Governor's Awards for the Arts in Ohio presented by the Ohio Arts Council





2023 Governor's Awards for the Arts in Ohio winners. (Top row, left to right) Kathy Wade, Arts Administration; Dr. Douglas Marrah, Arts Education; Louella Reese, Arts Patron; and Walnut Street Gallery, LLC, Business Support of the Arts. (Bottom row, left to right) Michael London, Community Development and Participation Co-Winner; Black Swamp Arts Festival, Community Development and Participation Co-Winner; Tricia Kaman, Individual Artist; and Ann Hamilton, Irma Lazarus.

2023 Governor's Awards for the Arts in Ohio winners. (Top row, left to right) Kathy Wade, Arts Administration; Dr. Douglas Marrah, Arts Education; Louella Reese, Arts Patron; and Walnut Street Gallery, LLC, Business Support of the Arts. (Bottom row, left to right) Michael London, Community Development and Participation Co-Winner; Black Swamp Arts Festival, Community Development and Participation Co-Winner; Tricia Kaman, Individual Artist; and Ann Hamilton, Irma Lazarus Award.

Congratulations to the 2023 Governor's Awards for the Arts Winners

Thank you to the more than 500 arts supporters who joined us at the Renaissance Columbus Downtown for the 2023 Governor’s Awards for the Arts Luncheon on May 17. You can view the complete Governor's Awards ceremony on the Ohio Channel website:  

2023 Governor's Awards for the Arts Winners

Arts Administration | Kathy Wade
Cincinnati (Hamilton) 

Kathy Wade is a successful business owner, producer, writer, entrepreneur, and award-winning jazz vocalist with more than four decades of involvement with the arts, performance, and community-building. In 1992, she and her late husband, Dan Jenkins, founded Learning Though Art, Inc., to bring together everything she was already doing to serve the community through performance and education. Today, the nonprofit organization provides arts programming and hosts events, including craft festivals for kids, jazz concerts, and the three-time Emmy-winning "Books Alive! For Kids® Virtual Adventures." Since its inception, the organization has served more than one million people of all ages and backgrounds through its community arts and educational programming. A Cincinnati native and graduate of Withrow High School, Kathy’s parents introduced her to jazz at an early age. She holds a BA in sociology from Edgecliff College, which later merged with Xavier University, and an MA in arts administration from the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music. A trailblazer, she was one of the first graduates of the institution’s arts administration program and the first Black woman to do so. Her experiences in the program and career as a performer led her to create “A Black Anthology of Music,” an educational performance presentation that explores the history of jazz.  

Throughout her academic and business pursuits, Kathy—whose family has called Ohio home for five generations—has maintained an active career as a performer here in the Buckeye state and around the world. She’s been a featured guest with the Cincinnati Pops and Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, sung in New York City’s premiere jazz clubs, and opened for such legendary performers as Dionne Warwick, Kenny G, Whitney Houston, and more. Since the 1980s, she has served as a Cultural and Jazz Ambassador to Cincinnati’s Sisters Cities, which include Munich, Germany; Kharkiv, Ukraine; and Nancy, France.

Arts Education | Dr. Douglas Marrah
Ashland (Ashland) 

Dr. Douglas Marrah is an educator, administrator, and musician who began his tenure as superintendent of the Ashland Public Schools in 2011. For Dr. Marrah a well-balanced education consists of the “Three A’s:” arts, athletics, and academics. He held steadfast to this belief at Ashland, making sure there was equality between the three areas and that the arts were non-negotiable in the education of children. When considering district restructuring and expansion projects, it was important for Dr. Marrah that every plan included new performance and exhibition spaces in the design. Today, every building has a stage, and the high school houses the state-of-the-art, 1,000-seat Archer Auditorium. The auditorium hosts school-wide events alongside community and military performances, conferences, art exhibitions, and more. Dr. Marrah also worked to facilitate educational partnerships, including the M.A.D.E. in Ashland (Music, Art, Dance, and Education) program. Established in 2018, M.A.D.E. in Ashland is a week-long multimedia artist residency program for Ashland City Schools and Ashland University students, and community members. When COVID-19 began, Dr. Marrah worked with his visual and performing arts teachers and staff to ensure that arts programs would continue at a high level of excellence. In 2021, he supported a Fine Arts Signing Day which celebrated the accomplishments of graduating high school students pursuing arts careers. 

