The Mobile Arts Council (MAC) continued celebration into Lent with its list of 2019 Arty Award winners. The 11 recipients cut a wide swath through the Azalea City’s cultural scene, with nods to the venerable and fresh alike.
One honoree will pull double duty when Hosea London accepts both his award as Educator and the Lifetime Achievement award for the Excelsior Band. The Winter Haven, Florida, native moved to Mobile in 1976 and began a 25-year teaching career at Albert P. Brewer Center. He’s also been director of the Gulf Coast Ethnic and Heritage Jazz Festival’s Marcus Johnson Jazz Camp and of the Mobile Big Band Society’s Jazz Studio educational program.
London joined the Excelsior Band in 1976 to keep his trumpet chops in shape. When then-leader James Seals passed away, London assumed duties in 2002.
The Excelsior Band started in 1883, began marching in Mardi Gras the next year and became an intrinsic component of area culture. They are listed on the website for the Alabama State Council on the Arts, are in the Encyclopedia of Alabama and are included in the Mobile Carnival Museum. They were broadcast statewide on Catt Sirten’s “Live from Avalon” show on public television.
“We probably do 500 gigs a year — weddings, second lines, conventions, parades and things for the city. People don’t really know how much we play,” London told Lagniappe in 2017.
Pinky/MM Bass will receive the Visual Artist award. Initially known for her pinhole photography, the bay-area resident’s multidisciplinary body of work includes exhibits at the Asheville Art Museum, Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, Washington, D.C.’s National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and New York City’s SPACE Gallery among others. She’s earned numerous awards over the decades, both nationally and internationally.
The Performing Artist, Individual award goes to violinist Enen Yu, Mobile Symphony Orchestra’s (MSO) co-concertmaster. She has served as concertmaster for the Mobile Opera Orchestra and Mobile Ballet Orchestra, as strings teacher and coach for MSO education programs, and as an adjunct member of the University of Mobile and University of South Alabama. Yu is a founder of the Horizon String Quartet, was once the youngest member of the Beijing Symphony Orchestra and has performed with conductors Zubin Mehta, David Robertson and Gerard Schwarz.
A new award for Performing Artist, Group will be given to Power Lines Poetry, a spoken-word troupe whose visibility has risen in the last few years. They can be found in such private-sector venues as The Blind Mule and Kazoola, to the Mobile Museum of Art and Alabama Contemporary Art Center.
The Art Soldier award will be presented to Sherrick Sandy, a resolute force in Mobile’s community theater scene for decades. For years, Sandy has tackled whatever needs attention — tech duty, props, you name it. She currently serves as board president for Mobile Theatre Guild.
The Organization award goes to the 56-year-old Mobile Chamber Music Society. The nonprofit brings stellar classical musicians to town with stunning regularity thanks to a corps of dedicated and selfless volunteers, overcoming its tiny budget.
The Mobile Public Library will be honored with the Business award. A library’s essential role to a city’s culture is endemic but ours goes further. The library hosts such events as the Mobile Literary Festival and numerous dramatic and musical performances, along with film screenings.
The Design award goes to Mobile Fashion Week, a project founded nine years ago by Richard McGill in an attempt to keep homegrown talent from departing for standard centers of fashion. Their efforts not only highlight textile arts but their website cites $5,000 in annual donations to Camp Rap-A-Hope along with other charities.
A new entity, Central Arts Collective, will accept the Cultural Innovation award. The group space at midtown Mobile’s Central Presbyterian Church has met a growing need for studio space among area artists. Its website currently boasts 15 artists-in-residence and a slate of upcoming programs and workshops covering subjects such as photography and quilting.
The Literary Artist award will go to arts reporter Kevin Lee. The ire from this travesty should echo for years.
As in 2007 and 2014, no Patron award will be given this go-around.
This year’s physical awards are unique, commissioned pieces from Nappie Award-winning sculptor Chris Cumbie.
The ceremony takes place March 28, 5:30-9 p.m. at The Steeple (251 St. Francis St., Mobile). Tickets range from $35 to $55 and are available online at mobilearts.org.
Congratulations to the winners!
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