Americans for the Arts Honors Six Arts Leaders for Enriching Communities Through the Arts


Americans for the Arts announced today the recipients of the 2020 Americans for the Arts Leadership Awards at Americans for the Arts’ digital Annual Convention and Public Art & Civic Design Conference. Given annually, the awards recognize the achievements of individuals and organizations committed to enriching their communities through the arts. This year’s awards recipients are:

  • Christen Boone – Michael Newton Award, which recognizes an individual for their innovation in developing arts and business partnerships for the arts and/or long-term achievement in effective and creative techniques to engage the private sector.
  • Helen Eaton – Arts Education Award, which recognizes transformational leadership in arts education through strategic planning, strong programming, and the engagement of partners to achieve community goals.
  • Ann S. Graham – Alene Valkanas State Arts Advocacy Award, which honors an individual at the state level whose arts advocacy efforts have dramatically affected the political landscape.
  • Janet T. Langsam – Selina Roberts Ottum Award, which recognizes an individual working in arts management who has made a meaningful contribution to their local community and who exemplifies extraordinary leadership qualities.
  • Rick Lowe – Public Art Network Award, which recognizes an individual or organization that demonstrates innovative and creative contributions and/or exemplary commitment and leadership in the field of public art.
  • Gina Rodríguez-Drix – American Express Emerging Leaders Award, which recognizes visionary leadership by an individual who is a new and/or young arts leader who demonstrates an ability to engage and impact their community.

“These tremendous leaders have distinguished themselves as passionate advocates for the arts and arts education,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “They have implemented innovative and transformative programs to strengthen the communities they serve and build recognition for the important work of the arts. Their unwavering commitment to local, state, and national support for the arts is deserving of this recognition.”

2020 Americans for the Arts Leadership Awardee Bios

Christen Boone, Michael Newton Award
Boone is the President & CEO of the Fund for the Arts, in Louisville, Kentucky, one of the country’s largest privately funded regional arts agencies. From Fortune 100 companies to entrepreneurial start-ups, Boone has developed thousands of unique partnerships between the creative and private sectors, driving workplace culture, client cultivation, project innovation, DEI initiatives, and social impact. As a social entrepreneur, Boone has leveraged the power of the arts and parks to build stronger, more vibrant communities. The Fund for the Arts drives arts access, education and innovation, raises more than $8 million annually, and supports more than 100 organizations, artists, and initiatives. Before joining the Fund in 2014, Boone served in leadership roles for some of the country’s most treasured cultural institutions. She has raised more than $250 million for organizations, including Actors Theatre of Louisville, High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Cincinnati’s Artswave, and Parklands of Floyds Fork, one of the nation’s largest new urban parks. She founded the Boone Group, coaching and consulting in nonprofit and community development. Boone has served as Chair of the Private Sector Council for Americans for the Arts, helping to inspire innovative collaborations between arts and business across the country.

Helen Eaton, Arts Education Award
Eaton has served as Settlement Music School’s CEO since 2010. One of the largest community schools of the arts in the country, Settlement has a 112-year history of arts education without barriers, providing over $2.6 million in financial aid every year to its students. In Eaton’s 10-year tenure, she has grown programming, diversified funding sources, strengthened the balance sheet, and championed partnerships, both locally and nationally. Since 2012, when she and other music education providers launched the Philadelphia Music Alliance for Youth (PMAY) collaborative, the focus on service to music students and educators alike across Philadelphia has resulted in expanded collaborations and shared professional development for in-school and out-of-school time teachers. This collaborative also gave rise to the region-wide PMAY Artists’ Initiative, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which supports students from underrepresented communities in becoming professional classical musicians. Eaton’s work at Settlement has been featured in Harvard Business Review and will be featured as a case study in Scott Anthony’s upcoming book, Eat, Sleep, Innovate: How to Make Creativity an Everyday Habit Inside Your Organization. In 2016 Eaton was named one of the Top 30 Innovators by Musical America Worldwide.  

