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AU Community Celebrates Ten Years of the Arts at Katzen

By Helen Dodson

College of Arts and Sciences Dean Peter Starr gives College Dean's Award to Myrtle Katzen. Photo: Jeff Watts.

College of Arts and Sciences Dean Peter Starr gives College Dean's Award to Myrtle Katzen. Photo: Jeff Watts.

For ten years, the Katzen Arts Center at American University has been the nucleus of a growing and shared community of visual and performing artists, faculty, and students. Today its influence extends far beyond campus to greater Washington, DC, and the nation. On Saturday, September 26, the AU community gathered for a gala event to honor the tenth anniversary of the center and the extraordinary gift from benefactors Cyrus and Myrtle Katzen that made it possible.

In keeping with the center's interdisciplinary nature, the gala took a creative approach to celebrating the arts at AU. A major highlight, in between the cocktail hour and dinner, was an "Arts Walk," in which attendees got to experience first hand the variety and vibrancy of the arts at AU. As they strolled in and out of various performance spaces set up at Katzen, guests experienced two interactive exhibits that connected physical movement, videography and sound; a haunting performance by the American University Chamber Singers; a beguiling dance performance; a stage combat demonstration in the studio theater; and select works by AU art faculty and MFA students.

Guests enjoy dance performance by Irodahon Abdujabborova, Lauren Canty, and Jade Mackie. Choreographed by Melanie George, director of the Dance Program at AU.

Peter Starr, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, told dinner guests, "The Arts Walk you just experienced gave you a taste of the outstanding creative work that happens every day here in the Katzen Arts Center, and that makes this space such an extraordinary resource for AU students, faculty, and members of the greater DC community."

Guests admire select works by AU art faculty and MFA students.

Later in the program, guests viewed a video produced by AU alum Kevin Eikenberg, featuring current students and recent alumni who spent a great deal of time in Katzen as arts majors or minors. The video, which you can see here, spoke to the importance of Katzen to the students who use it every day, and the prodigious art they have generated thanks to the Katzen family's generosity.

AU President Neil Kerwin called the gala an exceptional event that demonstrated how American University students, guided by faculty, have filled the Katzen Arts Center with remarkable talent. "The entire program underscored the importance of the building in the life of our institution, and it was altogether fitting that Myrtle Katzen received the Dean's Award," Kerwin said. "The generosity of Cy and Myrtle, along with the strong support of the entire Katzen family and many others, has given us a facility that will support and inspire us for decades to come."

AU President Neil Kerwin speaking at dinner.

Starr closed the evening by presenting a College Dean's Award to Myrtle Katzen, in recognition of her commitment, and that of her late husband, to the arts at AU. He then recognized others who have contributed significantly to the arts and the Katzen Arts Center over its ten years: Sylvia Kay Greenberg, Carolyn Alper, Hank and Carol Brown Goldberg, Sharon Wolpoff and the Wolpoff Family Foundation, Earl and Carol Bird Ravenal, Giselle and Ben Huberman, Jackie and Richard Meisenberg, and Linda Daly and Mike Alexander.

In his closing remarks, Starr said, "We are grateful to the entire Katzen family; to our many donors, large and small; and to our arts faculty, students and staff for an extraordinary first ten years in the Katzen Arts Center. We look forward to celebrating an even more extraordinary decade with each and every one of you in 2025."

You can see our photo album of the gala celebration here.

All photos: Jeff Watts.