Congratulations to our 2023 Community Arts Award recipients! Please join us at community celebration to honor this year’s award recipients. An RSVP link can be found below.
Since 1985, the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo has honored local artists, arts organizations, and supporters through the Community Arts Awards. For a list of previous CAA winners, please click here (PDF).
The 2023 Community Arts Award Ceremony will take place on Tuesday, December 5, 2023 at the Gull Lake Center for the Fine Arts. The event is free to attend, but RSVPs are appreciated.
Community Medal of Arts Awards
Carolyn Koebel holds degrees of distinction in percussion and music therapy from Western Michigan University and Michigan State University. Since 2001, Carolyn has worked to establish long-term music therapy programs at the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home and Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan, while serving as a music therapist in this community for over 20 years. She worked extensively in silent film and dance accompaniment with the art ensemble, Blue Dahlia; brought community drum and dance to life with her collaborators in Dunuya; is noted for her work with Celtic-world music ensembles Fonn Mor & An Dro; the Dacia Bridges Project; the MRC Drummers; and currently directs the international percussion program at Kalamazoo College where she teaches Japanese taiko drumming and performs with Michigan Hiryu Daiko.
She serves as adjunct music therapy professor of world percussion and clinical guitar at Western Michigan University and St. Mary-of-the-Woods College. She has become an in-demand accompanist, educator, performer, and community rhythm circle facilitator across broad genres and settings. She has toured and taught internationally with Grammy-award winner Rhonda Larson and Ventus, including multiple tours in China since 2012. She currently works with Ugandan multi-instrumentalist Samuel Nalangira, the Arabic music-based Bahar Ensemble, Great Lakes Brass, the Nathan Moore Affair, organist Rhonda Sider-Edgington, Grace Theisen, as well as numerous other collaborators. She has released more than 30 recordings to date and is always up for new collaborations.
Frank Meint’s experience in glassblowing started in 1972 when he apprenticed under Bill DeWolf at the Upjohn Company Research Division, making and repairing laboratory glassware. He liked the challenge of working with a torch to help scientists make new designs for research and also making awards for company events. In his time there, he received the Upjohn Award. After early retirement, he opened his own glassblowing business in the Park Trades building. Joining others working with glass in the building, we started the West Michigan Glass Art Society under the leadership of Judy Konesni in the year 2000. Today, we know it as Glass Art Kalamazoo.
As the West Michigan Glass Art Society, they started teaching various glass art classes to the public and many groups of students from schools in the area. Frank’s expertise was in teaching lampworking (torchworking) and sandblasting. In 45 minutes, the student learned how to use a gas/oxygen torch and glass rod to make an art piece, often a pendant. They brought in nationally known experts in glass art to sharpen their skills and expand the instructor base. Even now, Frank is still always learning about glass. He says, “There are thousands of formulas for glass to meet the various uses. In art glass, this is very true in getting the right colors and expansion rates. As I approach being older, it is great to see others get hooked on making glass art.”
Denise L. Miller
Denise Miller (they/she) is a poet, playwright, and mixed media artist whose poetry has been published in the Offing, African American Review, and Blackberry: A Magazine. They were named the 2015 Willow Books Emerging Poet, an AROHO Waves Discussion Fellowship awardee, a finalist for the Barbara Deming Money for Women Fund, and a Hedgebrook Fellow. Their book publications include Core, released by Willow Books in 2015 and nominated for a 2016 American Book Award and a 2016 Pushcart Prize, their chapbook, Ligatures was published in 2016 by Rattle Press, and most recently, they won the 2020 Sexton Prize for Poetry for their full-length poetry collection, A Ligature for Black
Their chapbook How to Make an American Mass Shooter is forthcoming through QuerenciaPress. Their produced plays include Ligatures (adapted for the stage) and Before the Shooting. Denise’ fellowships and residencies include a 2012 Hedgebrook Residency, 2016 William Randolph Hearst Fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society, a 2020 Storyknife Residency, a 2022 Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing Fellowship, a 2023 Willapa Bay Artist in Residence, a 2023 Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts Fellow, a 2023 Bethany Arts Community Fellow, and a 2023 Renaissance House Fellow.
