2007 Mayor's Arts Awards announced

Mayor Greg Nickels has announced the recipients of the fifth annual 2007 Mayor's Arts Awards. The Seattle Arts Commission reviewed nearly 200 public nominations and recommended the recipients to the mayor.

The 2007 Mayor's Arts Award recipients are Clarence Acox Jr., musician and director of Garfield High School's jazz program and its renowned jazz ensemble; Earshot Jazz and its Executive Director John Gilbreath; Jean Griffith, founding member and retired longtime director of Pottery Northwest; Longhouse Media's Native Lens Program; Massive Monkees, a b-boy (breakdance) crew; literary arts center Richard Hugo House; and Seattle Art Museum and Director Mimi Gardner Gates. Read more about the recipients here.

The recipients will be honored at the Mayor's Arts Awards ceremony, noon, Friday, Aug. 31 at Seattle Center's Northwest Court. The outdoor ceremony, which is free and open to the public, will feature award presentations, followed by the official opening of Bumbershoot's Visual Arts Exhibits, which are free and open to the public from noon to 6 p.m. on Aug. 31.

The Mayor's Arts Awards are presented in partnership with Bumbershoot®: Seattle's Music and Arts Festival and primary media sponsor Encore Arts Programs, the magazine proudly serving performing arts organizations throughout the Puget Sound. Media support is also provided by Seattle Channel and Seattle Magazine.

"Seattle artists and cultural organizations enhance our quality of life, they inspire, engage and contribute to our economic well being," said Nickels. "This year's award recipients reflect the diversity and extraordinary artistic achievement throughout the city, ranging from arts education to the literary and visual arts to jazz, film and hip hop."

The Mayor's Arts Awards recognize the contributions made by artists, arts and cultural organizations and community members who make a difference through arts and cultural activities. To reflect the diversity of artistic achievement throughout the city, the awards do not have set categories.

"The Seattle Arts Commission is pleased to partner with Mayor Nickels to recognize the great contributions of this year's award recipients who inspire, provoke and connect us through a variety of artistic genres," said Dorothy Mann, Seattle Arts Commission chair. "The Mayor's Arts Awards shine the spotlight on the artistic and cultural jewels making a difference in our community."

2007 Mayor's Arts Awards Bios

Clarence Acox Jr.
Clarence Acox Jr.
Clarence Acox Jr., an instrumental figure in the Seattle music scene, has nurtured young musicians for the past 35 years as director of jazz bands at Garfield High School, where he leads the renowned Garfield Jazz Ensemble, winning dozens of awards and making regular appearances at national and international venues.

A native of New Orleans, La., Acox came to Seattle in 1971 straight out of Southern University, where he was recruited by Garfield High School to revive its moribund music program. Garfield's Jazz Ensemble has twice taken first place (in 2003 and 2004) at New York's Essentially Ellington National Jazz Band Competition and Festival at New York City's Lincoln Center — the country's most prestigious high school jazz competition. Under Acox's direction, the jazz ensemble has swept every major competition on the West Coast, including the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Moscow, Idaho, and Oregon's Mt. Hood Jazz Festival.

Acox, who also directs Seattle University's Jazz Ensemble, was named "Educator of the Year" by Down Beat Magazine in 2001. In 2004, the Seattle Music Educator's Association awarded him its "Outstanding Music Educator" award.

An accomplished and in-demand drummer, Acox co-founded the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra in 1995 and performed with the Floyd Standifer Quartet (now Legends Quartet) at the New Orleans Creole Restaurant for more than two decades.

John Gilbreath
Earshot Jazz and John Gilbreath, Executive Director
Earshot Jazz, the Seattle nonprofit arts organization best known for its fall jazz festival, was formed in 1984 to support jazz artists, students and audiences in the Seattle area. Over the course of more than 20 years Earshot Jazz has played a pivotal role in Seattle's music community by bringing jazz innovators to the region, championing local and emerging artists and providing quality education programs.

