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2019 Arts Day & Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Ohio announcing the winners logo

2019 Governor’s Awards for the Arts Winners Announced

Nine winners have been selected to receive awards at the 2019 Arts Day & Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Ohio luncheon and ceremony on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. The event will take place at noon at the Columbus Athenaeum in downtown Columbus.

The Governor's Awards Selection Committee, composed of six Ohio Arts Council (OAC) board members and three members selected by the Ohio Citizens for the Arts (OCA) Foundation, recommended winners after reviewing nominations submitted by individuals and organizations across Ohio.

“The 2019 Governor’s Awards winners are creative, forward-thinking, and passionate representatives of Ohio’s artistic community," said OAC Executive Director Donna S. Collins. "On behalf of the Ohio Arts Council, I congratulate this year’s award recipients on earning our state’s most prestigious artistic and cultural achievement. The Governor’s Awards honor the work these individuals and organizations do every day to reaffirm the importance of the arts throughout Ohio and beyond.”

Winners will receive an original work of art by Ohio artist Caroline Rowntree.

The Governor’s Awards luncheon, a ticketed event open to the public, is held in conjunction with Arts Day, an annual arts advocacy event sponsored by the OCA Foundation. For more information about the Governor’s Awards and Arts Day, visit or

The 2019 award recipients and categories follow:

Phyllis Gorfain, Artistic Director of Oberlin Drama at Grafton
Oberlin (Lorain)

Phyllis Gorfain, 2019 Governor's Award for Arts Administration winnerPhyllis Gorfain, professor of English emerita at Oberlin College, originated Oberlin Drama at Grafton (ODAG) as a Shakespeare-centered performance program at Grafton Correctional Institution in 2012. As artistic director of ODAG, Phyllis has directed or helped direct 11 productions, five of them full or abridged Shakespeare plays. Through Phyllis’ initiatives, donors and other volunteers provide funding, mentoring, and many other forms of support, such as financial management, web design and maintenance, sound design, and program production. ODAG thus provides a transformative space for its actors, Oberlin students, guest directors, lecturers, visiting performers, volunteers, and audiences.


Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati
Cincinnati (Hamilton)

Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, 2019 Governor's Award for Arts Education winnerEnsemble Theatre Cincinnati (ETC) was founded in 1986 on a belief that the arts make neighborhoods thrive. For more than 30 years, ETC has built a reputation for exceptional artistic leadership and engaging community-centered programming. ETC presents some of the most exciting new plays in its region, and as a pillar in Cincinnati’s arts community, it continues to play an essential role in leading Over-the-Rhine’s thriving urban arts district.

ETC’s artistic focus is to premiere socially conscious plays that drive important community conversations and to hire professional artists who want to call Cincinnati home (for the long run). It provides theatre education programs that enrich young minds and prioritize inclusivity, diversity, and access, creating pathways to successful professional careers for the next generation of artists while growing the local talent pool.

Sallie and Randolph Wadsworth
Cincinnati Area (Hamilton)

Sallie and Randolph Wadsworth, 2019 Governor's Award for Arts Patron winnersSallie Robinson Wadsworth and Randolph “Duck” Wadsworth have made an impact on Greater Cincinnati through their legacy of philanthropic support in the visual arts, music, and theatre communities. Although Sallie passed away on Nov. 22, 2017, Duck, who taught English literature at Miami University, continues to passionately support the arts. In 2013, the Sallie Robinson Wadsworth Endowment for Exhibitions was developed as part of the Taft Museum of Art’s $12 million endowment campaign. Sallie and Duck have also supported the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Duck currently serves on the board of Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and as director emeritus at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Sallie served on the boards of many organizations, including the Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, and the Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati, and volunteered with the Special Projects Pool of the Cincinnati Institute of Fine Arts (now ArtsWave).

Owens Corning
Toledo (Lucas)

Owens Corning, 2019 Governor's Award for Business Support of the Arts winnerOwens Corning (OC) is a global market leader in the development, manufacture, and marketing of insulation, roofing, and fiberglass composite products and solutions. Based in Toledo, Ohio, for more than 80 years, OC is committed to leveraging its people and products to make the world a better place.

The company’s dedication to providing access to the arts in its home community serves as a tangible demonstration of its purpose. Through its financial support, board participation, and widespread employee volunteerism, OC is helping to build a vibrant community that is enhanced by the world-class cultural amenities and visual and performing arts organizations it supports. 

Ronette Burkes, Warden at the Ohio Reformatory for Women
Marysville (Union)

Warden Ronette Burkes, 2019 Governor's Award for Community Development and Participation winnerRonette “Roni” Burkes-Trowsdell serves as warden at the Ohio Reformatory for Women (ORW) in Marysville, Ohio. Throughout Roni’s 18-year tenure with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, it has been apparent her inner drive is fueled by her passion for people. Roni has chosen to lead and support diverse projects that aim to increase access to the arts for those who are justice-involved around the state. By offering these opportunities for creative expression, ORW is actively working to encourage community engagement between people inside and outside prison.

Roni’s involvement with the Harmony Project in Columbus and her dedication for the past 28 years to the service work of her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, also exemplifies her drive to save lives. She currently serves as president-elect for the Ohio Wardens and Superintendents Association, vice president for the Ohio Chapter of the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, and as an advisory board member for Franklin University’s Center for Public Safety and Cybersecurity Education and Tiffin University’s Alumni Board.

