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7th annual Spark Awards honorees announced

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Wed, Nov 18th 2020 09:20 am

Presented by M&T Bank

Arts Services Inc. (ASI) announced the winners and honorees of the 7th annual Spark Awards, presented by M&T Bank and held Monday. The presentation was streamed for free through ASI’s YouTube page (www.youtube.com/asiwny).

The presentation featured each of this year’s honorees through prerecorded speeches. It also announced the winners of the Artist of the Year and Arts Organization of the Year Spark Awards that evening.

The 2020 Spark Awards honorees and winners are:

Arts Organization of the Year

  • 1891 Fredonia Opera House Performing Arts Center (winner)
  • O’Connell & Company
  • Unique Theatre Co.

Artist of the Year

  • JoAnn Falletta (winner)
  • Chris J. Handley
  • Edreys Wajed

Arts Integration

The Children’s Guild Foundation Autism Spectrum Disorder Center at Oishei Children’s Hospital

DEC Program of the Year

Lewiston Council on the Arts’ Iroquois Market

Lifetime Achievement

Vincent O’Neill

Rising Star

West Falls Center for the Arts

Supporter of the Cultural Sector

Joel Feroleto, Buffalo Common Councilmember

Trailblazer of the Arts

Michele Agosto 

Unsung Hero

Beth Pedersen

The Spark Award for Organization of the Year honors an arts organization for its achievements in the previous year.

"We are so grateful to Arts Services for all the work it does in serving the arts and for recognizing the Opera House this year,” said Rick Davis, executive director of the 1891 Fredonia Opera House Performing Arts Center. “We couldn't be more excited! Congratulations to the other winners and finalists, all of whom add immensely to Western New York's rich cultural landscape! And, of course, thank you to the Opera House's members and contributors, who have supported and sustained us for the past 26 years."

The 1891 Fredonia Opera House Performing Arts Center has been enhancing the cultural landscape of Chautauqua County since its grand reopening in November 1994, and in 2019 – its 25th anniversary – it celebrated its growth from a performance space for local arts groups to a fully fledged venue presenting national and international artists with a new name and logo.

The Spark Award for Artist of the Year recognizes an individual artist for their achievements and work in the previous year. The 2020 winner of the Artist of the Year Spark Award, Falletta, is a Grammy Award-winning conductor and the music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. She is internationally celebrated as a vibrant ambassador for music, an inspiring artistic leader, and a champion of American symphonic music. Upon her appointment as music director of the BPO, she became the first woman to lead a major American ensemble.

“I am thrilled to be the recipient of the Spark Award, and honored to be celebrated with two superb artistic colleagues, Chris Handley and Edreys Wajed,” Falletta said. “Thank you to Arts Services for recognizing performers and artists in this very challenging time, and for believing in the extraordinary power of the arts in our lives.”

This year’s 13 honorees were selected by a panel of arts leaders out of a pool of 139 nominations for their work in and support of the arts industry in 2019. The original presentation was scheduled to take place in person at 500 Pearl in Downtown Buffalo on Wednesday, May 13. Due to the shutdown from COVID-19, the event was postponed and reimagined as a virtual presentation that is open to anyone in the community who wishes to celebrate this year’s honorees.

The 2020 Spark Awards are made possible thanks to the support of sponsors and supporters, including everyone who donated the cost of their prepurchased tickets. 

Proceeds from the Spark Awards help ASI continue its mission of providing funding, learning opportunities, community access and resources to the arts industry in Western New York.

The presentation is available to view on ASI’s YouTube page here.

Arts Services Inc. (ASI) empowers the region's artists and arts organizations with connections to funding, learning opportunities, and community access to the arts. ASI is a resource hub for the Western New York arts and cultural sector.

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