2020 Community Arts Awards

Congratulations to our 2020 Community Arts Award recipients!

For a list of previous CAA winners, please click here (PDF)
2020 Community Arts Award Recipient Announcement (PDF)

The Arts Council has made the decision to postpone the Community Arts Awards celebration, originally scheduled for Tuesday, December 1, 2020. We look forward to celebrating these achievements and individuals at a future date to be announced.

 

Community Medal of Arts 

Andrew Koehler

Andrew Koehler is currently the music director of the Kalamazoo Philharmonia, which he leads as part of his position as an associate professor of music at Kalamazoo College. He also holds concurrent posts as music director of the Kalamazoo Junior Symphony Orchestra, and as the cover conductor and frequent guest conductor of the West Michigan Symphony Orchestra. He is active as a guest conductor close to home and throughout the world.

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In recent seasons, he has appeared with the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra musicians; the Lyatoshynsky Chamber Orchestra in Kyiv, Ukraine; the Ruse Philharmonic in Bulgaria; the St. Cloud Symphony in Minnesota; the Festival South Chamber Orchestra in Mississippi; and the Moldovan National Youth Orchestra, a professional group of recent conservatory graduates. He has additionally led ensembles under the auspices of the Aspen Music Festival, the Oregon Bach Festival, the Cabrillo Festival for Contemporary Music, the 2006 Vakhtang Jordania International Conducting Competition (where he advanced to the final round and won the audience favorite prize), and the 9th Grzegorz Fitelberg International Conductor’s Competition in Katowice, Poland (where he won First Distinction and the Youth Jury Prize). Previous music directorships included the Chamber Orchestra of the University of Chicago as well as the Akademisches Sinfonie-Orchester of Vienna, Austria.

Born in Philadelphia to Ukrainian parents, Andrew began his musical studies on the violin at the age of five. He is a graduate of Yale College, where he completed a B.A. in Music and German Studies (graduating with honors and distinction in both majors). During his time there, he served as assistant conductor of the Yale Symphony Orchestra and won the Seldin Memorial Prize in Music. He holds a certificate in conducting from the Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Vienna, where he studied for two years as a Fulbright scholar, as well as a Masters degree from Northwestern University. His principal teachers have been Victor Yampolsky and Leopold Hager; he has additionally worked with David Zinman, Jorma Panula, Neeme Järvi, and Marin Alsop, among others.

“I have been very proud of Andrew’s artistic work both on campus and in the community. Andrew inspires high quality of music-making, generates great enthusiasm with his programming and presents repertoire that is both challenging and rewarding for the players. I believe he builds an important bridge between the college and the greater Kalamazoo community.” – Jorge Gonzalez, President, Kalamazoo College

The Community Medal of Arts award recognizes an individual for their significant creative contributions and leadership in the arts. This lifetime achievement award also highlights an artist who has received acclaim on a local or national level and who has made a tremendous impact on our community through art. This award encompasses all art forms, including but not limited to visual, musical, theatrical, literary, performing, multi-media, architecture or design.

 

Sandra Bremer

Sandra Bremer has a career that has spanned over 40 years as an accomplished actress, choreographer, and director. A native of Portage, Mich., Sandra got her start in community theatre in Kalamazoo before going on four different national tours – Bob Fosse’s Sweet Charity, The Pajama Game, The Pirates of Penzance, and Tintypes. She later spent almost 15 years as a resident company member of the renowned Derby Dinner Playhouse in Louisville, Ky. Sandra returned to Kalamazoo in 2010 has continued to direct and choreograph for the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre and Farmers Alley Theatre and has also been involved with the Civic Youth Theatre and their summer theatre program. Sandra also coaches and teaches for the Academy of Theatre Arts.

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Sandra has directed the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre productions of Hands on a Hardbody, Stepping Out, My Fair Lady, The Sunshine Boys with Jim Carver, Art Nemitz, and Ben Zylman, Annie Get Your Gun, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, and All Shook Up. She is actively involved with the Civic Youth Theatre, having directed Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Crown Jewel, Nancy Drew: Girl Detective, and The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley. Most recently, Sandra directed Shakespeare’s The Tempest for their summer youth program. 

Sandra is a Theatre Teaching Artist for Education for the Arts, working in the Aesthetic Education program, the PACE program, and the Alternative Arts Initiative program. This past year Sandra wrote a Multi-Sensory theatre experience called The Snowflake Man which was produced by EFA’s Alternative Arts Initiative. This successful production was warmly received by both students on the autism spectrum and students with other developmental challenges.

