Four Hundred turn out to celebrate diverse group of individuals, organizations honored with 2006 Mayor's Arts Awards

Contact: Lori Patrick, 684-7306/ 604-3480 (cell)
Mayor's Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs

SEATTLE - The 2006 Mayor's Arts Awards were presented today in a ceremony attended by more than 400 people at Seattle Center's Northwest Court.

"Seattle is home to some of the finest artists and arts programs in the country," said Mayor Greg Nickels. "This year's recipients not only reflect the diversity of arts and cultural offerings this city has to offer, they represent a substantial body of extraordinary achievement and contribution in the arts."

The recipients are:

  • Seattle Children's Theatre and Artistic Director Linda Hartzell
  • Northwest Folklife and Executive Director Michael J. Herschensohn
  • Rainier Vista Cambodian Youth Program
  • Gerard Schwarz, Music Director, Seattle Symphony
  • Michael Spafford, Elizabeth Sandvig and Spike Mafford, a family of Northwest artists
  • Reggie Watts, musician and comedian
The outdoor ceremony featured a colorful bamboo dance performance by award recipient Rainier Vista Cambodian Youth Program. Following the awards presentation, Nickels opened Bumbershoot's visual arts exhibits, and Seattle favorites the Dusty 45's performed rockabilly tunes. The Mayor's Arts Awards are presented in partnership with Bumbershoot®: Seattle's Music and Arts Festival.

The Mayor's Arts Awards recognize the contributions of individuals and organizations that make a difference in our community through art and cultural activities. The Seattle Arts Commission reviewed more than 80 public nominations and recommended the recipients to Nickels.

2006 Mayor's Arts Awards Bios
Seattle Children's Theatre and Artistic Director Linda Hartzell

Seattle Children's Theatre (SCT) is the second largest resident theater for young audiences in North America. Its programs aim to empower young people to make new discoveries about themselves and the world around them while building a lifelong interest in the arts. Founded in 1975, SCT first produced plays in the PONCHO Theatre at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo. Some of the earliest supporters of the organization were teachers and graduate students from the University of Washington's Masters Program in Theatre for Youth (one of the few of its kind at the time).

SCT moved into the 482-seat Charlotte Martin Theatre in 1993; the 275-seat Eve Alvord Theatre in 1995; and completed the Allen Family Technical Pavilion, which consists of paint, costume, prop, and scene shops as well as rehearsal and classroom spaces, in 2000. This state-of-the-art facility was the first self-contained theater complex built for young audiences in the nation, and has since been used as a model for other theaters.

One of Linda Hartzell's earliest professional acting gigs happened to be at the children's theater. She auditioned in 1976 and was cast as mostly likable characters - the funny woman, queen and best friend. From its humble beginnings at the zoo, Hartzell has made SCT a world-renowned institution. During her 21-year tenure as artistic director, Hartzell has directed 47 plays for SCT, 36 of which were world premieres, including world-premiere productions in the 2006-07 season of The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Goodnight Moon and Afternoon of the Elves.

Northwest Folklife and Michael J. Herschensohn
In its 35th year, Northwest Folklife creates opportunities for individuals and communities of the Pacific Northwest to celebrate, share and sustain the vitality of folk, ethnic and traditional arts through education and other public programs, most notably through the annual production of the free Northwest Folklife Festival. The annual Memorial Day Weekend event is Seattle's official leap into summer. It's the largest folk, ethnic and traditional arts event in North America, drawing an estimated 250,000 people to Seattle Center and showcasing more than 6,000 musicians, dancers, tradition bearers and visual artists. In addition to the festival, Northwest Folklife's scope of programs includes recordings, education programs, exhibits, publications, and research and consulting services.

Executive Director Michael J. Herschensohn took the helm of Northwest Folklife in 1998. He has nearly 25 years experience managing not-for-profit cultural organizations, a doctorate in romance languages and masters degrees in French language and literature and urban planning. Prior to joining Northwest Folklife, Herschensohn served for eight years as director of Seattle Children's Museum, where he successfully spearheaded a $4.5 million capital campaign and expansion. He was also instrumental in placing arts education at the core of all museum programs. While director at the Museum of History and Industry, he conceived and collaborated on a number of programs and exhibits, including Salmon Stakes, a major exhibit about racial, economic and ecological issues in the history of the Pacific Northwest.

