Change has been constant for all of us through this past year of unpredictability. Each day has delivered new opportunities to choose positive responses to unexpected variables. Our happiness has depended on how well we have learned to dance with change and perfect the art of adaptability.
A treasured tradition of artCentral, our hometown non-profit arts center, has been the sponsoring of the Artist of the Year Award given at the annual January banquet of the Carthage Chamber of Commerce.
As with many events of the past year, the Chamber had to cancel their annual banquet in January. Under the creative leadership of Mark Elliff, President and CEO, the Chamber felt that continuing the awards tradition was important, even without the traditional banquet. The decision was made to put a spin on tradition. In lieu of the traditional banquet, a video broadcasting of the awards presentation took place this May at MSSU Crowley Auditorium. MSSU guidelines followed CDC protocols during the rehearsal and as the video event was broadcast live on Facebook and LinkedIn.
As Executive Director-Curator of artCentral, I have the great privilege of celebrating the outstanding artists of Carthage and southwest Missouri, especially those chosen as Artists of the Year and presented with the annual award.
Last year’s 2019 Artist of the Year, nationally recognized oil painter Dan McWilliams, had the honor of selecting the 2020 Artist of the Year. For this year’s video broadcast, at Dan’s request and upon his behalf, I was delighted to present Dan’s original oil painting, Last Dance, given as his award to artCentral member artist, April Davis Brunner, in recognition of April’s great talents and her continuing contributions to the artistic life of Carthage and our neighbors. Dan’s painted award is a luminous rendering of April’s daughter and her band, in the tradition of her family’s creativity, playing on an outdoor stage beneath a twinkling starry night.
In the spring of 2017, April and her dad filled the galleries of Hyde House with their “Dad and Daughter: Dynamic Duo” exhibition showcasing their whimsical, magical, beautiful and poignant multimedia artworks.
April’s awards include: Best of Show-Thomas Hart Benton Art Competition and Exhibition; First Places in the St. Avips Art Auction, Joplin Art Festival and Cherry’s Plein Air Paint Out; and awards in many more competitive exhibitions. As an actively engaged member of southwest Missouri’s arts community, she is a founder of Local Color Gallery in Joplin and a much loved instructor at artCentral’s artCamp for Youth.
As her very personal spin on tradition, Artist of the Year April Davis Brunner presently pours her creative passions into her magical home on Old Highway 71 near Saginaw. Her property was first settled in 1842 by Joplin’s founder, John Cox. His name is carved into a bluff above Cox Spring which was used for water stops and encampments by the Butterfield Stagecoach Line in the late 1800s.
Today in addition to spending hours in her studio, April teaches art and hosts guest teachers for classes in April’s Art House. She also hosts an annual Art by the Spring gathering of artists who show and sell their work.
Congratulations to April Davis Brunner, 2020 Artist of the Year who has a true gift for putting a spin on tradition!