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Santa Monica Arts Foundation Gives Leadership Awards

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By Lookout Staff

February 25, 2015 -- A patron, an activist and a teacher were the winners of the fourth annual Leadership Awards from the Santa Monica Arts Foundation, organization officials announced last week.

Local restaurateur Fred Deni, former California Arts Council Chair Malissa Shriver Feruzzi and gallery owner and teacher George Small received the awards during a ceremony last Thursday at Typhoon restaurant.

Presented annually by the nonprofit agency dedicated to promoting the arts in Santa Monica, the awards "recognize local leaders whose efforts support Santa Monica’s artistic, creative, and cultural community, making the City an exceptionally vibrant place to live," foundation officilas said.

Deni was the winner of the Arts Parton Award for his "generous assistance to the City’s artists and nonprofit arts organizations" over the past 30 years, officials said.

Deni – who as a young actor performed in the original "King & I" production on Broadway -- is a founding Board member of the Ruskin Group Theatre and provides gallery space at his restaurant Back on Broadway, giving the local artists exhibited 100 percent of the sales.

Shriver, who is a painter, gallery owner and arts champion, received the Creative Community Innovator award "for her help bringing the arts back to our schools and back into national consciousness," officials said.

Shriver co-founded CREATE CA, a statewide coalition working to restore arts education to public schools, and was co-chair of the California Task Force on Creative Education, one of numerous boards on which she has served.

Shriver is "one of the leading arts education advocates in the U.S." and has helped bring the arts "back into our education systems – and into the national consciousness," foundation officials said.

Shriver was a recepient of the 2014 Arts Education Award from Americans for the Arts and is currently executive director of Turnaround Arts California, an affiliate of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of CalArts.

Small -- an artist who founded the TAG Gallery in 1993, a nonprofit corporation owned by its members -- was presented with the Artist in the Community/Bruria Finkel Award. The gallery and its community of some 40 artists is located at Bergamot Station.

After founding TAG, Small opened an art studio on Ocean Park Boulevard "where, for more than two decades, he held classes in figure drawing and painting," officials said.

"For forty years, George Small has been teaching and mentoring the artists of our community with a combination of broad knowledge and artistic talent that mark him as a Renaissance man," foundation officials said.

"A local legend, George has been described as a 'gentle guide' who recognized the individualism of countless students and encouraged their studies in art."

The honorees were presented with certificates and an original artwork by two renowned Santa Monica artists, Mimi Haddon and Bruria Finkel.

Santa Monica residents can be nominated year-round for the Arts Leadership Awards. The nominations are then reviewed annually by Foundation board members and representatives of the local arts community.

For more information and nomination forms visit

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