Dr. Marrah’s tenure as Ashland’s superintendent marked his return to the district, where he previously served as a music teacher in the 1990s and, later, as principal. He also worked as a principal in Tuslaw Local Schools, and after obtaining his superintendent license, he worked as superintendent of Minerva Local Schools. Along the way, Dr. Marrah—who holds a Bachelor of Music from The Ohio State University—worked to ensure that the arts were part of a well-balanced education in every building and district where he had a role. Dr. Marrah retired from Ashland at the end of 2022 with a vow to continue supporting the arts.

Arts Patron | Louella Reese
Granville (Licking) 

For more than 60 years, Mrs. Louella Reese has been a steadfast patron of the visual and performing arts in Licking County. A belief that people should have access to public art has guided Mrs. Reese throughout her life’s work. Over the past 34 years, she has helped to place more than 40 sculptures throughout the community. Each is located where people can easily view and interact with them, including the bike path, Newark Square, and several athletic training fields. Many of the statues can also be found at the shared Ohio State University Newark and Central Ohio Technical College campus. It includes the largest collection of bronze statues by Gary Lee Price in a single location, as well as additional works by Seward Johnson, Glenna Goodacre, and Carrie Grant Cade. Mrs. Reese has also helped to preserve and bring to life the history of Newark, commissioning six murals for the Canal Market District over the past 15 years which capture scenes from historic photos of the city.  

In the performing arts, Mrs. Reese has long been an advocate of the Newark-Granville Symphony Orchestra. Both the orchestra’s professional and youth ensembles rehearse and perform in the John Gilbert Reese Center—an event space with a 562-seat performance hall named after her late husband, John Gilbert Reese. Since 1985, Mrs. Reese has also been a vocal supporter of the Heisy Wind Ensemble, and in 1993, she and Mr. Reese joined the group’s patron program. Mrs. Reese was also instrumental in the reopening, revitalization, and continued success of Newark’s landmark Midland Theatre. In the early 1990s, she and her husband aided in the theatre’s restoration and later established an endowment through the Gilbert Reese Family Foundation to support its ongoing operations. Because of Mrs. Reese’s efforts, Newark secured Ohio Magazine’s “Best Hometown” designation in 2019 and 2020.  

Business Support of the Arts | Walnut Street Gallery, LLC
Wooster (Wayne) 

Walnut Street Gallery, LLC, is a woman-owned custom picture framing gallery serving Wooster, Wayne County, and communities across the state. Established in 2002 by Loren Fedorowicz, Walnut Street Gallery focuses on preserving art heritage, family heirlooms, and Ohio historical documents. Additionally, the gallery supports 72 local, state, and national artisans—several of whom are people of color, part of the LGBTQ+ community, and/or veterans—who work in many diverse mediums, including painting, pottery, textiles, jewelry, wood, and metal. A significant focus of the gallery is the preservation of landmarks and history, contributing educational and informative works to Dayton’s Wright Patterson Air Force Base and to Ohio’s National Parks. The gallery’s educational work also appears in U.S. National Parks from Massachusetts to South Carolina.  

Using art as a catalyst, Walnut Street Gallery is an avid supporter of the community, donating time and materials to many Ohio organizations, historical events, people in need, and artists. For several years, it has framed the work of student artists through the Tri-County Educational Service Center—which provides services to Ashland, Holmes, and Wayne Counties. Walnut Street Gallery has also contributed services to help those most vulnerable and women in need, for instance in health care, pregnancy, domestic violence, addiction and recovery, mental health, and other treatment settings. Internationally, Walnut Street Gallery is a charter member of Serving Women in Ghana, a nonprofit focused on establishing a hospital in Accra, Ghana.  In 2022, Walnut Street Gallery was recognized for its community contributions, winning the Wooster Area Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year award. 

