Bronx Recognizes its Own musicians, writers and artists


A local poet, screenwriter, novelist, cellist, playwright, pianist, singer and photographer took home Bronx Recognizes Its Own (BRIO) awards for artistic excellence, along with $3,000, on June 1. 

Each year since 1989, the Bronx Council on the Arts has recognized Bronxites with grants to help support their creation of art in the borough. Eight of this year’s 25 winners were from the Riverdale/Kingsbridge area.

In literary arts, poet Sarah Stern, screenwriter Linda Manning, playwright Dianne Sposito and novelist Anna Purves — all from Riverdale — received awards. It was Ms. Stern’s fourth BRIO.

“It’s the only borough that awards artists for their hard work,” Ms. Stern said. “Often you’re alone in a room just working and it’s just fantastic to have this recognition.”

Ms. Stern’s first book, Another Word for Love, was recently published by Finishing Line Press.

Ms. Stern said the ceremony on June 1, held at Hostos Community College, presented a chance to see the cross-section of creative work in the Bronx, including world-renowned writers and musicians.   

“I don’t think people think of the Bronx in that way, but they better start because we’re blowing them all out of the water,” she said.

Ms. Manning, an accomplished playwright, said she worked for more than a year on her screenplay before submitting it for consideration. 

“It’s an acknowledgement of my voice as a writer,” she said of the award.

Cellist Wilhelmina Smith received her first BRIO award for instrumental music performance. Ms. Smith, also a Riverdalian, has performed with Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, Pamela Frank and Dawn Upshaw. Although she’s played across the United States and in Japan, she’s also performed with the Sinfonietta of Riverdale, which was founded by her husband, Mark Mandarano. Ms. Smith said she is already dreaming up collaborations for the future.

Riverdale resident Steven Lubin, an award-winning and internationally known pianist, received his third BRIO for instrumental music performance. Mr. Lubin has recorded more than 20 CDs and has appeared as a soloist at acclaimed music halls worldwide, including Lincoln Center, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Davies Hall, Barbican Center and Musikverein.

In visual arts, Gerardo Cipiran won for his outstanding work in photography. Mr. Cipiran has studied film and photography all over the world and is currently an assistant to photographer Mark Mann.

Vocalist and dancer Jen Shyu, a Kingsbridge resident, won for her musical achievements. She has performed and studied music all over the world. 

Ms. Shyu has established herself as a pioneering voice in improvisational and experimental jazz, according to her web site.

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