With support from The Cleveland Foundation, 100 CMSD students Attend 56th Annual Cleveland Arts Prize Awards

This year, the Cleveland Foundation served as the Presenting Sponsor of the 56th Annual Cleveland Arts Prize Awards Event, which included foundation support for 100 Cleveland Metropolitan School District students to attend the ceremony. Throughout the last quarter century, the Cleveland Foundation has awarded nearly $200 million in grants to maintain the vibrancy and viability of our region’s artistic and cultural amenities. In 2016, the foundation announced a new arts initiative to provide equitable access to mastery-based arts programs for underserved youth in the core city of Cleveland.

“We are proud to support the Cleveland Arts Prize, because the arts community in Greater Cleveland is our calling card to the world,” said Ronn Richard, President and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation. “By connecting our region’s youth with this year’s celebrated artists, we are helping to visualize a possible future for this next generation of talented, creative influencers.”




Lifetime Achievement Artist Award


Mary Verdi-Fletcher (Theatre and Dance) is a multi-faceted artist-administrator who has helmed Dancing Wheels Company and School in Cleveland, Ohio since she founded it more than 35 years ago. As the first professional wheelchair dancer in the U.S. and one of the first in the world, she is celebrated for her visionary leadership and pioneering spirit of inclusion in dance. She’s been a vocal and highly visible advocate for the rights of people with disabilities for more than four decades. Mary has performed in 60+ ballets and repertory works, including lead roles in “The Snowman” choreographed by Sabatino Verlezza and “Alice in Wonderland” choreographed by Robert Wesner, and a featured role in “Sweet Radio Radicals” choreographed by Dianne McIntyre. As a dancer/choreographer, Mary’s artistry and message of inclusion are beautifully intertwined in a work created for Dancing Wheels: “Walking with Clouds” by David Rousséve. In one movement, Mary performs her story as a wheelchair-bound young woman wanting to ride the bus in Cleveland. With movement as well as spoken word, Mary tells of her role in fighting for the rights of other wheelchair bound individuals that eventually led to accessibility allowances so that they, too, could ride buses in the city of Cleveland. She has written for several major publications; written, produced and directed two made-for-TV documentaries; and won numerous awards, including a Governor’s Award for Arts Education in Ohio and Ohio Dance Award for major contributions to dance in Ohio in 2014.


Mid-Career Artist Award


Kristen Cliffel (Visual Arts) is a ceramic artist living and working in Cleveland. Often characterized as fun, colorful, and whimsical, her work actually has several layers beneath the surface. “Lulled by the banal rhythms and social constructs of domesticity, one can easily be seduced into believing that all is as it should be on the home front,” she says. “There is an inherent tension in the ‘domestic agreement’ when I examine it honestly. The battle between primal needs and desires versus the sublime comfort of ‘belonging’ to a civilized and bonded family unit full of responsibilities and behavioral expectations is unimagined and very real.” Kristen’s art appears in many public and private collections in the area, including University Hospitals, Metro General Hospital, Lutheran Hospital and Hahn, Loeser and Parks LLP. This year, she is a visiting artist at Savannah College of Art and Design and Malone University and has been a visiting artist at many colleges and universities, including Cleveland Institute of Art and Kent State University. Additionally, Kristen has completed residencies at The Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada and the Kohler Company in Wisconsin. She has received a Creative Workforce Fellowship, an Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship and has been a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant Nominee. She was represented by The William Busta Gallery in Cleveland and is represented in Columbus by the Sherrie Gallery. She continues to show her sculpture widely across the U.S. She earned her BFA in Ceramics from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1990.


