Cleveland Arts Prize Announces 2021 Award Winners

(Cleveland, Ohio) — Cleveland Arts Prize Board of Trustees announce the 2021 Award Winners in the following categories:


Emerging Artist awarded to two artists currently living in Northeast Ohio who have already created significant work or projects and show remarkable promise for further development of their artistic careers.

Mourning [A] BLKstar (Music)

James Longs - vocals, LaToya Kent - vocals, Kyle Kidd - vocals, Dante Foley - drums, Theresa May - trumpet, Pete Saudek - Guitar/keys, William Washington - trombone, RA Washington - samplers/bass

Mourning [A] BLKstar is a collective of musicians, writers and multimedia artists formed in Cleveland, Ohio. In dialogue with Hip Hop production techniques and live instrumentation, M[A]B bears witness to the pathways and frequencies that have sustained the African Diaspora and beyond. Since 2016, Mourning [A] BLKstar has received critical acclaim for their five recordings and had the opportunity to share bills and tour in support of some of this generation's most amazing musical outfits including US Girls, Oshun, Algiers, Kyp Malone (TV On The Radio/Ice Balloons), and the legendary Doom Gospel pioneers, ONO.

In 2019, M[A]B performed at The Kennedy Center in the nation's capital and their fourth full length release, Reckoning was released by Don Giovanni Records to rave reviews. The Wire Magazine's Neil Kulkarni said this about the collective's work - "It is, impossibly, even better than Garner and one of the finest albums of 2019 thus far, from a band whose importance is fast becoming evident."

In 2020, M[A]B released a double album entitled, The Cycle which garnered the collective massive praise from NPR All Songs Considered, AFROPUNK, and The Wire Magazine.

Lauren Yeager (Visual Arts)

Lauren Yeager (born 1987 in Nashville, Tennessee; lives and works in Cleveland, Ohio) is a conceptual artist working in sculpture and photography. Utilizing found objects and landscapes, she preserves the identities of these familiar components while reconfiguring them into abstract compositions. The works have the ability to fluctuate between contexts, to be both formal works and relics of personal histories and daily monotony.

Yeager is the recipient of the Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award 2019 and 2021. Her works have been exhibited extensively throughout Cleveland, with notable exhibitions including FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, 2018. Women to Watch: Ohio, Reinberger Galleries, 2015. Realization is Better than Anticipation, MOCA Cleveland, 2013, and currently Sculpture Milwaukee 2021, for which she recently completed four outdoor sculpture
commissions. Her works are included in the collections of the Cleveland Clinic, Metro-Health, Worthington Yards, and the Progressive Collection. She holds a BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art and is represented by Abattoir Gallery in Cleveland.

Mid-Career Artist awarded to two artists who have resided in Northeast Ohio and whose work has received both regional acclaim and national recognition.

Alice Ripley (Theatre & Dance)

Alice Ripley is a Tony award-winning actor and Kent State University alumna. Alice appeared in Playhouse Square as Diana in Next to Normal and Fantine in Les Miserables. Original Broadway Cast credits include: Next to Normal, (Tony award, Best Actress in a Musical), Side Show (Tony nomination), American Psycho, The Rocky Horror Show, James Joyce's The Dead, Sunset Boulevard, The Who's Tommy. Off-Broadway/Regional: The Pink Unicorn (Holmdel Theatre Company), Civil War Christmas (NYTW), Cather County (Playwright's Horizons), Five Flights (Rattlestick Theatre), Sunset Boulevard, (NSMT), Company (Kennedy Center), Television: GIRLBOSS, Blue Bloods, 30 Rock, Hee Haw. Film: The Pink Unicorn, SUGAR!, Isn’t It Delicious, The Adulterer, Sing Along, Muckland, Bear With Us. Cabaret: Ripley Prescription (2019 BWW NJ Award), Unattached (Available on Broadway Records). Original Streaming Music: Drive, Pieces, Calling All Angels, Beautiful Eyes (available on all platforms). Ms. Ripley works on canvas with acrylic and mixed media, and paints and designs digitally. Alice is an accomplished songwriter, playing guitar and drums live with her band, RIPLEY, and on her self-produced records Everything's Fine, OUTTASITE, and RIPLEY EP.

