Minker quick to credit others for prestigious award

24 Jul 2017 8:56 AM | AIA Gulfcoast (Administrator)

Janet Minker, who in my presence, at least, has exhibited not a hint of ego, is taken aback to have won the Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the Florida-Caribbean chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

The board chairman of the Sarasota Architectural Foundation says, “It is a bit overwhelming, because it is such a prestigious award.”

She also adds, “It really is an award for SAF. I kind of stumbled into this organization and was so happy to pull pieces together.”

AIA-Florida’s highest award for non-architects recognizes “interest, activity and concern for the profession of architecture” that advances “the cause of good design and planning,” and/or contributes to the “dignity and value of the architectural profession.”

She will receive the award next weekend at the AIA convention in Naples.

The award is named for the former Florida governor and U.S. senator whose interest in architecture led AIA-Florida to make him an honorary member.

Minker earned the award through her tireless dedication to SAF’s mission of promoting awareness and preservation of Sarasota’s midcentury modern architecture.

It is basically a full-time job, with no pay.

But it does have benefits.

“The benefits are meeting all these incredible homeowners and design enthusiasts,” she said. “And welcoming architects from all over the world who come here and want to see buildings by Paul Rudolph, Tim Seibert and Victor Lundy.”

Under her leadership, SAF began the annual Sarasota MOD Weekend architecture event, based on Palm Springs Modernism Week, in 2014. The group also raised $250,000 to build a replica of Rudolph’s Walker Guest House, which was on display at The Ringling until April 30.

As if that is not enough, Minker, a professional graphic designer, works with the SAF board to come up with ideas for tours, lectures and events, and also creates the graphic materials with which to promote them.

“We save a lot of money by my doing that,” she said.

The Maryland native moved here with her husband, Elliott Himelfarb, in 2009, after decades working in Washington, D.C. Twenty years ago, the couple visited her cousin in Sarasota and fell in love with the city.

We have heard that story before.

“As a designer, I love design, whether it is 17th century or 20th century,” she said. “When we first visited Sarasota, we walked around Lido Shores, and I had no idea who Paul Rudolph was, or the legacy of (developer) Phil Hiss. But we thought the houses were amazing. This is when many of the original houses were still on New Pass. I just thought it was a remarkable place.”

She also convinced longtime friend and fellow public relations professional Dan Snyder to visit Sarasota. He, too, caught the Sarasota bug.

For years, Snyder and Minker were virtually inseparable as they created a strong and vibrant organization with big dreams and the drive to make them real.

“We joined because in 2012, Paul Rudolph’s addition at Sarasota High School was under threat,” she said of a building that now has been renovated and its exterior restored. “That kept us going in the early years, leading the fight to save it. It is a real jewel.”

She said she gains strength, and creativity from the brainpower of SAF’s members, especially those on the board of directors.

Coming up with event ideas and recruiting homeowners to open their houses for tours “is the most natural thing,” Minker said. “I have quite a long list of houses we want to see and tour. I would love to do more travel around Florida, and even California.

“I hope always to be involved with SAF and give advice and suggestions, because there is a wealth of things to do and see.”

Minker credits the SAF’s corps of “wonderful volunteers” for making events happen and serving as docents.

“Our volunteers and members are so devoted and passionate about this design legacy,” she said. “They want to do everything they can to keep the buildings intact and preserve and restore them. You get a lot of energy from the big supporters and enthusiasts.”

That is why, she says, “I am thrilled that the SAF does get some notice and recognition in the state of Florida, and that makes me feel wonderful.”

As I said, no ego.

Past winners of the Bob Graham Award from Sarasota include SAF co-founder Martie Lieberman, Center for Architecture Sarasota co-founder Cindy Peterson and the Herald-Tribune’s Harold Bubil.

AIA Florida Gulf Coast Chapter | P.O. Box 160 | Sarasota | FL | 34230 | info@aiagulfcoast.org | 941.315.8242

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software