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COMMUNITY ARTS AWARDS
Given annually to the person or persons who in the judgment of the editors has made significant contributions
to the arts of writing and poetry in our community.
Phil Memmer, 2015
Remarks on the Award by the Editors
... We considered many people for this award, and chose someone who is a poet, an editor, an executive, a teacher, an educator, a podcaster—Phil Memmer.
Phil is known to most of us as the distinguished poet of four terrific poetry books, and as director of the Downtown Writers Center. But that’s only part of his extraordinary resume. He is also executive director of the Arts Branch of the YMCA, which provides studio art, dance, music, and writing at area Y branches and schools. The program has served hundreds of people each year, and over 12,000 children in after-school arts programs. It is one of the busiest arts programs at any Y in the country, The Downtown Writers Center under his leadership has run these CNY Book Awards since 2012, and is now also publisher of the literary journal, Stone Canoe. This is an amazing set of activities, and it is all about, as we see it, the incredible important task of building community.
William Carlos Williams says somewhere that “That which is possible is inevitable,” but of course, that’s not true. It is possible to have a great community of writers and artists in Syracuse—but it is not inevitable. We think we’re on the verge of a Syracuse Renaissance, that it is possible because of the extraordinary efforts of Phil Memmer & others.
Let me finish with a great quote from Phil that shows another reason we selected him, in addition to resume and achievement. It is attitude: Everyone has heard the old saw about “thinking outside the box. Phil says: The key thing is doing outside the box.
Walt Shepperd, 2016
From the Syracuse New Times story:
... Walt Shepperd was mingling at the Dec. 8 CNY Book Awards reception when organizers started announcing the year’s final award. As one-time Syracuse New Times editor Bob Herz read about the awardee, people turned to look at Shepperd. The longtime New Times writer and local free spirit listened, a quizzical look on his face until he realized Herz was describing him.
Herz and Stephen Kuusisto, co-editors of Nine Mile Magazine, presented Shepperd with the second annual CNY Book Award for Significant Contributions to the Art of Writing and Poetry. Herz called Shepperd “a renaissance man in the arts” who is a “poet, a director, a reporter, a columnist, a creator and operator of an arts group for youth, a performer, a pioneer in the art of words, an activist, a visionary.”
Caught off guard, Shepperd was uncharacteristically quiet as he accepted the surprise award. But he was characteristically observant and sharply critical as he looked at the crowd of mostly white people of a certain age gathered in the CNY Philanthropy Center’s ballroom. “I gotta confess I’m kinda uncomfortable here,” Shepperd said. “It’s sort of like the Republican Convention: white guys over 60. I’m going to ask you next year to bring someone who doesn’t look like you. That will be honoring the community.”
Shepperd has been agitating through written and spoken word for decades, advocating for a diverse, just and inclusive community. He’s been associated with the Syracuse New Times since 1971, writing columns and features about the region’s major players as well as the community’s voiceless. Among his editorial achievements was founding the former Nickel Review, praised by then-Village Voice media critic Nat Hentoff as among the top three alternative papers of the 1960s.
Shepperd’s editorial output (not to mention his eccentricities) are well-known in the region. He has received numerous editorial awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Syracuse Press Club. Herz also praised Shepperd’s commitment to the Media Unit, which he founded in 1976. The Media Unit is an award-winning performance and production program for Central New York teens.
Shepperd’s career “has been dedicated to building a better community through application of his vast talents, his gift for friendship, his willingness to share of himself, and someone who has helped to explain our community to itself,” Herz said.
“We created this award for one reason: to honor those who have helped to create a community of the arts in this region,” Herz concluded. “In every way, with everything he does, Walt Shepperd is one of those people.”
Tarky Lombardi, 2017
From the citation by the NYS Council on the Arts Chair:
Dear State Senator Tarky Lombardi, Jr.:
On behalf of the New York State Council on the Arts, the thousands of New York State artists, arts and cultural organizations, and our constituents throughout the 62 counties of our state, I admiringly salute you for your life-long public service, your dedication to the arts during your career, and congratulate you as the worthy recipient of the 2017 Community Arts Award from Nine Mile Magazine...
You know that by enhancing the arts, we create community, and better the social environment for all New Yorkers, and your numerous legislative achievements demonstrate your persistence and commitment to this invaluable and principled vision.
On behalf of all New Yorkers, we at NYSCA send our deep appreciation for your public service, your passion, your thoughtfulness, and unswerving allegiance to the arts in New York State.
Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel Chair, New York State Council on the Arts 9 November 2017
Jackie Warren-Moore, 2018
From the Announcement:
Jackie Warren-Moore will receive the 2018 Community Arts Award from Nine Mile Books and Magazine at the YMCA’s CNY Book Awards ceremony on November 8, 2018 at the CNY Philanthropy Center 431 E. Fayette St., Syracuse.
The award is a career-based award to celebrate an individual who has made significant contributions to the art of writing and poetry.
The announcement was made today by the editors and publishers of Nine Mile, Bob Herz, Stephen Kuusisto, and Andrea Scarpino.
“Jackie Warren-Moore is a a multi-talented and accomplished writer with a unique voice and broad scope whose work has been published internationally,” Bob Herz said. “That voice has been shaped by her experience: She describes herself as a Survivor, who has survived racism, sexism, sexual abuse, and physical abuse. She has said that she regards her poetic voice as the roadmap of her survival, a way of healing herself and of speaking to the souls of others.”
