2009 Award Winners

EDUCATION ACE: Mary Ellen Page (watch video)

As creator of Tolono's Unity Junior High School Youth Theater program and Drama Club, Mary Ellen Page inspired scores of Champaign County students, including Mark Roberts, Andy and David Warfel, Brent O'Neil and Diane Ducey. An 8th Grade English teacher at Unity, Mrs. Page involved a large percentage of the student body in three productions every school year. She involved students in all aspects of theatrical production and stage craft, teaching them to act, design, build, and paint sets, and master the rudiments of scenic lighting. She also handled the fundraising, administration, oversight and direction of their productions. She provided many young people with innumerable opportunities for success--and instilled in them what would become a lifelong appreciation for the arts.

MEDIA ACE: Parkland College Television (PCTV) (watch video)

For 31 years, Parkland College Educational Television (PCTV) has maintained a strong commitment to the arts. This 24-hour cable channel is the Champaign County broadcast home of Classic Arts Showcase, a unique program bringing opera, ballet, symphony orchestra concerts and much more to local television audiences. PCTV also creates original local content, including For Arts Sake, a half-hour series covering exhibitions in Parkland Art Gallery, and In Praise of Women Artists. PCTV has profiled productions at the Parkland College Theatre and promoted the arts to children during media classes in Parkland's College for Kids program. PCTV has further made significant contributions to the media arts in Champaign County in the students it has trained to work in the industry through hands-on courses taught at the PCTV studios.

ADVOCACY ACE: Jo Ellen DeVilbiss (watch video)

Jo Ellen DeVilbiss is a respected educator, performing artist, administrator, and a diligent advocate for the arts in Champaign County. As executive director of the Conservatory of Central Illinois, Jo Ellen has forged relationships with countless artists and arts organizations and acted as a treasured resource for those wanting to get involved in the creative life of our community. Her consistent advocacy for music education, her considerable leadership skills, and her talents as an educator and performer -- all have helped create a safe space in Champaign County where the artists of both today and tomorrow can find their voice.

SPOTLIGHT ACE: Bow-Dacious String Band (watch video)

The Bow-dacious String Band is an ensemble of up to 50 young string players under the direction of Community Center for the Arts Director Robin Kearton. Devoted to the cultivation of excellent ensemble skills, improvisation, and applied music theory through the performance of traditional and popular music, the group performs at frequent concerts and has appeared in venues around the country ranging from the Illinois State Fair to Chattanooga and Nashville, Tennessee, and from Chicago's Millennium Park to a National String Teachers Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Their many public appearances highlight the distinctiveness of the ensemble while introducing the Bow-Dacious teaching concept to other communities, bringing attention to both a unique music education model and a bustling Champaign County arts community.

CREATIVE COMMUNITY SERVICE ACE: Nathan and Julie Gunn (watch video)

University of Illinois professor Nathan Gunn is a consummate artist with an international reputation as both performer and presenter of master classes. Dr. Julie Gunn is associate professor in the accompanying division, an opera coach and chamber music performer. Since moving to Champaign County, Nathan and Julie have given outstanding service to our creative community, providing essential support to the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Conservatory of Central Illinois, UofI School of Music Alumni Board, C-U Ballet, 40 North | 88 West, and the UofI College of Fine and Applied Arts. The Gunns have worked tirelessly with numerous community arts organizations to stimulate coordination and cooperation between groups, hosted benefit performances and receptions, and recruited others to support the arts in Champaign County. The parents of five children, Nathan and Julie have also taken the time to spearhead an effort to consider the creation of a new cultural center in downtown Champaign and are serving on a volunteer committee discussing a cultural arts district in our community.

BUSINESS ACE: Iron Post/Paul Wirth (watch video)

For years, Iron Post owner Paul Wirth has worked hard to provide high-quality live music a home in Champaign County. The Iron Post offers a packed monthly schedule of affordable concerts featuring jazz, blues, folk, zydeco, rock and more. Paul's commitment to supporting local artists gives them a treasured venue where they can perform and connect with audiences. A strong supporter of the Urbana Park District and the Community Center for the Arts, Paul regularly collaborates on a wide array of special events and festivals. He is also an active board member of the Urbana Business Association, helping them to better provide for arts and cultural activities both in Urbana and county-wide. With the Iron Post, Paul Wirth is making music more accessible and contributing to the vibrancy of our entire creative community.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: Robin Hall (watch video)

Robin Hall has offered exemplary leadership on expanding public and private support for the arts in Champaign County. For 34 years, Robin was Executive Director of the Urbana Park District, where he established the widely-praised Wandell Sculpture Garden in Meadowbrook Park. An avid arts patron, Robin is now the City of Urbana Public Arts Commission Chair and Director of the Office of Recreation and Tourism Development at the University of Illinois. His Wandell Sculpture Garden brilliantly links the community's love of the natural environment with its interest in the arts, creating a unique space where the public can appreciate the beauty of both. As Public Arts Commission Chair, Robin has assisted in the development of the Urbana Public Arts Granting Program and a new sculpture loan program.

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