NEW YORK – Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLA) held its annual Summer Benefit on June 21. Honored for their volunteer work and dedication to VLA, Olena Ripnick-O’Farrell of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP and Lena Saltos of Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP with the S. Jeanne Hall Pro Bono Award. Both Ripnick-O’Farrell and Saltos are Associate Board members of VLA. The event took place on the rooftop of Sony Music with breathtaking views of Manhattan.
Saltos was born in Athens, her family hails from Nafpaktos and the move to the United States occurred when she was 3 years old. Saltos noted what an honor it was to receive the award, reflecting on how she always loved the arts, probably because of her Greek heritage, so volunteering her skills as an attorney to take on pro bono cases for artists and arts groups was a nice way to give back. Saltos has been with the firm of Hughes Hubbard & Reed for six years, and for the last five years has worked with VLA, taking on pro bono cases in between her cases for the firm. The volunteer efforts of the busy attorneys, including Saltos and fellow honoree Ripnick-O’Farrell, help the artists and arts groups focus on their creative work, as Kathryn E. Wagner, Esq. Executive Director of VLA said at the event. The VLA has a 47 year history and helps 8,000 artists a year with their legal issues, from long term pro bono work to setting up incorporation for nonprofit groups.
Ripnick-O’Farrell joined the organization as an intern and is now an Associate Board Member. She received her award graciously thanking VLA for the most fulfilling work, and her firm for the support in giving her the opportunity to volunteer with such a worthwhile organization. In her introduction of Saltos, Wagner mentioned when she started at VLA in 2012, she was impressed with Saltos from the first, observing how she made the effort to meet with a client who was having trouble after Superstorm Sandy at the office, taking time out of her busy schedule to give back. Saltos received her award from Chairman of the Board of Directors of VLA David Leichtman, Esq. partner in the Intellectual Property Litigation and Business Litigation Groups of Robins Kaplan LLP. In her acceptance of the award, Saltos said she loves VLA for allowing her to connect with artists on a grassroots level, and thanked the Board of Directors, Leichtman, her firm, and Michael E. Salzman, Esq. chair of Hughes Hubbard’s Copyrights Practice and Co-Chair of both its Antitrust Practice and Art Law Practice, and secretary of the Board of Directors of VLA for their support of her volunteer efforts.
Hughes, Hubbard & Reed (HHR) Associte Pavlos Petrovas has been with the firm for five years, remarked that Saltos has been involved with the arts for as long as he has known her, and is an example for the Greek-American community and for her Greek-American colleagues at the firm. HHR Summer Associate Vanessa Diamataris was also present at the event, noting how deserving Saltos is of the honor.
Leichtman and Wagner thanked all those for attending including the Board members, staff of VLA, volunteers, and the artists present. Among the artists at the Summer Benefit, filmmaker Alan Webber, Director of the Rural Route Film Festival spoke about how VLA helped his company incorporate and also to manage the Rural Route Film Festival which is now in its 12th season, tightening up infrastructure and helping the company become a full-fledged nonprofit. With a focus on rural people and places often overlooked by mainstream media, Rural Route once included films mostly from the Midwest, South, and Southwest, and has now expanded to include international films as well. Also at the event, poet Allan Andre who created and typed up spontaneous, personalized poems on a manual typewriter for anyone who asked.