Artists can take credit for a lot of what is good and fun and true about Flagstaff.
But Saturday night at the Viola Awards at the High Country Conference Center, they got serious.
“Art saves lives,” said Shonto Begay in a video clip before one of his paintings, “Lenticular Kiss,” was auctioned off for $5,000.
Others picked up the theme of art as a lifesaver for artists and lives forever changed by the impact of art, especially when “Hope and Trauma in a Poisoned Land” won in the Innovation category.
Davona Blackhorse, counselor and activist, became emotional as she spoke about how grateful she is for the recognition the exhibit has brought to the struggle Native American people have gone through as the result of uranium mining on reservations.
Then there was Annette McGivney, winner for her book, “Pure Land,” a searing tale of murder in Havasu Canyon and coming to terms with her own trauma.
"You guys are my family and I couldn't have written this book without all my friends in Flagstaff who have supported me,” said an emotional McGivney. “It's not just a book, it's a cause."
She urged attendees to contribute to the Healing Lands project, a nonprofit that takes child victims of domestic violence on wilderness trips.
And Kimberly Jarchow, winner in the Emerging Artist category: “As long as we stand together and support each other, we can change this world for the better.”
NAU President Rita Cheng honored Tim McKay, winner for Arts Education: "The arts make our lives brighter, better and more enjoyable, and the Viola Awards celebrates that."
McKay reciprocated: "The saying, 'It takes a village' holds true. Our community doesn't just contribute to the arts but demands it."
And then there was Mayor Coral Evans: "All of you are what make this community what it is, make Flagstaff a wonderful place to live."
Some winners were self-effacing. Margaret Dewar, a member of Mural Mice, which completed eight murals around town in 2017 and was the winner in Visual Arts, said: "We have a problem with blank walls."
Dave Edward accepted the Lifetime Award on behalf of the late Ed George:
"There will always be an empty chair in my house for Ed. He would've loved this."
Two other stalwarts of the Flagstaff art community who passed away last year were recognized: photographer John Running and NAU theater professor Mac Groves, with a moment of silence held for them.
Saturday’s awards were purple and clear geode crystals and ceramics creations made by Elizabeth Bonzani.
The art installation as people entered the High Country Conference Center was a violet-dyed fabric draped across the hallway called 'Viola Arbor,' by Rachel Wilson.
The 2018 Viola Awards
Excellence in the Performing Arts
Dark Sky Aerial: “TILT”
Excellence in the Visual Arts
Mural Mice: 2017 Murals
Excellence in Science Education
Business for the Arts
Firecreek Coffee Company
Ann Collier, Davona Blackhorse, Shawn Skabelund, Travis Lurato: “Hope and Trauma in a Poisoned Land”
Excellence in Music
Tiny Bird: “Halfway Up the Mountain”
Excellence in Storytelling
Annette McGivney: “Pure Land”
Excellence in Arts Education
Community Impact (Individual)
Janelle Reasor: Marshall Magnet Elementary
Community Impact (Organization)
AZ Historical Society Pioneer Museum: “Todos Unidos”
Ed “Shred” George