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State arts awards go to Willis ‘Bing’ Davis and Cityfolk; awards painted by local artist

State arts awards go to Willis “Bing” Davis and Cityfolk; awards painted by local artist by Terry Morris for Dayton Daily News, March 29, 2009

It’s Dayton’s year to shine during the annual Governor’s Awards for the Arts.

Living legend Willis “Bing” Davis and folk arts presenter Cityfolk will be among nine individuals and organizations from across the state recognized during Arts Day 2009 on April 1.

Corwin Georges of Springfield, who chairs Wittenberg University’s department of theater and dance, is another.

Even the awards that will be presented to the honorees were made in the Miami Valley — original paintings from New Carlisle artist Jean Koeller’s “Pathway to Light” series.

Their presence will add local luster to a year when Gov. Ted Strickland, who is scheduled to give the keynote address during the awards luncheon for the third year in a row, has recommended another reduction in the Ohio Arts Council budget.

Senate President Bill Harris and House Speaker Armond Budish will present the awards.

Davis, one of two Irma Lazarus Award recipients, and Cityfolk, recognized for community development and participation, had tough competition. More than 100 Ohio individuals and organizations were nominated.

The other recipients and their categories are: Mark Folk, of the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, arts administration; Roe Green, of Aurora, arts patron; Huntington Bank, business support for the arts; musicians and longtime collaborators Derek Mortland and Michael Joseph Ulery, of Columbus and Sunbury, individual artists; and former legislator Patrick Sweeney, of Cleveland, the Lazarus Award.

Wittenberg’s Corwin Georges is being honored in the category of arts in education.

Davis, who is president of the National Conference of Artists, said news of the award “was very nice and totally unexpected. The Irma Lazarus Award isn’t presented every year. As I understand it, they look at someone who has statewide, possibly national visibility, and some longevity.”

He believes those who choose the winners “have been looking at what I’ve been doing here (his 5-year-old Davis Art Studio and EbonNia Gallery on West Fifth Street). I think they also took into account my work with the School for the Blind and Vision Impaired in St. Petersburg, Russia; my teaching in Bermuda the last several years (with a contingent of art educators); and plans this July to go to Ghana and help re-structure the arts curriculum in such a way as to help them concentrate on using indigenous materials and supplies.”

Since retiring from the faculty at Central State University, Davis has been able to devote more time to making art.

“I have six new pieces on the board. I’m working on three to four drawings, doing the pottery downstairs, and I take my camera everywhere I go. Before, I often struggled to meet my commitments. Now, I’m able to build up my inventory,” he said.

Davis also will teach Dayton workshops this summer “for kids ages 10 to 18 who can’t afford to pay for art classes.”

Cityfolk’s Executive Director John Harris said his organization, the state’s only full-time presenter of traditional arts, was nominated for its “broad array of programming, not for one specific thing. The Culture Builds Community project, the Cityfolk Festival and our season of concerts and educational programs were all components in our success.”

Letters of support were submitted, among others, by Jan Lepore-Jentleson, director of Dayton’s East End Community Services Corp., and the Montgomery County Commissioners.

“By sharing the artistic expressions of cultural heritage that represent who we are, I can see the eyes of our community opening to what makes us unique, and what brings us closer together,” Lepore-Jentleson wrote in support of Cityfolk. “I can see the pride in celebrating one’s own culture, and the fascination of learning about those of a neighbor. And I can see the cultural barriers between neighbor begin to crumble and a spirit of cooperation fall into its place.”

Besides the Arts Day Luncheon at noon on April 1 in the Columbus Athenaeum, the day will include student exhibits and visits throughout the day to elected officials by Ohio Citizens for the Arts advocates. The day is sponsored by the OCA Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council.

More information is available on the Ohio Arts Council Web site at


Dayton-area nominees for 2009 also included:

Individual artist: James P. Crotty, Centerville; Mike Elsass, Dayton; Mark R. Lyons; Sheri Williams, Dayton; Kay L. Reimers, Yellow Springs.

Arts administrator: Dayton Ballet Director Dermot Burke, Human Race Theatre Executive Director Kevin Moore, Urbana’s Art on Main founder and administrator Jamie Porter, Xenia High School art teaher Robert Richards, YS Kids Playhouse founder and Director John Fleming.

Business support: Chase bank, Dayton Children’s Medical Center, WDTN-TV (Channel 2).

Community development and participation: Dayton Visual Arts Center; Vickie A. Shurelds, St. Marys; Corrine Bayraktaroglu, Yellow Springs; Nancy Mellon, Yellow Springs; and the YS Kids Playhouse.

Arts in education: Dayton Art Institute, Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, actor Michael K. Lippert.

Arts patrons: Burt and Alice Saidel, Dayton, Jim and Enid Goubeaux, Greenville.