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Editorial: We eagerly await Arts & Entertainment Hall of Fame

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It should not be surprising that Tony Brooks was among the most eloquent of many fine speakers during the unveiling of the Luzerne County Arts & Entertainment Hall of Fame. A city council and Wilkes-Barré Preservation Society member, Brooks can be quick to connect the universal themes of the past that bind us despite other differences.

It’s a “powerful swelling in your chest,” Brooks told a crowd gathered in the lobby of the FM Kirby Center — itself an icon of stage, screen and music with deep ties to the region’s past. “We often can’t describe the feeling, but we know it when it fills our heart.”

The new hall of fame, he said, will honor artists and entertainers who shared their talent to “make us better human beings.”

In a cynical world seemingly divided into ever smaller circles of digital influence, this may sound like an old-timer’s dream from a rose-colored past. A generation has grown up glued to the microcosm of their small phone screens, which may offer the world at your fingertips, but with equal ease allows you to shut out any of the world you don’t want to see.

Great artists and entertainers do more than satisfy some immediate itch. Their work transcends the selfish moment and gives us a powerful feeling of connection. It stirs deeper and more universal parts of the human soul, reminding us that regardless of the urgencies of events around us, we share common ground with others spanning distance and generations.

There are reasons some plays, movies, songs, orchestral works and books become not only popular across ethnic, economic and geographic lines, but across time.

The new hall of fame, as outlined by organizing committee members including Times Leader staff writer Bill O’Boyle, is to impartially pick inductees “most serving in all categories.”

The most obvious connection to Lucerne County would, of course, be people born here, and that could make an impressive list of inductees, including Oscar and Tony winners. As Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown noted, “There are a lot of famous people that are from Luzerne County. It’s something to be proud of.”

But the plan is to also consider those who may not have been native but did live here, or who came here to make their mark in the art and entertainment world. And the list of those on the organizing committee includes a deep and broad knowledge base as the search for inductees begins: O’Boyle, Brown, Brooks, former Times Leader writer and long-time music columnist Alan Stout, Gallery of Sound owner and frequent organizer of local musical shows Joe Nardone, musician and recording engineer Jody Busch, Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Lindsay Griffin-Boylan, and Rediscovering Ancestry Through Culture and Education representative Constance Wynn.

It was Wynn who offered a prediction we believe very likely to be fulfilled as the gathering to unveil the new hall of fame came to a close.

“We have faith this will knock people’s socks off,” she said with a smile.

We eagerly await it.

—Times Leader