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France Honors Alyson Waters and Ben Cameron

On the 23rd of March 2012, Antonin Baudry, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy, conferred the insignia of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters on Alyson Waters and Ben Cameron.

There are those who make art. And then there are those who make art possible. This month the French Embassy has honored two individuals whose work in their field has brought art, literature and culture to a wider audience and has made the world a more fertile and receptive place for the arts.

One award recipient was Ben Cameron, a giant in the world of arts advocacy, who is currently the program director for the arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation in New York, supervising a $13 million grants program. He has also served as the Executive Director of the Theater Communications Group, and previous to that led a $51 million national giving program at Target. From 1988-92 Mr Cameron worked at the National Endowment for the Arts, and has been a passionate proponent of arts and arts advocacy across the world. His ceaseless work for the arts has benefitted artists, audiences and institutions and has supported exchange and dialogue in the arts, both in the USA and abroad. He twice bicycled from Minneapolis to Chicago, raising $10 million for AIDS agencies in those cities; he has represented the NEA as far away as Siberia; and has crossed the ocean numerous times to lecture on theatre. His efforts for the arts are inspirational, and the French Government recognises the vital nature of his work in conferring this award on him.

The other recipient was Alyson Waters, a literary translator, professor and lecturer, whose masterful translations have made available the work of writers such as Albert Cossery and Vassilis Alexis to English readers. Her relationship with France and French culture stretches back thirty years: she completed her Masters degree in Comparative Literature in Lille; is a lecturer in the French Department of Yale, is an Adjunct Faculty member at the French Department of NYU, and has twice been translator in residence at the Villa Gillet in Lyon. Her work as a translator has focused on translingual authors who exist in multiple cultures simultaneously. In her introduction to Louis Aragon’s Treatise on Style she writes "Treatise on Style is the work of a writer who believes in the act of writing, and who understands the power of the written word to change people, and, perhaps more importantly, to move them." Her work is a transmission of that power across the boundaries of languages and cultures.

Alyson Waters is a literary translator, professor, and lecturer. She has taught in the French Dept of Yale University since 1993 and is Managing Editor of Yale French Studies; this semester she is teaching in the Masters of Art in Literary Translation Program of New York University’s Department of French. Ms. Waters’ research focuses on translingual writers; she has extensively translated authors with a foot in two cultures, such as Albert Cossery and Vassilis Alexakis. A recipient of many awards and grants, her most recent award was the 2010 PEN Translation Prize for Judge.

As of 2006, Ben Cameron has held the position of Program Director for the Arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) in New York. In that capacity, he supervises a $13 million grants program focusing on organizations and artists in the theatre, contemporary dance, jazz and presenting fields. During his tenure, the Program has adopted a new three-tiered strategy focused on artistic creation, organizational innovation and national sector building; launched major new initiatives, including the $15 million Leading for the Future initiative in partnership with the Nonprofit Finance Fund; and, in response to the financial downturn of 2008, worked with the DDCF Board to create both a new hybrid grants structure. Previously, he served as the Executive Director of Theatre Communications Group (TCG) in New York City, the national service organization for the American nonprofit professional theater. Before working at TCG, Mr. Cameron had joined the Dayton Hudson Foundation (the former corporate foundation of the now-named Target Corporation) in Minneapolis in 1993, serving as Senior Program Officer; subsequently, he joined Target Stores corporate headquarters as Manager of Community Relations, where he supervised a $51 million national giving program. From 1988-92, he worked at the National Endowment for the Arts, where he served as Director of the Theater Program from 1990-92, frequently representing the theater community at various speaking engagements and conferences. In addition, his prior professional experience includes work as the Associate Artistic Director of the Indiana Repertory Theater (1981-84), Literary Manager of PlayMakers Repertory Company (1984-86), and a variety of free-lance directorial and dramaturgical assignments at such theaters as Yale Repertory Theater and Center Stage in Baltimore, MD. He currently teaches as a guest lecturer at the Yale School of Drama. He has published various articles on theater, including a monthly editorial column in American Theatre magazine during his tenure as Executive Director of TCG. Mr. Cameron has keynoted or addressed major conventions of arts communities internationally. His many awards include the Sidney Yates Award for Advocacy (2012) from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. Mr. Cameron graduated from the Yale School of Drama in 1981 with an MFA in Dramaturgy and was the first recipient of the Kenneth Tynan Prize.

The Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters) was created in 1957 to recognize eminent artists and writers, as well as individuals who have contributed to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world. The Order is given out twice annually to only a few hundred people worldwide. Americans who have received the award include Paul Auster, Ornette Coleman, Agnes Gund, Marilyn Horne, Jim Jarmusch, Richard Meier, Robert Paxton, Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, and Uma Thurman.