News > $400,000 Gift Fuels Passion and Purpose for the Arts




$400,000 Gift Fuels Passion and Purpose for the Arts


AN EXTRAORDINARY GIFT - Seated: Donor, Mrs. Helen Astarita and College President Dr. Betsy V. Boze. Standing from left: Ms. Audrey Dean-Wright, Head of Visual and Performing Arts; Dr. Earla Carey-Baines, Dean, Faculty of Liberal and Fine Arts; Ms. Davinia Blair, Director of Development, Alumni Relations and Development and Mr. John Cox, Assistant Professor, Art.

3 March 2011

Helen Astarita and her husband, Ben, came to The Bahamas quite by accident more than 50 years ago. But her extraordinary donation of $400,000 to The College of The Bahamas' School of Communication & Creative Arts to support budding artists in a thriving art programme is anything but happenstance.

The largest single gift to The College specifically directed toward funding the study of Art, this recent gift is deliberate; a tangible means of helping young, brilliant artists who want to fuel their passions while earning a higher education degree in Art.

The $400,000 gift will be used to establish the Astarita Art Endowment to fund two merit based scholarships - the Astarita Nassauvian Art Scholarship and the Astarita Family Islander Art Scholarship - in perpetuity for full time students entering The College and pursuing a degree in Art. The scholarships will be awarded every two years, with the first recipients being selected from among the Fall 2011 first year class. A dream come true for fortunate Art students, both awards cover tuition and expenses for art supplies, while the scholarship for the Family Islander also provides for housing allowance.

An imaginative and accomplished artist, Mrs. Astarita was for many years the creative genius behind Bahama Handprints, by both conceiving the alluring native designs and manipulating the machines to bring the fabric patterns to life. She started the company in 1966 with partner Berta Sands. Now, Mrs. Astarita's gift to The College will further position exceptional, aspiring artists to earn a formal degree in higher education while breathing life into their own creations.

A fortuitous opportunity to run an advertising agency lured the Astaritas to The Bahamas over five decades ago. Following the interview, the New Yorkers were immediately hired. Even as a youngster, good fortune favoured Helen. As a child she attended the Bayside High School in New York, which had a thriving art programme.

"I didn't take my lunch period or study period," she wistfully recalls. "I was in the art room. When I graduated I had the equivalent of six years of art courses in all facets." With the help of a dedicated teacher who helped her take her portfolio into Manhattan, New York, Mrs. Astarita successfully won two scholarships to study art. She now feels compelled to pass on that good fortune.

Asked what motivated her generous act of philanthropy to The College, Mrs. Astarita says "Because I won a scholarship; I'm just passing it on."

In this way, Mrs. Astarita is contributing to this country's artistic heritage while broadening the capacity for artistic and cultural enrichment. College President Dr. Betsy V. Boze recognizes the potential impact.


SIGNING THE MOU Mrs. Helen Astarita and College President Dr. Betsy V. Boze sign the Memorandum of Understanding for the Astarita Art Endowment at The College of The Bahamas.

"The College is thrilled to receive such a wonderful gift from Mrs. Helen Astarita. This is the kind of generosity that helps us to empower and cultivate future leaders and stimulates ingenuity. The arts awaken in us creativity and imagination, unlocking mysteries, fueling innovation and creating solutions. Mrs. Astarita has been a trailblazer in the artistic community and we hope that the beneficiaries of these scholarships will also be inspired by her example and investment in the leaders of tomorrow." says Dr. Boze.

Dean, Faculty of Liberal and Fine Arts, Dr. Earla Carey Baines says The College will be forever grateful for this generous donation which reflects a tremendous investment in the development of the visual arts in The Bahamas.

"Ben and Helen Astarita will always be known for their vibrant, larger-than-life personalities and their steadfast commitment to the well-being of Bahamians and The Bahamas," she adds. "The Astarita Endowment is yet another example of their belief that each of us has a responsibility to make a positive impact on the community in which we live and to provide for future generations. This gift will ensure that a deserving Bahamian student is afforded the opportunity to develop his or her talent and, by so doing, enrich all of our lives."



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