ed koren

Vermont cartoonist Ed Koren honored by state leaders

October 28th, 2007 by Daniel Barlow · No Comments

I had a great time Friday evening at the ceremony to honor New Yorker cartoonist Ed Koren.

October 27, 2007

By Daniel Barlow Vermont Press Bureau

MONTPELIER – Amid a stream of congratulations, playful verbal jabs and thunderous applause, Edward Koren became the first cartoonist to be given the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts Friday evening.

Koren, a Brookfield resident who has drawn cartoons for the New Yorker magazine for four decades, was praised at the Vermont Statehouse by Gov. James Douglas, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch and others for his ability to poke fun at modern life in Vermont in his single-panel creations.

As Koren prepared to take the crowd of nearly 200 people gathered in the House chambers through a sampling of his rustic cartoons, he noted that he has always been suspicious of awards that involve the words excellence and the arts.

“That is, until right now,” he quipped.

Presenters and speakers mined Koren’s talent of drawing hairy and furry monsters in his cartoons and his strong civic mind, including his ongoing stint as a member of Brookfield’s volunteer fire department.

Margaret “Peggy” Kannenstine, the chair of the Vermont Arts Council board of trustees, joked that she was happy to “honor the most renowned firefighter from Brookfield.”

She went on to mention that Koren is part of the growing community of cartoonists who call Vermont home, noting that two years ago the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction opened its doors.

“It feels good to have welcomed Mr. [Garry] Trudeau to Vermont in the same week that we are honoring Ed Koren today,” Kannenstine said, referring to the Doonesbury cartoonist who held a fundraiser at Junction opened its doors.

“It feels good to have welcomed Mr. [Garry] Trudeau to Vermont in the same week that we are honoring Ed Koren today,” Kannenstine said, referring to the Doonesbury cartoonist who held a fundraiser at CCS on Monday.

Letters from Vermont’s two U.S. senators were read by staff members to congratulate Koren. Sen. Patrick Leahy’s letter noted that Koren is “clearly the most talented artist in the Brookfield Fire Department.” Sen. Bernard Sanders’ letter called him a “cartoonist of the first order.”

Welch, Vermont’s freshman representative, attended the event and noted that he was proud to hang a Koren original in his Washington, D.C., office, which was given to him soon after his election to the office last year.

Welch, without describing the cartoon, said that it is “provocative and politically incendiary” and that anyone who wants to see it is free to “come down and take a look.”

He then praised Koren’s cartoons for giving people a “greater understanding of who we are together.”

Tunbridge filmmaker John O’Brien, a close friend of Koren’s, upped the humor ante in his remarks, which included showing off early nudes that Koren had drawn at the dawn of his career and reading from a paperback science fiction novel that shares its title with Koren’s last name.

In his remarks just before Koren was awarded the prize, Douglas, who picks the winner based on recommendations from the Vermont Arts Council, noted that he was “no stranger to cartoons,” especially those that satirize him and appear in local newspapers during legislative sessions.

When he discovered there was a cartoonist among the award candidates, he prepared his “trusty pair of scissors” to remove him from the list, Douglas joked – until he found out that cartoonist was one of Brookfield’s most famous residents.

“Ed’s work is a classic reminder of what it means to live in Vermont and be a neighbor,” Douglas said.

Koren, who read punch lines from more than a dozen of his cartoons that were displayed on an overhead screen in the House chambers, spoke very little during the ceremony.

But he beamed with pride and smiled strongly as he and his wife, Curtis Koren, sat near the speaker’s podium.

“I don’t think I would be here today if I was an editorial cartoonist,” he told the crowd, which, as expected, exploded with laughter.

Koren joins other luminaries who have received the Arts award since it was first offered in 1967, including writers David Mamet, Grace Paley and Howard Frank Mosher, and filmmaker Jay Craven.

Contact Daniel Barlow at Daniel.Barlow@timesargus.com

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