Winners of the 2015 Cleveland Arts Prize

Special Prize Recipients


The Robert Bergman Prize recognizes passionate leadership from artists who have broadened their field, and whose life communicate the joy and deep human relevance of the arts.

Cleveland-arts-prize-bill at window_final robert muller_copyright

William Gould is an artist of multiple talents who has had a significant impact on the Cleveland urban landscape. In 1961, he established Gould/Associates, Inc., an award winning architecture and planning firm that provided a full range of services. From 2001 to 2010, as a founder of ArtSpace Cleveland, he helped the Cleveland City Council to enact legislation that allows artists to live and work in vacant and underused buildings in the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood. Since 2009, he has worked as a consultant to Urban Renewal Plans in older cities in Ohio. Gould has served on the board of the Cleveland Restoration Society, as a member of the GCRTA Transit Oriented Design Committee, and on the Cleveland Heights Planning Commission. He earned his BA in Architecture the University of Michigan in 1952 and an MA in Urban Studies/Affairs at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1957.


The Martha Joseph Prize recognizes individuals or organizations whose exceptional commitment, vision, leadership or philanthropy have made a significant contribution to the arts in Northeast Ohio.

cleveland-arts-prize-jules and mike on river_robert muller_6_15 copy

Mike and Jules Belkin launched Belkin Productions in a 6′ x 8′ room in the back of their family clothing store at W. 25th and Clark Ave. in 1966. The sons of immigrants took a risk on show business, launching their careers with a co-bill of The New Christy Minstrels and the Four Freshmen. Lackluster attendance left them with a $35 loss, but a redoubled desire to succeed. They went on to book folk and jazz all-stars and emerging rock bands, and expanded their operation throughout the Midwest, and quickly became leaders in a worldwide industry. Their work made Cleveland the most coveted stop between Los Angeles and New York. The economic impact of their efforts will resonate long after the final bows of the musicians. Today, many experts credit their endeavors as the foundation that helped land Cleveland the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Throughout their careers, the Belkin brothers have always remained loyal to their hometown. They continue as influential advocates and supporters for the arts, education, music, and film.


Emerging Artist Awards

Cleveland-Arts-Prize-gianna at window_final_robert muller copyright 2015_0762 copy

Gianna Commito (Visual Arts) was born in Sea Level, NC, but has spent the majority of her career in Kent, OH. Her works have been featured in diverse galleries, from the William Busta Gallery in Cleveland and Rachel Uffner Gallery in New York to the Mary Elizabeth Dee Shaw Gallery at Weber State University, Ogden, UT. Her drawings and paintings, she says, are derived from different architectural spaces and building blocks, either through the literal representation of wood and bricks, or by the physicality of the painted, sanded, and burnished surface as a stand-in for actual structural forms. Earlier this year, New York Times critic Roberta Smith wrote, “The effect is of looking into a broken kaleidoscope, its elements askew in a shallow space. Sense cannot be made of this carefully worked out confusion and the shadowy hall-of-mirrors puzzles it creates, but the modest scale keeps the eye engaged, on intimate terms.” Her work has been reviewed in numerous publications and received many awards and residencies, including grants from the Pollack-Krasner Foundation, Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony.

Clevleand-Arts-Prize-mary with book final_3861

Mary Weems, PhD (Literature) was the first African American Poet Laureate of Cleveland Heights (2007-2009). Weems has authored and/or co-edited eight books, including Cleveland Poetry Scenes: A Panorama & Anthology, Poetry Power, Public Education and the Imagination-Intellect: I Speak from the Wound in my Mouth, Working Hard for the Money: America’s Working Poor in Stories, Poems, and Photos, and An Unmistakable Shade of Red and the Obama Chronicles, which was a finalist for the Ohioana Book Award for poetry in 2009. She has published in a variety of journals, including The African American Review, Qualitative Inquiry, Obsidian III and xcp: Cultural Poetics. Her work has also appeared in numerous anthologies. Weems won the Wick Chapbook Award for white in 1996, and in 1997, her play Another Way to Dance won the Chilcote Award for The Most Innovative Play by an Ohio Playwright. Most recently, her play Purses was performed at Karamu House. Another of her plays, Truth Out, had a dramatic reading in FusionFest at the Cleveland Play House.


