ACE Awards


The ACE (arts, culture and education) Awards are presented annually by 40 North | 88 West to honor the work of artists, teachers, businesses, individuals, organizations, volunteers, community and government leaders. All seven ACE Awards highlight a different part of the cultural life of our community and celebrate those that, through hard work, dedication, and creative energy, cultivate the arts of Champaign County. 

Please join us for the 2019 ACE Awards Celebration on Friday, November 8th, 5:30pm at City Center in Champaign in honoring their outstanding contributions!  

Don't miss this inspiring night filled with entertainment, mingling, and a one-of-a-kind celebration of our entire arts community! The evening will feature complimentary hors d'œuvres from Michaels’ Catering, a cash bar, Crash Events DJ and a special performance from Zondo!


Tickets to the 15th Annual ACE Awards celebration are $10 each and are available at Tickets can also be purchased in advance at the 40 North office at 17 E. Taylor St. or call 217.351.9841. Tickets will be available at the door for $15. 

The winners of the 2019 ACE Awards are:

Advocate ACE AwardJason Finkelman, for consistently advocating for, creating, and nurturing remarkable partnerships and collaborations between multiple institutions, organizations, programs, and local, national, and international artists, as well as tirelessly supporting, presenting, and promoting our cultural community to audiences across all boundaries with passion, conviction, and creativity.  

Artist ACE AwardEKAH, for creating exceptional work that captures emotion, imagination, and whimsy at a magical level and captivates an audience of all ages and backgrounds, for her sincere support and genuine enthusiasm for other artists in this area, and for contributing immense value to this arts community through multiple collaborations with local schools and organizations.

Volunteer ACE AwardSusan Curtis, for designing and sewing countless costumes for several local theater productions, for her creativity, commitment, and dedication to theater production at an unprecedented scale, and for her overall passion and tireless support of theater in this community.

Business ACE AwardDixon Graphics, for spreading positivity with character and integrity and maintaining a focus on local artists, small businesses, and non-profit organizations, for going out of their way to support, advocate for, advise, encourage, and promote local artists as they conduct their art businesses, and for regularly dedicating one entire wall of their storefront to art display.

Teacher ACE AwardJohn Currey, for embodying the best qualities of humanity in his teaching and bringing out the best in young musicians, for his passion and commitment to music education and creating a band room full of hope, creativity, and innovation, and for lobbying and advocating at the state and national level for equal access to music education initiatives.

Student ACE AwardKeenan Dailey, for creating multifaceted, impressive, and thought-provoking work that speaks to a variety of viewers on themes of afro-futurism, social justice, and black activism, and for his continuing efforts, influence, and willingness to participate and contribute to our community as a whole.

Lifetime ACE AwardBea Nettles, for her technically innovative, transformative, and experimental work that has extensively contributed to the history of photography, for her international reputation and huge impact on generations of students at the University of Illinois, and for making an immeasurable contribution to the artistic community of Champaign County while remaining a national treasure.

The winners were chosen from over 85 public nominations by an independent panel of community-based judges.

The seven ACE Award categories are: Advocate, Artist, Volunteer, Business, Teacher, Student, and Lifetime Achievement. Nominations are reviewed by an independent panel of community-based judges representing a broad cross-section of Champaign County. Anyone can submit a nomination for an ACE Award. You may nominate multiple candidates and self-nominations are accepted. Must be 14 years or older and a resident of Champaign County to be eligible to win an ACE Award. Previous nominees may be resubmitted.