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The pARTy!_logo_evergreen  Violet & Red

Returning in 2024. Stay tuned for updates!

Celebrating Creative Distinction

Creative Washtenaw Medals for Arts, Sciences & Humanities
(scroll down to read more about these amazing medalists)

Lifetime Achievement
Peter Madcat Ruth Willis C. Patterson George Shirley John Nick Pappas

Outstanding Service
William & Verna Hayes Ann Arbor Observer Russ Collins Ann Arbor Film Festival

Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation Bank of Ann Arbor Martha Darling & Gil Omenn Larry & Lucie Nisson

(Above) Photo Credits to Doug Coombe. Additional photos available upon request.

Intrinsic Sponsors


Innovation Sponsors

bank of ann arbor
EMU Foundation Logo
Loppnow, Don & Nancie 2

Thank you for Celebrating with Us! 

After a three-year pandemic pause, Creative Washtenaw resumed THE pARTy! its signature benefit event celebrating the arts + creative industries in Washtenaw County. The highlight of THE pARTy! is always the presentation of Creative Washtenaw Medals for Arts, Sciences & Humanities honoring and celebrating 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.

THE pARTy! 2023
With emcee Meredith Bruckner, WDIV & All About Ann Arbor

Jordan Nik Art
Willis Patterson Our Own Thing Chorale
Ypsilanti Youth Orchestra

Monday, February 27, 2023
Morris Lawrence Building, Washtenaw Community College
4800 East Huron River Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48105

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


Honorary Committee

  • Britany Affolter-Caine, University Research Corridor
  • Dennis Carter
  • Mark Clague, U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance
  • David Gier, U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance
  • Jennifer Goulet, Found
  • Ken Fischer, U-M Arts Leadership Faculty
  • Naomi Norman, Ph.D., Washtenaw Intermediate School District
  • Kirk Profit, GCSI
  • Olwyn Shirley
  • Tina Walther, Rapport Innovative Marketing
  • Linda Yohn, WRCJ-FM

Inspiration Sponsors

Rehmann logo

Insight Sponsors

Logo_Damian Farrell Design Group)-Green-2019
ULG beveled logo

Lifetime Achievement Medal

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

madcat 3
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 vocal 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, a Grammy Award 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.

Hayes, William & Verna
RBC & Projector
theParty-03 (1)

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.

Ignitors Medal

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

BOAA Square Frame
Martha Darling & Gil Omenn square
Nissons Art Hop WEMU Art & Soul cropped

Ignitors 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.

Ignitors 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.

Ignitors 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.

Ignitors 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.

Creative Washtenaw's Medals for Arts, Sciences & Humanities - Find a complete list of all medalists here

Creative Washtenaw