Cleveland Arts Prize Announces 2018 Award Winners

Aug 3, 2018

The artistry recognition nonprofit Cleveland Arts Prize announced its list of winners for 2018 Friday.

The organization has celebrated the best of Northeast Ohio's artistry in the fields of music, visual art, design, literature, architecture, philanthropy and more since 1960.

Emerging Artist Awards  

Darius Steward, visual arts  

"His work is really his voice.  He uses what he knows, and he loves and creates [watercolor paintings] from that, his family, his children, his friends, his environment. It becomes a broader voice about who he is as a person," said Cleveland Arts Prize Executive Director Alenka Banco, who made the announcement of the diverse list of regional artists, advocates, leaders and partrons.

Mark Reigelman, design

"Mark is a New York-based artist [and Cleveland native], who went to school at the Cleveland Institute of Art," she said. "Aside from his education, you can see his imprint on the city [of Cleveland] everywhere: the Playhouse Square planters, the Rock Boxes for the Rock Hall, the Cleveland Public Library's 'Reading Nest' piece. So he's had a great impact in the public landscape."

Midcareer Awards

John “Derf” Backderf, visual arts

"He is one of the artists that really has that crossover power because, in addition to his comics, he actually is a graphic novelist," Banco said. "[He's] got books and movies now. His bio would almost reflect a lifetime achievement [award], but because of his age, we really felt like there was more to come."

John Williams, design

"We in the arts community we all know him because he's been so involved in different boards, but he's done a lot of art-related projects," she said. "'The Transformer Station' is his project, in addition to SPACES recently he completed that in Hingetown. A lot of the general public would know him for the Ameritust Rotunda at Heinen's [grocery store]," she said.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Rita Dove, literature

"She is native to Akron and that is definitely within our guidelines. So while she's not living here, she is definitely from our region and reflects the arts and culture as she was brought up in the region," Banco said.

Special Prizes:

Barbara Robinson Prize

William Griswold, director Cleveland Museum of Art

Griswold is the first winner of this award, which is named for a longtime Ohio arts leader Barbara Robinson. 

"We're really proud of this award [for arts advocacy], especially in today's climate of cutbacks in the arts," Banco said. "He came to [Cleveland] in 2014, and in a very short time he's had great impact, specifically with his proactive approach to returning undocumented antiquities to their rightful origin."

Robert Bergman Prize

Louise and Thomas (deceased) Boddie, Boddie Records

"They were one of the first African-American recording companies in the country, the first obviously in Cleveland. They were really special because they were the only African-American company that was manufacturing their records," she said.

Martha Joseph Prize

Suzanne DeGaetano, Mac's Backs Books

"Her [nomination] letters that came through for her really focused not on the bookstore, but what she does for the literary community, especially young, emerging artists. Her mission is really focused on information, assistance and poetry readings," she said.

2018 Special Honoree

Robert P. Madison, architect

"We always try to honor a past winner. Robert won in 2000. He won a special citation for the work he was doing in the African-American community. He was really driven and focused on making sure that talent didn't get overlooked," she said.

New Fellowship Opportunities

Also new this year are the Verge Fellowship awards, given to five up-and-coming artists who are on the verge of making a name for themselves.

“Naming an award is like naming a child,” said Banco. “What does it mean? The Verge Fellowship is geared towards [new artists] that really have that spark and show promise that, with just a little bit of help, they can take it to the next level.”

The Verge fellowships come at a time when a there's been a heated local discussion over equity and inclusion in arts funding. Banco said it’s a coincidence that the entire first class of Verge winners is African American: Amanda King, Stephanie Fields, Kayla Thomas, Stephen Bivens and Damien McClendon.

Verge fellows each receive $2,000, and the five discipline winners get $10,000 each. The special prizes are not monetary awards.

All of the winners will be honored at the 58th annual Cleveland Arts Prize ceremony at the Cleveland Museum of Art October 22.