In partnership with Fort Wayne’s NBC, the televised special Arts 2020: Excellence in a Crisis featured the presentation of the 2021 Arts United Awards to recipients, including the Mayor’s Arts Award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award on January 16 and 17. The Arts United Awards are presented annually to celebrate individuals and organizations that are making significant contributions to arts and culture in Northeast Indiana. As COVID-19 has impacted the majority of arts and culture activity throughout 2020, Arts United celebrated those who have continued to contribute to our creative community in the midst of uncertainty.


The following were recipients of the 2021 Arts United Awards:


Andre Portee
Andre Portee is an image maker, creator, & muralist residing in Indiana. He started AbsorbALL, a project that focuses on renovating basketball courts at local parks, transforming them into giant, playable murals to create safe and inspiring environments for everyone.


The first was completed in July 2020 and is located at the corner of Garfield Street and Edgewater Avenue. The second mural spans across four basketball courts in McMillen Park and was created in collaboration with Turnstone as a part of their wheelchair basketball program.


Art This Way 
Following the George Floyd demonstrations and subsequent breaking of downtown windows, Art This Way, a downtown public art alley activation project led by Alex Hall, paired with local artists to paint the wood boards over the broken windows with messages celebrating the positive aspects of the Black Lives Matter movement.


This temporary activation helped local artists, particularly artists of color, have an outlet for their voices about a subject that they were passionate about and had a huge community impact. This involved more than thirty different murals, and more than fifty artists. These were paid for and facilitated by the Downtown Improvement District.


Art This Way was also the 2021 recipient of the Mayor’s Arts Award.


Chalk Walk at Home
FWMoA presented Chalk Walk At Home in partnership with #ArtStartsHere, an initiative of Arts United. The 2020 event provided the opportunity for creative people to participate in this annual chalk art event without the crowds of people or a participation cost. Participants created their chalk art at home on a sidewalk, paved driveway, or other safe cement and asphalt surface and then submitted their creation to a virtual gallery accessible to the public.


Fort Wayne Civic Theatre’s 1776
Fort Wayne Civic Theatre presented the musical 1776 with an all-female cast in honor of the centennial celebration of the 19th Amendment and the relentless dedication of suffragettes. The Fort Wayne Civic Theatre’s Artistic Committee selected this project to honor and highlight the struggle and the contribution of women. The production was reimagined with an all-female cast and Civic Theatre purposely selected a talented female director and production team.


Francisco Reyes
Francisco Reyes, a first generation American born to Mexican immigrant parents, grew up in the graffiti culture in California. After relocating to Fort Wayne, he started to create opportunities for other graffiti artists, such as summer park jams in 2018. Francisco presented the concept of Open Walls to the Public Art Commission, and it was included in the Public Art Master Plan. The space, located at 2500 Central Drive in southeast Fort Wayne, is an outdoor rotating art gallery for artists of all ages and skill levels to express themselves and develop skills as muralists.


The Honeywell Foundation
 Due to venue closures, The Honeywell Foundation reopened the 13-24 Drive-In at the end of May to continue and began running family “throwback” movies to entertain audiences of all ages. The Foundation also moved its free summer music series to the Drive-In and hosted its live touring performances by for King and Country, Aaron Lewis, Lee Brice, and Austin French. The Foundation’s education and outreach also pivoted online, through videos and virtual arts lessons


Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership
Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership’s Make It Your Own Mural Fest brought 11 talented muralists to the state to create pieces that speak to the history and attributes of the region. This project has unified our region, developed mentor relationships, catalyzed the creation of more public art, and driven national, state and regional media exposure. Arts United and NEIRP dedicated time and energy to fundraising, development of the project and realizing Mural Fest.


Rachael Driscoll
Rachael Driscoll is a quiet force advocating for public art in Indiana. She has volunteered for Art This Way since 2017. In 2019, Rachael reached out to Alex Hall to discuss potential mechanisms of bringing public art programming to communities throughout Northeast Indiana. From that conversation, a regional mural festival concept was born. In 2020, Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership’s Make It Your Own Mural Fest held its inaugural event. Rachael was a driving force in making it a reality.


Lifetime Achievement Award: David Meyer
David Meyer is a quiet yet passionate supporter of arts, culture, and education in Fort Wayne through his role as Trustee of the Edward D. and Ione Auer Foundation. David began his professional career at Fort Wayne National Bank, was a founding partner of Monarch Capital in 1994, and has led the Edward D. and Ione Auer Foundation for the past two decades. With David’s leadership, the Auer Foundation has made extraordinary investments in the community’s arts and culture nonprofits in memory of Ione Auer and her devotion to the arts and arts education.


In response to the financial crisis of arts organizations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Auer Foundation provided the lead gift of $1 million to Arts United’s Arts & Culture Nonprofit Resilience Fund. The Auer Foundation’s gift inspired other philanthropic leaders to contribute to the fund, which is nearing a total of $2.9 million, to sustain eighteen anchor arts and culture nonprofits during the pandemic. The Auer Foundation will sunset in early 2022 and will leave a legacy of a growing arts and cultural scene for Fort Wayne for generations because of David’s leadership.



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


About Arts United
Arts United is a private, nonprofit local arts agency that serves Northeast Indiana through arts advocacy and promotion, fundraising and grantmaking, back-office business support, community and economic development, and Arts Campus Fort Wayne coordination. Arts United’s mission is to advance the creative sector by mobilizing resources to elevate our community’s quality of life.