A GOOD WAY TO HONOR ARTISTS

Contests and awards usually involve money. But just the idea of being recognized for your accomplishments can be a reward. Enter the idea of the “ Annie Award.”

For artists supporting themselves on marginal incomes-writers, painters, performers- cash awards are great, but Arts Councils, as nonprofits themselves, don’t have a lot of money to give away. Their goal, when they distribute money is to try and reach as many people as possible, so their grants go to organizations rather than individuals.

When an artist receive recognition for their work, however, it helps them get noticed and monetary rewards often follow. Besides, creative expression and support of creative expression is not just about the money. It’s about the glow you get when you share your ideas and visions with others and the ability to inspire. It’s about connecting the community in a positive way.

Twenty-two years ago, a group of us serving on the board of our County Arts Council, The Arts Council of Anne Arundel County, got an idea. Spearheaded by then President Bill Kuethe, we started something called The Annie Awards. The idea was to honor artists in our community who had inspired us by their work and their mentorship to others. We started with six categories: Arts Patron, Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Literary Arts, Arts Educator, and Lifetime Achievement. Over the years, the categories have grown to include Arts Leadership, Arts Maverick, and Historic Arts.

Some years, the abundance of nominations made it difficult for each committee to make a selection. Other years, I recall entreating colleagues to take the time to submit nominations because we simply did not have enough in the pipeline to consider.

Taking the time to pull together the information needed to advocate for a nominee to be selected is not high on most peoples’ “to-do” list. All I can say is, it makes you feel good to witness someone else’s joy at being honored for their work. Nominating someone to be honored for their service, work. and/or contributions to the community is one of the nicest things you can do.

The prizes- a small statuette, a label pin and a write-up in the daily newspaper-were the honors initially bestowed upon those given an Annie recipient. In recent years, due to newspaper buy-outs, I do not see the same amount of press coverage, but our Arts Council publishes an extensive biography of each winner in the reception program and makes a video they show at the ceremony. The Annie Award designation is added with pride to many artist’s resumes.

The Arts Council of Anne Arundel County started giving out Annie Awards in 2000 and then another Maryland Arts Council followed suit, Howard County, creating the Howie Awards. The idea is still going strong. Googling, I found similar award programs in Missouri, Vermont, and Southwestern Indiana. A good idea spreads. I remember organizing an art exhibit and display to be shown at the reception for the fifth Annie Awards Ceremony and being pleased that the idea was still going forward, but twenty-two years is amazing. Supporting our arts community have been many generous businesses and individuals who have given both time, talent, and money to ensure that the vibrancy of the arts continues to inspire and sustain us in these challenging times. If you don’t currently have a similar awards program in your community, now might be the time to suggest one. For more information, check out the Anne Arundel Arts Council website at: https://www.acaac.org/our-programs/annie-awards/

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. You can follow me on Medium, WordPress and on twitter at SN Maril. I share with pride that I received an Annie Literary Award in 2009. To read one of my short stories, recently published in the Fall Issue of Rock Salt Journal, click here.

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