Last spring Arts In Wilmington founder Craig Stinson launched a call for nominations to highlight top creative people who help elevate Wilmington as a thriving arts community. He asked for citizens to suggest winners in a multitude of categories, including arts in education, individual, organization, and individual artist. After culling a panel of diverse judges outside of Wilmington—artists, arts professionals, educators, members of the business community, government, and others—the first Arts In Wilmington Awards officially became reality. This Saturday, January 28, Stinson’s organization will honor the awards winners from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the ArtWorks (200 Willard St.).
“I received permission to model the AIW Awards on [SC’s Elizabeth O’Neill] Verner Awards,” Stinson tells encore. “They’ve been doing it since the mid-1970s, so I saw no way I could improve on it or create something better.”
Stinson received 10 applications in 2016. His review panel was asked to consider guidelines, such as what makes a nominee superior or extraordinary, how he or she has demonstrated leadership in the arts, and any achievements or contributions made and their impact. Winners for 2017 include ceramics artist Hiroshi Sueyoshi in the individual artist category. Sueyoshi has long been a staple in the Wilmington arts community, thanks to the enormity of work he has had in numerous exhibits, not to mention his indelible teachings at the Cameron Art Museum.
“Hiroshi has a distinct take on North Carolina and Japanese folk pottery traditions,” Stinson says. “He stood out to the review panel for his work [and] ability to help others—for example through teaching and establishing the Coastal Carolina Clay Guild.”
Gabriel Lovejoy will take home the arts in education award, thanks to his leadership as an arts teacher at Coastal Christian High School. “He takes students on a trip every year to a cultural institution outside of Wilmington where they get to see work of other artists, and talk with curators about how the business and staging part works,” Stinson explains. “He has led a lot of kids who initially see art as just something fun to a viable career option.”
DREAMS of Wilmington is the honoree organization. The nonprofit helps at-risk youth access the arts across all platforms, from music to painting, jewelry design to dance, even communications and media. “They pay instructors a fair wage and place an emphasis on the benefits of hard work merged with creativity,” Stinson says.
Jim and Betsy Knowles are the individual awards winners. The category highlights advocates, volunteers, and other nonartist people. The Knowles opened the ArtWorks gallery space and working studio, which houses more than 50 working artists.
“They saw the arts as a driver for economic development in an area that was essentially a depressed warehouse district,” Stinson states. “That area is really starting to pick up with the South Front project, and Vivian Howard’s restaurant opening across the street next to Satellite Bar. Using the arts to create community and spur economic investment works, as evidenced by what the Knowles are doing.”
The awards ceremony will be held at the warehouse, with live music, hors d’oeuvres, and beer and wine served. Stinson will present all awards and allow recipients to share a few words of gratitude.
“Hiroshi is unable to attend,” Stinson divulges. “He is not in good health, so his wife will be there to accept his award. We will have a ‘guest book,’ for lack of a better term, so attendees can write notes of congratulations to Hiroshi. His wife will take that with her and relay the comments.”
The 2018 awards nominations are open through April 28, 2017. A nomination letter must be emailed, postmarked or hand-delivered to Arts In Wilmington. Stinson hopes to fill out all six categories, which also includes business/foundation and government (agencies and institutions, or elected or appointed officials who showcase support for the arts through leadership and public policy).
“The awards are a natural progression of Arts In Wilmington,” he says. Stinson launched the organization to create a comprehensive web calendar and newsletter of arts events. It has grown into monthly meetups where artists, arts supporters and professionals gather in various locations, from galleries to theaters to local breweries that show exhibits. “To take a moment to highlight and celebrate exceptional individuals in our community is important [with the awards,]” Stinson says. “Wilmington has a top-tier arts community. You can put it on par with any town this size that is known as an arts destination, and Wilmington is comparable or exceeds other communities.”