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Frineds of the North Castle Library
Friends of North Castle Library Receive Community Award

January 29, 2013
Friends of the North Castle Public Library have been selected to receive the prestigious 2013 Community Award from the Arts Westchester organization. The award is suitable since one of the missions of the Friends is to bring culture to the community.

The Trustees of the North Castle Library nominated the Friends for the award, which they won in their first year of being nominated. The Art Westchester's community award was presented to the Friends as an organization that has "demonstrated extraordinary vision and leadership in using the arts to enhance community life and to increase access to cultural experiences."

“The way we bring culture to North Castle is through the programming that we do, and we could not do that without the help of the Friends,” said North Castle Library Director Chris Anses.

The Arts Westchester award category requires that the nominated candidates “must have a long-standing involvement in the arts, rather than involvement in a one-time initiative." The Friends embrace art and support a plethora of programs at the library, with professionally acclaimed musicians, who play during the Sunday music sessions, and the always-popular theatrical performances by the Armonk Players; they also support the weekly art-history classes, including the most recent series, "The Impressionist and Beyond,” which included visits to the Museum of Modern Art.  

The Friends' "piece de resistance" is the Armonk Outdoor Art Show, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011. The Armonk Art Show is the major fundraising event for the 501 (c) non-profit organizations. The show has approximately 300 volunteers who coordinate and expand the event into a week of programs that inspire the residents of Armonk. The community is transformed by the amazing art from artists around the world; thousands of patrons then travel here from the tri-state region.

Debbie Heidecorn, who has served as Art Show Co-Chair and is the current president of the Friends, said, "We are not an arts organization, so the category award as a community organization represents our interests in the arts. The Friends is committed to community enrichment, and the annual Armonk Art Show is well-attended and supports the community and the library. As president, Debbie said, she will accept the award not only for this year, but for the many people that were involved in past years, and should be acknowledged.

The credit for the many cultural enrichment events goes to the hundreds of volunteers, who are relentless in their commitment of time and artistic spirit. Seven years ago, Cris Anses said, the Trustees established a long-range plan that studied the community’s interests. The community's overwhelming response was a request for more adult programs, like the children's summer reading program, and the adult movies that were shown at the library. The library attendance has been expanding rapidly, with 33,000 participants attending programs in the Armonk and the North White Plains branches over the past four years. In 2011 and 2012, 105,969 patrons visited the library in Armonk, with 19,000 people attending programs in Whippoorwill Hall, and more than 27,517 residents visiting the North White Plains branch.

Library programs at the Armonk and North White Plains branches are open to the general public. The programs provide education, entertainment and fun, and are supported by the Friends who have contributed over $220,000 toward library programming over the past four years.

Susan Geffen has been a Friend for decades, and as an ex-officer, still plays an important role, maintaining the group’s integrity and concentration in the arts. She shares her wonderful sense of humor with the group, and consults in all the facets of the organization. "It is a community effort," says Susan. "There are so many people who are enthusiastic about the Friends and continue to be active members of the board for years. The dedication of the members of the Friends is unprecedented."

“We are close to the culture mecca of New York City,” says Susan Geffen, “where many of us may drive to see a movie or go to the theatre. But the Friends' programs allow us to stay close to home to see wonderful artists and to be part of the art scene, without running around Chelsea. It is a convenient evening out with free parking.”  

The Friends founded the North Castle Library in 1936. Without the library, said Cris Anses, the art show would not exist. In 1961, the Friends held its first art show to benefit the library. It was a grassroots operation: art was displayed along the fence outside, in the library parking lot.

The Armonk library also offer passes to library holders that are in good standing. The North Castle Library has memberships with over 45 museums, including some of the top museums in New York City that the Friends support. Cris Anses added that you can make reservations online and asked that if you change your plans, please cancel the reservation so other people can use the passes.

Years ago, said Susan Geffen, the North Castle Players theatre group was active, and the community loved and supported them. After the North Castle Players stopped performing, Susan and fellow Friends, Hal and Barbara Simonetti, among others, founded the Armonk Players. As founders, the trio was the recipient in May 2009 of the Cab Calloway Award. The Friends built Whippoorwill Hall, where the Armonk Players' productions are spun together by a group of actors; production people; backstage hands; lights and audio engineers; costumes designers; props managers; artists; promoters; and the group in back of the house. Once again, the participants and accomplishments are never-ending, and their performances are not to be missed.

Many years ago, the Friends organized a holiday concert that was performed by local, talented singers who sang holiday songs and brought holiday cheer to the community. Susan and her friend, long-standing board member Ed Woodyard, oversaw the event that became the "Winter Walk" and included the holiday lighting at the Gazebo. This event has become "Frosty Day,” with a parade down Armonk's Main Street, after a day of Frosty-puppet building, cupcake decorating and overall holiday spirit; this family events have helped put North Castle on the map as one of Westchester's top-ten family destinations for holiday celebrations. It is for and all about the kids, says Ed, who has already started working with the Friends of Frosty on next year’s event. Ed has taken a cue from the Art Show committee that the event needs to planned and prepared for  all-year long.

"It is important that the Friends continue to fund whatever library extras we support now, and if new ideas come forward, we'll consider funding them as well," added Debbie Heidicorn. The most recent additional event of the Friends is the 5K foot race in Armonk that kicks off the art show week and is a fun way to raise more money. 

The Friends hope to fill two-to-three tables at the Arts Westchester Award 2013 luncheon ceremony, which will be held on April 4 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in White Plains. The tickets are $75 and reservations can be made online. Be sure to send an email after receiving the confirmation saying that you would like to sit at a table with the Friends of the North Castle Library.