BROOKSVILLE — With little pomp and circumstance in a small Brooksville Elementary School conference room on Feb. 5, world-renowned painter James Rosenquist presented a check for $10,000 to Hernando County's Black Educators Caucus.
Rosenquist recently received the Arison Award, named for the late Ted Arison. Arison founded Carnival Cruise Lines and, with his wife, Lin, was interested in supporting young American artists.
The award was established in 2001 and is given annually to someone who influences developing artists. Previous Arison Award honorees include Mikhail Baryshnikov (2005), Placido Domingo (2004) and Quincy Jones (2001).
It was Lin Arison who asked that Rosenquist receive the honor this year.
The $10,000 is a donation from the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, founded by the Arisons in 1981, to be used for the recipient's charitable organization of choice.
Rosenquist, who has a studio in Aripeka, chose the Black Educators Caucus because he was looking for an organization that assists minority students. His secretary, Beverly Coe, was aware of the local group and he agreed that it was a good choice.
The Black Educators Caucus began in 1980 by founder Carol Stewart. Its purpose, said current president Christene Yant, is "to address issues that deal with minority educators and community issues that are related to educators and to give scholarships to minority students."
More than 30 seniors graduating from high school have benefited from the caucus' scholarships. The $10,000 the group received from Rosenquist will also be used for scholarships, which are generally distributed at $1,000 each.
After the presentation, Rosenquist was asked if he would allow the scholarship money to be named after him. He hesitated and at first declined, but agreed with the stipulation that the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts be added to the name of the scholarship as well.
Paulette Lash Ritchie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.