Here’s to the Ladies

GeorgeNewlinIt was all about the women, according to George Christian Newlin, first president of ArtsWestchester, which 50 years ago was inaugurated as the Council for the Arts in Westchester.  The women were, starting with his wife Jean Newlin, Mrs. Walter Thayer (also known as Jeanne) whose husband headed the Herald Tribune; Helene Trotsky, an accomplished artist; Ellie Kirk, head of Scarsdale Junior League, an important organization in jump-starting the arts council; Thelma Rost (Mrs. John) who assisted Nina Jones Fink, who ran Governor Nelson Rockerfeller’s Office of Women; Polly Siwek; Kay Niles, who put together the Pepsico Sculpture Park alongside her chief Donald Kendall, and, according to George “took the council from short pants to trousers;” Dee Del Bello, then wife of the Mayor of Yonkers; and of course Happy Rockefeller. Who could forget the swank party she and the Governor, along with President George Newlin, hosted at Kykuit to build support for the fledgling organization. George Newlin has quite an active memory for a graduate of Princeton in 1952 and Yale Law in 1955.

We sat down with George at the Old Oaks Country Club while he recanted his vivid memories of all the early organizers which included Edward Larrabee Barnes, Ossie Davis, Ogden “Brownie” Reid (former congressman), Stanley Batkin, Leslie Gillie, Ralph Tyner Jr., Lawrence Valenstein and Hans Wolfisberg. George rattled off the names, as well as the drama (and the politics), as though it was yesterday.  All this is part of the 50th anniversary celebration of ArtsWestchester, which will be celebrated at the November 20th gala at the Ritz Carlton Hotel (yes it’s a swinging Friday!).  As we sat at the table with five other AW presidents reminiscing about the past, George sighed and said he never imagined 50 years ago that the council would have its own building. We all agreed that George did a good thing allowing himself to be drafted many years ago as the first arts council president. Who could have chosen a more qualified person than George Newlin, attorney, financier, pianist, opera singer, Dickensonian and Trollope author, bon vivant and ladies man. So here’s to George and the ladies.

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