Chilean Wines & Centuries of Fine Arts

Inspire Innovative support for a Crown Jewel of the Art World

Two hundred years of art, history, national progress and world-class wines are brought together in support and celebration of culture and commerce. The internationally revered Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts [PAFA] is the scene for this winning partnership where tradition and philanthropy work together making fine art and artists secure, for centuries to come. For their outstanding achievements, they are this year’s recipient of the Pablo Neruda Award from the Chilean & American Chamber of Commerce.

Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the PAFA’s home is a remarkable Frank Furness masterwork housing an equally stunning collection of Fine Art, plus records of all the efforts that sustain mankind’s greatest treasures and the people who create them. The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is the nation’s first museum and school of fine arts.

As your eye marvels at the architectural masterpiece’s striking red and black brick of the highly ornamented exterior, to the gothic-arched grand stairhall, and the elevated gallery sending you toward the stars of the heavenly vaulted ceiling; you are enveloped by this touchable dream’s embrace. While the fabulous treasure house and paintings guide the viewer’s psyche to new heights, you’re also seeing the fruits of behind-the-scenes work by devoted art lovers and experts who nourish, support and secure the Academy’s current reality and its future.

Revitalizing the Academy became a major focus for Don Caldwell, who is also well known as the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Cross Atlantic Capital Partners, Incorporated. Previously, he was  the president of Atlantic Financial and Safeguard Scientifics. And while his MBA is from Harvard, perhaps it is his degree in science which guides much of our conversation on viticulture and benefitting future societies by strengthening the arts.

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is one of the world’s cultural gems. Chartered in part by United States President Thomas Jefferson in 1805, it is both “the oldest school of fine arts and the oldest museum of fine art in the nation. Charles Willson Peale, Thomas Eakins, Mary Cassatt, Henry Tanner, Cecilia Beaux and Horace Pippin lead an amazing list of this nation’s most gifted artists, who taught or received their training at the Pennsylvania academy. It’s a school that has also graduated more of America’s great artists than any other school in the country and it has one of the three best American Art collections in the world.”  Those are Don Caldwell’s words, serving in his dual-capacity as businessman and civic leader. He saw the school needed help reminding people just how great the Academy is and the huge role art plays in leading mankind to greater heights. PAFA had fallen on challenging times toward the end of the 20th century and Caldwell and PAFA’s board envisioned a way to build a better path for the 21st.

He has been helping to re-energize PAFA’s strengths for twenty years. “Having always been involved in the community, we see that cultural and civic organizations create the kind of social fabric that make it interesting for people living in the area and businesses that are located in the area. I personally believe in a holistic community where everything good reinforces the greater good. Having extraordinary institutions like the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts creates benefits all around. The Academy was underappreciated twenty years ago. So it seemed like a winnable opportunity to revive this very special institution. There was a handful of us that were excited about bringing the institution back and we’ve been successful with that effort. While there’s always more to do, the Academy is now thriving and accomplishing its mission which is collecting, preserving and exhibiting great American art while also producing America’s great artists of the future.”

In a conversation that spans the worlds of art and wine culture from the States, to South America and Europe; Caldwell is at all times referencing the nexus of art and science that weaves through societies as they achieve historic greatness. Our discussion turns to Thomas Jefferson who was himself an avid horticulturalist and wine maker. The website says he was “America’s first distinguished viticulturist,” and “the greatest patron of wine and wine growing that this country has yet had.” He was also a collector of seeds and plants, creating an agricultural laboratory at his Monticello estate. So we see History making one of its famous 360 degree turns over a span of 200 years with people involved in Art, society and international diplomacy following the same moves Jefferson made to secure the country’s future by creating havens of encouragement for leaders in the arts and sciences.

Caldwell needed a bold stroke to encapsulate the Academy’s raison d’etre and fuel a major fund-raising drive.  He came up with an event that connected all the dots. Former Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania helped smooth the way for Caldwell and company to get a license from the state’s liquor control board to create a wine-based, fund-raising event. The one-day wine auction has now evolved into a weekend of highly successful events which are some of the most sought-after tickets in town. Caldwell’s knowledge of wine and markets led him to base this fund raising innovation on the Napa Valley wine auction in California, with an assist from the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. As he describes the beauty of all the wines PAFA has featured over their Bacchanal’s fourteen years, he shows the verve of an avid wine collector with 3000 bottles in the cellars and the skills of the seasoned diplomat, crediting Governor’s Rendell and Corbett in continuing the tradition as well. Explaining the work of PAFA’s Wine Committee, detailing the various featured wines, such as a prized 1975 Petrus, highlighting the accompanying ‘superstar’ guest- chef’s cuisines, he recounts the swirl of their past events the way wine connoisseurs describe the notes and tones found in the best Bordeaux.

He vividly recalls the Bacchanal’s parties and auction featuring the wines of Chile. We discuss their merlots, wine history, the Chilean discovery of France’s lost Carménère grape. Caldwell fondly remembers the events hosted by Chile’s Ambassador José Mario Goñi Carrasco and what a highly successful celebration it was for Art, international relations, future artists and Chilean-American culture in general.

The president of the Chilean & American Chamber of Commerce, Robert Palaima says PAFA’s Bacchanal! Wine Committee is being awarded the Chamber’s Pablo Neruda Award because “this philanthropic group of people have developed their annual Bacchanal! and Wine Auction into a premiere event in our region. It generates profound societal benefits, preserving Fine Art and creating scholarships for future artists. They have raised an extraordinary amount of money over the years benefitting talented students from around the country. It is the party to attend and in 2009, they also had the great idea to feature ‘new world wines,’ in particular wines from Chile, where they bestowed the Thomas Jefferson Winemaker Award to Viña Montes and Concha y Toro.”

The Chamber’s Pablo Neruda Award is named for the famed Chilean icon who helped lead Chile’s cultural and political progress with his poetry and international diplomacy. Palaima continued, “PAFA’s Wine Committee “has promoted international cooperation and understanding through a shared appreciation of Chilean wine and viticulture. Their attention to the wines of Chile speaks to PAFA’s international scope and viewpoint, bringing nations together, promoting cross cultural understanding, expanding the platform of shared values. People who share a love of scholarship, fine art, particularly American Art, who enjoy the conviviality of fine wine and the wine making arts, learning about geography, soil conditions, micro climates, harvests and blends — it’s all such a great way of promoting cordial relations between nations.”

“These are the kinds of alliances that insure a better future for everyone,” said Ricardo Maldonado, the Executive Director of the Chilean & American Chamber of Commerce. “This is a wonderful example,  demonstrating that when the Arts and Business get together — the entire society is the really big winner. The cultural richness, the deep and enduring appreciation of fine art, the partnership with business securing future generations of great treasures and artists — these are the hallmarks of a great society.”

With that winning combination in mind, Maldonado invited everyone to join the celebration at this year’s 15th Annual Friend of Chile Awards luncheon: Thursday, November 15, 2012 at the Union League, 140 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. For more information call: (215) 790-3769.

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