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Mayor Hancock and Denver Arts & Venues announce Awards for Excellence in Arts & Culture

Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock, Denver Arts & Venues and the Denver Commission on Cultural Affairs are pleased to announce the winners of the 2022 Mayor’s Awards for Excellence in Arts & Culture.

Presented since 1986, the Mayor’s Awards for Excellence in Arts & Culture recognize individuals and organizations that make significant and lasting contributions to the arts in the City and County of Denver.

“The arts play an important role in our communities, and it’s always an honor to acknowledge and recognize those who contribute to the artistic and cultural landscape of our great city,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “Arts and culture remind us of our shared humanity – they connect us, inspire us and build us up. They make our world better. Through arts, culture and creativity, we can envision a just, thriving future for our communities. Our 2021 and 2022 honorees epitomize those values.”

Five 2022 award-winners and four 2021 award-winners were honored at a luncheon where they were presented with artwork created by artists from Access Gallery. Additionally, each award winner received a $2,500 stipend to continue their great work in Denver’s cultural sector.

2022 Award Winner: James Knapp

James Knapp is the artistic director of Denver Gay Men’s Chorus. With more than 35 years of leading university, church and community choruses, he’s also the artistic director emeritus of Bayou City Performing Art and has received the Certificate of Congressional Recognition from the United States House of Representatives, among other honors. Knapp is a powerful voice in the queer choral movement and is especially passionate about using music as a way to unify, heal and bring people together.

2022 Award Winner: Sacred Voices

Sacred Voices is a Denver-based, Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC+), youth-focused organization dedicated to promoting unity and healing among BIPOC+ communities through creative expression, while empowering youth to find their voices and strength to become leaders in their communities. Sacred Voices hosts the only youth-focused open mic in town, and conducts culturally engaging spoken word/poetry workshops. The organization also hosts a monthly radio program on KGNU, and the “Speak Your Truth Summer Program” for youth aged 14-25, through which youth strengthen their cultural knowledge, develop leadership skills, engage in creative expression, build a sense of self-identity and heal themselves through culturally responsive mental health and holistic practices.

2022 Award Winner: Danielle SeeWalker

Danielle SeeWalker (Húŋkpapȟa Lakȟóta, citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe) is a multi-disciplinary artist, youth mentor and leader in the American Indian community in Denver. Danielle centers much of her art around the Native American community - a population that has been severely misrepresented, underrepresented or not represented at all - thematically depicting American Indian elders and highlighting the two-spirit (LGBTQIA2S+) community through her art. Her work in the arts and her focus on the Native American community have been inspirational and necessary, especially during the pandemic, breaking down stereotypes and microaggressions by accurately displaying Indigenous people as successful, contributing members of our city and society.

2022 Award Winner: The Word, A Storytelling Sanctuary

The Word | A Storytelling Sanctuary is a community-led, Denver-based nonprofit organization that builds cultural equity through the literary arts. The Word’s programs include the annual Editor-Writer Mentorship program, the biennial [margins.] Literary Conference + Book Festival, #MarginsBookselling, the annual BIPOC Bookseller Awards, and a host of year-round community engagement programs and publishing workshops. Each of these programs fills a unique space for The Word’s intersectional constituency of BIPOC+, LGBTQIA2S+, disabled and neurodiverse communities, in which no previous comparable support was available. The Word’s goal is to provide spaces in which its community members embody each and every one of their many facets, and together harness the power of storytelling to move us all toward joyful, vibrant and equitable futures. 

2022 Award Winner: Gamelan Tunas Mekar

Gamelan Tunas Mekar is an all-volunteer organization that presents traditional and new music for Balinese gamelan locally, nationally and internationally, educating audiences about the music, dance and traditions of Bali and Indonesia. Modeled after typical village groups found throughout Bali, and learning through traditional methods, this community ensemble provides audiences the rare opportunity to experience one of the world’s most beautiful and sophisticated performing arts. Tunas Mekar serves diverse communities across the front range through performances and collaborations of Balinese expressive arts. They perform for the general public and in schools, and partner with Colorado College, University of Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver, University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Wyoming in Laramie. The group also performs in support of the Indonesian Consulates in Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston, and at the request of the Ambassador of Indonesia.

The 2021 winners who were also honored during the luncheon ceremony were: Arts & Culture Impact Award: Innervision, Arts & Culture Youth Award: Pop Culture Classroom, Arts & Culture Innovation Award: Edgar L. Page and Arts & Culture EDI Award: Color of Conversation.

For more on these and past winners, including videos highlighting their accomplishments, please visit: ArtsandVenues.com.