Without a doubt, the Aristeia Awards will be an event that people will come to admire in the future. And, despite its purpose to honor those who have contributed to humanitarian needs in the county, the KOCE Gala will surely spotlight the artistic achievements of one woman.
Newport Beach's Essie Pinsker not only came up with the title of the award but also the final product, a 12-inch satin-finished bronze statue of a flame, mounted on a solid marble base for KOCE's first Aristeia Awards Gala. Three individuals will receive awards for outstanding community citizenship.
The Newport Beach Art Foundation board member, who is known for her abstract work using marble, bronze and steel, was commissioned by KOCE president Mel Rogers earlier this year to create an award that represented humanity and excellence.
Rogers said this is a big step for the Orange County television station, which in recent years decided to present its own unique award for community leadership.
"When we decided to create this award, the first thing we did was contact Essie, based on the quality of work we had seen in the past," Rogers said.
Prior to creating the sculpture, Pinsker did a lot of research in her quest to find a word that best described a prestigious award for excellence in community service.
"I found ‘Aristeia’ as a footnote in a thesaurus," Pinsker said. "Then I went to the library and researched the word and found that the word meant "prize for excellence... the best and bravest." And the definition matched exactly what I was looking for. When I presented the idea to KOCE president Mel Rogers, he seemed very pleased."
Pinsker said she was so inspired by the word that after giving it some thought she decided the award should take the form of a flame. A flame signifies a soaring spirit, a spirit of excellence in all endeavours," she said.
KOCE's goal for the awards show was to establish an annual event for the station that would recognize community leaders and serve as a fund raiser for the station, said KOCE spokeswoman Judith Schaefer.
The awards are placed into three categories:
The "Jo Gaines Expanding Minds" Award, the "Aristeia for Education" Award and the "Aristeia for Service" Award. Each year, someone will be given an award in each of these categories.
KOCE executive Gaines is being honored for her contribution to organizations such as United Way and others.
"We thought it would be a great title for her award because expanding minds and broadening people's visions is something we strive for at our station," Schaefer said.
The event, which takes place Thursday at the Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach, also will honor Toshiba America's Bob Brown, who will receive an Aristeia for Education Award, and the Ralph and Eleanor Leatherby family will receive the Aristeia for Service Award.
Pinsker, whose work is in the permanent collections of Orange County Museum of Art and the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., said most of her images are created in her Huntington Beach studio.
A few years ago the New York City native designed the first Humanitarian Award, which was presented to Director Steven Spielberg on behalf of the Anne Frank in the World Committee, a group dedicated to preserving the history of the Holocaust.
Rogers said he was pleased with the final design and hopes that Aristeia will become an award others will associate with excellence in the future. That would be fine with Pinsker.
"I want people to feel there really is a return to beauty," Pinsker said. "I wanted to create a form with spiritual meaning, because I think that’s a big part of this award. Being happy with who you are makes you do great things."