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As a benefactor, volunteer, and board member of Shoreline Arts Alliance (SAA), Steve Kops will happily don the king’s crown and encourage all to join the krewe (Mardi Gras lingo for the organization that puts on a parade or ball during Carnival season) at this year’s SAA Mardi Gras Gala on Saturday, Feb. 29. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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To benefit and support the artistic talents of students from Guilford and 23 other shoreline towns between East Haven and Lyme, Steve Kops will happily don the king’s crown and join his krewe and many revelers at this year’s Shoreline Arts Alliance (SAA) Mardi Gras Gala on Saturday, Feb. 29. Steve hopes many others will attend the gala to create a king-sized show of support for the efforts of this non-profit arts organization.
“It is our major fundraiser of the year and we really push the fact that this money is going to go into student programs and scholarships. I think that makes a big difference to a lot of people. And the gala’s also a lot of fun,” says Steve, who serves on the SAA board as treasurer.
While he’ll be wearing the crown, Steve says it’s the gala’s “Laissez les bons temps rouler” vibe that’s king. SAA’s Mardi Gras Gala is set for Feb. 29 at 6 p.m. at the Saybrook Point Resort & Marina in Old Saybrook. There’s still time to purchase tax-deductible tickets for individuals, royal court and krewe sponsorships, and table sponsorships. The night will be steeped in Mardi Gras experiences, including live music by French 75 Dixieland Jazz Orchestra, SAA’s official Mardi Gras Gala band, as well as food, live and silent auctions, complimentary libations, and more. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.shorelinearts.org/mardi-gras-gala.
Crowning a King
To recognize the great support provided by Steve, the SAA board has selected him to be crowned the 2020 SAA Mardi Gras Gala king.
“Steve has been a benefactor and promoter of the arts in our community for many years,” says SAA CEO Eric Dillner. “Steve is one of the key volunteers that has made [SAA] a dynamic and strong arts alliance. He actively participates in all of our community events, praising visual artists at our IMAGES receptions, speaking with aspiring student artists who are part of our Future Choices program, congratulating our Scholarships in the Arts recipients at our annual showcase, and marching alongside us in local parades.”
One of those parades takes place on the dance floor at SAA’s Mardi Gras Gala in the form of a line of bead-bedecked revelers, with the night’s king helping to lead the march. Last year, Steve had a great time as the parade’s carrier of the staff, who makes way for the king. This year, Steve says he’s honored to be coronated for a night, and is looking forward to helping bring the spirit of Mardi Gras to the evening.
“We try to make it, as much as we can, as the feel of being down in New Orleans,” Steve says.
What’s also fun for Steve is the joy of seeing the caliber of student talent that’s supported by SAA’s student scholarship and awards programs.
“I have attended those programs and I have seen the work of the students,” says Steve. “Every year, I say the same thing, ‘This is even better than last year!’ I don’t know how they can keep topping it.”
Support of Students in the Arts
SAA supports high school artists among 24 shoreline towns with scholarship programs including SAA’s annual Scholarships in the Arts juried competition, established in 1981. The program provides $1,000 scholarships to high school juniors and seniors selected for their entries in creative writing, dance, instrumental music, musical theater, theater, visual arts, and vocal music. In addition, winners and special recognition awardees in each category are provided with professional mentorships, while participating high schools and community programs are highlighted for their commitment to excellence in the arts.
Applications for this year’s SAA Scholarships in the Arts program are being accepted through Friday, April 10. An awards reception will celebrate all 2020 awardees on Tuesday, May 12 at Evergreen Woods in North Branford. For more information, visit www.shorelinearts.org.
Of special note, among this year’s Scholarships in the Arts entries, SAA will provide invitations to five student painters to apply for the Jeffrey Dobbs Scholarship for Excellence in Painting, established in 2019. The five will be selected from entries in SAA’s annual Future Choices Visual Arts Competition for grades 9 to 12, now in its 36th year. (Submissions for Future Choices 2020 will be accepted Monday to Wednesday, March 2 to 4; visit www.shorelinearts.org for details.)
Serving the Arts and Artists
Based in Guilford, SAA is an arts council that serves to support the arts and artists across the shoreline and throughout Connecticut. As noted on its website, for nearly 40 years, SAA’s mission to “transform lives through the arts,” has had at its heart a commitment to “educate, encourage, enrich, and engage” through programs and arts advocacy.