Mid-Career Artist Award

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Liza Grossman (Music) is a musician, conductor and educator whose work encompasses a diverse range of music from classical to rock and roll. She has conducted more than 500 world premieres, including ten concertos with members of The Cleveland Orchestra, full scale orchestral works by Pulitzer Prize-winning composers such as Bernard Rands, numerous works by professional, emerging composers and hundreds of orchestral rock works. In 1995 Liza started the Contemporary Youth Orchestra.  She has touched countless young performers’ lives as well as innumerable audience members. Many of these performances have helped bridge the high/low art divide by bringing rock artists such as Jon Anderson, Graham Nash, and the band Styx to Cleveland to perform with the CYO. She has served as a guest conductor with many organizations, including the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, Jacksonville Symphony, Cleveland State and Kent State University Orchestras. Since 2006, she has been the Tour Conductor for Styx, and has worked with a variety of rock and pop artists such as Pat Benatar, Bootsy Collins, Ben Folds, Machine Gun Kelly, Graham Nash, Jefferson Starship, and Weezer. She studied conducting under three eminent conductors: David Holland, Director of String Orchestra, Interlochen Center for the Arts; Gerard Schwarz, Music Director, Seattle Orchestra; and Marvin Rabin, Founder, Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras. Liza has won numerous awards, including three ASCAP awards for Adventurous Programming, and STRAD magazine called her “a master of tutelage.”


Emerging Artist Award


John Elliott (Music) is an electronic music composer who has maintained one goal throughout his musical career: develop a singular language of electronic music utilizing an array of classic and modern electronic technologies centering on synthesizer, voice, and advanced composition. He has created more than 15 widely distributed musical releases that have traversed the legacy of 20th Century Classical electronic music, refracted through the lens of his own idiosyncratic musical vision. The Bay Village native, who now resides in Cleveland, has channeled the American and Continental academic tradition, as well as the broader spectrum of contemporary synthesizer music from dance to avant garde. His works have been praised by national and international publications like The Wire, Spin and Pitchfork Media. John’s popularity has resulted in more than 30,000 physical album sales worldwide and provided the foundation to schedule multiple national and international tours. He has also won many fans that have enjoyed and engaged in his formative performances at the Transformer Station’s inaugural night, the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Summer Solstice event, European festivals, and headliner tours of Japan and Australia. His personally curated imprint for vinyl, CD and digital releases is known as Spectrum Spools, which operates under the esteemed label of Editions Mego, the world’s leading record label for contemporary electronic music. He has also collaborated with legendary American electronic music pioneers such as Tony Conrad, Alan Howarth and David Borden. In 2013, he performed and was interviewed in the modular synthesizer documentary, I Dream of Wires.


Emerging Artist Award

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Dave Lucas (Literature) is a young but already highly accomplished poet, whose writing has garnered numerous awards, including a Creative Workforce Fellowship, Community Partnership for Arts and Culture, Cuyahoga County; 2016 Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities Faculty Affiliate, Case Western Reserve University; and the 2005 Discovery/The Nation Prize. His book of poems, Weather (VQR, University of Georgia Press, 2011), received the 2012 Ohioana Book Award for Poetry. His poems have been anthologized in several publications and have appeared in many journals, including The American Poetry Review, Blackbird, Orion, The Paris Review, Poetry, Slate, The Threepenny Review and the Virginia Quarterly Review. He is the co-founder and co-curator of the Brews + Prose reading series at Market Garden Brewery in Cleveland. Additionally, Dave has taught at several institutions, from his alma maters Gilmour Academy and John Carroll University to Cuyahoga Community College and Case Western Reserve University. Currently, he is a SAGES Fellow at CWRU and Discussion Coordinator at the Cleveland Clinic Program in Medical Humanities, Lerner College of Medicine. He completed his BA in English (summa cum laude) at John Carroll University in 2002 and his MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Virginia in 2004, and later enrolled at the University of Michigan, where he earned his MA (2010) and PhD (2014) in English Language and Literature.


The Robert P. Bergman Prize is awarded annually to an exceptional individual, who has shown passionate leadership and opened his/her field more broadly, and whose life and activities communicate the joys, excitement, and deep human relevance of the arts.



