APAC Honors Finn And Simotas At Annual Gala
Astoria Performing Arts Center’s (APAC) annual gala was held March 14, at the Museum of the Moving Image, to honor Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA) Principal Donna Finn and Assemblymember Aravella Simotas. The evening began with a cocktail reception, where sponsors, friends, and supporters all mingled, especially thrilled to see Tony Bennett and his wife, Susan Benedetto, founders of FSSA, in attendance. During the reception, guests were free to explore the museum’s exhibits, and purchase raffle tickets for prizes donated by local restaurants, businesses, and patrons. At 8 p.m. all gathered in the museum’s auditorium where APAC Executive Director Taryn Sacramone thanked the evening’s lead sponsor Investors Bank, associate sponsor Kaufman Astoria Studios, and supporting sponsors TD Bank, Quontic Bank and Trattoria L’incontro. She thanked the Gala Committee, APAC’s Board of Directors, and special guests, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, Councilmembers Jimmy Van Bramer and Peter Vallone Jr., state Senator Mike Gianaris, and Community Board 1 Chair Vinicio Donato.
The guests were then treated to a short film called My APAC, an entertaining and touching overview of the work produced at APAC, present and past, with anecdotes and observations shared by performers, audience members, and artists young and old, who spoke of the impact APAC’s community outreach programs have had on them. After the film, APAC Artistic Director Tom Wojtunik took the stage to introduce “The APAC Song”, written by Matt Schatz and performed by singers/dancers who have, and still do, work with the company. It was a hilarious look back at many of the shows APAC has presented over the years.
Afterward, Sacramone took the stage again to introduce Donna Finn, and spoke of her many accomplishments as principal of the renowned performing arts high school, and how the young artists who graduate from FSSA will go on to change our own lives. “They’ll tell our stories and foster understanding between us,” she remarked. About Finn, she added, “She’s as open and inviting as the glass walls of that magnificent building across the street,” going on to remark on how Finn’s pride and enthusiasm for her students’ work is infectious, referring to her as “a wonderful role model”.
Finn thanked Sacramone and the audience, commenting on how, after seeing My APAC, she was reminded of how the theater company was continuing to bring culture to Astoria. She thanked Bennett and his wife, Benedetto, in particular, for establishing Frank Sinatra School in Astoria for public school children, and spoke of how she was grateful to Kaufman Astoria Studios and the Museum of the Moving Image, who’ve welcomed the school to the community.
Sacramone then introduced honoree Simotas, referring to her as a powerhouse. The APAC executive director went on to say about Simotas, “In the three years since she’s been in office, she’s taken on a broad and ever expanding range of issues; she has demonstrated a special commitment to addressing the challenges women, seniors and small businesses face in this community…She’s been a great resource to me. She’s been a great counsel and support.”
Simotas responded by stating how grateful she was to be there that night and acknowledged Sacramone and her vision, “The arts have always played a very vital role in my life. The most memorable moments in my childhood, adolescence, and school career were performing…It’s important to support APAC and Taryn in her work.”
The evening ended with dessert, the raffle, and a reminder of APAC’s upcoming musical, Blood Brothers, directed by Wojtunik, to run May 2 through 18.