At the organization's helm since 1991, Executive Director John Gilbreath has shaped Earshot's varied programs, including a year-round slate of concert series, an annual Golden Ear Award recognizing the accomplishments of Seattle jazz artists and a monthly news magazine devoted to the region's jazz scene.

Under Gilbreath's leadership, the Earshot Jazz Festival, a two-week marathon featuring dozens of jazz concerts at an array of Seattle venues, has become one of the largest jazz festivals on the West Coast. The festival attracts artists from around the world to Seattle's stages and hosts them alongside exceptional local musicians.

Earshot has been selected for major national funding initiatives from the Lila Wallace and Doris Duke foundations as well as the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Earshot is a noted partner of the NEA's Jazz Masters on Tour Initiative. Gilbreath has also fostered countless creative collaborations with Seattle cultural organizations and community partners, including a jazz film series at Northwest Film Forum, and Art of Jazz, an evening concert series at Seattle Art Museum.

Jean Griffith
Jean Griffith
Jean Griffith, a founding member of Pottery Northwest and its director for more than 30 years, has played a major role in promoting contemporary ceramics in the Northwest.

Pottery Northwest, a non-profit ceramics center on the edge of Seattle Center, offers a unique communal learning and working environment. Griffith didn't set out to be its longtime director. In 1966, she became one of the first instructors for the new non-profit educational institution. Griffith was hired in 1971 as the director, a position which she held, with one brief retirement, until 2003 when she became president of the board. She stepped down from the board in the fall of 2006, shortly after Pottery Northwest celebrated its 40th anniversary.

It wasn't until her mid 30s that Griffith got involved in clay. As a graduate student at the University of Washington and president of the Seattle Clay Club, she brought initial attention to raku, then an unexplored area. Her early work also included large-scale, slat-glazed sculpture and raku wall reliefs, monumental for their time.

Lauded for her contributions in ceramics, Griffith has been heralded as Seattle's "muse of clay." She set her artmaking aside to lead Pottery Northwest, managing its finances, overseeing classes, hiring instructors, setting up workshops, lectures and exhibitions. Widely praised for her leadership, Griffith's honors include being named an Honorary Fellow of the American Craft Council in 1996.

Participants in Longhouse Media's Native Lens film program
Longhouse Media's Native Lens Program
Longhouse Media's Native Lens program teaches Native youth not only how to make films but how to collaboratively tell stories that challenge stereotypes about Native Americans while bridging a gap between Native youth and digital media. In addition to providing life skills, alternative education and career development in the media field, this program offers youth an opportunity to express the stories they want to tell while giving back to their communities.

Longhouse Media was launched in January 2005 by Executive Director Tracy Rector and Artistic Director Annie Silverstein with the support of the Swinomish Indian Tribe. It houses the Native Lens program, which got its start in 2003 in the Swinomish Tribal Community. Since its inception, Native Lens has reached youth across the country and around the world.

In just over two short, dynamic years Longhouse Media has introduced hundreds of students — many who come from low-income and at-risk backgrounds — to the art of writing and filmmaking. Much of Longhouse's success hinges on partnerships with regional tribes, funding agencies and other nonprofit organizations. In a partnership between Longhouse Media and the Seattle International Film Festival, Longhouse produced the first youth Superfly Filmmaking Experience in Seattle. Superfly is an exciting 36-hour challenge where youth from around the country come to Seattle to plan, write, shoot and edit four complete films. The resulting production is screened at SIFF to an audience of 850 film goers.

With a mission to catalyze indigenous people and communities to use media as a tool for self-expression, cultural preservation, and social change, Longhouse Media's Native Lens program is one of a handful of programs across the nation that focuses specifically on empowering Native youth via film and digital media.

Massive Monkees
Massive Monkees
Massive Monkees, a Seattle b-boy (break-dancing) crew, is a local favorite on the international performance and competition circuits.

The world champion breaking crew has wowed audiences around the globe with its spectacular flow and combinations, all the while serving as Seattle ambassadors. In 2004, the group beat out 32 teams at the world championships in London to take the top prize at the World B-Boy Championship. Currently, the Massive Monkees are the subject of a documentary film project, are appearing as part of the sold-out Vans Warp Tour and recently captured a second-place finish at R16 Sparkling Seoul B-boy Competition in Seoul, South Korea.

