SPRINGFIELD – The atmosphere was abuzz with excitement as the Wildish Community Theatre presented the inaugural Springfield Arts and Culture Awards on April 8.
“It has been my thought for some time that the arts community in Springfield could be strengthened with an annual focus on the individuals and organizations who make the arts go in our larger community,” said Dan Egan, the immediate past president of the Wildish Community Theatre, who was a driving force behind this event.
People dressed like they were going to a swanky jazz performance — which was true.
Halie Loren, an award-winning jazz singer and songwriter, performed with the Halie Loren Quartet. A highlight of the night was when she crooned in her sultry voice, “Why Don’t You Do Right,” while dancers from Ballet Fantastique performed a delightful piece fused with jazz.
The Springfield Museum also showed a video about its Illumination Project, which was followed by the awards:
Dawn Malliet, director of the Chifin Native Youth Center with Springfield Public School District, took home the Culture Connection award.
“With a modest staff of one, Dawn has worked tirelessly to build Chifin from the ground up,” said Mindy Linder, community engagement outreach specialist for the City of Springfield. Malliet organizes the volunteers, works to host programs in academics as well as activities that encourage native culture such as drumming, crafting, and indigenous languages. She also provides services to native youth to address food insecurity and homelessness.
Other nominees included Antonio Huerta and Aimee Yogi.
Huerta performs traditional Charrería (cowboy rope work) and is the founder and director of Comunidad y Herencia Cultural, which has helped expand the network of Latinx artists. Yogi has been a founding member of organizations and events that celebrate Asian American culture including Eugene Taiko, Oregon Asian Celebration, and Obon Festival. She recently worked on the Illumination project and has volunteered for many organizations outside the arts.
PUBLIC ART AWARD
The Public Art Award went to Bayne Gardner, known for his murals in Springfield, including The Simpsons and the recent Smart Reading mural.
The other nominees, Matt Burney, an artist known for interactive sculptures with SO Metal LLC in Oakridge, and illustrator and muralist Barbara Counsil from Oakridge both have art that is worth checking out.
ARTS ADVOCACY/BUSINESS ARTS SUPPORTER
Willamalane Parks and Recreation District won the award for the Arts Advocacy/Business Arts Supporter. The other nominees were also organizations that have supported the arts: the Springfield Rotary Club 364 and the Wildish Family.
ARTS ORGANIZATION OF THE YEAR
The Arts Organization of the Year Award went to the Emerald Art Center.
EAC has a long history in Springfield, as a gallery, art space, and place for classes. Ditch Projects, an art space in Springfield, and Chamber Music Amici, the premier chamber music ensemble from Eugene, were the other two nominees.
Ellen Gabehart, a local artist and teacher, earned this award because, as Egan put it, “she makes everyone happy.” Dottie Chase, an artist who was a major force in the art renaissance in Springfield, and playwright Dorothy Velasco, whose reach has extended beyond the Eugene area, were also nominated.
YOUNG ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Mariachi del Sol, a band at SHS that has performed locally and nationally, took home the honor for promoting diversity by spreading Mexican culture through its music.
Other nominees included Maggie Britton, a student at Springfield High School who has won the Springfield bookmark contest — twice, and Jupiter Titus, an A3 student who has been a featured artist and has even taught art classes.
Egan expressed next year’s ceremony will be bigger with even more entertainment.