Sandra has said repeatedly, “Artists have to grow beyond themselves and give back to the community.”

The Community Medal of Arts award recognizes an individual for their significant creative contributions and leadership in the arts. This lifetime achievement award also highlights an artist who has received acclaim on a local or national level and who has made a tremendous impact on our community through art. This award encompasses all art forms, including but not limited to visual, musical, theatrical, literary, performing, multi-media, architecture or design.

 

Dr. Thomas G. Evans

Dr. Thomas G. Evans is the Director of Bands and Professor of Music at Kalamazoo College where he conducts and oversees all aspects of the band program including the Symphonic Band, Jazz Band, and Pep Band. In addition to conducting, he teaches courses in Music History, Music Education, Jazz, Trombone and Euphonium. Dr. Evans is known for his innovative programming as well as his collaborations with numerous local and international artists.

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Tom joined the faculty of Kalamazoo College in 1995 having held a similar position for eight years at Alfred University in Alfred, New York. His jazz bands have toured internationally (Russia, Estonia, Finland, and Tunisia) as well as nationally (Chicago, Washington, D.C., Cincinnati, and Detroit). In 2004 and 2013, Tom took a 7-piece jazz combo from Kalamazoo College to Numazu, Japan. This week-long concert tour celebrated the 40th anniversary of the sister city relationship between Kalamazoo and Numazu. Prior to teaching in higher education, Tom taught for six years in the New York State public schools where his high school bands and orchestras achieved the highest ratings at state festivals.

He became the conductor of the Kalamazoo Concert Band in 2002, a widely-regarded community band of nearly 100 musicians. At Kalamazoo College his lecture topics include Jazz Explorations.

Tom holds a Doctorate of Music Arts in Trombone Performance from the University of Michigan, a Master of Music degree in Music Education and Trombone Performance from Boston University, and a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the State University of New York at Fredonia. Tom has performed on the trombone, bass trombone, euphonium, and bass trumpet with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, the Battle Creek Symphony Orchestra, the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra, the Lansing Symphony Orchestra, and the Bach Festival Orchestra. Recently Tom appeared as a trombone soloist with the Kalamazoo Concert Band. In addition to performing as a freelance trombonist, Tom is a frequent clinician, guest conductor, and adjudicator. Tom has also written for The Instrumentalist.

“Tom Evans has promoted the love and beauty of sharing music with all facets of life and spread it around the globe.” – Barbara Blissett, Kalamazoo-Numazu Sister City Committee

The Community Medal of Arts award recognizes an individual for their significant creative contributions and leadership in the arts. This lifetime achievement award also highlights an artist who has received acclaim on a local or national level and who has made a tremendous impact on our community through art. This award encompasses all art forms, including but not limited to visual, musical, theatrical, literary, performing, multi-media, architecture or design.

 


Adam F. Carter Young Artist Award

Shelby Alexander

Shelby Alexander has been an active member of the Kalamazoo Civic Youth theatre for several years as both an actor and technician including having stage managed several shows. She was the first youth playwright for the 10th annual TK New Playfest and was a semifinalist for the Young Playwright’s Festival hosted by Blank Space Theatre. An avid writer, Shelby has participated in a variety of workshops and lessons at Michigan State, Harvard, Carnegie Melon, and Crawlspace Eviction Improv Comedy group.  

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Currently a senior at Comstock High School and the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center, Alexander plans on attending college to study both computer science and theatre arts. She is passionate about creating new technologies that brings theatre directly into homes in formats other than streaming services.

“As she stated to me, theatre can happen anytime, anywhere, but the idea/practice is usually unseen. Being from a smaller school that does not have a large theatre department or arts department a scholarship will help Shelby secure her dreams of creating more art in college as well as help her with her future dreams in the work world.” – Michael Artis, Kalamazoo Civic Theatre.

The Adam F. Carter Young Artist Award recognizes and encourages the next generation of artists in our community. It is named after a young artist whose life was cut short but whose impact on the arts community in Kalamazoo transcended age. This recipient should be a rising high school junior or senior, or a college freshman, who has made an impact on their artistic field of study as well as in our community. The recipient of this award will receive a monetary scholarship to be used to further their artistic study. The scholarship is generously underwritten by the Mary and Brooks Godfrey Family.

