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Arts Advocacy is Her Calling

Joyce Kirkpatrick of the Middletown Chorale, the Arts Commission and Wadsworth Mansion Building Committee wins the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Gov. O'Neill Service Award.

Middletown resident Joyce Kirkpatrick is this year’s recipient of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce’s Gov. William O’Neill Service Award.

“I was thrilled,” Kirkpatrick said about learning she had been chosen to receive the service award. “It’s wonderful to be recognized.”

She was honored and gratified that a business community group chose her to be the recipient.

“The Chamber of Commerce is now recognizing that the arts are part of their world and we’re recognizing that business is part of our world,” Kirkpatrick said, adding "the arts are an integral part of the economy.” She considers it a two-way street and that it shows growth on both sides.

Kirkpatrick started working in the arts in 1973 when she was
appointed to the city’s original Commission on the Arts, where she has served in various capacities since then. She thinks she was appointed because they “wanted somebody who could relate to the city without being in opposition to the city.”

She was one of the founders of the Greater Middletown Chorale in 1977, which is a great passion of hers. She is still involved with the organization as the development chair and does the grant writing for it.

This group, which is made up of 70 people, has provided an opportunity for people of all ages to be engaged in the singing of fine choral music for 35 years, Kirkpatrick said. It has also given concerts to the city. The Chorale toured Italy last year and a few years before that they went to Austria and Prague, she said

Kirkpatrick and the Chorale are working on “a really exciting project” about post-traumatic stress disorder, which is being created by two daughters who lost their father to the disorder. One of the daughters is a local Grammy-nominated composer and the other sister is a poet. Two of the songs created by the two sisters from the war stories their father told them will be premiered on Nov. 20 at the First Church of Christ, Congregational, at 190 Court St., she said.

“This is the beginning of a whole new push by the Chorale to be influential on the music of our time and maybe leave an oratorical like [George Frideric Handel’s] Messiah for future generations,” Kirkpatrick said. “Or at lease document our time in music.”

Kirkpatrick majored in art history at Wellesley College. She enjoyed the architecture courses in college, which drew her to working on the Wadsworth Mansion Building Committee, another passion of hers. She has been involved with the property since the city acquired it in 1994. A person only has to be with her for a few minutes at the Wadsworth Mansion to see her love for the building.

The award has been given out to a person who has performed outstanding public service for the citizens of Connecticut since 2002. It is named for Gov. O’Neill because he dedicated himself to public service for the citizens of Connecticut during his tenure as a state legislator and governor.

Past winners include Patty Anne Vassia and Barbara Arafeh.

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