Hats off to James Armstrong Celebration and Building Healthy Futures

Clarity. Efficiency. Effectiveness.

The Building Healthy Futures luncheon that benefits AIDS Services of Austin glorifies these virtues.

Mary Herr Tally and Scott Ballew at ASA’s Building Healthy Futures luncheon. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Start with the simple cards that share the lunch menu at the JW Marriott and the schedule for the hour-long event, inaugurated by Toya Bell, exact to the minute.

The testimonial videos and speeches were tight and touching. The brochure that details ASA’s 30-year history is mini-masterpiece: A timeline cleanly chronicles the US and Austin HIV/AIDS epidemics and ASA’s responses. Clear graphics in shades of cool blue lay out revenues, expenses and services as well as programs for food, housing, testing and dental care, while precise pages honor volunteers and receipts from the Octopus Club and AIDS Walk, which is coming up Oct. 29.

Every nonprofit that gives a charity luncheon should make this event a case study in cogency.

James Armstrong Celebration of Life

Artists know how to celebrate even in mourning. A tribute to major benefactor James Armstrong was every bit as compelling as a show staged by one of the outstanding arts groups represented on the stage of the Long Center for the Performing Arts.

James Armstrong Celebration of Life. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

First, the flowers, which were everywhere and overwhelmingly beautiful. Then the crowd, which included Armstrong’s husband, Larry Connelly, and his family, as well as hundreds of respectful admirers.

One after another Dave Steakley (Zach Theatre) Philip Barnes (Austin Opera), Peter Bay (Austin Symphony), Stephen Mills (Ballet Austin), Margaret Perry (Armstrong Community Music School), Doug Dempster (University of Texas College of Fine Arts) and others talked of Armstrong’s generosity, humor and ardency for life.

Almost every speech came with a performance of a song or aria or medley. Each was extraordinary, but I was taken unawares by Liz Cass‘ deep, rich, heartfelt rendition of “Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix” from Camille Saint-Saëns‘s “Samson and Delilah.” You never know what will make you choke back tears.

Life well lived, James!

UPDATE: Scott Ballew’s name was misspelled in an earlier post.


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