Community Development and Participation (co-winner) | Michael London 
Dayton (Montgomery) 

Michael London is a playwright, arts administrator, and arts management educator with a strong belief that the arts are for everyone. He currently serves as the director of the Ohio Playwrights Circle—a service organization dedicated to providing encouragement, opportunity, and education for Ohio playwrights. In 2021, he was elected as Ohio’s regional representative for the Dramatist Guild of America. Over a career spanning five decades, Mr. London has worked to help strengthen arts access for diverse communities across the state. From 1978 to 1985, he was a member of the Ohio Arts Council’s Minority Arts Task Force. He also served from 1985 to 2010 as arts advisor for the Ohio Arts Council’s Minority Arts Program, where he helped hundreds of organizations serving communities of color and marginalized communities grow their capacity and outreach. Mr. London also worked, from 1993 to 1998, as the policy consultant and community liaison for the Ohio Appalachian Arts Initiative. A Native American descendant, Mr. London has worked with Indigenous organizations for many years as an arts and management advisor. Currently, he is the planning director for the 2023 Native Voices Project, which will share Story Circles with Native Americans living in Ohio and inspire a new work of art. 

A lifelong student of the arts, Mr. London’s studies include The Ohio State University and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. He holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in theatre, along with an additional Master of Arts in screenwriting for film and television, from Royal Holloway at the University of London. His work has been performed on stages in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom—where he currently serves as the Playwright-in-Residence for the London-based Benjamin Franklin House Museum. 

Community Development and Participation (co-winner) | Black Swamp Arts Festival
Bowling Green (Wood) 

The Black Swamp Arts Festival (BSAF)—founded in 1993—is an all-volunteer-run art and music festival with a vision to celebrate the arts, provide opportunities for artists, foster pride and involvement in the community, and develop an audience for the arts. Every year, a core group of 25 board members work to organize the free, three-day festival. They are joined on festival weekend by more than 850 community volunteers. Visual artists and musicians of all ages exhibit and perform at the festival, which includes juried art shows for professional artists, concerts by up-and-coming and celebrated musicians, and competitions for teens. A major driver of the local economy, around 40,000 people attend the festival every year, with many shopping and dining at local businesses and buying art directly from exhibiting artists. About 20 percent of visitors come from more than 100 miles away, helping to support the local hospitality industry. Many businesses report festival weekend as their busiest time of the year, and in 2021, visual artists collectively made more than $500,000 in sales of their work.  

Throughout the year, BSAF finds ways to partner with and support the arts, and artists, in the community—including in 2020, when they supplied Downtown Bowling Green with a stage for an outdoor concert series, BG Live. In 2022, they provided support for another, similar summer festival, Firefly Nights. BSAF also provides scholarships to students studying the visual and performing arts in college. In 2023, the festival will celebrate its 30th anniversary, with plans already underway to feature more than 150 professional visual artists, showcase the musical talents of professional musicians and students, and provide hands-on art activities for kids.

Individual Artist | Tricia Kaman
Cleveland (Cuyahoga) 

Tricia Kaman, a portrait and figurative artist, is the founder and president of Kaman’s Art Shoppes—the largest art, photo, and specialty merchandise concessionaire company for theme parks and zoos in the United States. Located in Chagrin Falls, the business can trace its roots back to the summer of 1965, when Mrs. Kaman worked as a portrait artist at Cedar Point. In 1971, she started her own portrait stand at Geauga Lake Park. Since then, the business has grown, now located in more than 55 major theme and amusement parks in the United States and Canada. Thousands of artists have been trained by Mrs. Kaman in their art and on-site business practices.  

