Each year the Massachusetts Cultural Council recognizes four members of local cultural councils throughout the state with an award for exceptional volunteer service. Last Thursday, Pia Webster, the first Vineyarder to be so honored, was presented with the Leadership Circle Award at a ceremony at the YMCA.
Annie Houston, program coordinator for the Mass Cultural Council, based in Boston, made the trip to the Vineyard to present the award. Molly Purves, chairman of the Vineyard Cultural Council, made a short speech, followed by Margot Datz, whose paintings in the Y’s lobby were funded through a Cultural Council grant. After a moving speech, Ms. Datz crowned Ms. Webster with a colorful wreath of flowers. Other members who heaped accolades on her laureled head were former chairman Nis Kildegaard and members Dan Waters and CK Wolfson.
In an interview before the ceremony, Ms. Webster spoke about the work of the local cultural council. “I’m just so proud of this group because we are an all volunteer force,” she said.
The council selects projects for financial support from funds that the state has appropriated for the arts, humanities, and interpretive sciences. “Each of these projects has to benefit the community,” Ms. Webster said. “That is the major criterion.”
Ms. Webster was first appointed to serve on the Edgartown Cultural Council in 2005. In 2007, the separate town councils merged to form the Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council. Each Island town has three representatives, who are appointed by the town selectmen. Ms. Webster was instrumental in the consolidation and has served as the group’s administrator ever since.
Ms. Webster works full time as the administrative assistant for the Edgartown Water Department. Taking on the cultural council’s administrative duties was a natural move for her. “It’s something I could do in my sleep,” she said.
While noting that for the last few years the council has been focusing more on the elderly, Ms. Webster said that she is especially pleased with the work the organization has done to send young people on cultural outings. She said, “I’ve been working with people who’ve never been to a museum.”
In her acceptance speech, Ms. Webster talked about how, despite a working-class background, she had the chance to study in France thanks to financial aid. “I will never forget that, due to somebody caring about me, I had so many opportunities, and that’s why I do what I do now,” she said.