Congratulations to our 2022 Community Arts Award recipients! Please join us at community celebration to honor this year’s award recipients. An RSVP link can be found below.
Since 1985, the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo has honored local artists, arts organizations, and supports through the Community Arts Awards. For a list of previous CAA winners, please click here (PDF).
Be sure and save the date! The 2022 Community Arts Award Ceremony will take place on Wednesday, December 7, 2022 at the Gull Lake Center for the Fine Arts. The event is free to attend, but RSVPs are appreciated.
Community Medal of Arts Awards
Bertha Barbee-McNeal and Cal Gill-Street
The road to Motown from Kalamazoo is through the Velvelettes. Since they were students at Kalamazoo Public Schools and Western Michigan University (WMU), Bertha Barbee-McNeal and Caldin (Cal) Street, two members of the Velvelettes have put Kalamazoo on the Motown map. For decades they have represented Kalamazoo around the state, country, and the world. The history of Motown is well known, but the impact of the Velvelettes especially in our local community is legendary. The only all-original Motown group from the sixties and one of few “girl groups” to still perform today, the Velvelettes set Motown on fire with their stylized vocal harmonies as part of Berry Gordy’s legendary record company. The musical group began in 1962 at WMU with Bertha Barbee-McNeal and Cal Gill-Street as the founding members.
Creating partnerships, organizing events, fund-raising and volunteering both his time and talents, is what John Speeter has spent a life-time doing through traditional country blues. He was one of the founding members of the Great Lakes Acoustic Music Organization (GLAMA), a founding performing member of the Schlitz Creek Bluegrass Band, the Somewhere in Time Band, The Sleepy Hollow String Band, Mudslide the Bluesman, as well as, a longtime member of the K’zoo Folklife Organization (KFO) where he served as President for many years.
Gayle Hoogstraten Arts Leadership Award – Educator
Kim teaches art at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, is a teaching artist in visual art, dance, and theatre with Education for the Arts/KRESA, and facilitates various independent programs in Kalamazoo. She has a rich history of offering both private individual art lessons as well as community group workshops. While the format and medium of each experience may be different (private vs. group, illustration vs. painting, etc), the common theme that runs through every educational opportunity she leads is therapeutic creative safety.
Bridget is a full-time art instructor at MRC Artworks. MRC’s mission is to encourage and support individuals living with disabilities. Thus, all the projects need to be customized to fit the individual artist’s abilities. This can be a difficult and time-consuming task, which she has been dedicated to. Her goal is to help each artist find their artistic voice, which in turn sends her students’ self-esteem and sense of self-worth skyrocketing. She has formed positive connections with Kalamazoo businesses.
Dr. Gerald Case-Blanchard
Dr. Case-Blanchard is a musical force in the greater Battle Creek community, directing three residential choirs – the Branch County Community Chorus, Concentus Vocal Ensemble and the Kellogg Singers – as well as the combined Choral Union and a yearly Opera/Musical Workshop production. This is in addition to coordinating the Kellogg Community College concert and jazz bands and teaching dozens of individual and group music and choir classes. Dr. Case-Blanchard consistently partners with the community to expand the reach of the arts.
Gayle Hoogstraten Arts Leadership Award – Administrator
Stephanie accepted the role of Executive Director of the State Theatre in 2014. Her family had owned the property since the 1980s. Under Stephanie’s leadership, the State Theatre has undergone renovations, upgrades, and a complete overhaul of its programming. Stephanie immersed herself in learning about industry standards and best practices in the arts, even though she already had a extensive background in business, construction, and non-profits.
Business Arts Award
Krystal and Jeb Gast envisioned the creative collective that has become Jerico when they first purchased the building in 2014. The building itself has a 100-year history of makers in its walls, including Charles Ford from Ford Motors (some of the first auto bodies were constructed in the building in 1898), and Star Brass Works (a Gibson Mandoline-Guitar Supplier). Through Jerico, Krystal and Jeb sought to surround themselves with creatives, entrepreneurs, makers and artists to establish a vibrant and collaborative community of folks in Kalamazoo. There is no limit to the type of work residents of Jerico bring to the table.
Theodore C. Cooper Award for Distinguished Volunteer Service
Sydney “Syd” Bastos is the heart and drive of the arts scene in Vicksburg and its surrounding villages. If you calculated what Syd has contributed over the last five years, it would be at least $200,000 worth of labor, but the benefit of her time and talent is much greater than this dollar amount. Her energy and passion built the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center (VCAC) from a small part of the Downtown Development Authority in Vicksburg to a thriving 501(c)3 with a full-time director. She has been serving as Board Chair for the past three years, putting in 1600 hours in 2021 and on the way to even more in 2022. These don’t count the hours she spends as an ambassador to the arts and as a supporter of local creatives.
Crawlspace Comedy Theatre
Crawlspace Comedy Theatre is the only professional improvisation theatre company in southwest Michigan. Founded in 2003, several different teams of actors have provided improv entertainment to thousands of people in numerous venues over the years. Their permanent new home is on the ground level of the former First Baptist Church at 315 W. Michigan in downtown Kalamazoo. Crawlspace’s high-energy comedy is effectively helping to preserve one of the community’s oldest buildings.