Five organizations and individuals were honored Saturday with the first Mayor’s Arts Awards in conjunction with the Phoenix Festival of the Arts held at Margaret T. Hance Park.
Mayor Greg Stanton presented the awards and was assisted by Councilman Tom Simplot and Joseph Benesh, chair of the festival committee.
“We did want to create a signature event for me and future mayors to support arts in the center of Phoenix. The downtown area is where the very best arts are located, where you can have the most fun,” Stanton said.
Phoenix resident Azetta Bey said the awards are important to bring recognition to the community.
“A lot of people are not aware of all that’s here, so the awards bring awareness and show appreciation,” Bey said.
Xanthia Walker, co-founder of Rising Youth Theatre, an award recipient, said the arts are a critical part of any community, but can’t survive without support.
The dance organization award was given to Scorpius Dance Theatre. The dance company, founded in 1999, is in its 11th season.
Scorpius Dance Theatre founder Lisa Starry said her company wants to continue to be a part of Phoenix, even as they tour internationally.
One of Scorpius’s most popular productions is A Vampire Tale, a show they have been performing for nine years. This year, the company also traveled to the United Kingdom to perform the show at the Bram Stoker Film Festival.
Stanton introduced the public art award recipient as “a very dangerous man, a wonderfully dangerous man, a great muralist of international renown. We love him so much, he does so much for the downtown arts scene, our friend, Hugo Medina!”
Most recently, Medina has been involved with the community mural being painted at the Phoenix Festival of the Arts. Individual panels will be painted and then reassembled at Indian School Road and Central Avenue.
Medina said all the projects he worked on were partnerships with other people, including his two daughters, who have painted on every mural he has done.
“They’re not my murals, they’re the community’s murals,” Medina said.
The visual artist award was presented to Eugene Grigsby, whose public collections are on display in museums and galleries across the country, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., Benesh said.
Grigsby is a “history maker in our city” who has “left an indelible mark on Phoenix,” Stanton said. Grigsby joined the faculty at ASU in 1966 and served as a trustee of the Phoenix Art Museum.
Grigsby, 94, gives back to the community by teaching art to youth, as well. He works with students through the Arizona Opportunities Industrialization Center, as well as other community organizations.
“If you haven’t been to the arts show at the OIC where arts students that have learned from him show up and work, it is a spectacular, spectacular experience,” Stanton said.
A total of five awards were given out. Downtown Chamber Series and Rising Youth Theatre received the music organization and theater awards, respectively.
After the ceremony ended, Stanton said he did not judge the art personally, but rather had a panel of judges who know the arts.
“One thing I’ve learned in politics is know your strengths and weaknesses. Judging art is not my talent,” Stanton said.