It all ties together for Steve, a Guilford resident who appreciates the opportunities SAA’s Scholarships in the Arts offers to students, while also finding encouragement as an adult for his own artistic interest in photography.
“I grew up in Hamden and I went to Hopkins, which was back then just for boys—my class  was the last one—and basically there were two main groups. One was the brainiacs and the other one was the athletes. And then you had a smaller group of people who really didn’t fit into either one,” he says.
Steve says he was in that smaller group and found an outlet in the arts.
“I got involved in photography in 7th grade and kept it up ever since,” says Steve.
Just recently, he became particularly inspired by another SAA program, IMAGES. Now in it’s 39th year, SAA’s Images is the oldest juried photography show in Connecticut and invites both professional and avocational photographers to enter. About 800 images are selected for an annual, free exhibition at Guilford Arts Center (GAC).
“I entered some pictures last year in the IMAGES contest,” says Steve. “They didn’t get hung, but I think have even better ones to add this year!”
Submissions for 2020 IMAGES will be accepted at GAC from Wednesday to Friday, April 15 to 17 (visit www.shorelinearts.org for more information). This year’s IMAGES exhibit will take place Thursday, April 23 to Friday, May 8, with about 40 photos then traveling to Connecticut Hospice in Branford for a month-long exhibition from May 12 to June 9, to be enjoyed by the Hospice community of patients, their families, and staff.
In addition to IMAGES, SAA offers the annual Tassy Walden Award for New Voices in Children’s Literature. Established in 2001, the competition encourages books for children by unpublished Connecticut writers and illustrators and creates an opportunity for professional development, networking, and more on the way to naming the contest’s top Picture Book (text only), Illustrated Picture Book, Children’s Book Illustrator’s Portfolio, Middle Grade Novel, and Young Adult Novel. The contest’s 2020 entries closed Feb. 4; winners will be celebrated at SAA’s annual Tassy Walden Awards ceremony and reception on Wednesday, May 27 at Branford’s James Blackstone Memorial Library.
Another notable program offered through SAA is Shakespeare on the Shoreline, which took a break in 2019 but returns this year for free performances on the Guilford Green from July 29 to Aug. 2.
Support for SAA artist’s membership include opportunities ranging from publication in SAA’s Artists Registry to regular gatherings, at exciting locations, of ArtsNet90, a networking collaborative for artists.
“ArtsNet90 helps artists in a lot of ways,” says Steve, noting the meetings bring in different topical speakers and support for professional development.
In addition to cultivating an artistic interest in photography as a youth, Steve also got involved in theater, working on the tech crews for junior and high school stage productions and as a techie at his alma mater, Connecticut College, he notes. Steve later lent a hand to the local arts as an adult, including many years assisting the Nutmeg Players as a technical volunteer for its thrice-yearly productions.
As a Guilford resident of 40 years, Steve has also been involved in his Guilford community, serving several appointed positions on town boards, commissions and committees. He currently serves on Guilford’s Zoning Board of Appeals, as well as on Guilford’s Pension Commission and he chairs Guilford’s Hazard Mitigation Commission. Additionally, Steve has served on Guilford’s Economic Development Commission (EDC) and on the town’s Land Acqusition Committee as an EDC representative.
After he retired from his full-time work as an employee benefits consultant, Steve wanted to find another way to give back to the arts. About five years ago, he connected with SAA.
“I volunteered to help out on the gala, and then I helped out with various other events,” he says.
About 2 ½ years ago, Steve accepted an invitation to join the board and was recently named treasurer.
While it’s his honor to be involved as a board member and as a volunteer, Steve also notes supporting the work of SAA can be as simple as joining its membership roster of donors.
“It’s great to have volunteers—and the more hands, the merrier—but for people who want to show their support but may not have time to give, membership is a great way to get involved,” he says.
Right now, the opportunity to come out to SAA’s Mardi Gras Gala is a perfect way to show support for the work of SAA, Steve adds.
“It’s just a lot of fun, with such an important purpose. We wish that more people will come out to enjoy it,” he says.
Get ready to celebrate the holidays with our helpful guide
The 2020 Member Directory and Town Guide for Branford, Guilford, North Branford, and Northford has arrived!