Boulder has always been a community with a strong focus on the arts. From musicians that light up stages to visual artists whose thoughtful contributions hang on gallery walls, the array of individuals producing quality offerings — in a vast array of mediums — remains high. An event that pays homage to the artistic standouts in the Front Range comes in the form of The Dairy Arts Center Honors. Now in its sixth year, the annual night of accolades promises warm speeches, quality entertainment, libations and inspiration.
“In order to be seen and heard, great talent needs a stage and lights, galleries and publishers,” said Melissa Fathman, executive director at the Dairy Arts Center. “As we celebrate and honor our local creatives, I thought it was important to also recognize individuals and businesses that generously offer ongoing philanthropic support to our artistic community.”
This year, in addition to the five recipients, Fathman and her team will honor a business and individuals that have added significantly to the cultural landscape of Boulder with both their time and energy. The residents that have been selected are docent Nicky Wolman and musician David Fulker.
“Nicky is one of our docents in the newly established Visual Arts Docent program, and David is a jazz trumpet player and curator of great concerts at the Dairy,” said Fathman. “The business supporter of the year is the Xcel Energy Foundation for their ongoing generous support of ‘Kids at the Dairy,’ our educational flagship program that provides artistic experiences for Title I kindergarten students. It is people and businesses like these that truly understand the importance of the arts in our community.”
Those being awarded at this yearly event include Open Studios for Visual Art which will be accepted by founder Gary Zeff, Hazel Miller for Music, Dr. Alphonse Keasley for the category of Humanitarian, Len Barron for Theatre and Gene Hayworth and Inkberry Books for Literary Arts.
Friday’s evening will start with a wine reception in the lobby and then move to the Gordon Gamm Theater where guests can enjoy live music, honoree awards and top off festivities with mini-desserts provided by Boulder-based bakery Spruce Confections.
“In addition to many heartwarming speeches and stories, we have an entertaining lineup,” said Fathman, noting that Robert Johnson will perform a special tribute performance to honor Hazel Miller.
A selection committee, comprised of regional arts supporters and past award recipients, have selected the honorees from a pool of submitted nominees.
“Well, it is beyond anything I ever expected,” said Keasley, who will receive the Humanitarian award at Friday night’s ceremony. “When I received and opened my email, I didn’t want to believe what I was reading. Because I read the email during a break in the meeting I was attending, I waited until I could re-read the message with my full attention. I must have read it three or four more times until I let it sink in.”
Throughout his time in Colorado, Keasley has performed on many a stage and narrated more than 100 educational DVDs as a distinct voiceover actor.
He credits his upbringing in the energetic and musically rich city of New Orleans as laying the seeds for his interest in the arts. After performing in productions at historically black college Southern University, Keasley relocated to Colorado in 1974 and while perusing his doctorate, became heavily involved with theater at Nomad Playhouse, Upstart Crow, University of Colorado and the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.
He helped shape the University of Colorado both as an enthused student and as the director of the Minority Arts and Sciences Program and as the associate vice chancellor in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement.
As far as future projects go, Keasley has plenty of ideas and his next may pay homage to creative pioneers he admires.
“I have been thinking about African American artists from all the arts and humanities disciplines, including folks such as Ira Aldridge, Romare Bearden, Adrienne Kennedy and buddy Bolden, just to name a few,” said Keasley “I would love to narrate an epic around the pantheon of American black artists.”
While he has lived and traveled to other regions, Keasley enjoys the fact that he can call Boulder home.
“Several years ago, Boulder Magazine, from the Brock Company, featured an article on creativity in Boulder,” said Keasley. “For the article, I commented that Boulder is a destination for some artists and for others it becomes a nurturing environment to explore, discover and refine their creativity. Only two weeks ago, I found myself in a conversation with a musician who is currently working as a car salesman here in Boulder. He is one who falls in the second category that I mentioned — he recognizes Boulder and Denver as the place to thrive as a musician.”
“Boulder was recently recognized nationally as being the eighth ‘most vibrant’ arts community among medium-sized cities,” added Fathman. “But, that vibrancy did not appear overnight. The many contributions of this year’s Dairy Center honorees are what laid the groundwork for what Boulder is today.”
If you go
What: 6th annual Dairy Arts Center Honors
When: 7 p.m Friday
Where: Dairy Arts Center, Gordon Gamm Theater, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder
More info: tickets.thedairy.org