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Excellence showcased at the 24th Annual Mayor€s Arts Awards

Larry Saxton | 3/26/2009, 9:33 a.m.

The 24th Annual Mayor€s Arts Awards held in the concert hall at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts began with a performance of €The Drum Unites Us€ composed and arranged by Ulysses Owens, Jr. and choreographed by C. Brian Williams and Jakari Sherman. This dance and musical arrangement gave the audience a glimpse of just how international the arts scene is here in Washington, DC: the Washington Korean Dance Company, the O€Neill-James Irish Steppers, the Silk Road Dance Company, Step Afrika, Urban Artistry, and Beat Ya Feet Kings all dancing to the beat of the African drumming by KanKouran West African Dance Company and the Caribbean sound of the Positive Vibrations Youth Steel Band. Culminating the program was a rap song, €Welcome to DC,€ by DC€s own Mambo Sauce as young people from City of Peace DC held up signs from every DC neighborhood, made by the Barry Farms Youth Arts Council.
The Mayors€s Arts Awards are the highest honor conferred by the District of Columbia on DC artists, arts organizations, and arts patrons who have demonstrated excellence in their area of expertise. The 2009 Mayor€s Award winners are CityDance Ensemble, for Excellence in an Artistic Discipline; Joy of Motion Dance Center, for Outstanding Contribution to Arts Education; Janson Garcia Ignacio, for Outstanding Emerging Artist; Arts in Foggy Bottom, for Innovation in the Arts; Judith Korey, from the University of the District of Columbia and Andy Anas Shallal, owner of Busboys and Poets, (who challenged mayor Fenty €to double his 7 million budget to the arts€) for Excellence in Service to the Arts.

For the first time, awards were presented for Visionary Leadership in the Arts to Septime Webre, Artistic Director of The Washington Ballet, and for Visionary Leadership in the Arts to Joy Zinoman, Founding Artistic Director of Studio Theatre.
This is seventh year for the Mayor€s award that recognizes the efforts of DC Public and Public Charter School teachers for their outstanding teaching in the performing, visual and literary arts. The 2009 winners are Kamel M. Igoudjil, School Without Walls (literary arts); Samuel Bonds and Haewon Moon, The Duke Ellington School for the Performing Arts (performing arts); Carole Whelan, School Without Walls (visual arts).

Councilmember Kwame Brown, presenter of awards and a product of the DC Public Schools, said he liked €rock star response€ the teaches got when they received their awards, attributing it to the number of young people present in the audience. One of the young people attending was 13 year old Asha Moses, a student at the Thomas G. Pullen performing Arts School in Prince Georges County. She said, €I feel inspired seeing teachers get awards. We have good teachers and it€s good that they are honored. Without our teachers, where would we be?€ Varissa L. McMickens, executive director of DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative, Inc., said, €The most important thing is making art a real part of our city. We have to continue to attract young people to the arts and it is great to see so many young people on the stage and in the audience.€

The Mayor€s Annual Arts Awards program is produced by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Gloria Nauden, executive director of the Commission said, €Washington€s arts community has made an indelible impact in its contribution to the world-class city we call home. The Mayor€s Arts Awards represents our appreciation for the core of our contribution to the rich cultural vitality of our city.€

The mistress of ceremonies for the evening was Cynne Simpson, WJLA-Channel 7 News. The audience was also treated to performances by Dr. Billy Taylor, Marcus Johnson, the Washington Improv Theater, Coral Cantigas, The Washington Ballet, Danielle Agress and Rhea Chung from the Levine School of Music, and live painting by Rachel and Rebecca Crouch.