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Dee Perry has been a part of the Cleveland broadcasting scene since 1976, and with her work at 90.3 WCPN since 1989, she has made herself a Cleveland broadcasting icon. Dee is currently the host and producer of 90.3’s hour-long daily magazine talk show, The Sound of Applause, which focuses on visual and performing arts, cultural trends, and current events. Dee also serves as host and producer for Applause, WVIZ/PBS’ half-hour weekly television series, which is also devoted to arts and culture. Prior to joining WCPN, she worked at four commercial radio stations. Dee grew up in Cleveland’s Mt. Pleasant neighborhood and attended Charles Dickens Elementary School and John F. Kennedy High School before going on to major in Communications at Cleveland State University. She later lived in New York and Atlanta, but she always preferred Cleveland as her home. In her free time, she enjoys motivational speaking, singing and acting. She has appeared in several productions at Playhouse Square theaters, as well as Tri-C, CSU, Karamu, and Ensemble Theater. Dee also enjoys taking photographs, especially at the Cleveland Botanical Garden in the Glasshouse’s Costa Rica and Madagascar habitats.


The Martha Joseph Prize is awarded annually to individuals or organizations that have made a significant contribution to the vitality and stature of the arts in Northeast Ohio through exceptional commitment, vision, leadership or philanthropy.



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William Boehm founded The Singing Angels in 1964 to promote the joy of singing good music amongst children. As Founding Director, he spent the next 35 years developing The Singing Angels into a highly successful nonprofit organization with the mission to engage youth from all communities in quality music and performing arts education that teaches teamwork, builds confidence and provides a foundation for life. The award-winning group has appeared in more than 30 countries and performed for many celebrities from Pope John Paul II to several performances at the White House, as well as performances with great vocalists from Celine Dion to Wayne Newton. After he retired in 1999, William served as Director Emeritus and helped celebrate The Singing Angels 50th anniversary on his 94th birthday in July 2014. He attended John Adams High School and Western Reserve University, where he graduated in 1938 with a BA and returned 20 years later to earn a master’s degree in Dramatic Arts. During World War II, he served as an Army captain in Europe. After the war he returned to Northeast Ohio stages, often performing at Cain Park, then at Herman Pirchner’s Alpine Village, and had more than 5,000 personal stage appearances. He became the first staging director at Musicarnival, one of the first tented theaters in the U.S., located in Warrensville Heights from 1954-1975. In 1977, William was awarded the prestigious Ohio State Governor’s Award, and in November of 2006, he was inducted in the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.


2016 Special Honoree

Each year the Cleveland Arts Prize honors a past recipient. This year, for the 56th Annual Awards Program, we are pleased to present a special tribute to architect, Peter van Dijk. 

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Peter van Dijk is one of the preeminent architects in Cleveland history. Peter won his Cleveland Arts Prize for Architecture in 1969, when he was still early in his career. His innovative designs continue to enhance the aesthetics, environment and quality of life of Northeast Ohio and other cities. Some of his most prominent projects include the A.J. Celebreeze Federal Building, Blossom Music Center, Cain Park Amphitheater, the Cleveland State Music Building, and the Temple Hoyne Buell Theater in Denver. Additionally, Peter designed the corporate headquarters for Parker Hannifin, B.F. Goodrich, Lubrizol, IMG and Invacare. His designs for prominent medical facilities include buildings at the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals, as well as for hospitals in Akron, Youngstown and Cincinnati. He also established a reputation for exceptional designs for historical preservation. His firm’s best-known preservation projects include reviving the theaters at Playhouse Square and designing the new Cleveland Play House theaters when they moved into the complex, along with the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank, The Society (now Key) Bank, Huntington Bank, MK Ferguson Plaza, and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Public Square. Peter is a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects and recipient of the Gold Medal of the Ohio AIA chapter, its highest honor. He earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Oregon and served in the U.S. Army for two years before earning a Master of Architecture from MIT. He spent a year in Rome on a Fulbright Scholarship. Before moving to Cleveland, he worked as a designer with the acclaimed architect Eero Saarinen for four years.




Cleveland Arts Prize

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