The Governor’s Arts and Heritage Awards

Washington’s artists, cultural institutions, and cultural leaders play an important part in inspiring and growing the state’s cultural vitality. In 1966, the Governor Arts Awards were established to recognize their contributions. That year, Patrons of Northwest Civic, Cultural and Charitable Organizations (PONCHO), an organization that formed to help boost Seattle arts, was the first organization to be honored with a Governor’s Arts Award. In 1989 Heritage Awards were added to the program to honor tradition bearers and heritage organizations. Coordinated by the Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA), the program has recognized 244 organizations and individuals over the years for their extraordinary achievements in the field.
“Arts and heritage play a major part in defining our state, whether it be the renowned cultural institutions and amazing artists, or the vibrant community events, festivals, and traditional activities that take place all across our state,” said Karen Hanan, ArtsWA Executive Director. “These accomplishments impacted our creative economy to the tune of over 22-billion dollars in 2016, and that’s another good reason to celebrate.”

The 2018 recipients include six individuals and two organizations from around the state:

Arts Award – Community                                  Mery Swanson (Aberdeen)
Arts Award – Individual Artist                          Preston Singletary (Seattle)
Arts Award – Legacy                                              Jim Kelly (Seattle)
Arts Award – Organization                                       Get Lit! Programs (Spokane)
Arts Award – Philanthropy                                       Edmund Littlefield (Arlington)
Arts Award – Young Leader                               Leah Wilson-Velasco (Walla Walla)
Heritage Award – Individual Artist/Practitioner         Patsy Surh O’Connell (Gig Harbor)
Heritage Award – Organization                           Port of Kennewick (Kennewick)

If you plan to attend:
Tickets are $40 and include passed appetizers, a three-course dinner, and entertainment. Buy tickets through the Admiral Theatre website.
Doors open at 5 p.m. for a no-host cocktail hour. The dinner and program will be held between 6-9 p.m.
If you plan to attend from Seattle to Bremerton on the Washington State Ferry, you’ll want to check the ferry schedule.

Honoring Excellence, Creativity & Achievements

Washington’s governors began the tradition of honoring artists, arts organizations, arts educators and cultural leaders in 1966 with the Governor’s Arts Awards. Heritage Awards were added in 1989 to honor tradition bearers and heritage organizations. Coordinated by the Washington State Arts Commission, or ArtsWA, the awards are some of the most prestigious bestowed by the governor.

In 2016, honorees included artist Barbara Earl Thomas (Seattle), Vashon Center for the Arts (Vashon), Tejano musician Oscar Galvan (Toppenish), Asia Pacific Cultural Center (Tacoma), and Dr. Quinton Morris (Renton), who received the Young Art Leader Award.

Six awards will be presented at this year’s awards dinner at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma on Nov. 14 from 6 to 9 p.m. The public is invited to attend.

“Over the years, more than 200 individuals and organizations have received Governor’s Arts & Heritage Awards,” said Karen Hanan, executive director of ArtsWA.

Nominations are accepted May through July each year. The nominations are evaluated by a five-member panel and forwarded to the board of the Washington State Arts Commission for review. The board’s recommendation is forwarded to the governor for final approval.

For the last three years the awards event has taken place in Seattle, Hanan said. “We’re excited to bring the dinner to Tacoma and invite all to come support this year’s extraordinary recipients.”

For more about the Governor’s Arts & Heritage Awards, visit the State Arts Commission website.


For additional information: