The Portsmouth Area Arts Council (PAAC) brought back “A Town and Its Artists” for the first time last weekend with the first annual Awards for Creative Excellence (ACE).
Over the years, PAAC has honored local artists and contributors of the arts who have dedicated themselves to the perseverance of the community. When they realized the time to hold another award ceremony was coming up, they decided to expand the awards and combine it with the traditional “A Town and Its Artists” event. The original event was a three day festival of art, architecture, local design and collections of art. This year, we saw musicians, painters, dancers, patrons and more, during a night of honor and celebration.
“What is a pub, without the poet, the musician, or the artist?” owner of Port City Café, John Hogan, said, as he recalled his Irish legacy here in downtown Portsmouth, through his speech accepting the Business Patron of the Arts Award.
There were many speeches like this given about how much art has contributed to not only those being honored, but entire businesses and the community.
The most involved award of the night was the honoring of Mary Smalley, who won the award for Arts Educator. Smalley is celebrating her 60 year of teaching this year and she was honored with speeches by David Pettit, Barrett Elrod, and Linda Tieman.
“It seems appropriate for me to quote a song to wrap up this thing,” Tieman said. “I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason, bringing something we must learn and we are led to those who help us most to grow if we let them and we help them in return. Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true but I know I’m who I am today because I knew you.”
The idea of a night dedicated to a wide gamut of honorees was first pitched by long-time PAAC board member, Kay Bouyack.
“I wanted to see two things. I wanted people who have made significant contributions in the arts over time be honored, and I also wanted to see this happen to raise art awareness in the community,” Bouyack said. “I feel like as this goes on and this event continues in future years, that awareness will happen. This year went well, but I hope that we get more nominations in the future and more involvement. I’d definitely like to see city leadership take notice to the fact that art really does contribute to the community.”
The highlight of the night was 41-year PAAC board member, Kay Bouyack, being honored with the Robert Fuller Award, which is named after PAAC founder and passionate member of the arts community. The award is given to the honoree by the discretion of the PAAC board to an individual or an organization that embodies the spirit of Fuller and his dedication to the arts.
“I wasn’t thinking about the award. It makes me feel very honored. As anyone can tell by tonight, I’ve been working around all these arts programs for many years and it very nice to be recognized for that,” Bouyack said.
Bouyack has been the PAAC secretary since 1972, has been a board member and president of Portsmouth Little Theatre (PLT), board member of the Ohio Museum Association, has been administrative director, publicist, and administrative assistant director at the Southern Ohio Museum, and much more over her life dedicated to local arts.
“We really went back to our roots with this event,” PAAC executive director, Becky Lovins said, “’A Town and Its Artists’ really brought together a group of artists. We wanted to showcase the best and most outstanding in the Portsmouth arts community. Not only our children’s theatre sang tonight, but a variety of musicians and artists that live and breathe here that people might not know about.”
Lovins has been working for a year to get the event off the ground and would like to keep the event going biennial.