 


Business Arts Award

Fortitude Graphics Design

Fortitude Graphics Design From imagination to reality–that is the motivation behind Fortitude Graphic Design & Printing founder Sean Hollins. This theme has been the focus of his creative contributions to the arts for more than 25 years. His work with local printers has allowed him to use his skills as an artist to bring unique graphic design services to their companies. Sean has designed award-winning logos and websites for credit unions, small businesses, churches, athletes, and politicians. Sean’s true passion is working with wordsmiths, helping dozens of local authors create books and covers that are the culmination of the author’s hard work.

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While there are many author/artists Sean has worked with over the years to produce one-of-a-kind covers, the story of one 85-year-old artist stands out. Mother Stella Davis is a typical church mother in Kalamazoo. She was known throughout the country for her presentations on Shut Mouth Grace (the art of silence). One of her church members shared a book Sean had helped create and she came to him to see how he could help her put her message into a book. After discussing the message and audience, she was excited at the cover possibilities, however, she wanted to be on the cover. Sean discussed the importance of marketing and selling her book to those outside her family and church. He shared how he had the perfect image for the cover. When she saw a simple cover with a woman smiling, she knew that was a perfect way to share her message. Mother Davis has since sold more than 4,000 copies of her book as she travels sharing the message of Shut Mouth Grace.

“Because of Sean’s eye for art, his patience to work with clients, and his passion to continue to use the latest graphic design software and techniques, I nominate him for helping make the dreams of author artists come true.” – Merze Tate Explorers

The Business Arts Award is presented to honor businesses in Kalamazoo County for their leadership commitment and vision in developing exemplary alliances with the arts and arts organizations. The award recognizes a business for creating outstanding initiatives with the arts and arts organization, furthering the educational development of youth, enhancing the economic vitality of the community and enriching the quality of life in our community.

 


Patron Award

Joy and Tim Light

Joy and Tim Light – This year marks the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Joy Light Gallery of Asian Art at the Kalamazoo Institute of Art (KIA). It was the Lights’ vision and passion to provide the community with the opportunity to create a dedicated space for displaying the arts of East Asia.

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Their generosity extends beyond the creation of a gallery to include funding for exhibitions, and acquisitions fund to purchase works that epitomize the best of East Asian art. Throughout the years, their philanthropy and voice has allowed the KIA to offer our community, the region, and visitors from beyond Michigan a more enriching understanding of the history of art and cultures beyond the western world. Their vision has provided an environment that showcases exhibitions and works that offer a space for social commentary and reflects both tradition and change.

Joy and Tim have greatly enriched our community and shown a dedication to its diverse population by making it a priority to bring to those greatly interested in other cultures, beyond the American experience. They have consistently shown their dedication by attending events and sharing the vision of the arts for everyone. They attend small to large exhibitions, openings, art fairs, Art Hops, and more to continue to share the enjoyment of the arts.

“Joy and Tim Light are a shining example of stewardship and dedication to the arts and the community in which they live.” – Kimberly Earnshaw, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts

The Patron Award acknowledges an individual or couple who have significantly contributed to the arts as patrons. Through their patronage, they have made a sustained and/or transformational impact in this community through their support of the arts.

 


Epic Award

Crescendo Academy of Music

Crescendo Academy of Music, now over 30 years old, has evolved from a violin program to an educational and musical mainstay of our community. The academy provides opportunities for performances in a variety of local venues, lessons in music theory and composition, chamber ensembles, Mando for Kids, and Music Together®, a nationally recognized early childhood music program.

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As music education becomes less available CAM strives to make music accessible to all through need-based scholarships and an instrument loan program. CAM is committed to creating a supportive environment for all levels, through program growth, reaching underserved populations (income, race, age, ability), improving quality of life for program participants, fostering a lifelong love of music, and successful public performances for students taking private lessons, as well as participants in classes and ensembles.

“CAM is firmly dedicated to being a welcoming, inclusive and positive place where students of all ages can experience the joy of music making. The administrators and instructors go out of their way to ensure a tension-free setting and a community ethos. This is an institution that does a world of good for Kalamazoo.” – Elizabeth Youker, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra

The Epic Award recognizes a nonprofit organization or program that is of high artistic quality and serves to enhance the life in our community through the arts. The award pays special attention to both long-standing programs and organizations that have played a consistent role in the community and new organizations and programs that meet a previously unmet community need or focus area.

 


Gayle Hoogstraten Arts Leadership Award

Educator – Michelle Stempien

Michelle Stempien – The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts’ (KIA) director of museum education, Stempien has built a docent corps for the KIA that has reached groups from preschool to senior citizens and is responsible for bringing in thousands of children and adults to enjoy the exhibits at the KIA.

