Susan Cook

Acceptance Speech
Mayor's Arts Awards, Artist in the Community
November 17, 2011

Congratulations to all of the honorees and thank you Mayor Fulton, members of the Selection Committee, Jack Halbert, and those who wrote in support of my nomination.  I am extremely grateful for your granting me this honor.  However, if ever there was an award that may bear one name but belong to a community, this is it.  As I look out on this room tonight, I see the faces of those to whom the real credit should go.  I am a product and beneficiary of all of your efforts and support.

You are our civic leaders who have crafted a vision of Ventura as California's New Art City.  You are our teachers, who mold fresh talent and show other communities that we are vested in this vision.  You are the business leaders who have opened your doors to the arts.  You are our patrons and collectors.  You are the artistic community working in a host of mediums.  Music, theatre, poetry, the visual arts,  just to name a few.   You are my dear friends and family.  My children, Heather and Todd.  My pride and joy.  My granddaughter, Natalie, who has been attending art events since before she could walk.  And my late husband, Bob, my champion.  He was the one who encouraged me to take art classes at Ventura College.  He supported my passion for painting and my involvement in the community, no matter what.  Without his support, many of you probably would not even know my name.  
Coming to terms with his passing has been the most difficult test of my life.  No experience had prepared me for it.  At first, it felt like grief had separated me from everything I had always known, but it also gave me time to pause and reprioritize my life and the role art would play in it.  During this time I was invited to exhibit my paintings at SCIART.   An amazing gift.  A way for me to channel my grief.  I poured my heart into those paintings.  In the end, they gave me a gift...through them I could see that I was healing.
I share this with you because of the profound impact the arts and this community have had on my good times and in bad.  I think that we could all agree that the arts contribute to Ventura's economic stability and cultural enrichment.  But one of the lessons that I have learned from all of this is that the arts can also save lives.  I know.  Because... mine is one of them, and I will always be grateful for the part each of you has played.  In my book, you are all heroes.
Thank you and God bless you all.