Contact: Alix Jones, Director of Advancement, ajones@benningtonmuseum.orgFor Immediate Release: May 3, 2021

Each year since 1982, Bennington Museum has honored an individual or organization in recognition of outstanding service and significant contributions to the Bennington Museum community. This year, the General Stark Award will be presented to Alison Nowak and Robert Cane, longtime Museum members and residents of North Bennington, whose generous support over the years has made the popular Music at the Museum concert series possible.

Though she was not born in Vermont, Alison Nowak was just four months old when her father, Lionel Nowak, joined the music faculty at Bennington College, where he remained for 45 years. Alison grew up studying and teaching music in the area, graduating from NBHS and Bennington College, where she concentrated on violin and music composition and played in the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. She earned her MA and DMA at Columbia University and was a founding member of the Composers Ensemble, a group of young composers who performed their own works on concert series at Carnegie Recital Hall, colleges and other venues. Alison taught in New York City at the 92nd St. Y, The New School and Columbia University Teachers College and coached at the Bennington Chamber Music Conference.  As a professional violinist, she played in the Greenwich Symphony Orchestra for over 25 years, and in 1986 the GSO premiered her full orchestra piece, Blend. Her music has been commissioned and performed by orchestras, ensembles and soloists and is widely praised.

Alison met Robert Cane 35 years ago in New York City when a mutual friend suggested that Bob substitute for a vacationing cellist in an amateur chamber music group Alison was coaching. Bob, a New York City native, is a graduate of Cornell University’s 5-year undergraduate Architecture program. After serving a 2-year term as a VISTA Volunteer he joined forces with a fellow Cornell graduate and built a small firm specializing in the exterior design of large-scale high-rise housing. Other projects included the exterior restoration of the landmark New York Public Theater, and the conversion of a surplus 1887 Public School to apartments. Establishing his own firm in 2003, Bob continued to work on high-rise housing but with a greater focus on the design of interior public spaces such as lobbies, hallways and other common areas. He also oversaw the restoration and relocation of two NASA rockets originally exhibited at the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, Queens. They are currently on display outside the New York Hall of Science.

Bob and Alison are still primarily New York City based, but are spending more time in North Bennington at the Nowak family home. They are invested in the well-being of the Bennington area, supporting such organizations as the John G. McCullough Free Library, The Fund for North Bennington, the Village School of North Bennington, the Vermont Arts Exchange, the Bennington Rescue Squad, and other not-for-profits through The Vermont Community Foundation. They are both active members and supporters of Bennington Museum, and have directed their energies to a program near and dear to their hearts: Music at the Museum. This popular concert series presents diverse, live, on-site performances at the Museum, and is underwritten by a generous annual gift from Bob and Alison. Since its inception in 2015, Music at the Museum has supported over 20 highly regarded regional performing groups, and has brought enjoyment to nearly 2,000 people who are able to access this program and engage with these musicians at the Museum free of charge.

This program has been a game-changer for our community,” says Deana Mallory, the Museum’s Director of Public Programming. “The cost to attend these concerts on a regular basis would have been out of reach for many of our constituents. The underwriting support from Bob and Alison not only allows us to bring in higher profile musicians, but also allows people an opportunity to try out a genre that maybe they weren’t familiar with. It allows them to bring their child along without the risk of losing the price of an admission ticket if they have to leave early. Thanks to the support from Bob and Alison year after year, this program has grown and flourished and become a highlight on the calendars for people from all walks of life who might not have had a reason to visit the Museum before.

Please join Bennington Museum for the annual spring party on May 28th to celebrate the contributions of these two community leaders and to cheer them on for the presentation of the General Stark Award.