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Catalyst honored with Governor’s Arts Award

Willis “Bing” Davis, who’s spent a lifetime in the area as a premiere artist and educator, has been chosen to receive the prestigious Irma Lazarus Award, which honors a lifetime of dedication to the arts; and Cityfolk, Dayton’s presenter of traditional and ethnic performing arts, was the winner in the Community Development and Participation category, recognizing an individual or organization that strengthens arts participation and increases public awareness.

Davis and Cityfolk are among eight winners of the annual awards, to be honored with a Governor’s Awards ceremony and luncheon in Columbus on April 1. At the luncheon, each winner will be presented with an original work of art by New Carlisle painter Jean Koeller.

The other award categories and recipients are: Mark Folk, Arts Commission of Greater Toledo (Arts Administration); Corwin Georges of Springfield (Arts Education); Roe Green of Aurora (Arts Patron); Huntington Bank (Business Support of the Arts); Derek Mortland of Columbus and Michael Joseph Ulery of Sunbury (Individual Artists, collaboration); and The Honorable Patrick Sweeney of Cleveland (Irma Lazarus Award).

The Irma Lazarus Award is the only Governor’s Awards honor for which nominations are not accepted; they are given “at the pleasure of the Board,” said Sharon Howard, WDTN’s executive director of community & public relations and the area’s OAC regional representative.

“The Irma Lazarus Award is the highest honor the state gives out, and they don’t necessarily award one every year,” said Howard, who, as an OAC board member, submitted Davis’ name. “It’s given to a person or organization who not only has brought national attention to Ohio but has international acclaim. I felt like Bing fit the bill … The fact that Bing is being recognized is an amazing honor. ”

It was Howard, too, who left last year’s awards luncheon inspired, even though her region came away empty-handed.

“When you’re giving out six or seven awards for the whole state, odds are you’re not going to win one every year,” she said, “but we left quite inspired, because the winners were all very deserving.

“On the way home, I decided we needed to get our act together — in years past there have been one or two people who’ve tried to make things happen, but it’s always been at the last minute. I felt like we needed to be more methodical and more strategic in our approach.”

She started last spring by pulling together interested parties for an ad hoc committee that worked on the nominations —Montgomery County’s 15 nominations was second only to Franklin County’s 17, she said.

“I’m happy with the winners,” Howard continued. “We knew were weren’t going to win them all. The important part is that we got the names of our artists in front of the Council so when they’re nominated again — and they will be — they will be synonymous with arts in Ohio.

“When one person or organization wins, the enter region wins,” she said.

The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally and economically.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2403 or ldempsey@DaytonDailyNews.com.

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