City recognizes artists with contest, award

Past winners include dancers, director of WSU performing arts



In 2018 Mayor Glenn Johnson offered Gail Siegel, director of WSU’s performing arts program, the Mayor’s Art Award, a glass statue trophy.

SARINA SHARPE, reporter and columnist

The Pullman Arts Commission opened submissions to nominate for the Mayor’s Art Award to recognize outstanding artists in the Pullman community.

Arts Commission Chair Jeri Harris said the competition shows gratitude.

“We want to recognize that art is an important part of our education and our social aspect,” Harris said. “By recognizing someone in the community who has done a lot for art … it’s appreciating the people that do it.”

The award recognizes those in the Pullman community who are involved in and support the arts. Businesses that display community artwork during ArtFest and year-round can be nominated, as well.

Artists and supporters of art deserve celebration, Harris said.

Harris said art is a key component of education, as schools add an “A” for art into their STEM acronym focus.

Past recipients of the award were involved in more than just visual art. Anna-Maria Shannon is involved with the art museum on campus. Nancy Wexler, who worked closely with Regional Theatre of the Palouse, has been a supporter of the arts with theater and music, Harris said.

Rajeswari Soundararajan won the award two years ago. Soundararajan teaches a specialized class in a traditional Indian dance. She put on a yearly performance and donated proceeds from it to a local charity.

“So, not only is she teaching this art form and having people appreciate it, but she’s also giving back,” Harris said.

Harris said the 2018 recipient, Gail Siegel director of the WSU’s performing arts program, was a standout awardee who brought in jazz bands and vocalists.

The performance that stood out the most to Harris was “The Fantasticks,” a play that originated on Broadway, which Gail Siegel helped put on at WSU.

“They put a little bit of a steampunk spin on it,” Harris said, “and they even had a steampunk dragon in it.”

The Pullman Arts Commission and the mayor discuss and decide on a winner, Harris said. The winner can expect to receive an award in the form of an art piece.

“[The award] is an absolutely gorgeous glass statue that … Mayor Johnson pays for himself,” she said.

There may be a culinary-based competition in the future, Harris said, and one that a broad range of artists can participate in.

“Something I’ve been toying around with — I don’t think we’ll do it this year, but possibly next year — is having a barista contest, because have you seen the foam on some of those things?” Harris said. “It’s like, I don’t want to drink this. It’s too pretty.”

Culinary, visual or otherwise, nominations for the Mayor’s Art Award can be submitted through Saturday, April 6, according to the press release, and the recipient will be announced from May 16-18 during Pullman ArtFest.