RJ Thompson, Assistant Professor of Graphic and Interactive Design at Youngstown State University
Youngstown (Mahoning)

RJ Thompson, 2019 Governor's Award for Community Development and Participation winnerRJ Thompson is a tenured assistant professor of graphic and interactive design in the Department of Art at Youngstown State University. Parallel to his teaching, he is the principal and creative strategist for +Public, a design research-based social enterprise that focuses on cultivating community and economic development impact through the creation of branded communication platforms, creative place-making, and storytelling initiatives for communities-in-revival.

In 2015, he was one of several recipients of the National Endowment for the Arts’ “Our Town” grant for the INPLACE (“Innovative Plan for Leveraging Arts & Community Engagement”) project. In 2017, RJ received a “Best of Marketing Award” from the Ohio Economic Development Association for his efforts in rebranding the City of Youngstown, Ohio, and in 2018, he was accepted into the prestigious Cohort 2 of the National Arts Marketing Project. RJ recently received a scholarship to participate in the National Arts Strategies’ “Arts & Culture Strategies Executive Program” through the University of Pennsylvania. He received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in graphic design from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2011.

Leslie Adams
Toledo (Lucas)

Leslie Adams, 2019 Governor's Award for Individual Artist winnerLeslie Adams, a signature status member of the Portrait Society of America, is an internationally recognized artist specializing in narrative art and portraiture. Her patrons include many distinguished members of private society as well as the corporate, academic, religious, cultural, judicial, and civic leaders of our day. Leslie’s works have graced the walls of the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery, the Butler Institute of American Art, and the European Museum of Modern Art in Barcelona, Spain. Her meticulously rendered drawings and paintings have received awards in the Art Renewal Center’s International ARC Salon and from the American Society of Portrait Artists’ Foundation and Portrait Society of America, where she earned the prestigious William F. Draper Grand Prize in its International Portrait Competition.

 Her major solo exhibition, Leslie Adams, Drawn from Life, part of the Toledo Museum of Art’s 2012 Season of Portraiture, was a childhood dream fulfilled and the most significant milestone of her career since graduating from the University of Toledo and New York Academy of Art. She is represented in the permanent collections of the Toledo Museum of Art, the Ella Sharp Museum of Art, the Academy of Achievement, and numerous other institutions throughout the world.

Mark Lomax II, DMA
Columbus (Franklin)

Dr. Mark Lomax II, 2019 Governor's Award for Individual Artist winnerDr. Mark Lomax II, a critically acclaimed composer, recording artist, drummer, activist, and educator, is a Wexner Center for the Arts at the Ohio State University (OSU) Artist Residency 2018 award recipient. A highly sought-after lecturer, Mark specializes in the socio-political and spiritual aspects of African-American art, music, race, and the usage of the arts to build community. Heavily influenced by his father, a pastor, and mother, a composer of gospel music, Mark was introduced to gospel and jazz at an early age and continued his study of gospel music with Dr. Raymond Wise, founder of the Center for the Gospel Arts. As a jazz musician, he has toured with the Delfeayo Marsalis Sextet and worked with notable artists such as Clark Terry, Marlon Jordan, and Azar Lawrence, among others.

Mark, also a 2017 Denison University Mellon Artist-In-Residence, holds a Doctor of Music Arts degree in composition from OSU. He is in a prestigious and elite group as one of 30 or so African American composers in the United States who have terminal degrees in classical music. His myriad experiences have allowed him to create a unique blend of styles in his music.

Dayton Literary Peace Prize
Dayton (Montgomery)

Dayton Literary Peace Prize, 2019 Irma Lazarus Award winnerThe Dayton Literary Peace Prize (DLPP) honors writers who use the power of literature to foster peace, social justice, and global understanding. Launched in 2006 and recognized as one of the world’s most prestigious literary honors, it is the only literary peace prize awarded in the United States. Each year, the Prize awards $10,000 to one fiction and one nonfiction author whose work advances peace as a solution to conflict and leads readers to a better understanding of other cultures, peoples, religions, and political points of view. Additionally, the Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award is bestowed upon a writer whose body of work reflects the Prize's mission.

Since its inception, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation, principally made up of volunteers, has awarded prizes to 72 established and emerging authors from 20 countries. Through the DLPP University and Library Consortiums, presentations have reached tens of thousands of high school, college, university, and community readers, and DLPP-developed curricula based on winning books is used in Ohio high school and university classes.

Since its beginning in 1971, the Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Ohio has recognized individuals and organizations who have been vital to the growth and development of Ohio’s cultural resources. Each year, the public is invited to nominate individuals and organizations in eight award categories. The program is presented by the Ohio Arts Council and the Ohio Citizens for the Arts Foundation, a nonprofit arts organization. 

The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website at

The Ohio Citizens for the Arts Foundation, formed in 1990 as a companion organization to Ohio Citizens for the Arts, leverages support for the arts and arts education. For more information about the foundation, visit


Article by Amanda Etchison, Communications Strategist
Featured Image: Design by Alan Jazak, Formation Studio. Artwork: "Dahlia Walk" by Caroline Rowntree

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