Adam F. Carter Young Artist Award
Isaac is a senior at Kalamazoo Central High School. He discovered his love of theater at a young age through the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre’s Academy of Theatre Arts. While he has performed in several community and school productions, his true passion is backstage. He has been on the crew of several productions at Center Stage Theatre and many at the Civic, including as an assistant stage manager (ASM) and stage manager (SM). His first experience as a stage manager was the Civic Youth Theatre’s production of as an ASM. His first role as an SM was the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre’s production of Frozen Jr, which unfortunately closed after final dress rehearsal in March 2020 due to the pandemic. He is currently stage managing the Civic’s large-scale, multi-generational holiday mainstage production of The Sound of Music.
As a senior at Kalamazoo Central High School, he is in the Hawthorne Singers and was the stage manager of the school musical Once On This Island. After high school, Isaac plans to study stage management in college and pursue a career in theatre.
Braeden, a senior at Loy Norrix High School, plans to pursue a college degree in musical theatre beginning next year. He is currently starring as Curly in Norrix’s production of Oklahoma, and previously played Emmett Forrest in Legally Blonde and Shakespeare in Something Rotten at his school. Throughout his high school career, he captained and coached his school’s speech team, spending countless hours helping his teammates practice and continually improve their pieces. Alongside that, he served as assistant director and performed in Norrix’s production of Almost Maine, helping create blocking and characterization for the performers.
You also may have seen him perform at the Kalamazoo Civic, Center Stage Theater, and the Barn Theatre, in shows such as Newsies, Beauty and the Beast, and Disaster. His hobbies include listening to music, building computers, and playing with his dog, Hobbes. He would like to thank his parents, Julie and Asa, his brothers, Reed and Oscar, his best friend, Mae, and the many mentors who have guided him along the way, including Dan Lafferty, Corlyn Longer-Schreck, Denene Mulay Koch, and Ken Holda.
Jaykwon Noble is a senior at Loy Norrix High School. He is principal violist of the Kalamazoo Junior Symphony Orchestra, where he is also a member of the KJSO String Quartet. He traveled with the KJSO on tour throughout Spain in the summer of 2022. Jaykwon’s private teachers have included violist Jenna Love since 2019, and KSO Artist in Residence Nicholas Jeffrey since 2022, with occasional sessions with Igor Fedotov at WMU. Jaykwon was selected by competitive audition to join the 2023 Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) National Festival. He traveled to LA for 10 days of study with outstanding young musicians from across the country and performed under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel.
Formerly a member of Kalamazoo Kids in Tune, Jaykwon now serves on staff as a Program Assistant, providing mentorship to elementary musicians. As a composer, Jaykwon had his fully orchestrated work performed by the Kalamazoo Kids In Tune orchestra in 2022. Jaykwon also plays saxophone in the Loy Norrix Band and is captain of the Loy Norrix color guard team. In the off-season, he performs with the Allegan County Ensemble, a competitive winter guard team. In his spare time, he plays guitar, writes his own songs, and is always on the lookout for a new instrument to pick up. Jaykwon performed a solo recital in September and is currently preparing college audition recordings. He plans to major in viola performance.
Theodore C. Cooper Award for Distinguished Volunteer Service
Linda Dickey is a retired speech-language pathologist who has been volunteering in Kalamazoo for decades. She first experienced Kalamazoo as a music therapy major at Western Michigan University. At the time, student season tickets to Miller Auditorium were $18 for six shows and the hook of seeing live theatre was set. She began volunteering first at Miller Auditorium and then at the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre helping with whatever tasks were needed. Linda is also an active flutist in the Kalamazoo Concert Band, the KVCC Community Band, and the Academy Street Winds. Born and raised in Detroit, first Plainwell and now Kalamazoo have been home for over 55 years.
Outside of her arts volunteering, she volunteers at the Kalamazoo Nature Center and also at Timber Ridge with a program for special skiers. She is an avid fan of WMU and all Detroit sports teams. Linda and her husband, John, enjoy traveling and making music together.