Closer to home, Massive Monkees are dedicated to teaching their craft to the next generation through weekly free dance-studio classes at Beacon Hill's Jefferson Community Center. They lend their services to elementary schools to raise awareness about the effects of drugs and alcohol on a healthy lifestyle, host voter-registration drives, organize battles for teenagers that need outlets for their angst and perform as the Sonics Boom Squad at Key Arena during the Seattle SuperSonics' home games.

Massive Monkees recipe for success is the chemistry within the crew; outsiders note that it seems more like a family. The group formed in 1999, but many members got their start around 1995 thanks to the teachings of Seattle legend Fever1. Today the crew boasts more than two-dozen dancers, DJs, producers and graffiti artists. Nearly all grew up in Seattle's South End neighborhoods. The way Massive Monkees sees it, b-boys are more than just the athletic competitors in hip-hop. They are buzz generators, innovators and role models for Seattle hip hop.

Richard Hugo House
Richard Hugo House
Seattle is the nation's most literate city, according to an annual ranking called America's Most Literate Cities. Although Seattle is a place known for its writers and bookstores, no central "hub" existed for writers and readers to meet until a decade ago, when Richard Hugo House — the inspiration of three Seattle writers hoping to establish an urban writer's retreat — opened its doors.

Hugo House, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in September 2007, has supported poets, journalists, prose writers, storytellers, spoken word artists, zine makers, graphic novelists, bloggers and more.

Today, the Capitol Hill literary arts center is fast evolving into a regional and national force, with a focus on nurturing new writing through classes, literary events and residencies for writers. Hugo Writing Classes and the Hugo Literary Series are at the heart of programming. In the former, writers hone their writing skills; in the latter, writers of regional and national reputation are invited to bring new writing to the House and present it to the public. Other programs include the Hugo Writers Fund, which co-sponsors more than 50 literary events each year; creative writing classes for young people ages 8 to 18; a regular publishing series called InPrint; and the Hugo Zine Archive and Publishing Project, which maintains a library of over 18,000 handmade and independent publications.

Hugo House's residencies offer established writers stipends and/or space to support their work; in exchange, these writers hold office hours and consult free of charge with anyone in the city and region who seeks their expertise.

In 2008, Hugo House will expand its current residency program to include two theater residencies, with the purpose of helping build strong, viable theater companies committed to presenting innovative new work.

Mimi Gardner Gates with Mayor Greg Nickels
Seattle Art Museum and Mimi Gardner Gates, Director
For more than seven decades, the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) has been one of the Pacific Northwest's leading visual arts institutions, experiencing explosive growth in the past year. When SAM opened its doors in Volunteer Park in 1933, the museum's collection focused primarily on Asian art. Today, the Seattle Art Museum has matured into a world-class arts institution with a global perspective.

The opening of the expanded downtown Seattle Art Museum in May 2007 marked the completion of two major capital projects and the beginning of a dynamic new era for the museum. The museum's striking new building more than doubles the museum's space. In January 2007, the museum opened the highly acclaimed Olympic Sculpture Park, transforming downtown Seattle's largest undeveloped waterfront property from a former industrial site into a free and vibrant green space for art and people. The Seattle Asian Art Museum, the museum's original facility at Volunteer Park, is a lively center for Asian art and culture.

The mastermind behind the museum's renaissance is Mimi Gardner Gates, who joined the Seattle Art Museum as director in May 1994. A scholar of Asian Art with a strong interest in Chinese painting, ceramics and the history of ornament, she had formerly served as director of the Yale University Art Gallery.

During her tenure, Gates has led the museum forward, organizing major exhibitions, publishing scholarly publications and embarking on significant capital projects. In honor of SAM's 75th anniversary in 2008, the museum received an unprecedented series of gifts from prominent museum patrons and collectors. The gifts — nearly 1,000 works from 40 collections — significantly enhance SAM's holdings and reinforce the museum's dedication to artistic excellence.

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