By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – The 28th annual Mayor’s Arts Awards recognized area artists, volunteers and groups who make a difference in the greater Dearborn area Feb. 10 at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center.
Based on nominations submitted by the public, the Dearborn Community Arts Council and Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. recognized achievement by individuals and groups for artistry and performance, volunteerism, education and support.
In addition to the award presentations in Studio A, attendees heard performances by pianist Jake LaValley, 15, of Dearborn; Fordson High School’s female vocal ensemble Jamileh; and by award recipient Joseph Deller, with Lydia Sarver, 17, of Detroit, playing two Mozart violin duets.
A reception in the Padzieski Gallery followed the award presentation.
Mistress of ceremonies Carolyn Blackmore, a Dearborn Symphony Orchestra volunteer and Recreation commissioner said Dearborn’s art and cultural opportunities helped her feel at home.
“One of the first things that I look for is arts organizations, cultural organizations so that I can make a connection with people,” Blackmore said. “This city is a very culturally rich community. We have a lot to be proud of.”
She said a strong arts community helps residents develop their minds and hearts, and inspires each new generation.
Bernice Herm of Henry Ford College and the Ford Center presented the Artist/Performer Award to musician Joseph Deller, concertmaster of the Michigan Philharmonic; member of the Flint and Dearborn symphony orchestras; a member of the Troubadours, an outreach group through the Flint Public Schools; and conductor of the concert orchestra for the Dearborn Youth Symphony.
“He is a mentor and teacher by choice,” Herm said. “A lot of musicians have to teach because they can’t make a living otherwise, but Joe enjoys teaching and he does a really good job of it.”
Deller said he is proud to be a product of the city of Dearborn.
“I always just really loved music,” Deller said. “When I got into it I was not looking for recognition, fame or fortune. It was just the thrill of it, and the passion that is involved performing. I will be at it the rest of my life. It continues to inspire me.”
Emma Jean Woodyard, executive director of the Dearborn Community Fund, presented the Arts Volunteer Award to Margaret Schaefer.
Schaefer, a longtime Dearborn resident and a retired teacher, serves on multiple boards, chairs many successful fundraisers and has a strong commitment to youth programs.
“She continues to give generous amounts of her time organizing and supporting countless fundraisers,” Woodyard said. “I can’t even begin to tell you how many fundraisers.”
Fundraisers include the annual home tour, the Paczki and Polka party, and a fashion show that support the Dearborn Symphony.
Schaefer credited her success to fellow committee members and to a commitment to starting projects early.
“I’m there for the kids,” Schaefer said, “and as I sign all of my emails, ‘stay tuned.’”
Stella Greene of the DCAC executive board presented the DCAC Bravo Award to Martin Zbosnik of the Ford Center.
The award, chosen by the DCAC, acknowledges a member within the organization who is an integral member of the arts community at large.
Greene said Zbosnik is known as the go-to person at the Ford Center, instilling others with confidence.
“I always could trust his sage advice, his expertise that went well beyond any job description,” Greene said. “There is nothing he hasn’t done, from setting up tables, wiring sound systems, hanging crepe paper, ushering at concerts, orchestrating mega events. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people say, ‘I need to talk to Martin.’”
Zbosnik said being at a podium in front of others was an unusual position for him.
“Being the person who is always behind the scenes hearing applause, this is probably the first time I have heard it from this point of view,” Zbosnik said.
Susan McGraw, general manager of radio station WHFR-FM at HFC, presented Jay Korinek, a 35-year WHFR veteran, with the Arts Educator Award.
McGraw said Korinek continues to inspire people on a daily basis.
“That’s why so many of us are just so proud to be a part of working day-to-day with such a professional, such a visionary,” McGraw said.
Blackmore announced Kenwal Steel of Dearborn as the Arts Patron Award recipient for their extensive support of area arts organizations.
“Their very generous commitment to the arts locally is both ongoing and legendary,” Blackmore said.
Ralph Valdez, DCAC executive director, presented the Arts Organization Award to the Arab American National Museum.
“This place is so amazing,” Valdez said. “It’s like a work of art. It’s a gem. It’s a jewel to have here in our community.”
Valdez said it is hard to believe the museum is only 10 years old.
“I feel like we are on the precipice of watching something develop in our own backyard that is just so amazing, that is going forward in so many positive directions,” Valdez said, “for not just the Arab community but for the entire community of Dearborn and southeast Michigan and the world.”
Devon Akmon, director of the AANM, said the museum has journeyed far in its first decade.
“We’re all about celebrating the diversity of our nation, and sharing in what’s the American narrative,” Akmon said. “We are proud to be part of Dearborn, and completely amazed and honored by what’s going on in this town. There’s really a vibrancy and a rebirth of the arts.”
O’Reilly presented the Mayor’s Award to the Dearborn Youth Symphony, which welcomes members from many neighboring cities.
“That’s something I celebrate in Dearborn,” O’Reilly said. “When we support the arts, we want anyone who is interested in coming in and being a part of this great artists’ community to have access.”
O’Reilly said DYS musicians are 8 to 18 years old and come from 25 communities to take advantage of an opportunity that is unmatched.
“Everyone gets a good opportunity, and a good experience,” O’Reilly said. “Dearborn really wants to have an enriching experience for everyone.”