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Michelle also expanded the High School Area Show that has awarded a half million dollars in scholarships over the past few years, as well as the Young Artists show for K-8 grade students which would have an opening day of up to 3,000 attendees. Michelle has developed a variety of programming and workshops, including Unreeled, “Art Break,” and “Art Detective,” and has worked with groups such as Kalamazoo Public Schools, law enforcement agencies, the Homer Stryker Medical School, and individuals with memory and vision loss.

The KIA has a number of residents each year and Michelle makes sure that she helps to mentor each one on how art and education are related.

“In July 2019 the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts was granted accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). However, this process was started four years earlier with the submission of our lengthy application including documentation of “best practices” for the entre institution. I had the opportunity to work with Michelle during this process as President of the KIA Board of Directors and her participation was instrumental in our subsequent success. I cannot imagine a more worthy individual to receive the Gayle Hoogstraten Leadership Award than Michelle Stempien.” – James W. Carter, MD President of the Board of Directors of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, 2014-2016

The Gayle Hoogstraten Arts Leadership Award recognizes leaders in our community in two categories: Arts Education and Arts Administration. This award is named after the first full-time Executive Director of the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo. The recipients will have a proven track record of their strong impact on the community and in their participation in the arts — far beyond his/her job description. The recipients will also have established positive and productive relationships in the community outside of his/her institution.

 

Educator – Sonya Bernard-Hollins

Sonya Bernard-Hollins took her love of travel and writing to create a unique learning experience for girls through the Merze Tate Travel Club in 2008. Today, the organization is an official nonprofit, the Merze Tate Explorers, providing girls the experiences of travel and career exploration.

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Over the years, the group has visited Canada, Paris, France, Versailles, Venice, Florence, Rome, and Hawaii. Individually, students have traveled the world through study abroad and with families. The name of the program pays homage to Merze Tate (1905-96) a teacher and world explorer who learned five languages and worked as a writer and photographer for the U.S. State Department. She was the first African-American to graduate from Oxford University in England in 1935 and was a 1927 graduate of Western Michigan University.

A native of Kalamazoo, Sonya developed a passion to share the stories of others as a journalist. For more than 20 years she has worked as a professional journalist at daily and weekly newspapers as well as served as a freelance writer for local, state and national magazines such as Black Enterprise. She has earned awards for her writing by the Michigan Press Association, Associated Press of Michigan and others.

Sonya admits she didn’t have a complete plan when she decided to start the Merze Tate Explorers but says there has been a consistent philosophy behind its success.

“We eliminate all excuses not to dream big.”

The Gayle Hoogstraten Arts Leadership Award recognizes leaders in our community in two categories: Arts Education and Arts Administration. This award is named after the first full-time Executive Director of the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo. The recipients will have a proven track record of their strong impact on the community and in their participation in the arts — far beyond his/her job description. The recipients will also have established positive and productive relationships in the community outside of his/her institution.

 

Administrator – Kama Mitchell

Kama Mitchell – is a healer, mama, yogi, doula and dancer. As a birth doula and postpartum doula she has spent most of her life claiming and sharing body awareness. She co-founded and is co-executive director of the nonprofit Rootead, which supports women of color, especially mothers.

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Rootead Enrichment Center offers healing arts and birthwork programs that are diverse, inclusive, anti-racist, and trauma informed. In order to be equitable, all services offered through the Enrichment Center are available at low-to-no cost. Rootead takes a whole person approach to programming and weaves aspects such as social, emotional, and psychological wellness into each program. This creative process empowers the individual and enhances relationships between participants that promote healing, coping and personal change.

A practitioner and teacher of Para Yoga, Kama has also had numerous trainings with many master dance teachers of the African Diaspora. She encourages women to own their bodies and their birth experience. Kama is a strong activist in birth justice, racial equality and mental health awareness.

The Gayle Hoogstraten Arts Leadership Award recognizes leaders in our community in two categories: Arts Education and Arts Administration. This award is named after the first full-time Executive Director of the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo. The recipients will have a proven track record of their strong impact on the community and in their participation in the arts — far beyond his/her job description. The recipients will also have established positive and productive relationships in the community outside of his/her institution.

The ACGK office is closed until Dec. 11. Our staff is working remotely and available Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. Please feel free to reach us at: 269-342-5059 or info@kalamazooarts.org

Thank you for your generous support of our programs.