Cleveland Arts Prize Names its 2021 Winners

Ray McNiece

Wed 10/13

The Cleveland Arts Prize, which has been recognizing creative talent in northeast Ohio at all stages of their careers for more than six decades, has just named its 2021 winners, who will be honored at the 61st Annual Awards Ceremony at the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Gartner Auditorium. The City Club’s Dan Mouthrop hosts, and past winners will perform, along with musicians form KABOOM Collection and Da Land Brass Band.

Its emerging artist winners, for those in an early stage of development, are eclectic the jazz/R&B/hip hop/spoken word ensemble Mourning [A] BLKstar and visual artist/sculpture Lauren Yeager. Actor Alice Ripley, who has performed on and off Broadway and is also a recorded musician, is one of two mid-career artists; the other is Corrie Slawson, known for her visual work addressing environmental and justice-related subjects.

Its lifetime achievement award is honoring poet/spoke word performer/ musician/educator Ray McNiece, who has performed all over the world, published 11 books and performed on numerous CDs. But he has also become ubiquitous in his hometown, performing at festivals and on neighborhood stages, hosting events, collaborating with musicians and writers, leading workshops, and serving as poet laureate of Cleveland Heights.

The Cleveland Arts Prize has also awarded several special prizes. Director and former head of the Cleveland State University theater department Dr. Joseph J. Garry Jr. received the Robert P. Bergman Prize, “awarded to an individual whose life and work are illuminated by an energetic and inspiring dedication to a democratic vision of art.”

The Martha Joseph Prize for someone who has been a leader in bolstering the arts/creative scene in northeast Ohio was awarded to Happy Dog owner Sean Watterson who, in addition to making a space at his club for original music in various genres, author events, world affairs forums and other special events, has been a leader in keeping the local indie club scene afloat during the pandemic and advocating nationally for assistance to cultural venues.

Clara Rankin, who has served on the boards of many local cultural organizations including the Cleveland Orchestra and the Cleveland Museum of Art, was given the Barbara J. Robinson Prize for arts leadership in the community, and Franz Welser-Most was honored with a special citation for “an extraordinary contribution to the arts and culture of Northeast Ohio.”

For more information go to For tickets to the awards ceremony, go here.

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