Rainier Vista Cambodian Youth Program
In 1994, a group of Cambodian-immigrant mothers living in Rainier Vista public housing project came together to teach their children Cambodian language and culture as well as provide them with safe activities. With her neighbors, Sambath Soung started the Rainier Vista Cambodian Women's Group, which developed and runs the Rainier Vista Cambodian Youth Program. The program provides Cambodian language, dance and drawing lessons to school-age children living at Rainier Vista. It operates six months of the year with weekend classes for more than two dozen youth. Its signature offering is traditional Khmer dance training led by National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Heritage Fellow Chan Molly Sam and instructor Rattanack Ath.

The young dancers have performed at Seattle Theatre Group's annual Dance this . showcase, at the University of Washington's Khmer Student Organization's annual festivities, at the celebration of the Cambodian New Year and at community temples.

Cambodians are among Seattle's fastest growing Southeast Asian communities. As a young girl in the 1970s, Soung escaped the horrors of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge and found refuge in Thailand. She came to the United States in 1985 with her younger brother. Soung's parents and two siblings didn't make the journey. Her father and brother were killed. Disease claimed her mother and sister. Yet Soung wished to preserve Cambodian cultural traditions for her two children, both born in the United States, as well as motivate them academically. Of the 15 youth who attended the program when it began in mid the '90s, all have graduated from high school and are enrolled in postsecondary education.

Gerard Schwarz, Music Director, Seattle Symphony
Appointed as music director of Seattle Symphony in 1985, Gerard Schwarz holds the longest tenure of any current music director of a major U.S. orchestra. Under Schwarz's artistic leadership, the Seattle Symphony has evolved into one of the world's finest orchestras. His nearly 100 recordings with the symphony, many including music by contemporary American composers, have received widespread recognition, including 10 Grammy nominations, and further enhanced the reputation of the Seattle Symphony as a leader among ensembles performing music of our time.

Schwarz was a prime mover in the creation of Benaroya Hall, a vital part of the revitalization of downtown Seattle which has greatly expanded the realm of cultural events.

Serving as an ambassador to Seattle, he has led the orchestra on numerous tours, including Washington, Florida and the acclaimed East Coast Centennial Tour that included the debut of Seattle Symphony at Carnegie Hall. Schwarz carries the Seattle mantle with him as he guest conducts all over the world.

Schwarz began his conducting career in 1966, and within 10 years was appointed music director of the Waterloo Music Festival, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, New York Chamber Symphony, Eliot Feld Dance Company and the Erick Hawkins Dance Company. He co-founded the New York Chamber Symphony in 1977 and served as its music director through the ensemble's 25th anniversary season in 2002. From 1982 to 2001, he was music director of New York's Mostly Mozart Festival and currently serves as its conductor emeritus. In January 2004, Schwarz was nominated by President W. George Bush to serve on the National Council on the Arts; he was inducted in March 2005 by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Michael Spafford, Elizabeth Sandvig and Spike Mafford, family of Northwest artists
A family of celebrated Northwest artists, husband and wife Michael Spafford and Elizabeth Sandvig and their photographer son Spike Mafford are among the most esteemed artists on the Seattle scene.

Born in 1935 in Palm Springs, Calif., Michael Spafford's painting career spans more than 45 years. Spafford credits his mother as the first person to express appreciation of his efforts to "make pictures." By the time he graduated from Ponoma College in 1959, the difference between making pictures and painting had become clear to Spafford. After receiving a master's degree in art history at Harvard, Spafford spent three years in Mexico City where he painted full time and exhibited. During these years, Spafford explored classic Greek mythological themes that have spanned his artistic career.