Ann S. Graham, Alene Valkanas State Arts Advocacy Award
Since 2013, Graham has served as Executive Director of Texans for the Arts (501c4) and Texans for the Arts Foundation (501c3), both organizations serving the mission of securing and growing the public investment in the arts and for ensuring the arts are a part of the civic dialogue. Working in close partnership with TFA/F’s statewide board, lobbyist, and associate director, Graham’s work has expanded the statewide discussion and impact of advocating for the arts and cultural sector. Under her leadership, Texans for the Arts secured the largest appropriation increase in the Texas 86th Legislative Session for the Texas Commission on the Arts in the history of the agency, and led the effort to pass legislation to improve municipal reporting requirements for the Texas municipal hotel occupancy tax, the largest source of arts funding in the state. Graham has been a long-time advocate in the civic arena and was instrumental in securing $1.25 million in the 2012 City of Austin Bond election to support the work of a comprehensive restoration master plan for The Elisabet Ney Museum. Her work on the City of Austin’s CreateAustin cultural master plan was pivotal in insuring that its recommendations were integrated into Austin’s comprehensive master plan, ImagineAustin. Graham holds a master’s degree in Arts Administration and has an extensive career in arts management and organizational development, arts festival and event production, public art administration, and arts advocacy.

Janet T. Langsam, Selina Roberts Ottum Award
Langsam is the CEO of ArtsWestchester, an organization that financially and promotionally supports all of the arts in Westchester County through government, corporate, and institutional partnerships. During her 29-year tenure, Langsam, an artist and journalist, has helped grow the organization to a $4.9 million agency and has made the arts more visible, diverse, and accessible for residents. As CEO, she advocates for funding, supports local artists and cultural organizations, champions the county’s arts community, and reports on the economic impact of the arts. Among her many achievements, Langsam spearheaded the purchase and reimagining of an abandoned historic bank building into an arts incubator for artists, architects, and creative businesses. As a proponent of public art, Langsam recently collaborated with the N.Y. Thruway Authority on a sculpture component for the new Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. In her career, she has fostered artist residencies in schools, housing projects, mental health facilities, and developed contemporary art installations in hospitals, shopping centers, and housing developments. Langsam has been named among 914INC’s Most Influential Women of Westchester. She holds a master’s degree from New York University’s Graduate School of Public Service.

Rick Lowe, Public Art Network Award
Lowe is a Houston-based artist and professor of art at the University of Houston. His work has appeared in the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; Museum of Contemporary Arts, Los Angeles; Neuberger Museum, Purchase, New York; Phoenix Art Museum; Kwangju Biennale, Kwangju, Korea; the Kumamoto State Museum, Kumamoto, Japan; the Venice Architecture Biennale; and Documenta 14, Kassel, Germany and Athens, Greece. He is best known for his Project Row Houses community-based art project that he started in Houston in 1993. Additional community projects include the Watts House Project in Los Angeles, the Borough Project in Charleston, South Caroline (with Suzanne Lacy and Mary Jane Jacobs), Anyang Public Art Program 2010 in Anyang, Korea, and Trans.lation: Vickery Meadow in Dallas, Texas. Among Lowe’s honors are the Rudy Bruner Awards in Urban Excellence, the AIA Keystone Award, the Heinz Award in the arts and humanities, the Skowhegan Governor’s Award, the Skandalaris Award for Art/Architecture, and a U.S. Artists Booth Fellowship. He has served as a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University, a Mel King Fellow at MIT, an Auburn University Breedan Scholar, and as the Stanford University Haas Center Distinguished Visitor. President Barack Obama appointed Lowe to the National Council on the Arts in 2013; in 2014 he was named a MacArthur Fellow.

Gina Rodríguez-Drix, American Express Emerging Leaders Award
Rodríguez-Drix is the Cultural Affairs Manager for the City of Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism where she manages ACT Public Art program, develops cultural policy, and facilitates creative placemaking projects. Most recently Rodríguez-Drix managed the planning process for the Art in City Life Plan, the City’s first master plan for public art, and currently stewards the planning process for Creative Providence 2020, the City’s second cultural plan for the creative sector. Rodríguez-Drix’s professional and creative practices are rooted in her fervent passion for social, environmental, and reproductive justice, and a commitment to her hometown. Her work in creative placemaking has centered artists in conversations around community safety (Illuminated Trinity, funded by Artplace America) and has integrated artists with gardeners and food-based organizations to support a strong, vibrant, inclusive, and diverse local cultural economy and a more resilient local food system (Sowing Place, funded by Kresge FreshLo). Rodríguez-Drix is also a multi-genre writer, practicing birth doula, and serves on the board of the International Charter School in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Africana Studies from Brown University and raises her young family in Providence.

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Americans for the Arts is the leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education in America. With offices in Washington, D.C. and New York City, it has a record of 60 years of service. Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. Additional information is available at www.AmericansForTheArts.org.
 





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