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A week after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is set to present the 91st Oscars ceremony, Flagstaff will present nine groups and individuals with a trophy of their own.

Colloquially referred to as Flagstaff’s Oscars, the 11th annual Viola Awards celebrates excellence in the arts and sciences, and gives attendees the chance to dress to the nines to support the creative community in which they live. A panel of former Viola winners chose 38 finalists from a pool of nominations made by community members. These finalists have made positive contributions to their fields and encompass an essential aspect of Flagstaff’s culture.

Viola awards are given for excellence in storytelling, excellence in visual arts, excellence in science education, excellence in arts education, for emerging artist and more. 

Winners in each category will be announced at the Viola Awards Gala March 2 at the High Country Conference Center. The evening includes dinner, performances and the awards ceremony. Tickets are on sale now at Individual tickets are $70 for Arts Council members, $75 for non-members.

Jesse Sensibar is a Viola finalist in storytelling this year. His book, “Blood in the Asphalt: Prayers from the Highway,” is a poignant look at highway death memorials he would encounter as a tow truck driver.

“They weren’t just these weird distractions on the road. I mean to some people they’re just a distraction, and to other people, they’re kind of folk art,” Sensibar said in an October interview with the Arizona Daily Sun. “But to me, they really came to have kind of a profound meaning.”

Other finalists include Nicole Walker’s “Sustainability: A Love Story” and “See, Hear, Feel: Mindfulness for Children – One Moment at a Time,” written and illustrated by Emmanuelle Giumelli, Matilde Gatinois and Patricia Murphey.

The Flagstaff Foundry secured a place in the Community Impact (Organization) category for the second year in a row, as did Donivan Berube for Excellence in Music.

The Foundry is a volunteer-run variety show held each month. It features performances that run the gamut from dramatic readings and improv comedy to aerial art, music and more.

“We didn’t really know what we’d get when we started it,” founder Garrison Garcia said in a November 2017 interview with  Flagstaff Live! “We thought we’d give it a few months, just to pilot it, and by the third or fourth month I was just like, ‘Yeah, this is gonna be a thing.’”

Another finalist in Excellence in Music is the new hip-hop duo CoCec, made up of producer and DJ Cecil Tso and emcee Colin “Smallz” Haviland of The Boom Box Bros. Their debut EP, “Life Sucks but the Music’s Good,” looks at mental health, depression and taking time feel OK in your mind and body.

“I hope what people take away is that it’s okay to have feelings, and it’s OK to share them,” Tso said in an October interview with Flagstaff Live! “It’s OK to take your mental health seriously, take care of yourselves and each other. Honesty is a virtue, and we shouldn’t feel weird about saying what we have to.”

Stage productions that made it to the final round for Excellence in the Performing Arts include Northern Arizona University Lyric Theater’s “The Magic Flute" and Flagstaff Shakespeare Festival’s performance of Sam Shepard’s “Fool for Love.”

Two cast members from “Fool for Love,” Gavin Buckley and Cameron Scully, also are finalists in the category for Emerging Artist.

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