Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

Gay and Jim Dunne share Center for the Performing Arts 2018 Distinguished Service Award

Gay and Jim Dunne aim to create a better world. For decades, the Bellefonte residents have donated their time, money and expertise to preserve the region’s culture, architecture and history. Their dedication to sensory beautification of the musical type earned the couple the 2018 Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State Distinguished Service Award.

“Jim and Gay are most deserving of this award,” said center Director George Trudeau. The Dunnes have supported the center since 2004, most often by funding events featuring music ensembles. “They are strong advocates for the center and the performing arts in our community,” he added.

Since 2004, the Dunnes have sponsored Center for the Performing Arts presentations that speak to their hearts—classical and contemporary music ensembles. Each grew up an amateur musician—Gay with piano and Jim on French horn—and they continued expressing their musical talents well into adulthood. But they admit that the artists they choose to sponsor, at times, have just been the luck of the draw.

Kronos Quartet, for example, who the couple sponsored in 2009, “is a group that is not likely to get here any other way. It’s a type of music that ... should come here," Gay said. “I think audiences need to hear a diversity of things, not just those things that they can hum along to."

Long before joining the Center for the Performing Arts as sponsors and prior to Gay’s stint as a member of the center’s Community Advisory Council, the now-retired dermatologists immersed themselves in beautifying their surroundings. Together and individually, they were active with local groups, including Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association, Bellefonte Borough Council, Bellefonte Area School Board, Nittany Valley Symphony, Palmer Museum of Art and Bellefonte Garden Club.

The Dunnes also fostered the community’s appreciation for visual arts, including via Jim’s duties as organizer or guest curator for exhibits at Gamble Mill and Bellefonte Art Museum. For a number of years, they also ran Adam & Art Gallery, for which they founded the Film Forum series.

“What we wanted to do was to create a cultural environment,” Gay said.

In addition to cultivating an appreciation for the arts, the Dunnes aimed to preserve the culture of Bellefonte. Gay, as a former member of the Bellefonte Borough Council and now of the borough’s Historic Architectural Review Board, and Jim dedicated their time to sustain Bellefonte’s relevance by maintaining a space representative of the past but open to the future.

In recent years, they each have scaled back their volunteer commitments, but they still make time and set aside resources to help the center fund performances.

“There’s that sentiment about giving back and giving back and giving back,” Jim said. “We’re not giving back.”

“We're just giving,” Gay said.

The Distinguished Service Award has been given annually since 1996.