Community, Scene & Heard, Springfield

Creativity celebrated at Springfield’s annual arts, culture awards ceremony

SPRINGFIELD —  “Art is everywhere. … Do you know that you are a curator of art yourself when you choose your wallpaper? Or jewelry? Or a playlist?”

Mindy Linder, community engagement specialist for Springfield Public Library and Springfield History Museum, illuminated this concept at the second annual Springfield Arts and Culture Awards (SACA) last weekend at the Richard E. Wildish Community Theater. The ceremony — Springfield’s own version of the Grammy Awards — celebrates artists, art organizations, and the distinctive culture that enriches the community.

Dottie Chase earned the Lifetime Achievement award for her award-winning painted portraits and landscapes. She’s won awards for her pastels, and her watercolors have won awards from the Mayor’s Art Show in Eugene and Springfield, the Lane County Fair, and the Emerald Art Center. 

While her art achievements are impressive, SACA also celebrated Chase’s impacts on the art community. Chase was a major force in the “art Renaissance in Springfield” and has been dedicated to the advancement of the arts locally for years. She was involved in finding a home for the Emerald Empire Art Association (EEAA), a nonprofit visual arts organization, in the Emerald Art Center. She has been on the board of directors for over forty years, president six times, involved in fundraising, community relations, business management, and events. 

But Chase said she didn’t get to where she is on her own. Despite the award being given to her, “we all know it takes a lot of people. I was recognized because I was the person standing out in front,” Chase said. 

Swing Shift Jazz Orchestra, a local big band made up of 17 jazz musicians from the Willamette Valley, earned the Excellence in Art award‚ the first award the band has even been nominated for, and won — a big deal, considering it’s been around for 45 years, according to Jonathan Light, who is the band’s president. 

Comprised of professional musicians, music teachers, and hobbyists, Swing Shift Jazz Orchestra is one of five resident companies of the Wildish, where they perform a four-concert series annually, in addition yo playing at festivals across the Northwest, like at the Oregon Coast Jazz Party and the Siletz Bay Music Festival, where they performed with jazz legend, Ken Peplowski. With up to 15 performances annually, the band can also be found playing for benefits, dances, weddings, and gigs in the local nightclub scene.

Jillian Chamberlain-Seitz, a student from the Academy of Arts & Academics (A3), earned the Young Artist of the year Award. Chamberlain-Seitz is known for her creativity at her school; she organizes student craft fairs, is involved in theater productions, and brings creativity to her tasks. 

Josie Buffalino, another A3 student, earned the Dan Egan Scholarship Award. Dan Egan, Wildish Theater manager, for whom the award is named after, said he wanted this award to go to someone who wants to pursue the arts and that the scholarship “depends on your passion and support” so that it continues.  Buffalino is recognized for her art locally and had a piece on display on the stage when she accepted the award. 

Esteban Camacho Steffensen was awarded the Public Art Award in recognition of his skills as an interdisciplinary artist and muralist who focuses on ecosystems, endangered species, and cultural reflections. He is known for his local murals, as well as international murals.

Niel Laudati, assistant city manager, was awarded the Arts Achievement and Advocacy Award in recognition of his ongoing support for murals and art in Springfield and Eugene. 

Antonio Huerta and Jessica Zapata earned the Culture Connection Award. Huerta is the director and founder of Comunidady Herencia Cultural, a nonprofit organization that serves the Latin community and shares their culture with others. Zapata is the founder of Eugene Arte Latino and promotes cultural diversity through arts and music and serves on the board of Comunidady Herencia Cultural. Although these are separate organizations, Huerta said that they often collaborate because Zapata has the contacts and Huerta’s organization has the funding to make events happen.

SACA featured entertainment by singer, songwriter, and artistic director, Evynne Hollens, who started off her set with “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka, an apt song that showcased the theme of an artistic event. Accompanying her on the piano was Torrey Newhart, who is a keyboardist, composer, and educator, another local talent from our community. 

Mariachi del Sol, a band from Springfield High School and winner of last year’s Young Artist of the Year Award, also provided entertainment. Mariachi del Sol was created 15 years ago by Chris Holt and Elena Espinoza. Jon Bridges, the current director of the band, explains they have performed at football games, festival competitions, and the Hult Center. A selection from Springfield History Museum’s presentation, ILLUMINATION was also played on the screen at the event.



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