Arts United announces the recipients of the 2024 Arts United Awards in celebration of the outstanding people, organizations, and projects who are making significant contributions to communities in Northeast Indiana through arts and culture. The awards were presented in a ceremony, presented by Frosty Pictures, on March 20 at the Arts United Center.


Distinguished Artist of the Year

Taylor Morris

Taylor Morris is an avid traveler, writer, and creative movement artist. In 2023, Taylor created several works and most notably created a solo movement piece that spoke about growing up gay in a small town, touching on his struggles and how healing from that pain has been challenging. This solo was later performed at a community event presented by PBS Fort Wayne. At this event, a Soundwalk was created to preserve the queer history of Fort Wayne’s Pearl Street. In telling his personal stories, Taylor can connect with a variety of audience members who have varying knowledge of LGBTQ+ issues.

Suzanne Rhee

Suzanne Rhee is a mural artist from Fort Wayne, Indiana. With a background in comics, she creates illustrative works that convey emotion and story. In 2023, Suzanne partnered with Yellow Frame Project and Lutheran Life Village’s “Make Music, Fort Wayne,” incorporating nursing care, assisted living, and independent living residents in the creation of a painted peacock piano. Also in 2023, Suzanne worked with Audiences Unlimited to plan and execute a mural over 1,000 square feet. The Inclusion Mural showcases the artistry of people with disabilities and gives the disability community a presence in Fort Wayne’s public art scene.

Emerging Artist of the Year

Tyler Bennett

Tyler Bennett is a Top 10 student at North Side High School with dreams of becoming a performing arts director and music composer, and eventually opening his school for the arts. Tyler has shown skill beyond his years as an active student, involved in community theatre and high school theatre. At school, he is a leader amongst his peers, always exuding a positive attitude and holding himself to the highest standards. As an artist, Tyler recently completed an internship with the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre and has plans to attend New York University for both Vocal Performance and Musical Theatre. 

Margaret Ann Keegan Award for Arts Education

Beth McLeish

Beth McLeish is the founder and artistic director of Project Ballet. Since founding Project Ballet (formally New American Youth Ballet) in 2004, Beth McLeish has helped hundreds of students to find an appreciation for classical ballet and the greater landscape of dance in the 21st century. Her students are currently dancing with, or have received professional contract offers from major ballet companies, are regularly accepted into the best summer intensives in the country on scholarship, and matriculate into major year-round professional division programs.

Christopher J. Murphy
Christopher J. Murphy is the Associate Director and Director of Outreach for the Fort Wayne Youtheatre. Before coming to Youtheatre, Murphy spent twenty-two years as the Theatre Director at his alma mater, Blackhawk Middle School. In addition, Murphy has been a Master Teacher with FAME for 15 years, taught FWCS adult acting classes, and regularly teaches acting and musical theatre at author/PBS host Mark Kistler’s fine arts camps throughout the United States.

Outstanding Artistic Endeavor

Jewish History and Art Illuminated: 175 Years of Congregation Achduth Vesholom 

To celebrate the anniversary of Congregation Achduth Vesholom, Fort Wayne Museum of Art partnered to create an exhibition that takes visitors through the Temple’s history using seven different themes. In 1848, Fort Wayne founded the first Jewish congregation in the state of Indiana. In this exhibition, visitors could explore the Temple’s 175 years of history, including the congregation’s beginnings, the multiple waves of Jewish Immigration to Fort Wayne, and the congregation’s reactions to world events. Curated by Sharon Eisbart and Dr. Wendy Soltz, this exhibition featured selections from the Fort Wayne Museum of Art’s collections. It was made possible by loans of artworks and objects from Congregation Achduth Vesholom.

Volunteer of the Year

Ben Wedler

Ben Wedler has worked as a volunteer for Arena Dinner Theatre for over a decade. He currently serves as the Treasurer and a member of the Artistic Committee and works 20+ hours a week in a volunteer capacity to ensure Arena’s future as a viable organization. His tireless work and advocacy for Arena are accompanied by a positive attitude, optimism, and a gentle but indefatigable spirit.

The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented posthumously to Jody Hemphill Smith, and the Mayor’s Arts Award was presented to Clean Drains Fort Wayne: Be River SmART.

To learn more about the 2024 Arts United Awards and view a full list of nominees, visit