Mayor’s Arts Awards Honors D.C.’s Creative Leaders

Howard University News Service The Kennedy Center was all abuzz as patrons and members of the District’s art community gathered for the 24th Annual Mayor’s Arts Awards Monday evening. Hosted by Cynné Simpson, news anchor for WJLA-TV (ABC 7), the show was free to the public. It honored and paid tribute to those who have excelled and made contributions to the arts in the District. Dancer Jason Garcia Ignacio leaped and did a somersault, as he accepted his award for Outstanding Emerging Artist. Originally from the Philippines, Ignacio is a member of the CityDance Company and was named as one Washington’s top 20 “showstoppers” by Washingtonian Magazine in 2008. Judith Korey and Andy Anas Shallal shared the Excellence in Service to the Arts award. Korey serves as the music program director in the department of mass media, visual and performing arts at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC). In honoring the late Calvin Jones, UDC’s former jazz studies director, Korey has made it her mission to become an advocate for the Calvin Jones Center for Jazz Studies.

Shallal, an Iraqi-American activist, is the founder and proprietor of Busboys and Poets, a café bookstore and restaurant that features diverse speakers and authors and that showcases films and documentaries. “My goal was to create a place where people can go ‘this is Washington,'” recalled Shallal during his acceptance speech. “So far, I think my goal been reached.” Shallal, who also opened two other sites, mentioned that the arts industry is relevant to the economy and made an urgent plea to the mayor and the city council to double the funding for the arts community. “Nothing stimulates an economy more than the arts. People are always looking for something creative. Please, Mayor Fenty and even the city council, please increase the funding for the arts.” Other winners included teachers from School Without Walls and the Duke Ellington School for the Arts. A new category, the Mayor’s Award for Visionary Leadership in the Arts, was added to this year’s program. Septime Webre, artistic director of the Washington Ballet, and Joy Zinoman, founding artistic director of the Studio Theatre, were presented with this honor.

Both honorees had demonstrated how their creativity led them beyond boundaries. Webre has reinvented “The Nutcracker” to reflect the history of the Anacostia River, and Zinoman developed the Studio Theatre into one of the city’s larger companies with international fame. The show began with a performance by a corps of drummers and dancers from various performance groups: Step Afrika!, Beat Ya Feet Kings, City at Peace D.C., Silk Road Dance Company, Positive Vibrations Youth Steel Band, Urban Artistry, O’Neill James Irish Steppers and Washington Korean Dance Company. A high note was a live painting performance by sisters Rachel and Rebecca Crouch. The artists stepped on stage in white overalls and began to splash, splosh and stroke liquid colors onto a green canvas while not running into each other’s space. Whispers from the audience arose as people tried to guess what they were painting. Applause erupted as the painting revealed a dancer surrounded by musical notes and instruments. Other notable performances included the Washington Improv Theater, D.C. area native and jazz musician Marcus Johnson and jazz musician Dr. Billy Taylor. The show closed with the go-go band Mambo Sauce, which performed its national hit “Miracles.”