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THE pARTy! Returns! 

Put on your pARTy! clothes for a night of celebration!

After a three-year hiatus due to the global pandemic, Creative Washtenaw is resuming its tradition of presenting the Creative Washtenaw Medal for Arts, Sciences & Humanities. Join us to catch up on the years missed – 2020, 2021, 2022 as well as this year, 2023. 

THE pARTy! is Creative Washtenaw's signature benefit event celebrating the arts + creative industries in Washtenaw County. The highlight of the event is the presentation of Creative Washtenaw Medals for Arts, Sciences & Humanities to honor and celebrate the extraordinary achievements of those in Washtenaw County who advance and increase awareness of the arts + creative industries in the greater Ann Arbor area and beyond. Medalists make their mark through their accomplishments, leadership and investment of time, talent and resources thus setting the standard for excellence and serving as the example for others to follow.

Monday, February 27, 2023

  • 5:15 p.m. - Private Medalist Reception for sponsors and honorary committee
  • 6:15 p.m. - THE pARTy!
  • 7:15 p.m. - Medal Presentations

Morris Lawrence Building, Washtenaw Community College
4800 East Huron River Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48105

Find ticket information here

Find sponsor information here - in addition to reward of investing in Washtenaw’s Arts + Creative Industries sponsor benefits includes: Medalist reception with bubbly and nibbles; branding on invitation, event signage & social media; on-screen at THE pARTy!; throughout the year on Creative Washtenaw e-News and social media.

Intrinsic Sponsors

Inspiration Sponsors

Innovation Sponsors

Don & Nancie Loppnow
Washtenaw Community College

Insight Sponsors

Lifetime Achievement Medal

Recognizing outstanding and sustained artistic and creative accomplishments within the arts, sciences and/or humanities receiving national and or international acclaim.

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Patterson Headshot
Shirley, George
Credit: Catherine Pappas

Peter Madcat Ruth
Lifetime Achievement Medal 2020
Grammy Award winning Peter Madcat Ruth established an international reputation through his riveting virtuosity on the harmonica. Performance Magazine refers to him as “A harmonica virtuoso who is rapidly approaching legend status.” His harmonica playing was inspired by Sonny Terry. He took lessons from legendary harmonica player Big Walter Horton and played with various folk, blues and jazz groups. He played with Chris Brubeck's band New Heavenly Blue and joined up with guitarist Shari Kane to form the duo Madcat & Kane.

Willis C. Patterson
Lifetime Achievement Medal 2021
Willis C. Patterson is renowned as a vocal artist, activist, mentor and educator. His pioneering appearance on NBC’s 1963 Amahl & The Night Visitor changed who played scripted African American roles on television. He was the first African American professor hired by the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance. He remains active with the Our Own Thing Chorale that he founded in 1969. His passion for developing young talent has inspired many to find careers in music and other creative fields.

George Shirley
Lifetime Achievement Medal 2022
George Shirley is a vocalist and musician of extraordinary talent whose career has taken him across the globe. As an African American he has broken down many color barriers including being the first to teach music in a Detroit high school, the first to be a member of the United States Army Chorus and the first tenor and second male to sing leading roles with the Metropolitan Opera, a company he was a member of for eleven years. Professor Shirley is a recipient of the National Medal of the Arts, multiple Grammy Awards and numerous other accolades.

John Nick Pappas
Lifetime Achievement Medal 2023
John Nick Pappas is known for his remarkable talent as an artist, sculptor and professor of art at Eastern Michigan University (EMU.) He has exhibited in Europe and the United States and has created many commissioned pieces for corporations, health care organizations, community groups and private individuals. John Nick’s bronze sculptures dot the landscape throughout Michigan including the campuses of EMU and the University of Michigan and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan headquarters in Detroit. He has been widely recognized and honored with numerous prizes and awards that reflect his inspiring artistic career.

Outstanding Service Medal

Recognizing outstanding leadership and significant contributions made to further the fields of the arts, sciences and humanities in Washtenaw County, statewide, nationally and/or internationally.

