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Meet the 2023 Cleveland Arts Prize winners

Headshots of the 2023 Cleveland Arts Prize winners Dana Jessen, Stephanie Ginese, Jacinda N. Walker, Susan Braham Koletsky, Atefeh Farajolahzadeh, Joseph P. and Nancy F. Keithley, Richard S. Rogers and Janet Macoska.
Cleveland Arts Prize
The 2023 Cleveland Arts Prize winners include (clockwise from upper left) Dana Jessen, Stephanie Ginese, Jacinda N. Walker, Susan Braham Koletsky, Atefeh Farajolahzadeh, Joseph P. and Nancy F. Keithley, Richard S. Rogers and Janet Macoska.

The Cleveland Arts Prize’s 63rd class honors Northeast Ohio women working in photography, design, visual art, music and literature.

While the jury didn’t intentionally select all women for the discipline awards, Cleveland Arts Prize Board Chair Aseelah Shareef said it is “exciting that there are women all over the place this year.”

The annual award dates back to 1960, established by the Women’s City Club, and the prestigious honor comes with $10,000 for the five discipline winners. The Cleveland Arts Prize also gives out special prizes for arts advocacy and leadership that are non-monetary honors.

All of the 2023 recipients will be celebrated in a ceremony Oct. 26 at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Lifetime achievement

Janet Macoska, photography

Longtime rock photographer Janet Macoska takes the lifetime achievement honor for her impressive body of work capturing everyone from Bruce Springsteen to David Bowie. Her images have graced the pages of numerous publications, such as “Rolling Stone,” “People,” and “Vogue,” and artists have also used her images for their records.

“When you think about the work that she has done and presented and exhibited, all of these photographs of these amazing musicians, I mean, it's a ‘who's who’ to be a part of her camera roll,” Shareef said.

The Beatles sparked Macoska’s interest in the music industry at age 10, she told Ideastream for a story in 2022.

“When I started shooting rock ‘n’ roll and music, it was all about the live event,” she said. “It's a weird space I get into, kind of really quiet inside. I don't even hear the music.”

Cleveland Landmarks Press also released a book featuring images and stories from Macoska’s career in 2015.

Mid-career artists

Jacinda N. Walker, design

Jacinda N. Walker is a leader in diversifying design. She started designExplorr to improve the lack of diversity in the field and create opportunities for young BIPOC designers.

“She has also taken on this extra work of not only bringing awareness to corporate and other organizations about who is not at the table as it relates to voices that contribute to design work. But she's also bringing that message to those underrepresented populations, Black, brown individuals, to let them know this career is an opportunity for you as well,” Shareef said.

Dana Jessen, music

Dana Jessen is a bassoonist and music improviser who also teaches at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. She performs around the world, sharing her electroacoustic music, and has released three solo albums.

“It's very interesting for me that an artist is able to perform and execute at such a high level creatively and also have such a handle on the pedagogy of the discipline,” Shareef said.

Emerging artists

Stephanie Ginese, literature

A writer and comedian, Stephanie Ginese, weaves humor into her poetry to examine serious topics. Her debut collection, “Unto Dogs,” explores reproductive violence and Puerto Rican nationalism.

“She’s able to bring light to these issues that she wants to discuss in a really broad way,” Shareef said.

She also hosts a regular variety showcase at Dunlap's Corner Bar in Cleveland.

Atefeh Farajolahzadeh, visual art

Atefeh Farajolahzadeh is an Iranian immigrant who considers place through her work, weaving together photos, video and personal experiences. She recently exhibited at SPACES in Cleveland a video and light installation considering presence and absence.

“This artist is really pulling from every experience, not only her personal experiences as an immigrant… all of the other things that come into just human life,” Shareef said. “She's using all these different ways that she has to communicate to bring issues to the forefront.”

Special prizes

Susan Braham Koletsky

Susan Braham Koletsky is honored for her arts leadership with the Robert P. Bergman Prize, a recognition of art stewardship. As museum director at Temple-Tifereth Israel, she shared a rare collection of Judaica with a broad audience.

“This is one of those really great opportunities of taking culture and providing access to culture where maybe folks are not necessarily comfortable engaging or don't know where to access or how to get in,” Shareef said, adding that she made the art accessible for people “to explore from a place of welcome.”

Richard S. Rogers

As an arts leader in Akron, Richard S. Rogers established Curated Storefront, which places art in vacant building space Downtown.

“You don't have to go into a museum to enjoy this. You don't have to go into a place outside of your normal kind of meandering down the street,” Shareef said.

He is honored with the Martha Joseph Prize for this major contribution and others supporting arts vitality in the region.

Joseph P. and Nancy F. Keithley

In 2020, Joseph P. and Nancy F. Keithley donated $100 million in art to the Cleveland Museum of Art. They are receiving the Barbara S. Robinson Prize for advancement of the arts. The Keithleys also have provided support to advance diversity and inclusion initiatives at Case Western Reserve University and University Circle institutions.

“To be able to bring a diversity of experience and thought into these various community institutions is only going to serve us all in a greater way as we look to make sure our institutions are representative of the neighborhoods and communities they serve,” Shareef said.

Carrie Wise is the deputy editor of arts and culture at Ideastream Public Media.