Governor's Awards Archive

Honoring achievement, creativity, & excellence since 1966

Since 1966 the Governor's Arts & Heritage Awards program has proudly recognized individuals and organizations for their contributions to the arts and cultural development of Washington State.

2018 Governor's Arts & Heritage Award Honorees

Governor's Meritorious Arts Award: PAUL G. ALLEN (King County)
This discretionary award is given to an individual who, for a significant period of years, has provided continuous and extraordinary contributions to the arts. Paul G. Allen left a legacy of creativity, generosity, and passion for the arts and humanities across the world and especially in Washington State. As co-founder of Microsoft, he helped to bring the personal computer to the mainstream and used his incredible resources to advance science, technology, education, wildlife conservation, the arts, and community services. From renovating and upgrading the iconic Cinerama movie theatre, to founding the Seattle Art Fair, to helping nonprofits nurture the arts, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and Vulcan Inc supports cultural causes big and small, including for the past four years, ArtsWA and the Governor’s Arts and Heritage Awards. Paul Allen’s willingness to invest in potential and to take chances on creative thinking and endeavors is a true inspiration us all.

Arts Award: Individual Artist: PRESTON SINGLETARY (King County)
Preston Singletary is a glass sculpture artist who, through his skill, discipline, and craftsmanship, has seamlessly united glass sculpture with his Tlingit heritage. The resulting innovative and beautiful works have contributed greatly to the national and international indigenous arts scene. The cultural stories Preston has integrated into his artwork and shared through exhibitions, gallery shows, demonstrations, teaching, community service, and donations of work, have inspired other indigenous artists to tell their own cultural stories through art. Recognitions for his work have included a National Artist Fellowship Award from the Native Arts & Culture Foundation, Seattle Mayor's Art Award from the City of Seattle, and an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Puget Sound. Preston also has an artwork in the State Art Collection. Killer Whale Fin with Raven is located at Evergreen State College in Olympia.

Arts Award: Organization: GET LIT! PROGRAMS (Spokane County)
The Get Lit! Festival, produced by Get Lit! Programs, is the Spokane region's only weeklong literary festival. Now in its 20th year, the festival has grown from a single day event of back-to-back readings to its current seven-day celebration of literature. The festival brings in thousands of attendees from Spokane and the surrounding region for a diverse range of inspirational and educational readings, writing workshops, craft classes, book launches, poetry slams, panel discussions, literary happy hours, and much more. In addition to the festival, Get Lit! Programs has facilitated programs like Writers in Residence, a program that places published authors in local schools to teach 10-week creative writing courses to students who do not normally have access to a creative writing curriculum. Over its two decades of existence, Get Lit! Programs' Get Lit! Festival has become an exciting and beloved part of the Spokane community, creating a place where all attendees, writers and readers alike, celebrate the power of the written word.

Arts Award: Young Arts Leader: LEAH WILSON-VELASCO (Walla Walla County)
Leah Wilson-Velasco is a pillar of the Walla Walla arts community. Through her position as CEO of the Walla Walla Symphony, she brings a passion for symphonic music and a focus on diverse and inclusive programming to the Walla Walla community. Leah has expanded youth outreach programs, brought financial stability to the Symphony, and worked with the Symphony's music conductor to create seasons of growing popularity and artistic merit. Leah has become a community-wide leader with a strong desire to collaborate with other non-profit organizations in Walla Walla, where she sits on the boards of Visit Walla Walla, The Kids' Place, and the Walla Walla Piano Group. She continuously devotes her efforts to providing diverse and enriching music experiences that promote inclusion and are accessible to all residents of the Walla Walla Valley and surrounding areas.

