Visionary Leadership Award

The Visionary Leadership Award honors a leader whose trailblazing work is impacting 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.

9th Annual Visionary Leadership Award

The 9th Visionary Leadership Award was presented on February 26, 2019 to American singer-songwriter, author, and activist Rosanne Cash.

Previous Recipients

1st: Zainab Salbi, Founder of Women for Women International
2nd: Jill Abramson, first female Executive Editor of The New York Times
3rd: Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Award Winning Journalist and Activist
4th : Sheila Nevins, President, HBO Documentary Films
5th: Angélique Kidjo, Singer, songwriter, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador
6th: Sheryl WuDunn, Business Leader, Award Winning Journalist, and Human Rights Activist
7th: Majora Carter, Revitalization strategy consultant, real estate developer, and Peabody Award winning broadcaster
8th: Claudia Rankine, Bestselling author, National Book Award-winning poet, Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundations Fellow, and Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets
See full list of honoree biographies ›

About the Commemorative Award

Pictured above, the Festival’s Visionary Leadership Award 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.