Corrie Slawson (Visual Arts)

Corrie Slawson’s work explores forms and narratives related to social and environmental equity. The Cleveland Heights native earned her BFA at Parsons School of Design in New York and her MFA at Kent State University. Her work has been exhibited in the US and internationally, including at MOCA Cleveland, The Toledo Museum of Art, Akron Art Museum, The Massillon Museum, Centro Culturel de Tijuana, SPACES and in Dresden and Sardinia. She has received two Individual Artist Awards from the Ohio Arts Council (2012 and 2019). With support from SPACES Satellite Fund, The Andy Warhol Foundation and Akron Soul Train, Corrie and a team of NE Ohio-based artists produced Feast: a ballet, the film adaptation of which was awarded a Gold Laurel at the Virgin Spring Cinefest in Kolkata, India. Slawson is part-time faculty in the Painting and Drawing Department at KSU School of Art. Her work is represented by Shaheen Modern and Contemporary Gallery in Cleveland, OH.

Lifetime Achievement awarded to one artist who has worked in Northeast Ohio over a period of decades and whose artistic achievements have brought distinction to the artist individually and to our region as a whole.

Raymond McNiece (Literature)

Ray McNiece has authored eleven books of poems and monologues and CDs, most recently Love Song for Cleveland, a collaboration with photographer Tim Lachina and Breath Burns Away, New Haiku. The Orlando Sentinel reporting on Ray’s solo theater piece “Us — Talking Across America” at the Fringe Festival called him “a modern day descendant of Woody Guthrie.

He has a way with words and a wry sense of humor.” He toured Russia with Yevgeny Yevtushenko, appeared on Good Morning, Russia and performed at the Moscow Polytech, the Russian Poets’ Hall of Fame, where he was described as a born poet and performer. He has toured Italy twice with legendary Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He fronts the band Tongue-in-Groove. Among many awards, he received a Creative Workforce Fellowship and residencies at The Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Jack Kerouac House. He is currently Poet Laureate of Cleveland Heights.


The Robert P. Bergman Prize is awarded to an individual whose life and work are illuminated by an energetic and inspiring dedication to a democratic vision of art. The Bergman Prize recognizes the highest possible expression of art stewardship through long term commitment.

Dr. Joseph J. Garry, Jr.

Joseph Garry’s contributions to Cleveland theater and northeast Ohio are immeasurable. In the early 1970s, Garry’s production of the cabaret-style musical revue Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris was chosen to bring audiences back to PlayhouseSquare—which it did for two-and-a-half years and 550 performances, the longest theatrical run in the state of Ohio. Along with his contributions to PlayhouseSquare theaters, Garry has created and directed numerous record-breaking productions, a travel and arts show on PBS with his late partner David Frazier, “Odysseys & Ovations“, plus 30 original theater scripts which were presented around the world. Garry has staged concerts for legends that include Ray Charles and Rosemary Clooney and was honored to stage Audrey Hepburn’s final tour for UNICEF. He has lectured at international theater conferences from Bombay to Budapest.

As head of the Theater Department at CSU, Joe served as a professor and mentor to generations of students. He received an Honorary Doctorate from Baldwin Wallace for his 30 years of contributions to the theater program as director, lecturer, and author. In 2014, Garry was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Cleveland Play House. He received the prestigious PlayhouseSquare President's Award in 2012 and continues the 48-year relationship as host of the “Broadway Buzz” lectures that precede most performances in PlayhouseSquare’s Broadway Series.

The Martha Joseph Prize is awarded to an individual or organization that has made a significant contribution to the vitality and stature of the arts in Northeast Ohio through exceptional commitment, vision, leadership, and/or philanthropy.

