2009 Mayor's Arts Awards announced

And the winners are ... The Seattle Arts Commission reviewed a record 360 public nominations and recommended five recipients to the mayor. The recipients of the 2009 Mayor's Arts Award are:

Mayor Greg Nickels will honor the recipients at the Mayor's Arts Awards ceremony, noon, Friday, Sept. 4 at Seattle Center's Northwest Court. Nancy Guppy, host of Seattle Channel's Art Zone In Studio, will serve as emcee for the outdoor ceremony, which is free and open to the public and will feature award presentations and the official opening of Bumbershoot's Visual Arts Exhibits. The festival's visual arts exhibits will open to the public one day early, with a free public preview from noon to 7 p.m. in celebration of the Mayor's Arts Awards.

The Mayor's Arts Awards, which are nonmonetary, 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 Mayor's Arts Awards are presented in partnership with Bumbershoot®: Seattle's Music & Arts Festival and are sponsored by City Arts Seattle, a free monthly magazine discovering creativity throughout Seattle.

2009 Mayor's Arts Awards Bios

Artist Trust

Artist Trust is a Seattle-based nonprofit dedicated to supporting Washington state artists working in all disciplines. Founded in 1987 by a group of arts patrons and artists who were concerned about the lack of support for individual artists, Artist Trust has distributed more than $5 million through grants and professional development resources to thousands of the state's most promising and respected musicians, visual artists, writers, dancers, craft artists, filmmakers, cross-disciplinary artists and more.

Through financial grants, professional development training, resources and artist networking events, Artist Trust provides artists the time and resources necessary to prosper. Its Grants for Artist Projects (GAP) Program provides up to $1,500 in support for artist-generated projects, and the Artist Trust/Washington State Arts Commission Fellowships recognize professional artists of exceptional talent and demonstrated ability with a merit-based $7,500 award. Additionally, each year the organization honors a Washington state female visual artist, age 60 or over, who has dedicated 25 or more years of her life to creating art with the Irving and Yvonne Twining Humber Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, an unrestricted award of $10,000.

In addition to financial awards, Artist Trust delivers vital professional development information to thousands of artists through print and online resources, including a searchable database of current and ongoing opportunities ranging from grants to job postings to workshop offerings and listings for studio space and housing.

Professional development training includes the EDGE Professional Development Program, a 50-hour training program for visual, literary and film/media artists, the I Am
An Artist
Professional Development Weekend, and free grant-writing and resources workshops offered across the state for artists of all disciplines.

Artist Trust also serves as a clearinghouse for legal resources, health care information, and emergency assistance programs. Artist Trust has taken the lead on addressing the issue of health care for artists through the Washington Artists Health Insurance Project (WAHIP), an ambitious effort to forge new strategies to improve artists' access to health insurance. This year, the organization developed a pilot partnership with Country Doctor Community Clinic on Capitol Hill, where uninsured artists can apply for subsidized primary and preventative care.

Jesse Higman

Jesse Higman launched his career as an artist during the Northwest's grunge-music heyday of the early nineties. He started out painting leather jackets and guitars and graduated to illustrating album art and posters for local bands including Heart, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam. Several of his early pieces are in the collections of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Experience Music Project.

Higman himself is as inspiring as his artwork. A quadriplegic, he has limited use of his hands. Twenty-four years ago he swerved to miss a squirrel in the road, wrecked his car and broke his neck. Today, his paintings have become larger in scale, and he often relies on the assistance of others to make his art. For Higman, the collaborative process is a driving influence in the visual outcomes of his work.

Higman's more recent artistic endeavors include "alluvium" art, which he named after the geological term for fine sediment deposited by flowing water. He is most interested in the "physics of life" and is inspired by "nature's patterns, waves, ripples in sand, folds of mountains and iridescent oils on wet parking lots." His paintings could be considered watercolors, since he uses washes of water to deliver pigment. But the real medium according to Higman, is the systems from which things evolve - including weather, electrical, vascular, or ecosystems. Higman is planning a 20-year retrospective of his work at the Moore Theatre later this year.

