Dec 09

AUTHOR: Jasmine Bejar
CATEGORY: Stories of Impact


2016 Arts United Awards Nominations


2016 Arts United Awards Nominees

The Arts United Awards celebrates the individuals and organizations making significant contributions to communities in northeast Indiana through arts and culture.

Outstanding Arts Advocate

Ronald Venderly (nominated by Fort Wayne Youtheatre)

For more than four decades Ron Venderly has supported numerous local arts organizations, both financially and through his volunteer time. He created the Ron Venderly Foundation, the mission of which is to promote the arts, education and the environment. He loved this community and prioritized its growth through his commitment to the arts and higher education. Through his foundation, his name will live on, and his philanthropy, a lasting legacy, will continue to support area arts and culture.

Three Rivers Federal Credit Union (nominated by Fort Wayne Ballet)

Three Rivers Federal Credit Union has been a strong supporter of community programming. From the Ballet’s in school program to scholarships for students with need, their support has allowed Fort Wayne Ballet to reach young people who may not otherwise have the opportunity to be exposed to, or enjoy, dance. The employees visit the Ballet and offer a day of volunteering for many small projects, and one of their employees is a dedicated board member.

Robert Nickerson, Ellsworth Smith, Bill Zabel (nominated by Embassy Theatre)

Two days before the Embassy Theatre’s demolition in 1928, a group of six men successfully put a stop to the destruction through their hard work, time and talent.  Robert Goldstine, Dyne Pfeffenberger and Buddy Nolan have passed away, and Robert Nickerson, Ellsworth Smith and Bill Zabel remain actively involved and invested in the Embassy Theatre. These three engineers were integral in saving the Grand Pipe Organ and the Embassy Theatre, and they continue to share their knowledge, time and treasure to keep the Embassy as a beacon for arts and culture in northeast Indiana.

Outstanding Artist of the Year

Gary Lanier (nominated by Fort Wayne Civic Theatre)

Gary has been a pillar of the theater community over the last 30 years. He has consistently achieved excellence in choreography for the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre and several other local theatre groups, providing outstanding performances as an actor and director. He does it all humbly because of his love and dedication for theatre in Fort Wayne.

Robert Nance (nominated by Stephanie Carlson)

Maestro Nance has demonstrated exceptional artistry and leadership in his twenty-seven year career as a performing artist in Fort Wayne. His vision and exceptional leadership has caused Heartland Sings to grow into a dynamic, nationally competitive vocal performing arts institution, providing the community with access to the vocal arts.

Nikolay Todorinov (nominated by Fort Wayne Ballet)

A graduate of the Academy of Music in Sofia, Bulgaria and Indiana School of Music with a masters in piano performance, Nikolay’s performance career includes a wide repertoire and has taken him to several countries, but he chooses to inspire the dancers at Fort Wayne Ballet each day. His scope and artistry provide a daily concert for the dancers and students of the Ballet. He is the epitome of the artist mentoring the next generation of artists.

Outstanding Collaboration

Fort4Fitness (nominated by Fort Wayne Youtheatre)

For the last three years, Fort4Fitness has worked hard to integrate the arts with fitness. Through initiatives such as IPFW Sculpture with Purpose, KickStart and Kickstart 4 Kids in conjunction with the Fort Wayne Youtheatre’s Fairy Tale Fest, Fort4Fitness has been eager to invest in partnerships and explore new ideas. They believe that collaborations between health and fitness and arts organizations support a well-balanced, wellness-centered lifestyle in our community.

Fort Wayne Children’s Choir (nominated by Heartland Sings)

As a part of the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir’s growth and education, they believe strongly that they should offer a variety of musical experiences to the singers, and a significant part of this comes from the opportunities presented through collaborations. Some of the many collaborations include performances with IPFW, Heartland Sings, Fort Wayne Ballet, Fort Wayne Youtheatre, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, FAME, area high schools and more. The Fort Wayne Children’s Choir students learn about music, history, culture, team building, giving back to the community and much more.

Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Indiana (nominated by Fort Wayne Museum of Art)

The Alzheimer’s Association is committed to making arts and culture accessible to individuals recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The Fort Wayne Museum of Art launched a partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association in 2016, giving training and guidance to FWMoA staff and volunteers to help them understand how individuals affected with this disease communicate and see the world. They have provided the guidance, under Lori Stock, for a successful tour program for these individuals.

Arts United Technical and Facilities Staff (nominated by Fort Wayne Ballet)

The Arts United facilities and technical staff are the unsung heroes that allow organizations that utilize Arts Campus facilities to do what they do best. Each day, multiple staff members interact with students, patrons, donors and the public to help the organizations reach their own goals within their mission. With varying levels or needs that change regularly, this staff accommodates all with ease and grace.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Fort Wayne Civic Theatre, Fort Wayne Youtheatre, IPFW Community Arts Academy) (nominated by Fort Wayne Civic Theatre)

Each production of this show involves a collaboration between the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre and area arts organizations and schools to bring high quality performances by local school children to production. Over the six productions that have occurred, 487 children from a variety of organizations have had a unique opportunity to be involved in a high quality, large scale production demonstrating excellence in the performing arts.

Celebration of Youth Concert (nominated by FAME)

The Celebration of Youth Concert (a FAME Composition Project) teaches students basic skills of music composition and encourages the exploration of the creative process. FAME collaborates with the Fort Wayne Youth Ballet, the Fort Wayne Youth Symphony and Youth Concert Orchestra in this project, involving the combined efforts of more than 100 student composers, dancers and musicians every year. Many of of these students have gone on to careers in music and education.

Outstanding Volunteer of the Year

Jim Hulbert (nominated by Fort Wayne Ballet)

Jim Hulbert is a dedicated volunteer to numerous performing arts groups in Fort Wayne. He has made props, aligned props, carted and carried anything to anywhere, and most willingly. Whenever asked, Jim is always there with a smile, gong the extra mile to make sure that the presentation to the audience is as wonderful as possible.

Cheri Becker (nominated by Fort Wayne Civic Theatre)

Cheri Becker gives her time, treasure and talent to a variety of arts organizations, spearheading community engagement initiatives and strategic planning through board and committee leadership.

Jeff Sebeika (nominated by Fort Wayne Philharmonic)

Jeff Sebeika has been a loyal and constant volunteer to the arts community for many years. He is a contributor and supporter to countless youth and arts education programs, as well as providing expertise and leadership at the board and committee levels for many of Fort Wayne’s finest arts organizations.

Kevin Christenson (nominated by FAME)

Kevin Christenson is mission-minded in his advocacy for the arts. He contributes to many organizations with his tremendous insight, preparation and thoughtfulness. He is committed to increasing access to music for students of our community, providing instruments, music and education at will.

The Arts United Awards will be recognized on January 19, 2017 at 5:30 PM in the Arts United Center. RSVP to Olivia Horton at or (260) 424-0646.