Outside of her business, Mrs. Kaman is an active independent artist who works mainly with oil and pastels, which allows her to embrace the depth and richness projected by her subjects. Her studio and gallery are located in Cleveland’s historic Little Italy. There, she cherishes her time creating paintings and hosting workshops for aspiring local artists. Throughout her nearly 52-year artistic career, Mrs. Kaman’s work has appeared in hundreds of juried regional, national, and international shows and invitationals, including the Grand National Exhibit at the Salmagundi Club in New York, the Agora Gallery in New York City, and the Amsterdam Whitney Gallery in New York City. Mrs. Kaman’s formative studies were at the Cooper School of Art in Cleveland, the Cleveland Institute of Art, and the Art Students League in New York. Ever the curious student, she continues to travel the country to study with many of today’s leading artists, perfecting her work and bringing back what she’s learned to enhance her mentorship of Ohio artists. 

Irma Lazarus Award | Ann Hamilton
Columbus (Franklin) 

Ann Hamilton is a visual artist internationally acclaimed for her large-scale multi-media installations, public projects, and performance collaborations. Every work Ms. Hamilton creates is site-responsive, working with common materials to invoke particular places, collective voices, and communities of labor. Throughout much of her career, Ms. Hamilton’s work has been noted for its dense accumulation of materials and ephemeral environments that create immersive experiences. Now employing a more collaborative process, recent works focus on acts of reading, speaking, and listening, shifting her forms of making to centralize the viewer in time and space.  

Highly recognized for her work, Ms. Hamilton is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the National Medal of the Arts, Heinz Award, MacArthur Fellowship, NEA Visual Arts Fellowship, and the Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, among many others. Additionally, she represented the United States in the 1991 Sao Paulo Bienal and the 1999 Venice Biennale, and she has exhibited extensively around the world. Ms. Hamilton’s work has been installed in major public spaces and arts destinations in the United States, with completed commissions from New York City’s Park Avenue Armory, Guggenheim Museum, Dia Center for the Arts, and the Museum of Modern Art, among others. She’s also completed commissions with the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis, Missouri; The Art Insitute of Chicago; MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.; and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, California. Across the globe, she has completed commissions with major arts and culture institutions in Japan, France, Sweden, The Netherlands, and England.  

An Ohio native, Ms. Hamilton was born in Lima. She received a BFA in textile design from the University of Kansas in 1979 and an MFA in sculpture from the Yale School of Art in 1985. A dedicated educator and mentor for the next generation of artists, Ms. Hamilton taught on the faculty of the University of California at Santa Barbara from 1985 to 1991. In 2001, Ms. Hamilton joined The Ohio State University Department of Art faculty, and in 2011, she was named Distinguished University Professor. She is now a professor emeritus.  

About the 2023 Award Artist

In addition to the honorific title and statewide acclaim, winners of the Governor's Awards for the Arts receive physical artwork in recognition of their achievements.

This year, Dover-based artist and educator Brian Robinson was selected as the award artist. Learn more about him below and also enjoy his work, "Mill Fall."

About Brian

Brian Robinson, an artist and educator based in Dover, Ohio, uses pastels to feature and bring attention to Ohio landscapes. A lifelong art maker, Robinson’s award-winning paintings have appeared in solo and collaborative exhibitions across the state, including the North Canton Art Gallery’s May Show, the Zanesville Museum of Art’s Ohio Show, and the Stark County Art Show, among many others. In 2012, he won the Purchase Award as part of the Butler Institute of American Art’s Butler American Art Show. The winning painting is now part of the Youngstown museum’s permanent collection. In addition, from 2012 to 2019, several of his paintings hung in the Ohio Governor’s residence and offices in Columbus. Alongside his life as a painter, Robinson has taught art for nearly 30 years at Tuslaw High School in Massillon, Ohio.

