The Board of Directors of the New England Carousel Museum and the Bristol Center for Arts and Culture announced the recipients of the 2016 annual ACE Awards.
The ACE awards, which stand for Art, Culture and Entertainment, will be awarded to local performer Mary Lynn Gagnon and the Barnes Foundation, Inc, at an annual fundraising dinner held in the Carousel Museum building, on Saturday, Nov. 5. The award was created to honor an individual(s) or organization(s) who have contributed to the art, culture, or entertainment in the Greater Bristol Community.
A press release about the ACE Award explained Gagnon has been involved in the Bristol community for many years, most notably with her work in the arts community. Her arts career began in 1980 as a dance instructor for the Schulz Dance Academy under the direction of Connie Schulz. While teaching, she took the summers off to perform at theme parks, as a dancer/singer in the German Show at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va. for two years, and then as a performer for Hershey Lake Compounce in the “Salute to Liberty” Show in 1986.
After graduating Central Connecticut State University in 1988 and beginning a career in marketing, she continued to stay involved in the arts. She had been a performer in the Bristol Boys & Girls Club OM Show since 1976, but took on a leadership role in 1989 as a choreographer. Since then, she has choreographed the show six times, and has worked as director and choreographer 11 times. She has performed in 26 OM Shows, either in the chorus or as a dancer. Most recently, she and Ken Ferris co-directed the OM Show 75th Anniversary Show titled “Encore!” in April 2016.
Gagnon has also performed with Bristol Theater Arts in “Blame it on the Movies,” “Annie,” “Company,” and “All Night Strut.” She has also choreographed many productions such as “Gypsy,” and the “Wizard of Oz.” One of her favorite roles was as a featured performer in “Swing” at the Thomaston Opera House, said the press release. Gagnon performed at the New England Carousel Museum ACE awards in 2015 for the 25th Anniversary celebration entitled Ken Ferris and Friends.
Gagnon’s passion for teaching led her to become the Children’s Choir Director of St. Joseph Church from 2003 – 2010, said the release. In that role she was able to work with the children of St. Joe’s, not only to lead them in song for masses in the church, but at community events such as the Thanksgiving Ecumenical Services, the Bristol Hospital Illuminations event as well as the local Christmas Carol Sings.
As a former Miss Bristol and Miss Connecticut USA, she spent many years traveling across the country working for the Sweeney Pageant Group as the Mistress of Ceremonies for numerous pageants. She brings her love of emceeing and performing to local events, working as the host of the Webster Bank Carol Sing, the Forestville Carol Sing, and the Forestville Memorial Day Parade, said the news release. Through the years, the release said, Gagnon and her children have also acted and played many roles in educational videos produced by Mazzarella Media.
Gagnon recently accepted a new role as the executive director of the Bristol Hospital Development Foundation. She prides herself in creating a good work/life balance, and will continue to stay involved in the arts community, while working to raise funds and promote the mission of the Bristol Hospital, said the news release.
Gagnon has been married to her husband Gary for 24 years, and they are the parents of two children, Mitchell, 22, and Grace, 20.
The Barnes Foundation Inc. is a small family foundation, founded in 1945 by Fuller and Myrtle Barnes of Bristol. The Barnes Foundation primarily awards grants to educational programs for students in PreK-12 and professional development of teachers for those grades as well. In 2014, the foundation started the Bristol Connecticut Education Initiative, returning to their roots, making the schools, teachers, and organizations in Bristol a major focus area. Special grants were made to Environmental Learning Centers of Connecticut, which includes Barnes Nature Center and Indian Rock Nature Preserve, as well as to the Museum of Fire History at The New England Carousel Museum to hire additional staff for tours and programs.
In 2014, the release explained, they began their support of the Connecticut Storytelling at Hubbell School and Ivy Drive School. The purpose of the Connecticut Storytelling Center is to use storytelling as a means to improve literacy, incorporating it into classrooms on a daily basis and connecting the use of arts to teach the Common Core standards. They use theater and puppetry to provide interactive literacy