“She is a community treasure,” Stephen Kuusisto said, “who teaches by example the importance of writing as a way of living and being. She has described her motive as a felt ‘obligation to speak up and celebrate what is right in the world and to shout out about what is wrong in the world, in the hopes that we may all work together to make it right for us all."
Georgia Popoff, 2019
From the announcement:
Georgia Popoff will receive the 2019 Community Arts Award from Nine Mile Books and Magazine at the YMCA’s CNY Book Awards ceremony... The announcement was made today by the editors and publishers of Nine Mile Magazine and Books, Bob Herz, Stephen Kuusisto, and Andrea Scarpino.
Ms. Popoff has spent her professional lifetime as a working poet and writer. She is author of four poetry collections and two books about poetry. She is an educator, and serves as Workshops Coordinator and faculty member at the YMCA of Central NY’s Downtown Writers Center. For 20 years, she served on the editorial board of The Comstock Review, with 5 years as managing editor.
“Syracuse is experiencing an artistic surge in writing and particularly in poetry, and Georgia Popoff is one of the main reasons for it,” Bob Herz said. “Good things in a community and in the arts happen because a necessary person makes them happen. Georgia Popoff is one such necessary person.”
“Georgia’s range of activities, that includes teacher, editor, community poet, and her ability to touch people and in particular to excite young people about the possibilities and importance of poetry, is one of the reasons we are having this incredible literary explosion in Syracuse and Central New York,” Steve Kuusisto, said. “This award is appreciation and recognition, but we should recognize that beyond the award, we all owe her a debt of thanks.”
David Lloyd, 2021
From the announcement:
The sixth annual Nine Mile Community Arts Award was presented to David Lloyd, Director of Le Moyne’s Creative Writing Program, on Saturday evening, June 19, 2021, at the 2020 YMCA CNY Book Awards.
Nine Mile founders and editors Bob Herz and Steve Kuusisto noted that as director of the Le Moyne program, Mr. Lloyd has partnered with local art organizations, including the Downtown Writer's Center and Nine Mile. He has instituted a series of poetry readings and craft talks with diverse writers, including Hayden Carruth, Adrienne Rich, Linda Gregg, Michael Harper, Jack Gilbert, Jackie Warren-Moore, Phil Memmer, and many others, that brings the town, the college, and the national poetry community closer together. He is author of ten books, including 3 poetry collections, 2 story collections, and a novel, and has won the Poetry Society of America’s Robert H. Winner Memorial Award and two Fulbrights.
“First, congratulations to all the winners tonight,” Herz said. “Not only for your much deserved achievement, and its recognition with the awards given, but also for what comes with these awards for your area — the increasing recognition that we and you and all of us together are slowly but surely and wonderfully creating a literary community here in CNY. Each year here the CNY awardees get better, the quality of the work gets better, the publications get better.”
“We instituted the Nine Mile Community Award as a way to recognize that fact and to recognize someone who has done something significant for this community or writers and artists,” Kuusisto said. “Community is so important, a fact to which I can testify as someone who hails from a marginalized community. As a blind person I’ve been on the outside most of my life. Working to overcome this I’ve learned a few things about what community really means. It means celebrating our respective talents, hopes, ambitions, with an eye toward making the civic square larger. This is a form of celebration. It is important that we take the time to honor our local leaders who’ve worked hard to promote literary work in our place.”
Stephen Butler 2022
From the announcement:
The seventh Nine Mile Community Arts Award was presented to Stephen Butler at the 2022 YMCA CNY Book Awards.
Not all recipients have been poets or writers. Some have played that most important of roles, of creating an environment in which good writing can flower. We are creating—we, meaning all of us—we are engaged in developing and helping flower a creative community here in CNY, with writers, artists, theater, and so much else. It takes effort, and money, and understanding. It takes support.
This year’s choice is a person in one of those important supportive roles— Stephen Butler, who has done so much to foster exactly what we need in creating the supportive and accepting environment for the arts and acceptance of the arts in governmental and business circles. Steve most recently oversaw the process for creation of both the former and the current Poet Laureate.
Here are a few facts about him: Most of us know Steve from CNY Arts, a 65 year old organization where he is serving his 14th year as Executive Director. In his time he has transformed the organization from a $700,000 three-county operation into a $4.3 million regional arts council serving six-plus counties. It is the largest geographic regional arts council in New York State.
Steve has made CNY Arts a power in the arts, locally, of course, but also in Albany. He has pushed the organization—and himself—into new foundational ventures and categories of support, such as the main street, arts education, film, and targeted funding to help arts groups recover from the COVID shutdowns.
He is a hometown kid, who was educated here, with a BA in Theater from Oswego SUNY and an MPA from Maxwell School at SU. He worked in the arts for many years in NYC, and then came back home, where after getting his MPA he became director of the Mental Health Association of Central New York—I’m not making a joke about whether that’s a good preparation for working with artists—and then in 2008 took over the organization that became CNY Arts. In his work he has touched everyone interested in the arts in this CNY community.
In the process, the organization has received notable awards, including an unprecedented two Ovation TV/Spectrum Communication's National Stand for the Arts Award, Central New York Community Foundation’s "What Matters to You" Award, and CenterState CEO's Economic Engine Award.
An amazing and necessary man, and a true leader.
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