He created Twelve Labors of Hercules, stark black-and-white paintings for the state House of Representative's chambers in 1981, which were ordered covered a year later after lawmakers and others complained the images were offensive and sexually suggestive. A few years ago, Centralia College unveiled the paintings on its campus. College officials stated the murals provided an opportunity to educate people about the place of art in history. Another of Spafford's prominent public artworks, Tumbling Figures - Five Stages, was hung last year on the exterior of a King County parking garage at Sixth Avenue and Jefferson Street. It had previously been displayed at the Kingdome. A University of Washington art professor emeritus, Spafford is a recent recipient of the prestigious Flintridge Foundation Award for Visual Artists.

Born in Seattle in 1937, Elizabeth Sandvig was raised in Washington, D.C. and Mexico City. Like Spafford, Sandvig received her bachelor's degree from Ponoma College in 1959 and her master's from Radcliffe College. She had her first solo show in 1960 in Mexico City. In 1970, after a two-year stay in Rome, Italy; she worked primarily as a sculptor using transparent resins, aluminum, screen and other non-traditional materials to produce pieces that were enhanced by the ephemeral nature of light and air currents. Since the early '80s, Sandvig has concentrated on painting and printmaking. Off and on for decades, she has produced a series of utopian fantasy paintings, called Peacable Kingdom. She has had dozens of solo and group shows in the Northwest, and her work appears in public collections, including Seattle Art Museum, Microsoft, Museum of Northwest Art and many others. Awards and residencies include the John H. Hauberg Fellowship at Pilchuck Glass School.

Spike Mafford, once shared his father's name, Mike Spafford. On his path to becoming an artist and to avoid confusion with his father, he cleverly flipped the first letters of his first and last names, thus Spike Mafford. A photographer, Mafford was born in 1963 in Mexico City. Like his parents, he attended Pomona College. Over the last 20 years, Mafford has traveled and photographed scenes from around the world, including Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Spain, China, Italy, Greece and Japan. Mafford is not a travel photographer in that he doesn't shoot locales or events on assignment. Instead, he finances his own travel, freeing up his artistic vision of the worlds he encounters.

"The art of photography is a process of 'capturing' an evocative image using objective, technical and visual skills as well as highly subjective, instinctive responses," Mafford wrote in a 2005 artist's statement. "It is also a game of chance, waiting for the moment, chasing shadows."

Mafford has exhibited his photographs in solo and group shows throughout the Northwest. His work appears in private and public collections, including Safeco Insurance Corporation, University of Washington Medical Center, Microsoft and Verizon Wireless.

Reggie Watts
Once upon a time, Reggie Watts was the Montana State High School Comedy Champ. Since leaving Big Sky country for Seattle more than a decade ago, Watts' talents for performance have traveled far and wide. Born in Germany to a French mother and African-American father, Watts' work reflects his diverse roots. Rock and soul, French and American, theater and dance, lead singer and solo artist all become a complimentary relationship in Watts' work. He wrote "A Very Reggie Christmas," which had an extended run at On the Boards. He has composed scores for modern dance and has played with a lot of bands.

He originally moved to Seattle to study jazz vocal in the burgeoning music scene of the early '90s. Along the way, he has lent his diverse talents to Seattle's vibrant theater, dance and comedy communities. Best known for his tireless work with improv music projects, Watts is a staple of the underground soul, hip-hop and electronica music scene in Seattle. He fronted heavy soul sensation Maktub and continues to work with the live electronic group SynthClub. Often compared to the diverse vocal stylings of Al Green, Chris Cornell and Marvin Gaye, Watts' trademark falsetto baritone is a pillar of the West Coast music scene.

But now Watts is back to comedy. He's popping up on the New York and Los Angeles alternative comedy scenes. In 2005, he was accepted to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where he won the first Oy! Oy! Award, a prize given in honor of legendary British comic Malcolm Hardee. Watts, who recently returned from a second successful run of comedy performances in Edinburgh, is working on a Web show for Comedy Central and will perform at Bumbershoot.

The Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs promotes the value of arts and culture in and of communities throughout Seattle. The 15-member Seattle Arts Commission, citizen volunteers appointed by the Mayor and City Council, supports the city agency.

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