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Plaza Personality: Adrienne Arsht | Great Performances


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Plaza Personality: Adrienne Arsht
CPS Events at The Plaza
by Mike Warren

We sat down with the fabulous Ms. Adrienne Arsht and here is what she had to share with us!

1. Where were you born? 

AA: Wilmington, Delaware

2. If you could have dinner with 3 people tonight, who would they be? 

AA: Why limit it to 3? 100 is much more fun. I love bringing all types of friends together. It makes for a more exciting, interesting evening.

3. What’s your favorite food? 

AA: Dessert! - Ice cream, glazed donuts and malt balls. It has become my signature. “Life is short- eat dessert first.”

4. Where does your passion for the arts come from? 

AA: My passion for art comes from my parents. There was always music in the house. My mother played the piano.  I took piano and ballet lessons.  Every Saturday we would listen on the radio to the Texaco live broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera. I was fortunate to go to theater in Wilmington, Delaware and New York City to experience Broadway. I cannot imagine a world without the arts. When giving to the arts, you are preserving the essence of civilization for now and for hundreds of years to come. It is thrilling to know that a gift to the arts will be shared by people in a future we can’t even imagine. Art is part of who we are and helps define us. It has been treasured for centuries and will continue indefinitely.

5. Many of your signature gifts have been to large performing arts complexes. Why have you chosen those as a focus of your philanthropy?  

AA: A performing arts complex offers an extraordinary value to a city. It brings the arts in their many forms to everyone of every generation and every interest. The Arsht Center has played a key role in the resurgence and transformation of the immediate area, the city of Miami, and beyond. 

6. Can you tell me more about the Arsht Center’s value to Miami?

AA: It’s the center of activity for people planning where they live. The apartments in the neighborhood are selling out quickly. Other businesses have bought land in the vicinity. Hotels are coming up in the neighborhood. It revitalized downtown Miami. It’s really become the town square.

7. Had you ever lived in Miami before acquiring TotalBank? What’s your personal relationship to the city of Miami now?  

AA: No I did not. We acquired TotalBank in 1986 and began spending time there for bank meetings. Then, in 1996 I moved to Miami full time and remained there until I sold the bank in 2007. I have wonderful homes there including the home of William Jennings Bryan, which he built in 1913, and I restored and it recently received historic designation.

 8. What was it like settling down there and getting to know the philanthropic, business, and cultural communities?

AA: I became involved in the Hispanic community because TotalBank was started by Cuban Americans and Spaniards. The majority of the clients and employees were Hispanic. The president and I were the only Anglos. It was exhilarating. People would say, “So why are you in Miami? What it’s like?” And I would say, “Miami is the future today.” I became totally involved in the Hispanic community and its fabric. The members of the community embraced me as one of their own.

9. How did living in Miami impact your role globally?

AA: In 1996, I moved to Miami to run TotalBank. After selling the bank in 2007, I moved back to Washington, DC. But, it became immediately clear to me that there was a need to find a way to integrate the interests of Latin America with Europe and the United States to shape the global future and create a broad community of common values. In 2013, this became a reality with the creation of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council. This Center is dedicated to forging an effective Latin America-US-Europe partnership of common values and shared interests.  I am thrilled to spearhead an initiative that will embrace Latin America as an integral part of the transatlantic world and give this vibrant region the recognition it deserves.

10. What book are you reading right now?

AA: Anything by Daniel Silva

11. What is your favorite part about New York? 

AA: There is so much about New York that one can’t find anywhere else. For me, it is the many opportunities to experience creativity. You can see live music any time of day or night.  I love filling my days with various arts forms, from a Broadway matinee, to classical ballet at Lincoln Center in the evening then a nightcap at Birdland.

12 Is there something you would like to learn that you haven’t yet?

AA: Golf

13. What makes The Plaza special to you? 

AA: The Staff, the impeccable service and the attention to detail. Everyone takes such special care of me. They always remember my personal preferences when attending events.

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