Sean Watterson

Sean Watterson is a passionate advocate for artists and the arts. He’s a co-founder and co-owner of The Happy Dog, an independent live music venue and community gathering place, where he has hosted thousands of musicians, academics, artists, poets, comics and storytellers over the past thirteen years. He has served on the boards of the Cleveland Arts Prize, Arts Cleveland, and the Gordon Square Arts District locally, and spearheaded the effort in Ohio on behalf of the National Independent Venue Association to Save Our Stages - an effort that led to the passage of the largest arts funding bill in the history of the United States, bringing hundreds of millions of dollars to Ohio’s independent venues, performing arts centers, museums and movie theaters. He champions the importance of individual artists and small businesses, and is an advocate for broadening traditional concepts of arts & culture to include the creative industries and creative workforce.

The Barbara S. Robinson Prize is awarded to an individual or organization for extraordinary commitment to advancement of the arts through leadership in public policy, legislation, arts education and community development.

Clara Rankin

Clara Rankin has spent a lifetime in service to the Cleveland community and beyond. Among numerous honors, CIM bestowed upon Rankin the “Women’s Committee Distinguished Service Award.” Rankin has served as a major contributor to, and volunteer for institutions including CMA where she has been a member of the Women’s Council since 1950 and joined the Museum's Board in 1967. She is now an active CMA Life Trustee Board Member. Clara has long supported the museum including the campaign for the acquisition of Asian Art and specifically, the Galleries of Chinese Art named in her honor.

Clara made significant contributions to the conception, planning and creation of Hopewell, a nonprofit residential therapeutic farm community providing nature-based care for adults reaching for mental well-being, which she founded in 1993.

Rankin was recognized as a member of Crain’s Cleveland’s “80 Over 80” in 2017 and the YWCA in 2013 as their “Lifetime Achievement Award” having broken barriers and shattered stereotypes. She is the recipient of the Goff Philanthropic Leadership Award and Hathaway Brown’s Distinguished Alumnae Heads Award for her work at organizations in Greater Cleveland and beyond. A longtime supporter of The Cleveland Orchestra and an avid concert goer, Rankin has been a Cleveland Orchestra Board Trustee for nearly twenty-five years. Special Citation presented by Cleveland Arts Prize Trustees to an individual who has made an extraordinary contribution to the arts and culture of Northeast Ohio.

Franz Welser-Möst

Franz Welser-Möst is among today’s most distinguished and recognized conductors. The 2021-22 season marks his twentieth year as music director of The Cleveland Orchestra, with their partnership extended to 2027, making him the longest-serving musical leader in the ensemble’s history. The New York Times has declared Cleveland under Welser-Möst’s direction to be “America’s most brilliant orchestra,” praising its virtuosity, elegance of sound, variety of color, and chamber-like musical cohesion.

With Welser-Möst, The Cleveland Orchestra has been praised for inventive programming, ongoing support for new musical works, and innovative work in presenting semi-staged and staged operas. The Orchestra has also been hugely successful in building up a new and, notably, young audience with its Center for Future Audiences programs. In 2020, they launched the ensemble’s own recording label and a brand-new digital streaming platform (Adella) to continue and extend sharing their artistry globally. The 2020-21 season inaugurated an original, global, digital concert series titled In Focus.