Kalamazoo Academy of Rock
The Kalamazoo Academy of Rock (KAR) was founded in 2009 when Jeff Mitchell decided to guide several young student musicians through the process of learning how to play live music together as a band. Today, KAR continues to teach musicianship and live performance skills, as well as providing access to instruments; to rehearsal time and space; and to seasoned band directors and teachers. KAR’s end-of-session performances at local Kalamazoo venues like the State Theater, Bell’s, and Final Gravity always spotlight not only the skills of young musicians and their continuing love for many genres of popular music, but also their ability to persevere, to work together, to overcome their fears, and to respect one another as diverse individuals.
Wellspring/Cori Terry & Dancers
Celebrating its 40th year in 2021, Wellspring/Cori Terry & Dancers, hails from a distinct lineage of pioneer modern dance companies. In the early years of her career, Wellspring’s founder, Cori Terry, studied and performed across the world with the Erick Hawkins Dance Company. This experience and the training she received firmly established her among an elite group of nationally acclaimed professional dancers. With the vision of one day starting her own company, Ms. Terry left the Hawkins company to serve as an artist in residence at Western Michigan University. A year later, in 1981, Wellspring/Cori Terry & Dancers was established and has since introduced thousands to the art of dance, enriched the Kalamazoo Arts community through collaborations with other professional artists and has become a platform for advancing postmodern dance choreography.
Gayle Hoogstraten Arts Leadership Award – Administrative Educator
Michelle S. Johnson, PhD
Michelle S. Johnson, Ph.D. has executed extensive work on securing and promoting spaces where socially marginalized people express their autonomous and authentic selves. As co-founder and former executive director of Fire Historical and Cultural Arts Collaborative, a cultural venue in Kalamazoo, and founder of Playgrown, Johnson has facilitated and participated in interdisciplinary culture-centered development and experiences. Co-founder of The Institute of Public Scholarship, Johnson engages Space, Place, and Insistence on the ground in the fields of Black History, Environmental Culture Oral Testimony, Literature, and Cultural Production.
An alumnus of Michigan State University and University of Michigan, Johnson taught Liberal Studies, African American Studies, American Thought and Culture, History and English at Michigan and Wisconsin universities. Johnson’s creative collaborations with poets, musicians, playwrights, and interview subjects include, Community Spaces of the Industrious: The Oral Histories of African Americans and Latino/as in Saginaw; Collecting Ourselves: Three Movements of Blackness; Dreamin’, her first in a comedy series produced by Face Off Theatre, Creative Stands for Justice: Black Refractions in Southwest Michigan and What the Lady Bears Were Doing: Women, Music and the 1950’s.
Elizabeth (Liz) Youker is the Director of Education and Community Engagement for the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, the third-largest orchestra in the state of Michigan. She joined the staff of the KSO in 2003 as Education Assistant and was named Director in 2007.
In her 20-year tenure, Liz has focused on reducing barriers and increasing access to arts learning. She oversees a wide variety of initiatives ranging from KSO’s signature Youth Concerts and family programming to large-scale community partnerships. Ms. Youker led the development of Kalamazoo Kids in Tune, an El Sistema-inspired afterschool program that launched in 2011, and Orchestra Rouh in 2017, an ensemble serving children of recently resettled refugee families. She facilitated the formation of KSO’s Marvelous Music preschool partnership, launched in 2010, which supports kindergarten readiness through music. Liz participated in Kalamazoo’s TRHT (Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation) visioning process and served on the Narrative Change-Arts design team. She co-leads the development of opportunities for staff, musicians, and board members to engage in learning around institutional anti-racism, identity, and inclusiveness. She has served on the boards of Crescendo Academy of Music and the Suzuki Academy of Kalamazoo. She is a member of the national Education and Community Engagement leadership committee of the League of American Orchestras.
Liz earned degrees in cello performance from the University of Kansas with Edward Laut (BM) and the University of Akron with Michael Haber (MM), both Janos Starker proteges. She holds an MFA in Performing Arts Administration from Western Michigan University. She is the cellist of the Bahar Ensemble, which specializes in Middle Eastern music, and regularly performs chamber music with the Arcadia Consort and other community ensembles. She and her husband Brandon Youker are the proud parents of three children.