Every two years, members of the Akron area arts community gather to celebrate some of their finest with the Arts Alive! awards. This year represents another milestone as the Akron Area Arts Alliance marks its 20th anniversary of collaboration.
The organization began Oct. 22, 1991, as the brainchild of arts advocates Ann Amer Brennan and Mary Ann Jackson. It had 12 founding organizations but now boasts 49 groups as well as 150 individual members.
Today, AAAA will host its sixth awards celebration at the Stage Door at E.J. Thomas Hall. The event is sold out, but here are the artists, patrons, educators, volunteers and projects to be honored:
• Phyllis Jean “P.J.” Rogers will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. At age 74, she continues to develop new skills in printmaking. She began by teaching herself the aquatint process, developing her own techniques for making and polishing the copper plates as well as mixing her own intaglio inks from pigments. In the 1980s, she moved into electrostatic photo collages, and since 2001, she has become a Photoshop master and developed a new printing method — archival pigment inkjet monoprints.
• Mia Klinger, Outstanding Artist in Dance. “Miss Mia” has been artistic director of the Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet for 10 years, following her late mother, Nan. She also owns and operates the Klinger Excellence in Dance studio. With the youth ballet, she trains about 40 young company members in performance skills, etiquette and technique and works with a volunteer staff to present performances choreographed by nationally known professionals. Many of her former students now enjoy dance careers.
• Amy Barlowe Bodman, Outstanding Artist in Music. The violinist, who was assistant concertmaster of the Akron Symphony for 11 years, founded the Akron Baroque Orchestra in 2011. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from Juilliard and is a critically acclaimed solo and chamber music musician as well as a composer.
• James Slowiak, Outstanding Artist in Theatre. The University of Akron theater professor is founder and co-artistic director of New World Performance Laboratory, the avant-garde company founded in 1992 that performs internationally. He’s an expert on world theater innovator Jerzy Grotowski and he also helped initiate the Color Line Project in 2009, which earlier this year created a theatrical production about the history of race relations in Akron.
• Barbara Gillette, Outstanding Visual Artist. The pastel and monotype artist uses her work to express her concern for the disappearance of fields, farms, forests and meadows. The Medina County resident also is an active member of the Medina-Summit Land Conservancy. Her work, which contrasts nature with human development or technology, is exhibited at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Case Western Reserve University, Akron Public Library and Artists Archives of the Western Reserve.
• Josh Rzepka, Rising Young Star/Artist. The Firestone High School, Oberlin and Boston University graduate has a growing national reputation as a trumpeter with the release of a classical CD and two jazz CDs, including Into the Night released last month. His first jazz CD, Midwest Coast, received national radio airplay and made several jazz charts. The artist, 27, teaches, records and performs in Northeast Ohio.
• Benjamin Rexroad, Rising Young Star/Arts Leadership. As managing artistic director and co-founder of Akron’s Heads Up Productions, he uses the company as a catalyst for community improvement. He presents productions tackling social themes, and his company, founded in 2009, has raised donations for the Battered Women’s Shelter and First Grace Food Pantry. Rexroad is a student at the University of Akron.
• James Horvath, Volunteer Award. The retired FirstEnergy Corp. employee is in his 17th year as a Weathervane Community Playhouse volunteer. He has served as treasurer and board member, chair of the finance and building and grounds committees, project manager for the expansion in 2000-01, and co-chair of fundraising events. Weathervane Executive Director John Hedges said Horvath volunteers more than 50 hours weekly.
• Roe Green, Patron Award. The philanthropist and advocate for the arts most recently made a $6.5 million gift from her foundation for 70,000 square feet of space at Kent State University’s School of Theatre and Dance, which opened last fall. She also established a guest director series for the program. Green, who holds a master’s degree in theater from Kent, sits on advisory boards for the KSU Foundation, Kent State’s School of Theatre and Dance, and Porthouse.
• Tuesday Musical Association, Outreach Award. The organization’s ambitious efforts, led by Executive Director Barbara Feld, include free concert tickets for students and discounts for their parents, along with bus transportation. The organization brings artists such as Imani Winds and St. Lawrence String Quartet into schools for lecture-demonstrations, including Head Start preschool, grade schools and high schools, and the University of Akron. Tuesday Musical artists also perform at Summa Hospitals’ HealingArts program.
• PNC Bank of Akron, Business Award. Its proposal led to the development of Grow Up Great in Akron, an 18-month collaboration among the Akron Art Museum, Tuesday Musical and the Illusion Factory. It provides Head Start preschoolers with arts experiences to foster development, critical thinking skills, visual literacy and self-esteem. PNC Bank funded the program and its employees volunteered at family experiences at the Akron Art Museum. Nearly 800 preschool students completed the first year of the program.
• Patty Wyman, Arts Educator Award. She has taught visual arts for 27 years at Old Trail School in Bath, and believes visual arts education develops creative problem-solvers as well as empathy and respect for others. She is co-chair of the Art Department and coordinates the permanent student art collection.
• County of Summit 9/11 Remembrance Art Project, Collaboration Award. Established in 2002, the project has helped people process their grief over the 9/11 events through creativity. An estimated 4,000 people have worked on commemorative public artworks. County Executive Russell Pry’s office works with government employees, businesses, citizens, civic groups, organizations and schools on the projects, all nine of which are displayed at the Room at Church and Main, 175 S. Main St., Akron.
Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.