2021 Jury Members

Felise Bagley (CAP ‘15), Tizziana Baldenebro, Dr. Adam Banks, Cindy Barber (CAP ‘07), Sheba Marcus Bey, Christi Birchfield (CAP ‘17), Raymond Bobgan (CAP ‘14), Bill Busta (CAP ‘14), Michele Crawford, Eric Coble (CAP ‘07), Michael Dalby, Derin Fletcher, Helen Forbes Fields (CAP ‘20) , Dr. Adrienne Gosselin, Erin Guido, Jason Hanley, Ph.D., Maria Restrepo Hamilton, Peter Lawson Jones, Esq., Sarah Kabot (CAP ‘17), Yolanda Kondonassis (CAP ‘11), Jonathan Kurtz (CAP ‘12), Lisa Kurzner, James Levin (CAP ‘12), Karen Long, Dave Lucas (CAP ‘16), Robert Maschke, FAIA (CAP ‘11), Dianne McIntyre (CAP ‘06), Jeff Niesel, John Orlock, Dee Perry (CAP ‘16), Gabriel Pollack, Megan Reich, Brad Ricca (CAP ‘14), Jan Ridgeway, Judith Salomon (CAP ‘90), Jeffery Strean, Arnold Tunstall, Doug Utter (CAP ‘13), Andrew Valdez, Mary Weems, Ph.D. (CAP ‘15), John Williams (CAP ‘18)

61st Annual Awards Event

Cleveland Museum of Art | Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The 61st Annual Awards Event will feature performances from past Arts Prize winners and the presentation of the 2021 Cleveland Arts Prize Award winners. The ceremony is held in the Gartner Auditorium at the Cleveland Museum of Art on Wednesday, October 13, 2021. Discipline winners receive an unrestricted prize of $10,000. Special Prize awards are honorary. Tickets and sponsorship opportunities are available now at

About Cleveland Arts Prize

The Cleveland Arts Prize (CAP), founded by the Women’s City Club of Cleveland in 1960, is the oldest award of its kind in the United States. The Prize is a testament to the standard of excellence and quality of artists in Northeast Ohio. In addition to artists, Cleveland Arts Prize honors individuals and organizations that have expanded the role of the arts in the community. Since its inception, CAP has honored over 350 artists and arts leaders. Today, CAP continues as a trusted, peer-directed arbiter and guardian of the city’s creative history. Through its prize winners, CAP is the nucleus of Northeast Ohio’s arts and culture legacy and the living archive of our community’s triumphs. CAP is proud to honor and support them. For more information or to contribute to the Annual Artist Prize Fund visit

Arts leader Jeremy Johnson boomerangs back to his hometown to lead Assembly for the Arts in Cleveland




Northeast Ohio’s newest high-ranking arts leader says his life was transformed by early exposure to Cleveland Orchestra concerts at Severance Hall and the gleaming medieval armor at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Now he wants to make sure that more people can enjoy experiences like the ones he had growing up in Cleveland’s Hough and Glenville neighborhoods. He also wants to make sure the city’s enviable cultural sector grows even stronger and more influential.

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Cleveland has a new arts alliance with a new leader

Source: Crain’s Cleveland


A new nonprofit organization launching in June that aims to build a “model to serve all of Cleveland’s arts community” has named the person who will lead the effort. The group is called Assembly for the Arts, and on Monday morning, May 10, it announced it has selected Jeremy V. Johnson, a Cleveland native and most recently executive director of Newark Arts in New Jersey, as its leader. Johnson was chosen after a national search.

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Unified voices: New alliance will unite NEO arts community in diversity, equity, and inclusion

Source: FreshWater


In the past year, the country went through an awakening when it comes to racial and cultural inequities. A new collaborative arts alliance, formed between Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, Arts Cleveland, and the Arts and Culture Action Committee, with support from the Cleveland Foundation and the George Gund Foundation, will focus on an ambitious advocacy and cultural policy agenda and racial equity initiatives. Due to launch in mid-June, Assembly for the Arts will be a nonprofit and advocacy organization with the mission to elevate equity and diversity among Northeast Ohio artists, nonprofits, and businesses in the creative sector.

Read the Full Article

Veteran arts administrator and native Clevelander Jeremy Johnson will lead Greater Cleveland’s new Assembly for the Arts



A veteran New Jersey arts administrator will lead the new Assembly for the Arts, a Greater Cleveland alliance of leading nonprofit arts agencies. The assembly announced Monday that Cleveland native Jeremy V. Johnson, who served most recently as executive director of the nonprofit organization Newark Arts, has been chosen to lead the new Cleveland-area organization. He was chosen after a national search.

