The Arts Council of Mendocino County Announces the 2019 Arts Champions

The Board of Directors of the Arts Council of Mendocino County is pleased to announce the 17th Annual Mendocino County Arts Champion Award recipients.

Each year, nominations for Arts Champion Awards are solicited from the community at large. Honorees are selected by the Arts Council of Mendocino County’s Board of Directors, and are formally recognized with an official proclamation from the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors. The awards and proclamation was presented by the Board of Supervisors at its meeting on October 22, which begins at 9 am 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 immediately following the supervisors’ meeting.

The 2019 Arts Champions are as follows:

Frankie’s Pizza and Ice Cream in Mendocino is the 2019 Mendocino County Arts Champion in the Business category.

Frankie’s Pizza and Ice Cream in Mendocino is the 2019 Business Champion for the Arts. Ruth Rosenblum and S.A. Ephraim, along with their new partners, Luis Castaneda and Jose Colli Yam (longtime former employees) are committed to hosting local exhibits and making donations to community arts-related events. These events include the annual spring Mendocino Middle School art exhibit; the annual Halloween Street Fair, which they started 12 years ago; and the annual July 4 Street Party, which they have hosted in recent years. Ruth and S.A. say, “Our vision was to create an eatery that would encompass the things we loved and bring our community together—a gathering place that served organic food, casual enough to hang with or without kids in a comfortable artistic environment.”

Two artists were chosen as 2019 Arts Champion in the “Artist” category.

The first is painter, author, filmmaker, and farmer Jaye Alison Moscariello of Redwood Valley, honored particularly for her recent work exploring the firsthand experience of and recovery from the Redwood Complex firestorm in October 2017. Jaye volunteered to curate four exhibits of fire-related artworkcreated by local community members a year after the fire, and has subsequently created a documentary film on the creative response of fire survivors. Titled “From the Ashes: Fire, Survival, Renewal,” the film will be screened at the Mendocino College Center for Visual and Performing Arts at 7:30 pm on Saturday, October 5. Jaye states, “Since the fires of 2017, and more recently this past year, my focus has been on processing the fire experiences and living with the constant awareness that what happened then can happen again.”

Artist, farmer, and filmmaker Jaye Alison Moscariello of Redwood Valley, shown here with some of her sculptures, is one of two 2019 Arts Champions in the Artist category.

The second 2019 Arts Champion in the Artist category is Nick Schwartz, a ceramic artist and owner, with his wife, Jessica Rae Thompson, of Flynn Creek Pottery in Comptche, honored for his many contributions to the arts and community. Nick is an award-winning, internationally recognized ceramic artist; he is also a kiln-builder and skilled in Japanese anagama pottery techniques. He instructs and hosts artists in their Comptche studio, and has been a circus founder and performer, a bass player, bread baker, and volunteer fireman.

A sample of the ceramic art of Nick Schwartz of Flynn Creek Pottery in Comptche, one of two 2019 Arts Champions in the Artist category.

Nick says, “I live in the woods by the ocean in a forest scarred by fire… Much of my time is spent … simply meandering my way from task to task, contentedly working with the land. I am trying to reestablish a long-forgotten language and dialogue with forces much greater than myself.”

Don Willis, 2019 Arts Champion in the Individual category, is the director of the Willits-based Emandal Chorale.

Don Willis, longtime director of the Emandal Chorale in Willits, is the 2019 Mendocino County Arts Champion in the Individual category.

Don has been director of the Emandal Chorale since 1994. A community chorus open to all, the Chorale sings songs for and about peace, performing songs from many cultures and genres—some written and arranged by Don himself—for many events in many locations over the years. His numerous and enthusiastic nominators say: “Don is empathetic, charismatic, joyful … talented and giving …welcomes everyone … brings so much music and joy … inspires, encourages, and makes everyone feel like they too can sing beautifully and in community …creating amazingly beautiful music for peace … (Don is) loved by everyone in the choir … the atmosphere is accepting and warm… (He) reaches out to bring love, peace and goodness to the whole community….” In Don’s own words, “We all have music in us; everyone can sing, and together we can use our music to make the world a better place.”

Links to YouTube videos: Are We Human
Yonder Come Day
This Little Light of Mine

Kevin Wells of Round Valley is the 2019 Arts Champion in the Educator category. In past decades, Kevin distinguished himself as a drummer and songwriter for many well-known musicians. In recent years, he has taught singing, drumming, and music appreciation to children in Round Valley schools, sharing the joys and techniques of music with new generations of children in an area of relatively limited extra-curricular resources. In the words of one of the children, “He taught me that when things are hard, you can vent by playing music, and then you feel better.” He and his wife, Ronnelle Wells, have also been known for their generosity in taking in and caring for several foster children.

The Mendocino County Arts Champion Awards are annually proclaimed 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

Artist in the Spotlight

Event Spotlight

A Rare Intimate Evening Concert with Spencer Brewer and Friends

at Willits Center for the Arts

Dec 16 at 7pm