We are pleased to announce the 2019 Art Spark Texas Award winners as our Artists of the Month for July 2019. Following a lengthly nomination and selection process, these individuals stood out among all of the entries. However, we wish we could give awards to everyone who was nominated as they were all awards winners in their own right. This year, we are also offering a new award, the Lynn Marie Johnson Media Arts Award, in honor of long-time Art Spark Texas staff member, Lynn Marie Johnson. Lynn was the glue that held the staff together and the calm before the storm; when we were managing multiple activities and many tasks, often in the same week or even the same day! But she was always ready to have a conversation about the latest movie or play she saw, and where she did or did not see inclusion. She may have been quiet in her demeanor, but she was a diligent reporter of all things access needing to be improved. For this reason, we miss her dearly, and give this award in her name as a small token of our love and respect.
The 2019 Haven Allen Artist of the Year Award is offered in memory of former Art Spark Texas Board member Forrest Haven Street-Allen, and honors an artist with a disability in Texas who, through a one-time creative act or a substantial record of achievement, embodies the vision of Art Spark Texas. Haven was an insightful and caring person who left a legacy of helping others. She willingly shared her knowledge, and promoted the activities of Art Spark Texas with her presence and financial support. The Haven Allen Artist of the Year award honors her commitment to creating greater access to, and support for, the full inclusion of all people in the arts. Randy Sounders was an artist before his accident at age 17, and he has kept the creation of art, by and for everyone, in his life every day since. Randy has also mentored newly injured individuals to help them gain the will and confidence necessary to recovery, while encouraging thousands of Fort Worth students with disabilities to “Follow Their Dream.” By remaining true to his artistic values, and communicating these high standards through his commitment to the advancement of fellow artists, Randy Souders is the 2019 Haven Allen Artist of the Year award winner.
The inaugural 2019 Lynn Marie Johnson Media Arts Award is given to an artist with a disability in Texas who displays passion and commitment to enhancing the lives of people with disabilities through the use of media arts, i.e., video, filmmaking, photography, etc. Lynn Marie Johnson was a longtime employee of Art Spark Texas and a strong advocate for representation of people with disabilities on stage and in the media. She volunteered for numerous performance venues in Austin, and served as panelist and judge for several film festivals throughout her career. The Lynn Marie Johnson Media Arts Award recognizes her unwavering dedication to, and powerful impact on, the lives of artists and patrons with disabilities across Texas. For its willingness to tackle difficult subjects with insight and biting humor, we are pleased to award The Gene and Dave Show, and co-producers Gene Rodgers and David Dauber, the inaugural 2019 Art Spark Texas Lynn Marie Johnson Media Arts Award.
The 2019 SPARK Award is given to one artist with a disability living in Texas who embodies the spirit and purpose of Art Spark Texas. Brandon Lack challenges perceptions of how people contribute through his visual interpretation of nature, architecture and daily life. When Brandon was diagnosed with cancer, he channeled this new challenge in a creative way by adding his emotional connection to his unique use of color and light. His paintings offer a multi-dimensional view of a familiar, yet just slightly different, world. His dedication to life-long learning, and his courage in the face of adversity, are the reasons Brandon Lack is the 2019 Art Spark Texas SPARK award winner.
The 2019 Director’s Commendation is given to an artist with a disability living in Texas who, through her tireless advocacy, represents the inclusive world that Art Spark Texas works to create every day. Susan Beattie is the founder and producer of the Mental Illness Awareness Week art exhibition, held annually in San Antonio. Wanting to do something that would celebrate artists who struggle with mental illness, Susan used her own money to launch an event that has transformed the stigma of mental illness. To highlight the accomplishments and creativity of individuals who have a mental illness, Susan devotes her time year round to single handedly bring this important exhibition to the public. For this reason, Susan Beattie is awarded the 2019 Art Spark Texas Director’s Commendation.
Art Spark Texas challenges perceptions of how people contribute by creating inclusive, arts-inspired communities of individuals with diverse abilities. The Art Spark Texas Artist of the Year Awards were created in 2017 to celebrate the achievements of artists with disabilities from all artistic disciplines in Texas.
Celia Hughes, Art Spark Texas Executive Director