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Commissioned Portrait of Suzanne Usdan Donated to Usdan Center


An oil portrait of the late Suzanne Lemberg Usdan, a Founding Trustee of the Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts, has been donated to the Center by Dr. Jerrold Ross, a former Trustee of the Center and its longtime President. Dr. Ross is Dean of the Department of Education at St. John's University in Queens, and Academic Vice Presidentof the University's Staten Island campus. The portrait, painted by internationally known artist Norman Blackwell, commemorates the 10th anniversary of Mrs. Usdan's death.

Recently presented to the Usdan's Executive Director, Dale Lewis, who accepted it on behalf of the Center's Trustees. Mr. Lewis said, "We are thrilled to have this beautiful portrait honoring our beloved Founding Trustee. Its donation reminds us of Dr. Ross's continuous dedication and commitment to the children of the New York metropolitan area, and we are grateful to him for this most imaginative and generous gift. Mrs. Usdan and Dr. Ross, together with their colleague Andrew McKinley, created this vibrant arts education center unique in the United States, where, for 45 years, more than 60,000 young people have experienced life changing summers of immersion in the visual and performing arts."

Suzanne Usdan was the daughter of the philanthropist Samuel Lemberg, who named the Center for her. As President of the Lemberg Foundation, Mrs. Usdan dedicated her life to providing opportunities for students and young professionals to express themselves through the arts. A graduate of Bennington College, Mrs. Usdan served on the boards of the Lincoln Center Institute, the Whitney Museum, and the Usdan Center. The art museum at Bennington College bears her name, as do the student centers at Brandeis and Wesleyan Universities.

Artist Norman Blackwell is the recipient of many honors for his work, which has been shown in art galleries throughout the world. His paintings are in the collections of celebrities and royal families in several countries. Mr. Blackwell received his art education at Savannah High School, The University of Georgia, UCLA and The University of Cincinnati, and he was the first Gallery Director at the Savannah College of Art and Design, the University For Creative Careers (SCAD), which also has branches in Atlanta and Hong Kong. His work is viewable at

Dr. Jerrold Ross is a nationally recognized leader in higher education policy and practice. Dr. Ross was Usdan's founding educational coordinator, and subsequently the Board's longest serving President (1968-2004). During the Center's formative years, he worked closely with Andrew McKinley to create Usdan's educational plan, and in recent years has collaborated with Dale Lewis to expand the Center's curriculum. Dr. Ross is the former President of the New York College of Music, Director of New York's Town Hall, and Chairman of the Department of Music and Music Education and Head of the Division of Arts and Arts Education at New York University. Presently he chairs the Arts Education Advisory Committee of the Department of Education of the New York City Schools. He continues to serve Usdan Center as a member of the Board of Trustees, and in 2006 was honored by his Board colleagues with the naming of the Jerrold Ross Discovery Center, Usdan's campus center for early childhood arts education.

Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts, whose alumni include actors Natalie Portman and Olivia Thirlby and singers Jane Monheit and Mariah Carey, has introduced the arts to more than 60,000 Tri-State Area children since its founding in 1968. The Center is open to all young people from age 6 to 18. Usdan's program features more than 40 three, four and seven-week programs in music, dance, theater, visual arts, writing, nature & ecology, and chess. No audition is needed for most programs – rather, admission is based on an expression of interest in the arts. Each summer, 1,600 students are transported to the Center in air-conditioned buses each day. One-third of Usdan's students attend on scholarship. Although the mission of the Center is for every child to establish a relationship with the arts, the unique stimulation of the Center has caused many to go on to arts careers. Alumni include members of Broadway shows and major music, theater, and dance ensembles such as the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and New York City Ballet. Usdan Center is an agency of the UJA-Federation of New York.

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