Jenny Taubman

Jenny Taubman

The Taubman Museum of Art honored three prominent Roanoke women with awards at a Monday fundraiser.

One of those honors came through an award’s renaming.

At a ceremony during the museum’s Women’s Luncheon, arts supporter Jenny Taubman received the Ann Fralin Award, named after philanthropist Ann Fralin, who worked to improve the Taubman’s collection in the days when it was known as the Art Museum of Western Virginia.

The Art Venture Award for excellence in promoting arts education went to Roanoke Vice Mayor Anita Price. Furthermore, museum executive director Della Watkins announced that the award will be renamed the Sheila Sachs Strauss Art Venture Award to honor the memory of the late Sheila Strauss, a longtime supporter of the arts in Roanoke.

More than 400 attended the lunch, which raised about $100,000 for the museum, Taubman officials said.

Jenny Taubman and her husband, Nick Taubman, retired chairman and CEO of Advance Auto, made the largest single donation toward the construction of the $66 million Taubman Museum building.

Jenny Taubman also led the capital campaign for the museum’s construction and serves on the museum’s board.

Watkins said the Fralin Award wasn’t just meant to appreciate Taubman for her work on behalf of the museum, but “for all that she’s done to enhance the cultural richness of our entire region.”

Taubman has served on the boards of many arts organizations, including Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, Center in the Square and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.

A native of Bulgaria, Taubman came to Roanoke in 1963 after her wedding.

“I do have an accent, a very Southern accent,” she joked. “People will ask me, where do you come from, and I say, Roanoke, Virginia.”

She said it didn’t take much convincing to get her to agree to run the museum’s campaign.

“All of us involved worked so hard because we knew that this would be a great gift to the community,” she said.

“I’m just a simple schoolteacher,” Price said in accepting her award. “I am just very deeply honored and humbled.”

She emphasized the importance of maintaining connections and friendships for the betterment of the community, citing the Girl Scouts song lyric, “Make new friends, but keep the old.”

“So many of you have done so much to support the arts and support our children,” she said. “Let’s continue to work together.”

Sheila Strauss, who died in February at age 88, was a driving force behind the creation of Art Venture, the museum’s activity center for children.

During the ceremony, her daughter, Lesleigh Strauss, spoke of her mother’s love for the arts and the pleasure she took in seeing children enjoy Art Venture’s programming.

“My mother was a big kid at heart, too,” she said. “She was colorful like a box of crayons.”

Watkins announced the establishment of the Sheila and Maury Lee Strauss Art Venture Endowment Fund, intended to provide funding for Art Venture and other museum education programs.

“Sadly, I won’t have Sheila by my side to work to complete her vision,” Watkins said.

Maury Strauss, Sheila Strauss’ widower, attended the luncheon and helped select raffle winners.

Jane Gershon Weitzman served as keynote speaker. Retired as executive vice president of Stuart Weitzman luxury shoes, she often commissioned creative shoe sculptures from artists to use in the display windows of her stores.

A number of those sculptures are showcased at the Taubman in “Art and Sole: Fantasy Shoes from the Jane Gershon Weitzman Collection,” on display through Dec. 31.

Mike Allen writes the Arts & Extras column for The Roanoke Times. The beat he covers includes visual art, classical music, opera, theater, dance, literature, museums and other arts and cultural nonprofits, and things even more eclectic.

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