Arts Award: Legacy: JIM KELLY (King County)
Jim Kelly has had a major impact on the growth and health of the arts and culture in Washington State. For more than 25 years of executive leadership, Jim's extraordinary record of achievement has been transformative in building a stronger, more diverse, and more sustainable cultural life in King County and beyond. Jim helped create 4Culture, a public cultural services agency serving the entire King County region that secures funding for artists, historians, institutions and community groups that nurture our cultural life. Jim built strong and enduring partnerships, and offered a powerful voice for the cultural community. Through the strength and determination of Jim's leadership, 4Culture has emerged as one of the most unique and effective public agencies in the country. Jim Kelly has been one of the most beloved and respected leaders in King County's thriving cultural community's history. He is a champion for the arts and preservation, and a strong proponent of public investment in culture.

Arts Award: Philanthropy: EDMUND LITTLEFIELD (Snohomish County)
Edmund Littlefield has built a legacy of support for arts organizations across Washington State, making significant contributions both personally and through his private Sage Foundation. Edmund studied music at Stanford University. Music has always been the center of his life though, leading him to develop "Sage Arts Studio" in Arlington, WA in 1972. He continues his involvement in music as a member of Marley's Ghost, a folk/roots band that plays and performs around the country. As a philanthropist, Edmund has shown incredible leadership through life-changing gifts of support to traditional and heritage-based organizations in Washington State and across the country. These gifts have been instrumental in advancing singular missions and historic efforts to preserve American history, artifacts, and folklore via archival recordings, publications and scholarship. Edmund regularly contributes significant donations to organizations such as the Fort Worden PDA, Cornish College of the Arts, Centrum Foundation and the Celtic Arts Foundation. His generosity has touched thousands throughout the state.

Arts Award: Community: MERY SWANSON (Grays Harbor County)
Mery Swanson's work to better her community began shortly after she moved to Aberdeen in 1996. Finding no arts community there, she made it her mission to create one by developing and marketing new programs across Aberdeen. She belongs to the Harbor Art Guild, the North Beach Art Guild and the South Beach Art Association, and is the Director of the Art Marketing Group of Our Aberdeen. In 2013, Mery received the Aberdeen Revitalization Movement Presidents’ Award for her contributions to the community. The results of Mery’s devotion to the arts and cultural life of Aberdeen are on just about every corner of town. Mery nurtures an engaged, productive arts community, thus improving the area’s economy and quality of life. Mery is an artist and a change agent that has made an indelible mark on the Aberdeen area.

Heritage Award: Individual: PATSY SURH O’CONNELL (Pierce County)
Patsy Surh O'Connell's passion for promoting Asia and Pacific Islander heritage, culture, and arts in Washington State stems from a desire to honor her Korean heritage; honor her parents' legacy; and to raise the profile of Asia Pacific culture in the community as a whole.  This passion led to her establishing the Asia Pacific Cultural Center in 1996 where she currently serves as President of its Board of Directors. Under her strong leadership, the organization has grown and expanded to serving more than 62,000 people in 2017 alone. In addition to establishing this cultural institution that has become a community treasure, she has collaborated with numerous organizations and agencies to help them plan and develop arts and culture programs and events for the community. Her many awards include: the 2015 Visionaries Award, the 2012 Heritage Keepers on Preserving and Education for the Future Award, from Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation, and the Emerging Leadership Award, from the City Club of Tacoma in 2003.

Heritage Award: Organization: PORT OF KENNEWICK (Benton County)
The Port of Kennewick is a 103-year-old organization with a proven record of building and sustaining the local community through advocacy, art, and architecture. The Port has invested in public artwork and architecture that integrates and shares the stories of the surrounding community. These stories, in turn, have become a catalyst that transformed the city's waterfront into a community and regional destination. From honoring the tribal, pioneering, shipbuilding, agricultural, maritime, environmental, industrial, and ethnic traditions, to providing cultural touchstones through educational imagery and representative architecture, the Port of Kennewick has worked hard to advocate, highlight, and symbolize the community's rich and diverse history. The installation of these works have brought renewed vibrancy to the historic downtown and championed history and culture within the City of Kennewick and the Mid-Columbia region.

Archive of Governor's Arts & Heritage Awards Recipients -1966 to 2018

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