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Friday, June 10, 2016

It’s The Year of the Woman For Montblanc Arts Patronage Awards As Maria Arena Bell Was Honored As The North American Winner

The North American recipient of the Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award with her special edition of the Montblanc Patron of Art Peggy Guggenheim writing instrument and trophy. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Montblanc)

Maria Arena Bell—the award-winning television writer, novelist and freelance writer—received the Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award for North America Monday during a cocktail reception on the penthouse at Chateau Marmont, attended by a diverse group of entertainers, artists and philanthropists.

Bell was honored primarily for her work as the former long-term chair and later president of Los Angeles’ PS Arts, leading the effort to raise funds to provide arts education to more than 25,000 low-income Los Angeles public elementary school children.

In addition, Bell chaired The National Arts Awards for Americans For The Arts (a nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington D.C.) for over a decade and served as its vice chair lobbying on Capitol Hill for increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and for art in schools. She created the Americans for the Arts Bell Family Foundation Young Artist award, which has been given to artists such as actress Dakota Fanning, dancer David Hallberg and musician Josh Groban. She also served as the co-chair from 2009-14 at The Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles. During her tenure, she co-chaired the search for two directors and co-chaired the successful campaign to raise the museum’s endowment to more than $100 million.

In 2012 Bell, a lifelong Southern California resident, was appointed commissioner to the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Committee.

Attendees for the presentation of the Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award on the penthouse suite of the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. (Photo by Anthony DeMarco)

In accepting the award, Bell discussed the importance of arts education, arguing that the arts are an essential part of education and life-long growth and should be taught as standard curriculum at schools. She said her love of arts was influenced by a dynamic art history teacher in her public high school in Southern California.

“It shouldn’t be the icing on the cake it should be the cake,” she said. “It should be the thing that makes us human and bonds us together. Not every student is going to be an artist but every student could appreciate art. Art can really bring out, with every person it touches, the best of himself.”

During her speech and in a private interview prior to receiving the award, she discussed the appropriateness of receiving a fountain pen as an award from a company famous for its writing instruments.

From left: Montblanc Cultural Foundation co-chairman Sam Bardaouil, actress Ashley Greene, Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award North American recipient Maria Arena Bell, actress Bryce Dallas Howard and Montblanc Cultural Foundation co-chairman Till Fellrath. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Montblanc)

“As a writer to receive an award from Montblanc because writing is my art form, it’s the thing I wanted to do since I was a child,” she said. “It was really something extraordinary for me because as a writer by profession to have the award come from an organization that produces writing instruments it really felt so incredibly fitting and powerful.”

Bell is one of 16 individuals or organizations around the world who will receive this award, which honors those who support artists and help make the arts accessible to broader audiences. She received a special edition of the Montblanc Patron of Art Peggy Guggenheim writing instrument presented in trophy-like case. All the others will receive the prize.

Each year Montblanc creates a limited edition writing instrument to honor an historical figure noted for his or her patronage to the arts. This year, this honor went to Peggy Guggenheim, the late American heiress who displayed her personal collection of modern art collection in her residence in Venice, which is now home to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection museum. She is credited with advancing the careers of several important modern artists including American painters Jackson Pollock and William Congdon, Austrian surrealist Wolfgang Paalen, sound poet Ada Verdun Howell and German painter Max Ernst.

New Montblanc North America President Sylvain Costof and Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award North American recipient Maria Arena Bell (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Montblanc)

This year, for the 25th anniversary of the award, in addition to honoring Guggenheim with the namesake writing instrument, half of the award winners are women. It’s difficult whether it was planned this way or whether it was just happenstance, but if the Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award could be faulted for anything, it would be its under representation of women. 

The newly appointed co-chairmen of the Montblanc Cultural Foundation, Till Fellrath and Sam Bardaouil, who presented Bell with the award, had no input in this year’s honorees, but they said it is something that may need to be addressed, while dismissing any attempt to bring quotas into the award nomination process. 

“I think it’s really important, about 50 to 55 percent of the population, depending on the country, is women and it should go without saying that if you really do the research one would expect a similar percentage to be great patrons and great innovators,” Bardaouil said.

Fellrath added, “It’s about balance. It’s about inclusiveness. You have to look at different places and expand new geographies but also generally acknowledge those who are truly contributing to the arts regardless of whether they’re men and women. But definitely when you look properly, you will find both: a lot of men and a lot of women doing great work.”

Among those in attendance to watch Bell receive the award were actresses Ashley Greene and Bryce Dallas Howard, photographer Caroline “Chuck” Grant, entrepreneur and philanthropist Eli Broad, actress/producer Gisella Marengo, Robert “Bobby” Kennedy III, artist Jonas Wood, artist Thomas Houseago, and art dealers Jackie and Irving Blum. 

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