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Can Assembly For The Arts Help Local Creatives?

Source: Cleveland Magazine


A world-class orchestra, spectacular museums, a wondrous theater complex that’s the second largest in the country, community arts groups and fetes that bring residents together. For more than a century, Cleveland’s artistic achievements have been the envy of cities around the country — and not just for the cultural attributes they bring. The advocacy group Ohio Citizens for the Arts reported that from 2015-2018 Cleveland’s metropolitan statistical area (Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties) supported 62,499 jobs, supplied more than $3.3 billion in wages and proprietor income and generated $9.1 billion.

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Arts Advocate Returns to Cleveland to Launch Assembly for the Arts

Source: WKSU


Perhaps one of the best-kept secrets of greater Cleveland is the multi-billion dollar impact of arts and culture. A new organization, Assembly for the Arts, debuts next month and is looking to showcase that economic might by bringing local arts groups together to speak with one voice. Assembly will be led by Jeremy Johnson, a former Northeast Ohio resident who’s returning home with some fresh ideas about the power of collaboration.

Read the Full Article

Nonprofit Seeks To Bolster Equity In Cleveland Arts Community

Source: Patch


Assembly for the Arts — a nonprofit collaboration set to launch in Cleveland next month — is looking to bolster the local arts scene with its focus on cultural policy, racial equity, informed and focused research, cooperative marketing and a diverse portfolio of membership services. An organization built on a pillar of diversity, its leadership is made up of a volunteer board that consists of at least 50 percent women and 40 percent people of color, the Assembly for the Arts said in a news release.

Read the Full Article

Arts Advocate Returns To Cleveland To Launch Assembly For The Arts

Source: Ideastream


Perhaps one of the best-kept secrets of greater Cleveland is the multi-billion dollar impact of arts and culture. A new organization, Assembly for the Arts, debuts next month and is looking to showcase that economic might by bringing local arts groups together to speak with one voice. Assembly will be led by Jeremy Johnson, a former Northeast Ohio resident who’s returning home with some fresh ideas about the power of collaboration.

Read the Full Article

New Arts Alliance Will Give United Voice To Northeast Ohio’s Arts Community


Arts Leader & Cleveland Native Jeremy Johnson
Selected to Lead “Assembly for the Arts"

For Immediate Release May 10, 2021
Media Contact: Malissa Bodmann, 216-536-7517


CLEVELAND – An ambitious plan for a new organization built on a collaborative model to serve all of Cleveland’s arts community is set to launch mid-June. After more than a year of planning, leaders have announced the formation of Assembly for the Arts, a nonprofit arts alliance in Greater Cleveland, to provide a unified voice, set regional goals, and represent shared priorities for the creative economy in Northeast Ohio. Jeremy V. Johnson, a Cleveland native and most recently Executive Director of Newark Arts (NJ), has been chosen to lead Assembly for the Arts after a national search.


Assembly for the Arts will be a nonprofit and advocacy organization [501(c)3 and 501(c)4]. Assembly for the Arts will focus on an ambitious advocacy and cultural policy agenda; racial equity initiatives; informed and focused research; cooperative marketing that elevates the region; a diverse portfolio of membership services; and capacity building for nonprofits, artists and creative businesses. The new organization will be governed by a volunteer board with a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion. At least 50% of board members will be women or non-binary people and at least 40% will be BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color).


For more than a year, community partners Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, Arts Cleveland, and the Arts and Culture Action Committee, with support from the Cleveland Foundation and the George Gund Foundation, have led the planning for a new organization that would serve the entire creative sector: artists, nonprofits and creative businesses.

Cuyahoga Arts & Culture will remain a separate entity focused on funding nonprofits – an independent political subdivision of the State of Ohio with grantmaking authority – and will have representation on the Assembly for the Arts board.


After nearly 20 years in service of Cuyahoga County’s creative economy, Arts Cleveland will cease operations concurrent with the launch of the new alliance, as will the Arts and Culture Action Committee. The current Arts Cleveland staff will support Assembly for the Arts’ operations.


