- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2007

“Just look at them,” Kathy Kemper said of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and his wife, Michelle. “They’re young, handsome, intelligent, committed, fit …

“Charismatic, refreshing, with a fresh approach,” host George Vradenburg added moments later as the city’s cultural leaders looked on appreciatively at a reception honoring “the first couple of our nation’s capital” at the Phillips Collection Wednesday night.

The gathering of visual and performing arts honchos to meet the Fentys took place on the 99th day of the new mayor’s administration, a fact duly noted by Hizonor, who pledged that grants for the arts would be “a huge priority” not only of his first 100 days but beyond.

“We need to cement the notion that arts and culture are what will essentially make Washington a world-class city,” he said before introducing three new members of the board of the D.C. Commission on Arts and Humanities to help in that task: Anne Ashmore-Hudson, Rhona Wolfe-Friedman and Judith F. Terra.

“We can’t be a world-class city without being a first-class cultural city,” pronounced Mrs. Terra, an early Fenty supporter and longtime Washington arts grande dame. “Adrian has big things on his agenda,” she noted, “and he’s not going to forget the arts.”

A number of guests had specific agendas to discuss with Mr. Fenty, if not that night, then later. Washington Ballet board Chairman Kay Kendall wants to “bring dance to every third-grader in Washington’s public schools” as part of the core curriculum. Mary Mochary, president of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, said she hoped that institution would get permission to “improve the artistic landscape” by transforming a nearby traffic island on New York Avenue Northwest into a sculpture garden.

Mr. Fenty sounded encouraging. Grants for the arts will be “a huge priority” in the city’s “growing 2008 budget,” he promised as Davey Yarborough and his jazz quartet gathered behind him before bouncing a few mellow tunes off walls filled with masterworks by Monet and Degas.

“By the way, Davey’s a product of the D.C. public schools,” Mr. Fenty interjected with one of those winning smiles. “And we’re going to take credit for everything he’s done.”

Kevin Chaffee

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