City Celebrates Outstanding Citizen Contributions


On Thursday, March 1, the City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department, in cooperation with the Gainesville Cultural Affairs Board, the Gainesville Art in Public Places Trust, the Nature Centers Commission, the Tree Advisory Board and the Public Recreation and Parks Board, will present the Arts Awards, the Public Art Award, the Star Awards, the “Friends of our Urban Forest” Lifetime Achievement Award and the Albert “Ray” Massey Citizen Volunteer Award. They will be presented at the Citizen Awards reception for citizens who made outstanding efforts to promote cultural and arts activities, environmental awareness and recreational activities in 2017.

The Gainesville Cultural Affairs Board will award the Individual Arts Award, the Business Arts Award and the Lennie Kesl Lifetime Arts Award to honor significant and sustained contributions to the arts in our community.

The 2017 Individual Arts Award is being presented to the Bulla Cubana Project Team. The “Bulla Cubana” project was a cultural initiative that united all of the major arts organizations in the Gainesville community around one purpose - to cultivate the free flow of arts and culture, ideas and inspiration between the United States and Cuba. Over the span of three months, 15 arts presenters and numerous supporting businesses produced programs and events of the highest caliber. The Bulla Cubana Project Team that organized this effort embodied the power of collaboration, and the joy achieved by enriching one's community through the arts.

The 2017 Business Arts Award is being awarded to Steven Butler and the Actors’ Warehouse. In 2011, Butler founded the organization with a mission to entertain, inspire and foster critical thinking through the performing arts, while bringing diversity programming, social justice and public health to the forefront. In less than a decade, Butler, his company and productions have gone on to win numerous regional awards for excellence. In 2017, the Actors' Warehouse represented the United States at the International Amateur Theatre Festival in Monaco, garnering recognition to this important organization and shining light on Gainesville's rich artistic landscape.

The 2017 Lennie Kesl Lifetime Arts Award is being presented to Jerry Uelsmann. Jerry Uelsmann is a world-renowned photographer and a community treasure. Uelsmann is most known for his black and white photography created with film and darkrooms, classic silverprint materials and processes. While serving as a member of the faculty at the University of Florida, he simultaneously achieved fame in the international art world. Over the last 50 years, his work has been exhibited in more than 100 individual shows in the United States, and his photographs are in the permanent collections of museums worldwide.

The Art in Public Places Trust Award is given to individuals who have made significant and sustained contributions to the enhancement of the greater environment through public art. The 2017 Public Art Award is being presented to Joseph Glover. Through Florida’s Art in State Buildings Program, which started in 1979, the University of Florida has acquired more than 170 public artworks. The careful process of ensuring this program functions on the highest level and within the state-mandated parameters is overseen by University of Florida Provost Joseph Glover, Ph.D. His dedicated professionalism is the main reason UF's public art program is considered to be the premier Art in State Buildings Program in the State of Florida. In addition to this long standing program, Glover has also supported a number of other innovative public art programs at the university, putting our community on the cutting edge of arts activities in the country.

The Nature Centers Commission presents the Star Awards to citizens who have made significant and beneficial contributions to Gainesville’s natural environment and conservation. The 2017 Star Volunteer Award recipients are Charlie Pedersen, Mary Logan, Danielle Ellis, Eric Wright and Marwa Hussein. Award recipient Charlie Pederson is being recognized for his nearly 20 years of volunteer service on the Nature Centers Commission providing strong leadership, advocacy and hands-on volunteer efforts. Star Volunteer recipients Mary Logan, Danielle Ellis, Eric Wright and Marwa Hussein are all being recognized for their significant participation in the city’s Gainesville Greenway Challenge removing invasive non-native plants from city nature parks.

Karen Garren and Robert Garren will both receive the 2017 Star Good Neighbor Award. They are being recognized for their persistent and long-term advocacy for Gainesville’s natural areas and native habitat.

The City of Gainesville’s Tree Advisory Board and the Florida Urban Forestry Council will present the “Friends of our Urban Forest” Lifetime Achievement Award to Meg Niederhofer to honor her career-long distinguished service and dedication to the advancement of urban forestry.

The Public Recreation and Parks Board presents the Albert “Ray” Massey Citizen Volunteer Awards to citizens who have worked to enhance or improve recreational activities in the community. The 2017 Albert “Ray” Massey Citizen Volunteer Award recipients are Will Hooper and Jervaughn Mavin. Will Hooper has dedicated himself to the establishment, preservation and growth of the sport of baseball in Gainesville, serving as the president and executive director of Gainesville Youth Baseball, Inc., and is an ambassador for youth sports. In a three-year period, Hooper took a program with 60 participants to an astounding level of 350 participating on a season-by-season basis. Last spring, under Hooper’s supervision, the City of Gainesville was represented by eight All-Star teams, which finished at, or near, the top of their district, three of which went on to participate in the state tournament.

For the past four years, Jervaughn Mavin has dedicated his heart, passion, time and personal finances for the betterment of the children in the Gainesville community. "Coach Von" has committed 11 months a year for the last four years to the City of Gainesville's Pop Warner football and youth basketball programs. Mavin's commitment to the youth goes beyond the field, as six of his football players were eligible for a Pop Warner scholarship program for outstanding achievement in school. Coach Von's success reigns on the field as his team went undefeated this past year.

The awards presentations are Thursday, March 1, beginning at 5:30 p.m. with the reading of the proclamations by Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe in the City Hall auditorium, which is located at 200 E. University Ave. Following the proclamations is a reception in the Thomas Center’s Spanish Court, which is located at 302 NE Sixth Ave.