Originally from Pennsylvania, Robinson moved to Massillon at an early age. He graduated from Perry High School in 1990 and attended the University of Akron, where he earned a degree in art education. During his time in Akron, Robinson began to focus his work on pastels and Ohio landscapes. In 2003, he graduated from Kent State University with a master’s degree in painting.



About the Nomination Process

About the Nomination Process

Governor’s Awards nominations are accepted through an online form during a 6-8-week nomination period, typically in late summer/early fall (dates are subject to change). Nominations may be submitted by organizations or individuals. This is a highly competitive process; nominations of previously unselected nominees are encouraged.  

A nomination consists of:

  1. A 350-800-word nomination narrative – This narrative introduces the nominee's accomplishments and contributions. Consider the following ideas when writing your narrative:
    1. How does the nominee contribute to, uplift, and influence the arts in their community?
    2. Who benefits from the nominee’s leadership in the arts (e.g., rural, urban, or suburban communities; students/youth; senior citizens; justice-involved individuals; etc.)?
    3. Describe the nominee’s impact through the arts (e.g. enhanced education for learners, collaborations among business and artists/ arts organizations, public art, philanthropy, arts policy, etc.).
    4. How would you tell the nominee’s story in a media interview – who what, when, where, and how has the nominee been successful in the arts?

  1. Up to five letters of support (optional) – A well-rounded nomination includes a diverse set of support letters that highlight the nominee's strengths and are not repetitive of the narrative. These letters may come from colleagues, community members, local officials, board members, or educators – offer testimonies/perspective nominee’s impact.

Eligibility & Selection Process

Nominations are open to organizations or individuals who work or reside in Ohio. Nominees must be living—no awards will be presented posthumously. Nominations are reviewed by Ohio Arts Council board members, and the Governor's Office determines final award winners.

Award Categories

ARTS ADMINISTRATION | Individual who has shown sustained, impactful, and visionary leadership of an arts organization. 

ARTS EDUCATION | Individual or organization that has made significant contributions through leadership and creativity to advance arts education in Ohio's schools and community organizations. 

ARTS PATRON | Individual, or individual or family foundation, that, over time, has sustained and enhanced the arts in their community or the state of Ohio through contributions of their time, effort, or financial resources. 

BUSINESS SUPPORT OF THE ARTS (Large) | Private or nonprofit business with 100 or more employees that has, over time, provided extraordinary support to the arts locally, statewide, regionally, or nationally through a contribution of personnel, financial, or other resources. Nominations will be considered in both a small and large category. 

BUSINESS SUPPORT OF THE ARTS (Small) | Private or nonprofit business with fewer than 100 employees that has, over time, provided extraordinary support to the arts locally, statewide, regionally, or nationally through a contribution of personnel, financial, or other resources. Nominations will be considered in both a small and large category. 

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AND PARTICIPATION | Individual or organization that works to create or strengthen interactive arts participation among diverse community members while increasing public awareness about the role of the arts in community life. 

INDIVIDUAL ARTIST | Ohio artist whose work has made a significant impact on his or her discipline locally, statewide, regionally, or nationally. 

IRMA LAZARUS AWARD | The Irma Lazarus Award goes to individuals or organizations who have helped shape public support for the arts through their work as advocates and have brought national and international recognition to Ohio through sustained dedication to artistic excellence. 


Since its beginning in 1971, the Governor's Awards has recognized individuals and organizations who have been vital to the growth and development of Ohio's cultural resources. One of the most prestigious arts events in Ohio, the Governor's Awards showcases and celebrates exceptional Ohio artists, arts organizations, arts leaders and patrons, and business support of the arts. Governor's Awards recipients are honored at a luncheon ceremony in Columbus, where they are presented with the only arts award in the state that is conferred by the governor. Each award winner receives an original piece of artwork created specifically for the event by an Ohio artist and the opportunity to share their story with other arts supporters statewide.

Contact for more information about past winners.

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