Celebrating activism through the arts
Arts Services Inc. celebrated the winners and honorees of the 8th annual Spark Awards, presented by M&T Bank, in a virtual awards ceremony on Wednesday. The presentation was streamed for free through ASI’s YouTube page (www.youtube.com/asiwny).
The virtual presentation featured each of this year’s honorees through prerecorded speeches. In addition to the virtual presentation, the Spark Awards also included an intimate in-person watch party with the honorees in the Grand Aries Ballroom at 500 Pearl. The watch party was capped by a special appearance from Erie County Legislator Jeanne M. Vinal who presented an official proclamation in support of “Unsung Hero” award recipient Joan Fishburn.
The winners of the Artist of the Year award and Arts Organization of the Year award were also announced that evening. Jalen A. Law (Artist of the Year winner) and the Center for Exploratory and Perceptual Arts (CEPA) (Arts Organization of the Year winner) distinguished themselves amongst the other finalists through an exemplary display of activism through the arts in 2020, a year marked by a global health crisis and social unrest.
Visual artist Law developed and curated a unique virtual art exhibit to raise enough money to feed 100 local families through the COVID-19 crisis. The exhibit, titled “On the Front Lines,” illuminated the experiences of 15 essential workers from various industries. Through the interactive, multimedia exhibit, guests were able to click on the artwork to hear audio recordings of the workers’ experiences on the front lines. To facilitate this project, Law singlehandedly formed a nonprofit organization called Buffalo’s Own to better support families in need. In his acceptance speech, he expressed his sincere gratitude for the support of his family.
As an organization, CEPA has continually used its platform to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement, specifically bringing awareness to issues of racial injustice in the Buffalo area. CEPA’s first exhibit after reopening in July was by emerging local artist Tito Ruiz, titled “Hope, Rebellion & Justice,” which featured action and street shots from various community protests in Western New York. CEPA also produced a public exhibition in the form of billboards called “Black Matters.” The billboards featured original artwork by Stacey Robinson and displayed positive messages such as #BlackHealthMatters and #BlackJoyMatters, with the intent to create a dialogue within the community and inspire change. CEPA was represented in the virtual awards presentation by Executive Director Veroniqué Côté.