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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Local artists celebrated at Spokane Arts Awards

The Spokane Arts Awards was hosted at the Gonzaga University Hemmingson Center Ballroom on Saturday. Along with the awards, several performances were given from local artists, including James Pakootas and CarliAnn Bruner.  (Samantha Fuller/The Spokesman-Review)

Bringing the community together since 1978, Spokane Arts honored local artists at its annual event Saturday at the Gonzaga University Hemmingson Center Ballroom.

Karen Mobley, an arts contractor for Spokane Arts for the past decade and former city arts director for 15 years, considered the annual event a “legacy project for the arts community to recognize people,” she said. “… There’s lots of hugs and love and support and nurture.”

Mobley is grateful the event highlights artists who work toward making a difference locally.

“It’s good for us individually,” Mobley said, “but it’s also really good for community-building and connecting, and all of those things.”

Emceeing the event was local activist, Spokesman-Review columnist and former president of the Spokane NAACP chapter Kiantha Duncan. This year’s categories included the Inclusion, Imagination, Collaboration and Leadership awards.

Along with the awards, several performances were given in dance, singing, poetry and storytelling throughout the night.

The opening performance of the night, “Coming Home” by James Pakootas and CarliAnn Bruner, was a dedication to native land and the local Plateau tribes that live locally. Pakootas, who has been performing since childhood, performed spoken word poetry as Bruner performed a contemporary Indigenous dance.

Pakootas has been performing since childhood . It has always been something Pakootas makes time for .

“Well, my mom, all of her sisters, my grandma and my uncles, they’re all musicians and singers in the church and would sing at funerals and (in the) community,” Pakootas said. “So, she at like 8 years old, she would have me onstage singing a solo while she played guitar. These old gospel hymns were like my foundation.”

Pakootas has mainly focused on hip-hop in the past. However, he has ventured to trying spoken word poetry to focus on healing himself, healing the nation and breaking a cycle of pain.

In 2015, Pakootas lost function in his right arm to a drunk driving accident. It was not until Dec. 29 of last year that he received an amputation, which is when his healing was able to begin.

“I’ve been carrying around this dead limb, afraid to face the truth, afraid of my own healing, afraid of my own process forward,” Pakootas said. “It’s that culminating act of finally letting go of that land that has really opened and flourished a whole new direction of conforming. Turning something so tragic into something so powerful is a testament to the creator.”

Other than performing, Pakootas also produces shows, including helping in the Root Experience Festival.

The awards

The Inclusion Award went to Root Festival’s creator Olivia Evans for her outstanding work in her first festival in Spokane.

The festival, which lasts two days, celebrates BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) artists, including musicians, filmmakers and more.

Winning the award was not what Evans was expecting, noting that she is focused on all the work she has had to do to get here.

“When you’re heavily in the work, you’re just focused on the work, and you don’t really see how you fit in, and you’re just kind of diving into it,” Evans said. “I’ve never really been seen in this way, so it’s new for me, and it’s shocking in that way.”

Evans is hoping to see a growth in the festival in future years with more funding and publicity.

She says she is grateful for how open Spokane was toward her when moving here in 2011.

Pivot Spokane, Jacki Caro, Bright Comet Theatre and Zine Fest also were nominated for the Inclusion Award.

The second award of the night went to author and elementary school librarian Stephanie Oakes for the Imagination category.

Oakes has authored three books, with several recognitions for her work. Her first book, “The Arsonist” (2014), won the Washington State Book Award, as well as an ALA/YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults pick, according to Spokesman-Review archives.

Her second book, “The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly” (2015), was a Morris Award finalist and a Golden Kite Honor book, according to S-R archives. Oakes released her third book, “The Meadows,” this year.

The other nominees for the Imagination Award were Dahveed Bullis, Chelsea Martin, Latrice William and Ari Nordhagen.

The Collaboration Award was given to Lisa Soranaka and Mallory Battista for the community statue, Sunshine Through, they crafted together.

The statue was created from pieces made by members of the community. The Soranaka and Battista set up designated times for people to come and paint ceramic tiles, as well as having Central Valley High School’s art class make tiles.

“It’s so special when you get to actually actively participate in art in that way,” Soranaka said. “And so that was a really big component for us. So, I think other people seeing that that was such a special part of making the piece. You know, it’s not in a gallery; it’s not in a museum that might feel sort of exclusive.”

Elk Soup, Monia Mota, Filipino-American Northwest Association, Spokane Print & Publishing Center and 50 Hour Slam NW Film Festival were nominated for the Collaboration Award.

The last award of the night was given for leadership to Nike Imoru. Imoru worked as a casting director for 16 years, along with being an actress, producer, teacher, director and holds a Ph.D. She is also the former president and producer of Rebel Kat Productions.

The other nominees for the leadership award were Amanda Cantrell, Ashley DeMoville, Christine Lysnewycz Holbert and Stephaine Courtney.

Samantha Fuller's reporting is part of the Teen Journalism Institute, funded by Bank of America with support from the Innovia Foundation.