The Visionary Leadership Award honors a leader whose trailblazing work impacts the world. The award luncheon and its associated events occur outside the two-week Festival, and proceeds from the award luncheon support The Jean Handley Fund for the International Festival of Arts & Ideas. The award luncheon and associated events connect the Festival's ideas programs to every day impacts on the community.
The Award was created in honor of the late Jean M. Handley’s leadership as a Founding Director of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas. Ms. Handley provided thoughtful and effective leadership as a lifelong champion of many of the region’s arts, cultural, social, and educational organizations. She was also a role model for women: a person of extraordinary wisdom and an individual of exceedingly high standards who was generous with her talent and time.
10th Annual Visionary Leadership Award
To be announced soon.
2019: Rosanne Cash, activist, author, and Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter
2018: Claudia Rankine, bestselling author, National Book Award-winning poet, Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundations Fellow, and Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets
2017: Majora Carter, revitalization strategy consultant, real estate developer, and Peabody Award-winning broadcaster
2016: Sheryl WuDunn, business leader, award-winning journalist, and human rights activist
2015: Angélique Kidjo, singer, songwriter, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador
2014 : Sheila Nevins, president of HBO Documentary Films
2013: Charlayne Hunter-Gault, award-winning journalist and activist
2012: Jill Abramson, first female executive editor of the New York Times
2011: Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International
See full list of honoree biographies ›
About the Commemorative Award
The Festival’s Visionary Leadership Award (above) is embodied in Hartford-born contemporary art visionary Sol LeWitt’s ceramic plate Star (1984).
A Connecticut native, much like Jean Handley, Mr. LeWitt drew inspiration from his home state where he worked and shaped his artistic ideas. Described by Time magazine as “the man who made conceptual art an appealing concept…introducing a human factor into what could otherwise have been a mechanical process,” Sol loved to make decorative objects, and used to travel regularly to collaborate with local artisans to the town of Deruta in the Umbria region of central Italy, known worldwide for its ceramics.