The Board of Directors of the Arts Council of Mendocino County is pleased to announce the 13th Annual Mendocino County Arts Champion Award recipients.

The North Coast Brewing Company in the category of Business Champion for the Arts; Mary Ann Villwock as Individual Champion for the Arts; Ginny Rorby as Artist; the Pacific Community Charter School in the category of Education; and Friends of the Round Valley Library in the brand-new category of Art Organization Champion for the Arts.
Each year, nominations for Arts Champion Awards are received from the community. The winners are selected by the Arts Council of Mendocino County’s Board of Directors, and formally recognized by the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors.
allchamps2015The 2015 Mendocino County Arts Champion Awards were presented by the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors at their meeting on Tuesday morning, October 20. An official proclamation was issued in the Supervisors’ Chambers at the County Administration Center, 501 Low Gap Road in Ukiah. A public reception to honor the winners was hosted by the Arts Council of Mendocino County in Conference Room B after the supervisors’ proclamation.
The North Coast Brewing Company, this year’s Arts Champion in the Business category, opened in Fort Bragg in 1988 as a local brewpub, and has developed a strong reputation for its award-winning craft beers. It also offers jazz performances, bringing world-class jazz artists to the Mendocino coast and sponsoring jazz festivals in California and beyond. They have also donated over $1 million to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in support of jazz education. According to musician, Arts Council board member, and former Mendocino County Supervisor Hal Wagenet, "The North Coast Brewing Company has become a musical magnet, drawing jazz fans to this special Mendocino County destination, which already enjoys a reputation for fine dining and unique examples of the brewer's art."
Mary Ann Villwock, this year’s Individual Champion for the Arts, is a Ukiah attorney and a founding board member and president of the School of Performing Arts and Cultural Education (SPACE) in Ukiah. SPACE has trained children and youth in a wide range of performing arts for decades. Mary Ann advocated to save the former Catholic church building in Ukiah from demolition, and to help guide SPACE through its conversion into a unique, state-of-the-art facility for classes and performances. She also is a supporter of other local arts events and organizations. In the words of one nominator, “Mary Ann is truly one of the most dedicated, humble and hardworking volunteers I have ever seen.” Hal Wagenet calls her an “unsung hero who has put in years of steady work.”

Ginny Rorby, winner of the Arts Champion award in the Artist category, is the author of How to Speak Dolphin, Hurt Go Happy (which won an American Library Association award for books featuring special-needs children) and other books exploring interactions between humans and animals, some of them set on the Mendocino coast. Ginny has been active in several coastal organizations including the Mendocino Coast Audubon Society, the Point Cabrillo Light Station, and as past director and longtime board member of the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference. Ginny has also sponsored a scholarship to the annual Writers Conference in support of those writing for young people on topics of literary merit and social significance. According to one nominator, “Ginny is an activist in the best sense of that word, as well as a community leader and role model for positive action.” Another nominator said, “She has been a mentor to countless emerging writers. Ginny is a stellar human being.”
The Pacific Community Charter School, 2015 Arts Champion in the Education category, is a K-12 charter school that serves the Mendocino coast from Elk to Fort Ross in Sonoma County. Art holds an integral place in the school’s curriculum; elementary-age classes receive two to four hours of art instruction per week including history, criticism, aesthetics and hands-on experience. High school students receive instruction in studio and graphic arts, including Advanced Placement options. PCCS presents a school-wide theater performance every year, has its own online gallery at, and exhibits student work at venues throughout its community. Additionally, high school students publish an annual literary arts magazine called Tourmaline, featuring creative writing and art by English and Art students.

This year’s Arts Champion in the new category of Art Organization is Friends of the Round Valley Public Library, a nonprofit volunteer organization devoted to supporting the library facility and services and enhancing the life of Round Valley residents. This organization provides free exhibit space for artists—some of whom are currently featured in the “Women Artists of Covelo” exhibit at the Arts Council’s office at the old railroad depot in Ukiah—and continue working to expand the library’s capacity to support the arts and community activities. Their aim is for the Round Valley Public Library Commons to become “the new heart of our community,” to bring together the diverse groups in the area.
The Mendocino County Art Champion Awards are annually celebrated in October to coincide with National Arts and Humanities Month, a coast-to-coast celebration of culture in America. To learn more about National Arts and Humanities Month, visit the Americans for the Arts website at or the California Arts Council website at
For more information on the Mendocino County Art Champion Awards and other Arts Council of Mendocino County programs and services, visit or call 707-463-2727.