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Cleveland Arts Prize Announces 2021 Award Winners

The pond in front of the Cleveland Museum of Art  is seen from above.
Jeff St. Clair
The Cleveland Museum of Art's Gartner Auditorium will host the Cleveland Arts Prize awards ceremony in October.

Musicians, writers and visual artists are among those being recognized this year with a Cleveland Arts Prize for expanding the role of the arts in the community. The winners of the 61st annual awards showcase a wide variety of artistic values.

For lifetime achievement, Arts Prize trustees honored poet and performer Raymond McNiece, who's currently serving as the Poet Laureate of Cleveland Heights.

Franz Welser-Most has received a special citation from Cleveland Arts Prize.

They also awarded a special citation to Cleveland Orchestra music director Franz Welser-Möst, recognizing him for his extraordinary contributions to Northeast Ohio arts. In his 20th year, Welser-Möst has the honor of being the orchestra's longest-serving leader.

Emerging artists
Cleveland's Hip Hop collective Mourning [A] BLKstar and conceptual artist Lauren Yeager received the Emerging Artist award, recognizing the future potential both of them have in their artistic careers.

Mourning [A] BLKstar brings together not only musicians, but multimedia artists and writers to promote messages on how the African Diaspora still affects today's culture and racial issues. They have received critical acclaim for their works since 2016, and their latest album "The Cycle" was released last year.

Yeager won the Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award this year. She has gained prominence in the mediums of sculpture and photography. Her abstract works have been featured at MOCA Cleveland, Sculpture Milwaukee and FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art. Yeager earned her BFA degree from the Cleveland Institute of Art.

Kent State alums honored with mid-career awards
The Mid-Career Artist award for those residing in Northeast Ohio and who have received regional and national acclaim was presented to two Kent State University Alumni.

Alice Ripley received a Tony Award (Best Actress in a Musical) for her performance in "Next to Normal" as Diana. In her band RIPLEY, she plays guitar and drums and has produced three of their albums.

After earning her BFA from Parsons School of Design, visual artist Corrie Slawson went on to earn her Masters at Kent State. Her work representing environmental and social equities has been featured at Akron Art Museum and the Toledo Museum of Art. She currently works part-time at Kent State in the Painting and Drawing Department.

Additional awards
Sean Watterson's successful efforts in earning funding for local, independent music venues during the pandemic paved the way for him to receive the Martha Joseph Prize. Watterson brought Ohio to the forefront of the Save Our Stages act with the National Independent Venue Association, which brought millions of dollars to independent venues across the state. As the co-owner and co-founder of Happy Dog in Cleveland, he is an avid advocate of local music and small business.

Joseph J. Garry, Jr. received the Robert P. Bergman Prize for his longevity and commitment to Northeast Ohio arts. He has written 30 theater scripts, created and directed his own PBS show and brought Playhouse Square's audience back in the early 70's with his production of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. Garry has won the Playhouse Square President's Award and has been inducted into the Cleveland Play House Hall of Fame. He currently serves as the head of Cleveland State University's theater department.

Cleveland Museum of Art trustee Clara Rankin received the Barbara S. Robinson Prize for her commitment to bringing public policy and legislation to the advancement of the arts. She has also served as a trustee with The Cleveland Orchestra for almost 25 years.

This year's awards ceremony will take place on October 13 at the Gartner Auditorium at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Kelsey Paulus is a Junior studying journalism at Kent State University. She is pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in journalism with a minor in design. Along with interning for WKSU, Kelsey is also a co-producer of TV2’s kentcore and a designer for A Magazine. She is an aspiring music journalist and hopes to work in the magazine industry someday.