full service, nonprofit bookstore in an Old Town arts complex. Enhancing Key West’s rich literary heritage, Books & Books hosts readings, promotes local authors and encourages children to love reading. Blume and Cooper can be found most days working at the bustling bookstore.
image credit: Rob O’Neal
A leader and force for social consciousness in this community, and a founding board member of the Anne McKee Artists Fund as well as The Studios of Key West, John Martini moved to Key West nearly forty years ago. As one of the original artists who had studio space in Truman Annex, Martini was a pioneer of the early art scene on the island. He opened Lucky Street Gallery at its original location on Margaret Street in the early 80s, and began representing local artists, curating work from around the country, and introducing “outsider art” to Key West. Eventually, he purchased and refurbished the iconic movie theater on Emma Street where he still works today.
image credit: Johnny White
Anne McKee has been a leader in charitable activities benefiting the local arts for over forty years. She states that her main concern is the individual artist. In the mid-1990s, with this target in mind, Anne founded the Anne McKee Artists Fund. Anne and the Fund are still going strong, having raised over a quarter million dollars to give in grants to support local artists. The Studios of Key West is proud to host the annual Anne McKee auction, where aficionados bid on contemporary and classic works to raise proceeds which help fund the vital grant program for Keys artists.
image credit: Anne McKee Artists Fund
Bill and Ann Lorraine have been a part of the creative fabric of Key West since 1975. Ann Lorraine’s paintings and drawings have been exhibited in all over the world. Her first Key West one-woman show was at East Martello Museum in 1975, and her show “Window Wonderlands & Fantasy Floats – 23 years of legendary floats, windows and exotic creations.” was a hit of The Studios of Key West’s exhibition season in 2012. She is well-known in Key West for her award-winning Fantasy Fest costumes and giant animated floats and for her work as window designer for Fast Buck Freddie’s department store on Duval Street.
Bill Lorraine arrived in Key West has been involved in the Key West arts community as a musician and composer, writer and sculptor. His music compositions have been performed by the Key West Symphony Orchestra, the Old Havana Symphony Orchestra and the Keys Chorale. Bill was editor and publisher of a quarterly art magazine, “The Key West Arts Review” in the 1980s. He was assistant managing editor for the Key West Citizen newspaper for 2 years. He worked as a freelance writer for many Keys newspapers and magazines. As a stone sculptor, Bill uses the old cornerstones from the Victorian-style houses in Key West. The stone is called Miami Oolite, an indigenous stone from south Florida. Bill’s sculptures can be seen at the sculpture garden at the East Martello Museum, at the West Martello Fort, home of the Key West Garden Club, and in his studio on Catherine Street.
image credit: Johnny White
Stanley and Judith Zabar are native New Yorkers who now snowbird and spend their winters on Sugarloaf Key. Both are artists and art-lovers and are involved in numerous charitable organizations in Key West and New York. Stanley is Vice-President and house counsel for Zabar’s & Co. Inc located at the upper west-side of Manhattan.
image credit: Johnny White
Brad Lutz is a commercial lender for First State Bank of the Florida Keys, so perhaps not the first person you might think would receive an award from an arts organization. But Brad was also the bank’s point person for the federal Paycheck Protection Program, and as such found himself a calming presence at the center of a storm of anxiety and uncertainty in the pandemic’s early days. A lending and grant program for small businesses and independent contractors, the PPP had limited funds, and was first come first serve, so from the outset there was a clear sense of urgency. Brad understood that the economic survival of the roughly 1,000 businesses he was helping, including dozens of the island’s arts nonprofits and artist-entrepreneurs, depended on him.
Gary Marion is better known as Sushi, the world-famous drag queen who lights up the stage at 801 Bourbon, and is dropped from a shoe every New Year’s on Duval Street. As a performer, Gary immediately realized the pandemic posed an existential threat to Key West’s vibrant drag community, and took action. With formidable sewing skills honed in backstage dressing rooms and costume studios, he rallied a team of “his girls” to begin sewing and selling face masks to help make ends meet. Some 10,000 masks later, and after appearances on NBC, CNN and other national media, Gary has become not just a symbol of the importance of masks to keeping us all healthy, and of the singular plight of working performers, but of Key West’s resilience and ingenuity.
Emma J Starr is one of the island’s most beloved artists. Over the spring and summer she had the inspiration to mobilize a group of artists to create new works on roofing tiles that she’d collected, and sell them through a pair of auctions called “Under One Roof.” The work was prominently displayed in a Duval Street storefront window thanks to landlord Ken Silverman, and the auctions were a rousing success, with virtually every piece sold, with 100% of the proceeds going back into the community. All told, Under One Roof raised $10,000 for the participating artists, and roughly $8,500 each to the Sister Season Fund and the Florida Keys Council of the Arts’ Audubon House Artists’ Fund, resulting in 17 grants to Monroe County artists who were financially impacted by the pandemic.
Along with her colleague Layla Barr, Margit Bisztray spearheaded a group of volunteers cooking and delivering hundreds upon hundreds of fresh, healthy meals to residents of the Lower Keys who were faced with rebuilding their homes and businesses due to Hurricane Irma. An entirely grass roots effort, Nourishing the Lower Keys quickly attracted a dedicated corps of volunteers and over $28,000 of contributions through a GoFundme campaign to continue buying groceries. Margit is a writer, chef and journalist.
Gary Teplitsky and Olga Manosalvas are the owners of Baby’s Coffee on Big Pine Key. Despite significant damage to their own business, they opened their doors shortly after Hurricane Irma and made their entire inventory free to all. Baby’s quickly became a lifeline and a rallying point for residents – a vital distribution point for supplies, hot meals and other services donated from all over the Keys and beyond. Olga is an accomplished painter and sculptor who has exhibited at The Studios of Key West.
Christine Fifer’s boundless energy and optimism mobilized a core group of volunteers to clear homes and properties in the Lower Keys of debris from Hurricane Irma. Working through grueling heat and dangerous conditions, they brought hope to many and directed their energies particularly to getting fellow artists back on their feet. Christine is a painter, costume artist, and former Studio Artist at The Studios of Key West. She has most recently exhibited in the Sanger Gallery in January 2021.