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Spokane Arts cancels awards event but plans invitational-only celebration of 2021 awards nominees

Norman Robbins, left, is part of the Spokane indie rock band BlaLonely, and Luis Mota is a local music publicity and management company owner and producer. Robbins and Mota, who founded the Palimpest Group, have been nominated for the Spokane Arts Inclusion Award. Other nominees for the Inclusion award are Stage Left Theater, Sid Al-Thumali and the Wayward World Podcast, the Spokane Ensemble Theatre, and Sindhu Surapaneni.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Norman Robbins, left, is part of the Spokane indie rock band BlaLonely, and Luis Mota is a local music publicity and management company owner and producer. Robbins and Mota, who founded the Palimpest Group, have been nominated for the Spokane Arts Inclusion Award. Other nominees for the Inclusion award are Stage Left Theater, Sid Al-Thumali and the Wayward World Podcast, the Spokane Ensemble Theatre, and Sindhu Surapaneni. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

The rising number of COVID-19 cases have claimed another fall event, this one the annual Spokane Arts Awards celebration hosted by Spokane Arts.

An award event was scheduled for later this month, but organizers recently canceled it, said Spokane Arts Executive Director Melissa Huggins.

“This year we had really hoped to have an in-person event,” she said. “We always feature a variety of performances and honor the nominees that were nominated by the community.”

Last year’s event was livestreamed for those who couldn’t attend in person, but Huggins said there are no plans to do that this time, after a year of people living, working and going to school online.

“There’s a fair amount of livestream fatigue,” she said.

Spokane Arts will host a small, invitation-only reception for the nominees and release a series of short videos about each nominee on its website, spokanearts.org.

The annual awards are given in four categories; leadership, inclusion, imagination and collaboration. The public is invited to submit nominees for individuals and organizations who support the arts in some way. A committee then reviews the nominations and selects a winner in each category. This year’s winners will be announced later this month.

This year the award winners will receive a glass plate designed by artist and Whitworth professor Katie Creyts.

“We do give them a lovely physical award,” Huggins said. “They’re handcrafted, and they’re different each year. It’s kind of a fun tradition.”

  • The nominees in the leadership category are Jeremy Whittington, Nicholas DeCaro, Morgan Walters, Yvonne Johnson, Spokane Playwrights Laboratory, Inland Northwest Opera, and Dr. Amanda Cantrell of the Spokane Shakespeare Society.
  • In the Inclusion category the nominees are: Stage Left Theater, Sid Al-Thumali and the Wayward World Podcast, the Spokane Ensemble Theatre, Sindhu Surapaneni, and Luis Mota and Norman Robbins of the Palimpest Group.
  • The nominees in the Imagination category are Joshua Thomas, Robert Tombari, M.A.D. Co. Lab Studios, Robert Sletner and Kate Lebo.
  • In the Collaboration category the nominees are: Sonny and Lisa Moeckel, Darrien Mack, Wishing Tree Books, Spokane Valley Summer Theater and the North Monroe Business District.

There are some years that the selection committee gives out a Karen Mobley Impact Award to honor the lifetime achievement of its recipient, and this is one of those years, Huggins said. The latest winner of the award is Don Hamilton of Hamilton Studio. Huggins said he stepped up during the pandemic and helped numerous groups do livestreamed events.

“He was nominated multiple times,” she said. “There were just so many people in the community who wanted to recognize his decades of leadership.”

Still, Huggins is disappointed that there won’t be an in-person awards night this year.

“I look forward to this event so much because it’s all about celebration,” she said.

The artists and performers scheduled to participate in the event will be paid even though the event was canceled, she said.

“They did prep work to prepare for those performances,” she said.

The Smokes, the band booked to perform during the awards event scheduled for Saturday at the Lucky You Lounge, will be doing a free show at the venue that night, Huggins said. The band has decided since it is being paid, it should still do a show, she said.

“It’s not an arts award event,” she said.

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Nina Culver can be reached at nculver47@gmail.com.

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