Photos by Asia Morris. Photo of the Arts Awards 2016 winners, flanked by Arts Council for Long Beach leadership.
“It’s especially great to see so many people that make our city so awesome all in one room celebrating the arts and really celebrating what making a great city is all about, which is having an international, well respected community that has a vibrant arts scene,” said Mayor Robert Garcia during the Arts Council for Long Beach’s 2016 State of the Arts event earlier this morning.
Held at Liberty Art Gallery, the event also commemorated the organization’s 40th Anniversary in partnership with Mayor Robert Garcia’s Office.
Executive Director of the Arts Council for Long Beach Griselda Suarez and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia.
During his speech, Garcia announced that the Percent for the Art Program he’d discussed for the first time at last year’s event will likely be brought in front of the city council “for study and a vote for implementation” by November or early December. He urged the community to come out once the date and agenda item are announced to “officially support a permanent, dedicated one percent for the arts.”
Executive Director Griselda Suarez also announced new programs, such as the Cambodia Town Mural Project which will add nine murals along Anaheim Street, created by local artists, by next spring, as well as acknowledged several partnerships including the Creative Long Beach college internship program and arts education programs implemented in public schools, impacting thousands of students with positivity bred by the arts.
Long Beach gypsy jazz band Hedgehog Swing set the tone before the program.
Tasha Hunter then took the podium, and the helm, as the new incoming president of the Board of Directors, set to take the place of outgoing president Marco Schindelmann, to announce the highly anticipated honors and awards.
Before the five winners of the 2016 Arts Awards were announced, a new award was introduced. The Incite/Insight award was given to three members of the arts community, creative writer Elizabeth Gonzalez, Dr. Daniel Walker of the Long Beach International Film Festival and Prumsodun Ok for his work in promoting the art of Cambodian dance. The award honors those shining a light “on multifaceted arts and varied perspectives of culture in Long Beach,” according to the description.
Incite/Insight award winners.
Arts Council Board Members Renee Simon and Barbara Blackwell were both honored as Distinguished Board Members. Simon, for her decades of volunteerism and dedication to the arts in Long Beach and Blackwell, who is terming out, for her exceptional service.
The James H. Ackerman Philanthropist award went to Mike Wylie, whose family’s organization Park Pacific Tower, provides housing for seniors while offering art classes and other engaging activities for its tenants. Wylie is also co-founder of the Cultural Alliance of Long Beach, has commissioned murals and sponsored festivals throughout the city.
X. Francois Hussenet was honored with the Arts Volunteer award for his years of generosity leading free watercolor classes at The Center for people of all ages and walks of life. His work has created positive ripples within and beyond the LGBTQ community.
The Arts Educator award went to Cherilyn Walker for her two years of outstanding work developing Washington Middle School’s performing arts program, motivating her students to give back to their community, while remaining undeterred by the neighborhood’s challenges.
The Arts Innovator award was given to Long Beach Museum of Art Executive Director Ron Nelson for his vision of going against the grain to organize record-breaking exhibitions, including the two most recent Vitality & Verve shows, which opened alongside the weeks of POW! WOW! Long Beach.
Last, but not least, Kerstin Kansteiner, owner of Portfolio Coffeehouse and Berlin Bistro, both located on Fourth Street, was honored with the Economic Development Arts Trailblazer award. The entrepreneur and arts advocate originally opened Portfolio as a gallery, adding coffee as a secondary service in an effort to entice more people to view the work on the walls.
Suarez described 2016 as a year of collaboration.
"Artists, community partners and civic leaders have come together to use art as a tool for empowerment, pride and transformation," said Suarez. "Neighborhoods are creating more creative spaces; we have art and music in public places and of course our walls have some of the most distinctive murals around."