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Greater Columbus Arts Council Announces Inaugural Recipients of Artists Elevated Awards

in Press Releases November 9, 2021 3 min read

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A national jury has selected the first two recipients of the Greater Columbus Arts Council’s (Arts Council) $20,000 Artists Elevated awards: Erika Tay Lane and Quianna Simpson.

Erika Tay Lane is a theater director, writer, actor and mentor, having worked extensively with MadLab and OG Productions. She specializes in writing and directing short plays. With her award, she hopes to create a festival featuring plays with local theater artists and musicians, in addition to a production of her full-length play based on Plato’s Dialogues.

Quianna Simpson is a dancer and choreographer with more than 30 years’ experience studying traditional West African dance, music and culture. She currently serves as a dancer, instructor and assistant artistic director of the Thiossane Institute. She hopes to use her award to further her study of West African dance and performances related to it, both domestically and abroad.

Both artists will receive unrestricted awards of $20,000 each. The awards are focused on providing substantial funds to Columbus-based artists who have been working professionally for at least three years, and are intended to provide a more meaningful investment in moving an artist forward in their career. This week the Arts Council announced a gift of $1 million from the American Electric Power Foundation to the Arts Council’s community endowment fund, which supports the awards. Simpson’s award was underwritten by Bath & Body Works.

“The jurors spoke very highly of the incredible talent represented by the nominees,” said Tom Katzenmeyer, president and CEO of the Arts Council. “We’re so proud of the artists that live and work in Columbus, and we are grateful to the American Electric Power Foundation for making sure we can invest in them for many years to come.”

Both artists will be featured in conversation during the Arts Council’s annual Public Forum, live-streamed from the Ross Community Studio at WOSU’s new headquarters on Thursday, Dec. 9 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. More details will be announced soon.

Recipients were chosen by a national jury of seven creatives with representation across disciplines. They included Pablo Cartaya (literary arts); Linda Lorence Critelli (music); Jared Ledesma (visual arts); Bernadette McCabe (film); Ronny Kofi Oppong (fashion); Daniel Enrique Pérez (theater); and Tamara Williams (dance).

“Congratulations to the Greater Columbus Arts Council for championing artists living and working in their local community,” said juror Bernadette McCabe. “The future for the arts in Columbus is bright with these established and emerging artists!”

“I was especially impressed with a number of artists who are intelligently addressing issues of social justice and climate change,” said Jared Ledesma, juror with a visual arts background. “There’s immense talent brewing in the Columbus, Ohio, area.”

The Arts Council reached out to over 200 community and arts leaders for nominations of Columbus-based artists; a total of 150 nominations were received.

Lane and Simpson were selected from a group of 14 finalists that included:

  • Christopher Burk (visual arts)
  • Genoveva Christoff (fashion)
  • Makenzie Coyne (music)
  • Noah Dixon (film)
  • Gerardo Encinas (fashion)
  • Caroline J. Hong (music)
  • Donald Isom (dance)
  • Christopher Leyva (theater)
  • Sa’dia Rehman (visual arts)
  • Maggie Smith (literary arts)
  • Elissa Washuta (literary arts)
  • Otis D. Winston (film)

The awards are part of the Arts Council’s Artists Elevated endowment campaign, designed to uplift individual artists through investment. The Arts Council currently has an endowment, the GCAC Community Fund, at the Columbus Foundation. The Arts Council’s giving site can be viewed at

Mission of the Greater Columbus Arts Council: To support and advance the arts and cultural fabric of Columbus.

The Greater Columbus Arts Council receives major financial support from the City of Columbus, Franklin County Commissioners and the Ohio Arts Council.

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CONTACT: Jami Goldstein
(614) 221-8492