There's one common trait to the four people named to this year's Austin Arts Hall of Fame: During the course of many years, they never wavered from their vision of an Austin rich in culture.
All four — Maria Salinas, Jo Anne Christian, James Dick, Alan Pogue — made significant and sustained contributions to Austin's cultural life.
On Monday night, at a free public ceremony, the four will be honored at the Austin Critics' Table Awards, the annual awards ceremony hosted by an informal group of local arts critics from the American-Statesman, the Austin Chronicle and Might Be Good.
Asked once why, as a working mother, she devoted every moment of her free time to starting one of Austin's first Latino dance companies, Salinas answered: "God's plan, this craziness."
As the Chicano movement took hold in the 1970s, Salinas set her sights on teaching her own children the rich tradition of Mexican folkloric dance that she had learned growing up in the Rio Grande Valley. Then, wanting to share her passion for dance with other children beyond her own, she took it to the next level. In 1974, at a time when Austin's Latino community had few cultural resources, Salinas founded what is now called Aztlan Dance Company.
At first the group of young dancers, with no stage, performed at neighborhood events. Soon, Salinas was arranging for her dancers to travel to Mexico to study with masters of folkloric dance. And as the company's artistic skills deepened, so did its reach. Thirty-six years after its founding, Aztlan Dance Company now flourishes in its own East Austin theater with Salinas' son Roën leading as artistic director.
"We have that spirit of our ancestors, and that's what lets us keep going," said Salinas.
— Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
James Dick is a distinguished concert pianist. He is also an effective teacher and arts leader. Yet Dick's most lasting accomplishment might be the Round Top Festival Institute, which he founded in 1971.
Although the rustic burg of Round Top is 90 minutes to the east of Austin, Dick's roots are firmly planted here, where he graduated from the University of Texas in 1963.
The festival, considered one of the finest summer classical attractions in the country, is a boon to music lovers, offering more than 30 concerts in June and July, plus other performances and forums year-round. Yet it is even more significant to the students who study there with accomplished musicians each summer, backed by the James Dick Foundation for the Performing Arts.
For his multiple contributions, Dick has been named Chevalier des Arts et Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture, Distinguished Alumnus by UT, Texas State Musician by the Legislature and Texas Medal of the Arts honoree by the Texas Cultural Trust.
"Jimmy is one of the most thoughtful and philosophical pianists I've worked with," Austin Symphony Orchestra conductor Peter Bay once said. "He really works to find the inner meanings of every phrase. He's a very low-key — in a good way — performer, and the result is that you end up paying attention to the music itself."
— Michael Barnes
Jo Anne Christian
Now that it's open, the Long Center for the Performing Arts might seem a fixture of Austin's arts landscape. But as far back as the 1970s, a handful of arts supporters — chief among them Jo Anne Christian — saw the inevitable: that Austin would need a major performing arts center for itself and not rely on the University of Texas to provide a venue.
A highly respected lawyer and a life member of the Texas Bar Foundation, Christian advocated to transform the old Palmer Auditorium into a new civic venue. Through years of multiple designs, fiercely fought municipal bond elections, a $77 million fundraising effort and tireless civic campaigning, Christian helped lead the way to the Long Center.
A founding member of the Austin Lyric Opera board of directors, Christian has been been an Austin Symphony Orchestra supporter since 1969. And the Blanton Museum of Art, Ransom Center, St. David's Foundation, All Saint's Episcopal Church, the University of Texas School of Fine Arts and Humanities Texas have all benefited from her support.
When asked why she pursued the dream of a civic performing arts center for so many years and with so many hurdles, Christian said: "The one central driving force was the recognition that without a community performing arts center, these companies, which so many of us had put our time and resources into making possible, would disappear within a very short time."
That and one other quality, Christian adds: "Stubbornness."
Austinites think of Alan Pogue as someone who records reality. Yet he also transforms that visual record into art. And, in an unfaltering way, into social justice.
Working in black and white, Pogue is best known for covering social and political movements, culture and conflict, around the world: migrant workers, prison conditions and victims of violence in Texas, Cuba, Pakistan, Haiti and Iraq, among other places.
The Corpus Christi native and Vietnam War veteran was the main photographer for the Rag newspaper from 1969 to 1977. His images appeared in publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Texas Monthly and Kyodo News Japan. He has served as staff photographer for the Texas Observer for 38 years.
He has won several international awards and worked with groups such as Veterans for Peace, Global Peace Campaign and Voices in the Wilderness.
Pogue captured the essence of such Texas personalities as John Henry Faulk, Sissy Farenthold, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Ann Richards and Jim Hightower.
"The art of photography is part intellectual and part instinctual," Pogue says. "I select what I choose to photograph for its social significance, but in the act of photographing, intellectual considerations subside, my sense of hearing is muted and I move in an emotional/visual environment, not thinking in words."
Austin Critics' Table Awards
When: 7 p.m. Monday, June 7
Where: Cap City Comedy Club, 8120 Research Blvd.