The Oklahoma Arts Council has announced the names of 14 individuals and three organizations that will be honored for their contributions to the arts during the 44th Oklahoma Governor’s Arts Awards on Tuesday, November 9, 2021.
The awards will be presented by Governor J. Kevin Stitt during a special ceremony beginning at 4:00 p.m. in the fourth floor rotunda at the Oklahoma State Capitol. A reception will follow in the second floor rotunda. The event is free and open to the public.
“The efforts of our Governor’s Arts Awards honorees are why the arts continue to inspire hope and resilience for Oklahomans during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples said. “Their commitments reflect the investment necessary to ensure the arts endure to meet important needs in our state. We look forward to celebrating their steadfast devotion to their communities through their efforts in the arts.”
Recipients are selected from submitted nominations by the Governor’s Arts Awards Selection Committee, comprised of members of the Governor-appointed Oklahoma Arts Council board.
The Governor’s Award recognizes longtime leadership and significant contributions to the arts. The honoree is:
Barbara Smith (Miami)
The Business in the Arts Award recognizes individuals, businesses and corporations that exhibit outstanding support of the arts in Oklahoma. The honoree is:
Ambler Architects (Bartlesville)
The Arts in Education Award recognizes an individual, organization, school, educator, or group for their outstanding leadership and service in the arts benefiting youth and/or arts in education. Honorees are:
Ashley Wells (The Village)
Bring Back the Music (Spencer)
Hui Cha Poos (Edmond)
Randy Tinker Smith and Jenna Smith LaViolette (Pawhuska)
The Community Service Award recognizes significant contributions to the arts in specific Oklahoma communities in the areas of leadership and volunteerism. Honorees are:
Alberto Rivas (Lawton)
David Hornbeek (Edmond)
Dian Jordan (Broken Bow)
Donald Moore (Okemah)
Red Dirt Relief Fund (Tulsa)
Wallace Owens (Guthrie)
The Media in the Arts Award recognizes members of the media who demonstrate commitment to the arts in Oklahoma documented through public awareness support and fairness, initiative, creativity, and professionalism in reporting. The honoree is:
Dennis Spielman (Norman)
The George Nigh Public Service in the Arts Award recognizes Oklahoma government officials for their outstanding support of the arts. Honorees are:
Dr. Bob Blackburn (Oklahoma City)
Lonnie Yearwood (Colony)
A Special Recognition Award recognizes an individual or organization that has made unique contributions in support of the arts. The honoree is:
Harvey Pratt (Guthrie)
About the Oklahoma Arts Council
The Oklahoma Arts Council is the official state agency for the support and development of the arts. The agency’s mission is to lead, cultivate, and amplify the transformative power of the arts for all Oklahomans and their communities. The Oklahoma Arts Council provides more than 425 grants to nearly 270 organizations in communities statewide each year, organizes professional development opportunities for the state’s arts and cultural industry, and manages the art collections at the Oklahoma state Capitol. Additional information is available at arts.ok.gov.
The Governor’s Award
Barbara Smith (Miami) – A longtime public-school drama and English teacher who inspired thousands of students during her career in education, Smith became executive director of the historic Coleman Theatre in Miami in 2004 and worked tirelessly to raise funds to restore the theater to its original glory.
Business in the Awards Award
Ambler Architects (Bartlesville) – Founded by Scott Ambler, Ambler Architects has designed numerous spaces of significance to arts and culture in the community, at times providing work as in-kind contributions. Their work has included renovation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famed Price Tower; Ambler Hall, a converted performance space for concerts; and, Tower Center at Unity Square, a community green space for music, art, and local events.
The Arts in Education Award
Ashley Wells (The Village) – Executive producer at Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma, for more than 10 years Wells has been an integral part of the creation and success of Lyric’s free interactive traveling school program, benefitting students across the state.
Bring Back the Music (Spencer) – A community-based comprehensive performing arts education program for underserved youth that has reached more than 850 students in the community of Spencer and in the Oklahoma City metro area.
Hui Cha Poos (Edmond) – Founder and director of RACE Dance Collective and dance professor at the University of Central Oklahoma, Poos has partnered with local arts organizations to expand opportunities for students through diverse and innovative dance programs.
Randy Tinker Smith and Jenna Smith LaViolette (Pawhuska) – Mother and daughter founders of Dance Maker Academy, which provides ballet instruction in rural northern Oklahoma in the tradition of world-renowned Osage ballerinas Maria and Marjorie Tallchief.
Community Service Award
Alberto Rivas (Lawton) – For more than 15 years, Rivas has devoted efforts to the arts in southwest Oklahoma, serving as a board member and volunteer for organizations and events benefiting the Lawton Philharmonic Orchestra, community theaters, festivals, arts education, and more.
David Hornbeek (Edmond) – Principal of Hornbeek Blatt Architects, Hornbeek spearheaded the creation of a nonprofit through which he volunteers his time to support and facilitate the presentation of internationally recognized performers at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Jazz Lab.
Dr. Dian Jordan (Broken Bow) – Researched and compiled materials to produce an art exhibition and publication on the life and legacy of internationally renowned artist Harold Stevenson. A native of southeast Oklahoma, Stevenson’s mentorship of Andy Warhol contributed to the famed artist’s success.
Donald Moore (Okemah) – A charter member and steadfast volunteer for the Woody Guthrie Coalition for more than 20 years, Moore was instrumental in working with local leaders to secure land and funding to sustain the Woody Guthrie Festival and to build a permanent stage for the annual event.
Red Dirt Relief Fund (Tulsa) – A nonprofit organization established in 2012 to provide a safety net of critical assistance to Oklahoma music industry professionals, Red Dirt Relief Fund has provided nearly $340,000 to more than 650 individuals since its inception, a role made more significant during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wallace Owens (Guthrie) – After a consequential career as a visual art professor at Langston University and Central State University (later the University of Central Oklahoma), Owens opened the Owens Arts Place Museum, the first fine arts space of its kind in Logan County, where in addition to providing the community with access to visual art shows, he offers opportunities for emerging and established artists to hone their careers.
Media in the Arts Award
Dennis Spielman (Norman) – Creator and producer of the online travel and interview series, “Uncovering Oklahoma,” among other video series featuring Oklahoma arts and culture, Spielman provided essential in-kind services to Norman arts organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling them to switch to virtual platforms for their fundraising events and other programs.
Public Service in the Arts Award
Bob Blackburn (Oklahoma City) – Throughout his long tenure as executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS), Blackburn frequently incorporated the arts to illustrate important stories defining our state. Among his efforts, Blackburn helped the state’s public art program find footing under OHS before the program was transferred to the Oklahoma Arts Council in 2015.
Lonnie Yearwood (Colony) – Elected in 2015 to the Colony City Council, which appointed him Mayor, Yearwood has worked with the community to create a cultural development plan, acquiring several buildings, and reactivating them as art spaces for exhibitions and more. As part of his vision for Colony to be an arts and cultural center in western Oklahoma, Mayor Yearwood has overseen mural projects and a recent sculpture installation.
Special Recognition Award
Harvey Pratt (Guthrie) – A noted career forensic artist, Pratt (Cheyenne and Arapaho) is also an award-winning Native American artist selected to create the National Native American Veterans Memorial on the grounds of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. Pratt’s memorial, “Warriors’ Circle of Honor,” opened in November 2020.