Johnson, a native Clevelander who grew up in Hough and Glenville and attended University School, is known to be a powerful convener, effective collaborator and an extremely gifted fundraiser. Most recently, he has served as the Executive Director of Newark Arts. Over the course of his nearly five years there, he has tripled both the fundraising and staff size of the organization, transforming it into a vibrant force for change in the Newark community. Johnson raised the national profile of Newark, now ranked among America’s top ten arts vibrant communities by the National Center for Arts Research.


“After nearly 20 years in New Jersey, I’m excited to return home to Cleveland to lead this new organization,” Johnson said. “Assembly for the Arts will be one voice, representative of the diversity of our region, that lifts up the arts in Northeast Ohio. Though this effort builds on decades of work, there has never been a greater need to support artists, nonprofits and creative businesses in Northeast Ohio as we begin recovery from the pandemic and seek a stronger future for the entire sector. My vision for Assembly for the Arts is that it will advocate for artists and arts organizations, shape transformational policies, and prioritize racial equity in the movement to lift our community through the power of arts and culture.”


Chinenye Nkemere, a member of the Assembly for the Arts Planning Committee and Board, said Johnson’s experience as a convener and collaborator will be important for Assembly for the Arts’ work. “Assembly has an ambitious agenda to be equitable, inclusive and represent all voices in our community. It will require listening and seeking out and bringing together divergent points of view,” Nkemere said. “We look forward to having Jeremy lead this work to create a more racially equitable and active arts community.”


Jill Paulsen, Executive Director of Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, said the new organization comes at a critical time for the sector. “The pandemic has been devastating on the creative economy in Cuyahoga County, and it has exposed how much our community counts on arts and culture for quality of life and as an economic engine. By working together, we can do so much more – just as we demonstrated when we united to secure $4.5-million in CARES Act relief for the arts and culture sector. As we look for new sources of funding, Assembly will provide the structure for a new level of collaboration and shared commitment to a vision for our arts sector. I’m excited to have a new partner in this vital work,” she said.


Kelly Falcone-Hall, a member of the Arts Cleveland board and President and CEO of the Western Reserve Historical Society, noted that the formation of Assembly for the Arts builds on Cleveland’s legacy of innovative support for arts and culture. Arts Cleveland led the efforts to secure public support for arts and culture more than 15 years ago. “The creative economy, inclusive of nonprofits, artists, and for-profit arts enterprises, is a significant economic driver in greater Cleveland, having an annual economic impact of $9.1 billion, which includes 62,500 jobs and $3.3 billion in labor income. We need to support everyone from the smallest to the largest organizations if this sector is to thrive. Building on the work of Arts Cleveland, Assembly is well positioned to support individuals and organizations of all sizes, no matter if they are starting out or are well established,” she said.


Fred Bidwell, chair of the Arts and Culture Action Committee, which will fold into Assembly for the Arts along with Arts Cleveland, said having the sector unified in its advocacy efforts will allow the region to maintain the strong and diverse arts and culture offerings that are a hallmark of the region. “We can accomplish so much more by working together to move our sector forward,” Bidwell said. “We are grateful to the support of the Cleveland Foundation and Gund Foundation to support the planning work that helped us deliver on our vision of a truly new way of transforming Greater Cleveland’s arts community.”


About Assembly for the Arts

Assembly for the Arts is a 501(c)3 nonprofit and 501(c)4 advocacy organization with a focus on advocacy and cultural policy, racial equity initiatives, research, marketing that elevates the region, and services for nonprofits, artists, and creative businesses. It is governed by a volunteer board with a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion. More than 50% of Assembly for the Arts board members are women or non-binary people and more than 40% are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). For more than a year, community partners Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, Arts Cleveland, and the Arts and Culture Action Committee, with support from the Cleveland Foundation and the George Gund Foundation, have led the planning for a new organization to serve the entire creative sector. Learn more at

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