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NASAA 2012 Leadership Awards

The NASAA awards program showcases best practices of state arts agencies and regional arts organizations, recognizes exemplary leadership, and demonstrates how government creatively, effectively and efficiently serves the public through the arts.

2012 Gary Young Award

This award recognizes an executive director who makes an extraordinary contribution to public support for the arts at the state, regional and national levels. Ideal candidates exhibit exemplary leadership, innovative thinking and dedication to diverse artistic expression.

Christine D'Arcy

Will Bragg

Christine D'Arcy, executive director of the Oregon Arts Commission, is the recipient of NASAA's 2012 Gary Young Award. At the Commission, D'Arcy conceived of and initiated the nationally recognized Arts Build Communities program. From 1998 to 2001, she led a team of statewide cultural partners in the development of the Oregon Cultural Trust, and has been the Trust's executive director since 2003. D'Arcy was one of the leaders of Oregon's CHAMP (culture, heritage, art, movies/main street, preservation/public broadcasting) cultural reinvestment process. CHAMP resulted in Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski adding $13.6 million for culture above base funding levels in one biennium, followed by an additional $5 million in the following biennium. This included more than $3 million in increases for the Oregon Arts Commission. Both the Oregon Cultural Trust and CHAMP cultural reinvestment are now recognized as innovative national models.

D'Arcy was executive director of the Alaska State Council on the Arts from 1978 to 1992. Her many professional affiliations speak to the quality of her leadership, her keen intellect and her ability to draw people together in common enterprise. She is a past board chair of the Western States Arts Federation and currently serves on its Executive Committee, as well as serving on NASAA's board of directors.

In announcing the award, NASAA Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Katz said, "It is a distinct pleasure to honor Chris D'Arcy with the 2012 Gary Young Award. The programs and policies she has led demonstrate how state arts agencies can be true policy entrepreneurs by bringing diverse people together around common goals. Her innovative leadership in forging strategic alliances with key sector leaders to advance the field of public funding for the arts is an invaluable asset to the entire state arts agency field."

The Gary Young Award was established by the New England Foundation for the Arts to honor the memory of a man who made numerous contributions to the state arts council movement in the United States, and to provide recognition to those who carry on his tradition of leadership in this field.

2012 Distinguished Public Service Award

This award honors a chair or council member whose outstanding service, creative thinking and leadership significantly impact public support for the arts in his/her state and across the country.

Dorothy Pierce McSweeny

Dorothy Pierce McSweeny, immediate past chair, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation (MAAF); chair emeritus, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH); and former NASAA board member is the recipient of NASAA's 2012 Distinguished Public Service Award. McSweeny has been in public service from the beginning of her career, as an officer of U.S. Agency for International Development in Vietnam; as a presidential oral historian for Lyndon Johnson; and in her current work with MAAF, DCCAH, Americans for the Arts, and numerous arts and educational organizations in Washington, D.C. She served as vice chair of DCCAH from 1996-1999 and as chair from 1999-2007, when she was named chair emeritus. During her chairmanship, she led an effort to increase DCCAH's budget from $1.9 million to $9.3 million. She spearheaded "Party Animals" and "Pandamania," public art projects in which hundreds of blank elephant, donkey and panda sculptures were turned over to local artists, who colorfully transformed them before they were mounted throughout the city. Proceeds from auctions of the sculptures reinvested more than $1 million into DCCAH artist grants and education projects.

McSweeny has served on the board of MAAF since 1999 and was its chair from 2009-2012. Using her connections in Washington, she helped to raise significantly the public sector's awareness of the international cultural exchange programs managed by the regional arts organizations, ultimately resulting in increased investment from both the public and private sectors. Elected to the Washington DC Hall of Fame in 2011, McSweeny received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the mayor and was named Washingtonian of the Year with her husband in 1995. She served on the NASAA board of directors from 2003-2005.

In announcing the award, NASAA Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Katz said, "Dorothy McSweeny's state arts agency colleagues greatly appreciate her tireless energy, passion and advocacy on behalf of public funding for the arts. The breadth and depth of her leadership is exemplary and NASAA is pleased to acknowledge her many accomplishments with this award."

2012 NASAA President's Award for Outstanding Advocacy

This award honors an individual for exceptional advocacy on behalf of state arts agencies and public funding for the arts.

Thomas L. Birch

Thomas L. Birch, former NASAA legislative counsel, is the recipient of NASAA's 2012 President's Award for Outstanding Advocacy. From 1981 to 2012, Birch served as NASAA's legislative counsel, representing the interests of state arts agencies on Capitol Hill. For the past 10 years, Birch chaired the Cultural Advocacy Group's national coalition of arts and humanities allies carrying a unified message to Congress about the value of the arts in federal policy.

Birch has received many accolades for his legislative work and policy leadership, particularly in his areas of specialization in cultural affairs, child welfare and human services. He came to this work from Congress, having served as legislative counsel to members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on issues of domestic policy. An attorney by training, Birch received his J.D. from George Washington University and his B.A. cum laude in American history from Lehigh University. He was a Peace Corps volunteer for three years in Morocco.

A native of California, Birch has lived in Washington, D.C., for more than 40 years, where he has served as a board member and officer for a number of charitable organizations, including the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, the Crafts Center, the Folger Poetry Board, the American Humane Association and the vestry of Christ Church Georgetown.

He is serving a fifth term in elected public office as Georgetown's neighborhood commissioner in Washington, D.C., where he received the Belin Award in 2006 for distinguished community service. In 2003, Birch was given the American Psychological Association's Award for Distinguished Contribution to Child Advocacy, and in 2006, Casey Family Programs awarded him its Leadership Award.

In announcing the award, NASAA Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Katz said, "Tom's guidance has been critical to NASAA as we communicated to Congress about the important role state arts agencies play in sustaining healthy communities nationwide. NASAA's state arts agency members have benefitted directly from Tom's advocacy knowledge and assistance as they've made the case for public funding of the arts to their legislators and constituents. I am thrilled for Tom to receive this award in celebration of his many contributions to our field."

2012 National Accessibility Leadership Award

This award is administered through a partnership between NASAA and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and is awarded through a $25,000 NEA grant. The purpose of this award is to recognize and support proven, effective programs or promising new initiatives that make the arts accessible and inclusive to individuals with disabilities and/or older adults.

Pennsylvania Council on the Arts

The National Accessibility Leadership Award recognizes the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) for its exceptional leadership in making the arts fully available to people with disabilities and for providing all its citizens with the opportunity to experience art.

Since 2005, PCA has partnered with VSA Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts to increase the accessibility of cultural events and facilities through the Pennsylvania Cultural Access Program. With this award, the Pennsylvania Cultural Access Program will expand to work closely with disability leaders in four regions—Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Lancaster/York and Lehigh Valley—to develop regional cultural access programs. The Pennsylvania Cultural Access Program also will purchase audio description and captioning equipment for cultural organizations to share; train staff members and volunteers at cultural organizations to use the equipment and provide effective accessibility services to their patrons; and help promote accessible art programs to the community. The NEA and NASAA established the National Accessibility Leadership Award in 2001. Since then, 10 states have been recognized for their exemplary accessibility efforts in the field.

NASAA's mission is to strengthen state arts agencies.
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