Tempe Arts Award in the Making

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The Tempe Arts and Culture Commission Awards Subcommittee gathered for their first meeting tonight, in order to discuss an arts award in the making that will celebrate local artistic excellence.

The City of Tempe has many local artists and art organizations that struggle to gain little, if any, recognition for their contributions to the creative community. Along with honoring these artists, the subcommittee had another goal in mind; to push the people of Tempe to notice local art and be aware of their surroundings. Anthony Johnson, a subcommittee commissioner, came up with the award idea several times at committee meetings and it took off from there, according to fellow commissioner, Deborah Bair.

As the meeting evolved, the group understood that some guidelines were going to be necessary in order for the award nomination process and the award itself to be successful. The subcommittee said they will be working fast within the next couple weeks to meet their October nominations start date goal, with the intention to have the awards presented in April of 2019.

The subcommittee agreed that along with commissioners being able to nominate, there will also be an open nomination process for the public. This way, peers, artists, educators, experts, and past winners will be able to nominate and have a voice during the process, according to the subcommittee. Anthony Johnson, a subcommittee commissioner, was under the impression that the process would rely heavily on the board and said, “I thought it was going to be something that the board came together to recognize artists that we had previously come into contact with.”

The combined public and commissioner nomination approach is more time consuming, but it yields a middle ground for nomination involvement. This type of nomination process was inspired by the City of Flagstaff’s Viola Award that Joy Higgins, another subcommittee commissioner, brought as an example. Unlike Flagstaff’s approach, the subcommittee decided that for this first year they want to start small and have it evolve as the award gains local appreciation.

This award will cover a broad range of arts demonstrations, such as paintings, drawings, musical talents, literature works, and dance expressions. Because of the immense field it covers, the commissioners will choose categories to award based on the types of nominations they receive. The commissioners will also have the power to choose the awardees.  Deborah Bair recognized that this could raise some eyebrows and said, “There is the perception that board members would select their friends.” Although many of the commissioners are familiar with members of the art community, none of them have family or close friends directly involved, which helps clear the air for possible biased allegations, according to the subcommittee members.

If all goes to plan, the subcommittee will be able to provide examples of potential nominations and award winners to the public, to assist them in the nomination process. The subcommittee mentioned that a dollar amount for winners has not yet been set, and that it may never be. At the end of the day, they simply want to give recognition to local artists, whether it takes the form of a certificate or prize.

Local students and citizens use art as an outlet to express themselves, experience culture, and have a sense of belonging, according to Brenda Abney, a Tempe Arts and Culture manager. In an interview she said, “I always try to provide opportunities for young people to be involved, because not everyone has the same kind of thought patterns and talents, and by exploring arts and culture they open themselves up to another world. And if they have a creative mind they can use it in a different way.”

Anthony Johnson said, “I like to paint walls, right? Nowhere in my community does anyone support it. My daughter shares the same interest. Let’s face it, we are a generation that does not encourage arts for our children.” With this award being put in place, students would have the opportunity to gain appreciation for their talents and be able to inspire others in the community that are searching for similar ways to channel their artistic abilities, not be frowned at for pursuing their fortes.

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