The Board of Directors of the Arts Council of Mendocino County is pleased to announce the 18th 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 ACMC Board of Directors, and are formally recognized with an official proclamation from the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors.

The 2020 awards and proclamation was presented by the Board of Supervisors at its meeting on December 15.

The 2020 Arts Champions are as follows:

Artist: ​​​Lauren Sinnott
Arts Organization: ​Art Center Ukiah
Business: ​​Willits Weekly
Educator: ​​Judy Stavely
Individual: ​​Gary Martin

Lauren Sinnott, honoree in the artist category, is an art historian and former politician in addition to being an artist. Sinnott was raised in a Wisconsin dairy farm town by an artist mother and poet father. She has degrees in Art and French, and an M.A. in Art History. Wanting to live near the ocean, she travelled to Point Arena – the seventh tiniest city in California – as a young parent of two boys in a school bus turned tiny home to put down roots here based, in part, on the advice of friends who told her: “Your kind of people live there.” She describes the region as exactly what she was looking for: “America has several hinterlands, and this is the hinterland of topography, of communities living in the modern era but isolated and tiny. This is the other California, where populations are dwarfed by the ridged landscape and pounding ocean.” As an artist in a small community, Sinnott’s commissions have ranged from dog portraiture to designing tombstones and wedding dresses.

Click here for Lauren’s Bio.

Lauren is currently working on a huge, historical narrative mural on the north wall of the Ukiah Valley Conference Center, Ukiah: Past Present and Future. This epic work of public art is going on year four of production, in part because so many people stop to visit with Lauren while she paints, to admire newly created sections and discover details they may have missed, and in some cases, to pose for the mural. The mural contains over sixty portraits so far and tells many stories of people who live here now, much of which is shared at the mural’s accompanying website:

Art Center Ukiah is honored for their many years of inclusive and high-quality arts programming. Their exhibitions have engaged youth, veterans, and artists at every level of their career, introducing visitors to the fine work of local artists. ACU was instrumental in establishing “Art Walk Ukiah” and, along with the Corner Gallery, has been a cornerstone of it. While the Art Walk is on hold due to the pandemic, it is still possible to view exhibits at both Corner Gallery and Art Center Ukiah thanks to the dedication and resilience of volunteers. (As always, please check with venues for current hours and safety protocol before visiting.)

Jennifer Poole, editor/publisher, and Maureen Moore, chief photographer and art director, co-founded Willits Weekly in 2013

Willits Weekly (WW) is a locally owned community newspaper, co-founded by Art Director and Chief Photographer Maureen Moore and Editor/Publisher Jennifer Poole. Willits Weekly has covered hundreds of visual and performing arts events since publishing its first edition on May 2, 2013. Inside pages boast full-color photos by feature freelance photographers and writers Mathew Caine and Ree Slocum. Willits Weekly also features the work of news freelancers including Mike A’Dair (county), Forrest Glyer (Willits), and Joanne Moore (fire and school boards). Willits Weekly’s “What’s Happening” calendar will resume when community events resume at Willits Weekly is honored by the community for being “in tune” with the arts and, “always responding with local event coverage” in the words of one community nominator.

Judy Stavely, Honoree in the Education Category, moved to Mendocino County in 1972 to take a job with the Mendocino Unified School District as a third-grade teacher. The majority of her teaching career was at Comptche School, a one room school house. She always incorporated art, music, dance and theatre into her classroom teaching, knowing that an exposure to the arts is important for a well-rounded education. Upon her retirement in 2010, she “ran away with the circus,” teaching classes for children with Circus Mecca in aerial fabrics and performing during the annual Circus Mecca Halloween show in Mendocino. She also began an aerial class at the Community Center of Mendocino for adults over the age of 50. The class expanded when younger people saw how much fun was being had by the over-50 crowd and “wanted in,” and now it is an adult class of students ages 18-80, who were meeting twice a week before COVID.

Judy feels strongly that “circus is for EVERY body.” She enjoys encouraging students of all ages, body types, and abilities to challenge themselves and become successful at things they never thought possible. Judy enjoys playing the fiddle for fun, and has taught at several music camps including Lark in the Morning. She also plays the accordion, most recently with the Hot Club of Comptche. During the last few years she has become a volunteer in border work in both Arizona and Tijuana. She has three daughters and five grand-daughters, who are the most important parts of her life. Judy is honored for her “constant volunteerism” and is described by a community nominator as someone with, “a gift for helping people find a means to belong… an upstanding Mendocino citizen without whom, we would be much less rich.”

Honoree Gary Martin works tirelessly to bring quality art and arts education to Willits and the rural North County communities of Mendocino County. In the words of one of his many community nominators, “His efforts amplify the importance of art to the diverse populations in our community making sure that school children, young adults, townspeople, ranchers, Native Americans, Hispanics and all who have the interest. He also reaches out to artists and craftspeople to give them an avenue to show their works, and harvests a great deal of support and philanthropy from the community to keep the center afloat and thriving. Most recently he has spearheaded the development of an online gallery for the Arts Center in the face of the Covid19’s debilitating effects on center operations and artist venues to share and sell their works. He deserves to be recognized for keeping the arts alive in our little corner of the world.” Gary Martin has lived in Willits for the past 20 years. He attended San Jose State University Masters Program in visual arts and after 4 more years of schooling graduated with a MA in Interdisciplinary Art History and Humanities Curriculum. After teaching for a short time at Mendocino College he began presenting art history lessons to students in grade schools and high schools in Willits. He now reaches 2,500 students monthly with presentations on art and art history, covering Laytonville, Covelo, and Willits. Since the COVID-19 Virus hit, he has been presenting lessons to students via Zoom and sponsored by the Willits Center for the Arts, where he is also the curator.

The Mendocino County Arts Champion Awards are annually announced in the fall to coincide with a coast-to-coast celebration of culture in America.

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