New York's American Scandinavian Society bestowed a much deserved award to one of its longest, most active members.
Friend and benefactor of all things Scandinavian, and [by us] sometimes referred to as "The Fairy Godmother of Scandinavian Art in New York," Elfi von Kantzow Alvin received a well deserved and long overdue Lifetime Achievement Award in December. The award was a first from the American Scandinavian Society, which acknowledged the artist, curator and connoisseur par excellence at the annual Christmas Ball. Some of you may have seen our visit, and Guy Clark's interview, with Elfi 'A Life in Art' Guy Clark meets with Elfi von Kantzow Alvin
What follows below is a loving portrait by Elfi's friend and fellow New York Scandinavian, Lisa Resling Halpern.

This past December, the American Scandinavian Society held its annual Holiday Gala. The elegant Metropolitan Club could not have been a more beautiful setting, the wine was flowing, the food was perfect, Lucias sang on the grand stairs, the dance floor was well attended, deals were had at the silent auction, and as if this were not enough, all gathered had the chance to honor the fabulous, Elfi von Kantzow Alvin.
On Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, the American Scandinavian Society bestowed their first Lifetime Achievement Award to Elfi. No one deserves a celebration more and it was done in style, including a special musical tribute by Eva Engman and Anders Holst. For more details about the evening and to see photos, visit Annual Scandinavian Christmas Ball 2013


One of my first memories of Elfi was at a gala many, many years ago. From across the room I saw this woman with a long, blond French braid wearing a stunning blue dress. When I went over to compliment her, she said "Oh you like it? Thank you-it was my mother’s." That night an admiration grew that exists to this day. You cannot help but notice that she is glamorous but she is so much more than that; Elfi is one of the most generous and kind-hearted people you could hope to meet.
Elfi has dedicated a great part of her life to celebrating and encouraging Scandinavian artists. She is the chair and modus vivendi of the American Scandinavian Arts committee, has curated countless Scandinavian art exhibitions in New York and presented the works of more than 250 artists. Her commitment to discovery and providing a forum for Scandinavian artists is legendary. She has introduced audiences to Scandinavian art and multi media, and led art tours from Red Hook to Harlem, from the Bronx to Chelsea and so much more.
As a matter of fact, seven years ago when we celebrated Elfi and her husband Ib’s 50th anniversary, Nane Annan (wife of Kofi Annan) wrote movingly about Elfi’s support encouraging her to pursue a career as an artist.
Elfi is definitively one of the cornerstones of the Scandinavian community in New York. Catch her if you can as she traverses the city with unrelenting energy and enthusiasm. What is most impressive is that she remains humble.
Some years ago the Trygve Lie Gallery in New York held a retrospective. This fantastic event reminded us that not only has Elfi helped develop and encourage artists, she herself has had a successful career—first as a ballerina and subsequently designing costumes and sets for theater as well as interior design. In 1976 Elfi received Konungens Guldmedalj for her contribution to the Swedish Artist Gala at the Lincoln Center. In 1998 she received the Order of the Lion, 1st class, of Finland. Elfi has also been celebrated by the American Swedish Historical Museum and the Danish American Society, among others. You would never know this by meeting her as Elfi is forever focused on how she can be of service to others.
I have known Elfi Alvin for a very long time but I never stopped being amazed by her vivacity. Last winter the Danish American Society had the good fortune to host the Danish National Girls Choir. We were at the Museum of the City of New York and it had started to snow. Many people were deterred by the weather but as I was standing in the hall I looked out and saw a single figure braving the snow and wind. It slowly became apparent that Elfi arrived despite the weather. She thanked me for including her that evening and said she had been moved by the performance. I could not help myself and asked, “Why did you come out in such terrible weather? You had good reason to stay home.” Elfi responded “Because I felt you needed me here.” Well yes Elfi, I did and I do. I need you here. You remind me that it is always worth it to go that extra mile. You are an inspiration.

Lisa Resling Halpern