Speight Jenkins

Speight Jenkins, celebrating his 25th season as general director of Seattle Opera, is recognized nationally as a politically active arts advocate, a leading authority on opera and one of the nation's most influential and accomplished general directors.

Under Jenkins' leadership, Seattle Opera's productions have captured international acclaim, boosting the economy and raising the profile of Seattle as a thriving arts city. He has strengthened and extended the opera's reputation as a Wagner center—producing all 10 of Wagner's major operas—including two very different Ring productions. In August, the opera will again present the Ring cycle, generating more than $8 million in economic benefits. This summer's production will bring visitors to Seattle from 22 countries, 46 states and eight Canadian provinces.

Jenkins led a Seattle Opera team that was instrumental in helping to design and build Marion Oliver McCaw Hall in 2003, raising more than 70 percent of the building costs in tandem with Pacific Northwest Ballet and Seattle Center.

Jenkins has also championed a nationally acclaimed education program that brings young opera artists to elementary schools and encourages thousands of high school students to learn about opera by attending dress rehearsals. Since its inception in 1998, the Opera's Young Artists Program has helped to launch the careers of many singers. Former Young Artists have gone on to perform on Seattle Opera's mainstage and have appeared with major opera companies throughout the United States and Europe.

Prior to his work at Seattle Opera, Jenkins wrote for the New York Post, was an editor of Opera News and hosted the Metropolitan Opera telecasts.

Northwest Tap Connection

A South Seattle urban dance studio which trains and inspires young dancers, Northwest Tap Connection is committed to enriching the lives of its students (ages 5 to 19) through dance, while developing self-discipline, instilling self-confidence and encouraging achievement and goal setting.

Louisiana native and tap dance historian Melba Ayco serves as program and artistic director, striving to incorporate the mood of "Down South" roots into the choreography performed by the company. While rhythm tap is the primary dance form, the school also offers a variety of dance styles, including jazz, modern, hip-hop, ballet, African, and swing.

Ayco has worked hard to create an environment where dancers can grow artistically and technically, and at the same time develop leadership skills, a sense of social responsibility and knowledge of the history and art form of dance.

Intermediate and advanced students perform works by emerging and master choreographers and are encouraged to participate in an annual tap festival. Dancers have traveled to Chicago, Ill.; Denver, Colo.; Minneapolis, Minn.; New Orleans, La.; New York, NY; Los Angeles, Calif.; and Washington D.C. Some of the senior students have danced with tap legends such as the late Gregory Hines and Savion Glover.

Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras

Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras (SYSO) is the largest youth symphony organization in the United States. Founded in 1942, it serves more than 1,100 diverse students a year through four orchestras, three summer programs and partnerships with local public schools. Through its financial aid programs, SYSO makes sure every talented child can receive excellent music education, regardless of their financial resources.

For many of the region's young musicians, SYSO is their first taste of a musical life, and some have gone on to perform in the world's great concert halls.

Last fall, The Wallace Foundation awarded SYSO a four-year $500,000 award to support SYSO in the Schools program. Developed in partnership with Seattle Public Schools, the program aims to introduce new instrumental music programs in elementary schools, and ultimately increase the number of middle school orchestra programs in the school district. The project is expected to serve between 6,000 and 10,000 students with instrumental music lessons, in-school concerts and free tickets to Seattle Youth Symphony performances.

SYSO in the Schools sprung from the Endangered Instruments Program (EIP), founded by SYSO in 1990 as an in-school program to encourage music students to learn less commonly played instruments. EIP provides school music departments with weekly free group instrumental lessons for students in the early stages of learning on instruments such as the oboe, viola, tuba and French horn. The program is designed to increase the size, diversity and quality of school band and orchestra programs.

SYSO's academic-year orchestra program serves more than 470 students through four full orchestras. Comprised of the organization's most advanced players, the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra is SYSO's flagship orchestra and one of the premier youth orchestras in the country. Under the baton of Music Director Stephen Radcliffe, the orchestra's repertoire includes a variety of styles from early music to world premieres. The orchestra performs three regular season concerts in Benaroya Hall.

Photos by Jennifer Richard

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