Meet the 2021 Artist of the Year Award Winners

Meet the 2021 Artist of the Year Award Winners

Art Spark Texas presents its Annual Artist of the Year Awards to five artists with disabilities who live and work in Texas. These artists were nominated by members of their community and were chosen by a panel of their peers to be recognized for their artistry and advocacy. We believe that their perseverance to ignite the creative power in everyone is something we can all celebrate.
We are very excited to announce our 2021 Artist of the Year Award winners and we would like you to meet them!

Haven Allen Artist of the Year Award

Joan Lawson
Joan Lawson

The Haven Allen Artist of the Year Award in memory of past board member, Forrest Haven Street-Allen, is given to an artist with a disability who, through a onetime creative act or a substantial record of achievement, embodies the vision of Art Spark Texas. This award is being presented to Austin artist Joan Lawson, co-founder of the Creative Arts Society a non-profit arts organization promoting the development of the “Artist in Everyone.” Throughout CAS’ entire 22-year history, Joan has served as a board member, providing guidance to new members and CAS’ changing leadership, ensuring that it stays true to its vision and welcoming culture. After retiring from the FAA as an air traffic controller, Joan realized her dream of becoming a full-time artist and painter in 1992. Her paintings are in private and corporate collections in the U.S. and abroad.


Photo of Ryan Schmidt
Ryan Schmidt

The 2021 SPARK Award is given to an artist with a disability who embodies the spirit and purpose of Art Spark Texas. Pflugerville musician Ryan Schmidt challenges perceptions of how people contribute through his advocate spirit on display in his imaginative and engaging music videos. Ryan Schmidt is a prolific and award-winning rapper, a songwriter and a producer who lives with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, Duchenne. Ryan pursues his goals of bringing attention to MD through his music. For the past 11 years he has hosted, performed and brought together other musicians with his annual fundraiser for Duchenne which has raised tens of thousands for research.

Lynn Marie Johnson Media Arts Award

Miguel Hernandez (DJ Mik)
Miguel Hernandez (DJ MIK ONE)

The 2021 Lynn Marie Johnson Media Arts Award is given to an artist 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. Through his volunteer DJ work, Houston artist Miguel Hernandez, aka DJ MIK ONE emboldens and demonstrates this passion every day. Miguel has set an example for, and inspired, other fathers to volunteer at their children’s schools and make a difference in their children’s lives, as well as in their school community. Through his DJ gigs at his children’s elementary school, Miguel has shared music and his professional DJ talents with the students. Miguel’s learning disabilities have not held him back from helping in a variety of capacities, including fundraisers, fashion shows, field trips and more.

Mobile Art Award

Gary Bachers
Gary Bachers

The 2021 Mobile Art Award is given to an artist age 65 or older who exemplifies the creative aging philosophy that engagement in the arts improves emotional well-being, supports good health, strengthens social bonds, and brings a heightened experience of purpose and joy. New Boston visual artist Gary Bachers brings to each day a renewed sense of purpose through his ever-evolving ‘picture conversations.’ Gary, a beloved family physician, suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke at age 38, resulting in the loss of all use of his right arm and expressive aphasia. Art became his second career and his new “voice.” Gary’s signature drawing technique-a painstakingly detailed and delicate layering of colored wax pencil-led to success in the art world over the last 34 years. Gary continues to inspire others with his art and his determination to move forward.

Director’s Commendation

MariaR. Perez
Maria R. Pérez

The 2021 Director’s Commendation is given to an artist with a disability who, through advocacy and art, represents the inclusive world that Art Spark Texas works to create every day. El Paso artist Maria R. Pérez is a creative writer, graphic artist, motivational speaker and cultural worker in the Texas, U.S.-Mexico border region. She is a founding member of The Tornillo Collective whose purpose is to promote education and awareness about youth in detention centers across Texas using drama, poetry and art. Maria, who had polio, is a regular presenter of poetry workshops with the Tumblewords Project.


2021 Artist of the Year Awards Ceremony

Please join us on Sunday, September 19, from 1:00 to 3:30 PM CDT for our virtual awards ceremony! We will provide the following accommodations: ASL, audio description and captioning. All are welcome to attend RSVPs are requested. Please RSVP here. 

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