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RBC & Projector
AAFF 60th

Outstanding Service Medal 2020
William & Verna Hayes

William and Verna Hayes’ story is inspiring. Bill, a music teacher and Verna, an English teacher shared the desire to serve the youth of Ypsilanti, who lacked access to public school orchestral programs. Together they founded Ypsilanti Youth Orchestra (YYO) in 1997 and led it until their retirement in 2020. With persistence and grit, they offered musical experience, provided instruments and instruction. YYO became a program of over 300 students listed on the rosters of the classes, ensembles and the orchestra reaching children in five SE counties with ethnicities from five continents.

Outstanding Service Medal 2022
Ann Arbor Observer

The Ann Arbor Observer’s longstanding commitment to area artists, graphic designers and journalists dates to its first publication in 1976.  The commissioned art from local artists depicting scenes and events throughout the Ann Arbor area is arguably its most anticipated feature each month. Its journalistic coverage is top notch and its calendar listing of arts and cultural events makes it the go-to source for town happenings.

Outstanding Service Medal 2022
Russ Collins

Russ Collins marked his 40th anniversary as the executive director of the Michigan Theater Foundation in November 2022. Ever since taking the helm, he has played a crucial role in the restoration and revitalization of first, the historic Michigan Theater and then the State Theatre for the arts and creative community, from a fledging organization to a thriving arts paragon. Through his collaboration with the greater community on the restoration and operation of theaters, Russ’ impact is centered in curating magical cinema and performing arts experiences attracting close to 300,000 attendees annually to the venues.

Outstanding Service Medal 2023
Ann Arbor Film Festival

The year was 1963 when The Ann Arbor Film Festival (AAFF) first screen experimental 16mm film in Ann Arbor, introducing many to the art form. It has continued to present avant-garde and experimental films in a festival format since earning its designation as the oldest festival of its kind in North America. The AAFF’s international recognition is driven by its longevity and the thousands of filmmakers from around the world who have applied and exhibited in this revered festival. The AAFF is constantly evolving to adapt to new technologies, sensibilities, artists and multimedia art forms.

Ignitor Medal

Recognizing the people and businesses giving their time, talents and treasures to the arts, sciences and humanities in Washtenaw County and beyond.

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BOAA Square Frame
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Ignitor Medal 2020
Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation

The Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF) has a legacy of supporting arts and creativity that dates back decades. AAACF has supported and sustained several arts + creative start-ups, programs, venues, studies and capital initiatives. Always conscious of their leadership role in an ever-changing community, AAACF convenes community conversations to discuss and act on opportunities and challenges for the arts + creative sector.

Ignitor Medal 2021
Bank of Ann Arbor

The Bank of Ann Arbor (BOAA) opened its doors in 1996. Ever since, it has extended bank services and support to area arts and cultural organizations, businesses, startups, venues, programs and projects. BOAA produces the Sonic Lunch concert program in downtown Ann Arbor during the summer and has its own collection of artworks by local artists displayed throughout its branches. Additionally, BOAA encourages its leadership and staff to serve as volunteers on area nonprofit boards and community committees.

Ignitor Medal 2022
Martha Darling & Gil Omenn

Martha Darling and Gil Omenn arrived in Ann Arbor in 1997. Each carried impressive career credentials: Martha recently as a senior executive at Boeing and Gil newly appointed as CEO of the University of Michigan Health System. Their support of the arts began immediately and continues to run deep and create impact today. Together and individually, they have championed several organizations, supported many programs and projects, venues, led capital campaigns and served on boards and committees.

Ignitor Medal 2023
Larry & Lucie Nisson

Lucie and Larry Nisson, local business owners and entrepreneurs, have a deep and impactful legacy as supporters of arts and creativity. As champions of several cultural organizations, they have supported many short and long term projects, some of which they initiated. Together, they started the Lucie and Larry Nisson Art in Public Program with the Ann Arbor Art Center. Their commitment to public art remains their priority and much of the colorful vibrancy in downtown Ann Arbor is due to their commitments.

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