Mid-Career Awards

cleveland-arts-prize-felise w bars_final_robert muller_copyright_2015_1 copy

Felise Bagley (Dance) has worked with GroundWorks DanceTheater since her debut with the company in 2001. A native New Yorker, Bagley was a merit scholarship recipient to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center and the Joffrey Ballet School, and performed as a guest artist for both professional companies. She has danced professionally with the Joyce Trisler Dance Company, Philadanco, Elise Monte Dance Company, Festival Ballet of Rhode Island and was a principal dancer with the Ohio Ballet. She has worked in both TV and film, and is featured in the book, “The Joffrey Ballet School’s Ballet Fit.” Bagley has appeared in other films and TV shows, including Fun Size (Paramount Pictures, 2011), and has been featured in Vogue and Vanity Fair. She has collaborated with choreographers and dance artists, including Gerald Arpino, Talley Beatty, Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Beth Corning, Gina Gibney, Judith Jameson, Dianne McIntyre, Heinz Poll and David Shimotakahara.


Michelangelo Lovelace (Visual Arts) has chronicled Cleveland life for more than 20 years. His works appear in the permanent collections of the Cleveland Art Association, the Springfield Art Museum and Progressive. As one of Cleveland Magazine’s Most Interesting People in 2008, he said “If I’m not painting, I’m drawing. If I’m not drawing, I’m researching galleries. Every piece is like a diary, a moment in time.” Born Michael Anthony, the Cleveland native’s childhood friends nicknamed him Michelangelo for his obvious passion for art. Upon entering the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1985, he legally changed his name to Michelangelo Lovelace. His animated and vibrant style is reminiscent of folk and outsider art. His paintings are visual documentations of life in many of America’s inner cities. Last year, the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture recognized his achievements with a Creative Workforce Fellowship.



Lifetime Achievement Awards

Cleveland-Arts-Prize-leslie at piano final robert muller_copyright_2015 copy

Leslie Adams (Music) works have been performed by the Prague Radio Symphony, Iceland Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic and Indianapolis Symphony, and have been commissioned by The Cleveland Orchestra, Ohio Chamber Orchestra, Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the Paul Kaye Singers in Minneapolis, the Center for Black Music Research in Chicago, and the Historic First Presbyterian Church in East Cleveland, among others. Adams holds degrees from Oberlin College, California State University Long Beach and Ohio State University.  The H. Leslie Adams Music Archives is located at Special Collections, Cleveland Public Library Main Branch. He maintains life memberships in Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, Phi Delta Kappa, Pi Kappa Lambda, American Choral Directors Association, American Guild of Organists and Advisory Council and the Music Arts Association (Cleveland Orchestra). Adams was born in Cleveland. Compositions include the opera Blake, and a new, critically acclaimed recording, Piano Etudes, available on Albany Records.



Special Honoree for 2015

 Cleveland-Arts-Prize-julian_on couch_final_robert muller copyright_2015

Julian Stanczak first received the Cleveland Arts Prize in 1969. Born in Poland in 1928, Stanczak had emerged in the late 1950s and early ‘60s as a painter of extraordinary power and striking originality. The “Op-Art” pioneer was the first to use undulating lines in his paintings, producing unsettling, quivering forms that seemed to shiver and throb with light. In 1965, Stanczak’s work was included in more than a dozen solo and group shows around the US. What brought him to national attention was the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibit, “The Responsive Eye” – a gathering of works by 106 artists that announced the arrival of a new aesthetic. Stanczak continued to explore new ideas and optical effects throughout the 1980s and ‘90s, producing some of his most compelling canvases. He has continued to paint since retirement from teaching at the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1995. In 1998, a retrospective exhibition covering 50 years of his work was jointly produced by the Butler Institute of American Art, the Columbus Museum of Art and the Josef Albers Museum in Germany.   In 2012 Bloomberg News and ranked Stanczak in sixth place on a list of the 15 hottest artists in the world.