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Cleveland Arts Prize 2019 Winners

Cleveland Arts Prize Winners for 2019 [Cleveland Arts Prize]
Cleveland Arts Prize Winners for 2019

The 2019 Cleveland Arts Prize winners include artists working in literature, dance, theater and visual art.

“It’s more than a monetary prize to artists who are doing great work. It’s really about a family and it’s about Cleveland’s legacy,” said Alenka Banco, Cleveland Arts Prize’s executive director.

The winners receive their awards, which come with a $10,000 prize, at a ceremony in September.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Janice Lessman-Moss, visual arts

Janice Lessman-Moss, head of Kent State's textile department, is a visual artist applying digital technology in woven tapestry paintings.

"What she's done with her work and her technique is that she's introduced what was once a dying discipline to an entirely different generation."

Mid-career Awards

Victoria Bussert, theater

Victoria Bussert leads Baldwin Wallace University’s well-respected Music Theatre program and has been directing theatrical productions for more than 30 years.

“She’s a powerhouse,” Banko said. “The kids and the students that are coming out of her program are really on a national and an international stage.”

Mary Biddinger, literature

Mary Biddinger is a poet, editor and professor at the University of Akron.

“You have to add activist to her title as well,” Banko said. “She actually has had great impact in Akron in saving the [University of Akron] Press.”

She has authored six poetry collections and her first collection of prose poems, “Partial Genius,” is due out this month.

Emerging Artist Awards

Dominic Moore-Dunson, dance

Dominic Moore-Dunson is as a dancer, choreographer and up-and-coming arts leader. The Akron native is in his ninth season with Inlet Dance Theatre and performed at the prestigious Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in 2017.

“He’s been one of those sort of quiet rising stars,” Banko said. “He’s really started to create his own body of work that deals with issues that has made people pay attention.”

Kisha Nicole Foster, literature

Kisha Nicole Foster is a poet and has been performing for 16 years, including in national slam competitions. She is also an educator, mentor and advocate for the city’s literary scene- past and present.

“This isn’t an overnight success, this girl has been working the pavement for a really long time,” Banko said.

Special Prizes

Robert. P. Bergman Prize

Terri Pontremoli, director of the Tri-C JazzFest

Terri Pontremoli is an advocate for jazz and the director of the annual Tri-C JazzFest. She’s honored for arts stewardship with this award.

“Her goal in JazzFest was really to make sure jazz was for everyone,” Banko said. “What she’s doing is important not only in that field but to the city.”

Martha Joseph Prize

The Print Club of Cleveland

The Print Club of Cleveland celebrates its centennial this year. It has been a source for collectors, educated the community in printmaking and formed a legacy collection for the Cleveland Museum of Art.

"Part of its mission was to make sure the work was purchased, saved and recognized in our own community," Banko said. 

Barbara S. Robinson Prize

Tony F. Sias, president and CEO of Karamu House

Tony F. Sias has been leading Karamu House through a financial turnaround and a restoration project. Throughout his career he has worked with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and performed and directed in numerous productions. This award recognizes his leadership in the arts community.

“He puts love in everything he kind of grabs a hold of,” Banko said, adding that his experience working in the local theater community helps him now as an arts administrator. “Tony is passionate and in love with what he is doing.”

Verge Fellowship Awards

Cleveland Arts Prize also awards 10 artists “on the verge” working across various disciplines in Northeast Ohio. The fellowship began last year with five artists and expanded this year to 10. The artists each receive $2,500 stipends, which are funded by the Cleveland Foundation and Cuyahoga Arts and Culture.

“They are not quite artists whom we would consider for an emerging (award), because they’re still really in states of becoming,” said Daniel Gray-Kontar, co-chair of the Verge Fellowship Awards.

Verge Fellowship winners

Brittany Benton, music

Ephraim Butler, literature

Archie Green ll, music

Lexy Lattimore, theater and dance

Samuel McIntosh, theater and dance

Ryan Ramer, music

Na-Te` Sturdivant, visual arts

Antwoine Washington, visual arts

Mariama Whyte, music

McKinley Wiley, visual arts

Cleveland Arts Prize Executive Director Alenka Banco and Verge Fellowship Awards Co-Chair Daniel Gray Kontar discuss the winners in depth Thursday at 9 a.m. during the Sound of Ideas on 90.3 WCPN. Note: Due to a programming change, this discussion was rescheduled from Monday to Thursday.