2014 Award Winners

ADVOCATE ACE: Pens to Lens/Thomas Nicol (watch video)

The Pens To Lens Screenwriting Competition was established in 2013 with the goal of creating an opportunity for K-12 Students to participate in the local filmmaking community by writing original screenplays for short films. Members of Champaign Movie Makers (CMM) produce original films based on chosen submissions. Many other submissions are chosen by members of the Champaign-Urbana Design Organization (CUDO) to be adapted into movie posters. The final films and posters premiere for a huge audience at an annual red carpet gala in downtown Champaign. Thomas Nicol is an indie filmmaking enthusiast and when he’s not making movies, he develops power grid simulation software. He manages Champaign Movie Makers, a networking organization connecting local filmmakers since 2008, and serves on the board of the CU Film Society. Thomas’s stop motion and live action films have screened at many film festivals around the country, including the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival, Route 66 International Film Festival, H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, Gen Con Indy Film Festival, and locally the New Art Film Festival and Freeky Creek Short Film Festival.

ARTIST ACE: Jason Patterson (watch video)

Jason Patterson is a Midwestern American history artist whose work objectively reviews The American Narrative. The subject matter in his work is predominately portraiture, with American cultural, political, social and historical themes. Patterson describes himself as a "History Painter" and his process involves a unique combination of heavily spray-fixed chalk pastel on raw canvas (a drawing technique that creates the appearance of a painting). He uses this approach in order to bring traditional or archaic representational qualities into a contemporary context, reestablishing the object-hood of the piece, through attention to its unusual physicality. The work that he makes is not solely meant to represent the image being depicted. It is also meant to represent the image's original format. As references, he uses Google image search results, YouTube video stills, photographs from the Library of Congress archives, and newspaper clippings. Jason Patterson maintains a studio practice in Urbana, IL.

 BUSINESS ACE: Art Coop (watch video)

The Art Coop, located in the historic Lincoln Square Mall in downtown Urbana, has been supplying Central Illinois artists, architects, craftspeople, and photographers with everything they need to fulfill their creative urges for over 40 years. Established in 1971 by a group of University of Illinois art and architecture students, they have managed to survive numerous recessions, natural disasters (four floods), personnel changes, competitors, and shifts in consumer buying habits, and are currently one of the last independent and locally owned art stores left in Illinois. They are always staffed by friendly, knowledgeable working artists, some of whom actually have their studios on the premises. They also conduct numerous classes, and maintain a not-for-profit gallery to exhibit works of local and nationally known artists. Co-owners, Knut Bauer and Susan Smith, are also both working artists. Knut has a degree from UIUC in graphic design, with an emphasis on photography. Susan received her BFA in painting, also from UIUC.

VOLUNTEER ACE: Eric Robeson (watch video)

Eric Robeson currently works in project management and marketing for Robeson's Inc. and Robeson Properties, LLC. He received a Master of Arts degree in advertising at the University of Texas, Austin and a Bachelor of Science degree at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. In addition to work with the Public Art League, Eric is an active volunteer with the Champaign West Rotary Club and served as the club's president, on its board, and chaired numerous committees. Work with the club led him to chair the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life and perform international service work in Honduras. Additionally, he has worked with a number of open-space and natural causes including serving as president of the Champaign County Forest Preserve Foundation, as treasurer and charter board member of the Land Conservation Foundation and as one of the original organizers of the annual Boneyard Creek Community Day. He has additionally done volunteer work with 40 North | 88 West, the University of Illinois, the Champaign County Humane Society, Developmental Services Center, and Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

TEACHER ACE: Nathaniel Banks (watch video)

Nathaniel Banks is a life‐long resident of Champaign, Illinois. He was educated in the Champaign schools, and graduated from what is now called Champaign Central High. He received his college education at the University of Illinois, Urbana‐Champaign campus and has a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters of Science in Applied Music and Music Education respectively. Upon leaving college, Nathaniel Banks worked as the Assistant Director of the Afro‐American Cultural Program for nine years. He then left campus to become the Principal of Judah Christian High School. He returned to the U of I in 1990 to work in the Office of Minority Student Affairs. Mr. Banks has worked in several capacities in the University including the Director of Upward Bound, the President’s Leadership Program, Director of the African American Cultural Program, and Director of Campus‐Community Interface, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Public Engagement. With Robert Lewis, he formed Mo’ Betta Music, an artistic enrichment program dedicated to enhancing the academic and emotional intelligence of young people. Mo’ Betta utilizes the musical idioms of jazz, gospel, and urban contemporary music, as vehicles to improve the skill levels of young musicians and vocalists, so they can actively and competitively participate in their respective school ensembles.

STUDENT ACE: Megan Diddie (watch video)

Megan Diddie was born in Los Angeles California in 1985. She attended Santa Clara University where she studied Art History and Studio Art. After finishing her undergraduate she attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she received a Post Baccalaureate Degree. During this time her work began to explore narratives involving digestion and the human body's dependence on natural resources for sustenance. She is currently a Masters candidate at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana where she continues to explore these ideas through paper making, painting and drawing, and sculpture. Recent projects include a book made with corn and soy paper and containing illustrations depicting corn, soy, bees, and snakes interacting in funny and transformative ways. Current work involves soft sculptures made with corn paper pulp that are painted to resemble processed snack foods. She will be graduating in the Spring of 2015 and plans on continuing her art practice while seeking work in fields that involve art and sustainability.

LIFETIME ACE: Gerald "Candy" Foster (watch video)

Gerald (Candy) Foster has been performing classic rhythm and blues throughout the Midwest for 40 years. Born in Danville, and based in Champaign‐Urbana since the 1960s, Candy is well‐known as one of the hardest working blues singers in the area. An early influence was his mother, a locally prominent jazz singer. Candy got his big break when saxophonist Tony Zamora asked Candy to sing the blues for a nightly gig at the Rainbow on North First Street. Candy went on to have his own band, Soul Brothers, which gained regional fame in the Vietnam era. Since 1996 his band has been Shades of Blue. Over the years, Candy has appeared with such blues greats as Lonnie Brooks, Etta James, Big Daddy Kinsey, KoKo Taylor, Junior Wells, Gatemouth Brown, Little Milton, Eddie Shaw, Son Seals, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, Natalie Cole, The Four Tops, The Marvelettes, Del Shannon, and Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. Candy says his main accomplishments have been keeping live entertainment alive in the Midwest and helping young people develop their craft.