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WOW! Award

Schoodic Arts for All’s annual WOW! Award for artists and performers is intended to recognize just that factor: someone whose work makes one stop in one’s tracks because of its special power to bring wonder, insight and enjoyment.  This award is by invitation by the Board of Directors of Schoodic Arts for All, and is granted at the Board’s discretion.

The WOW! award is a platform that empowers artists and our broader community to seek out, nurture, and implement artistic and cultural ideas. The award is not restricted in any way and therefore can be used for supplies, living expenses, tuition, or anything the recipient decides. There is no application procedure for this award as it is a Schoodic Arts for All Board choice.

2020 WOW! Award Recipients

Gordon Thomas Ward is a positive and passionate singer-songwriter in a season when many artists are struggling to reach their audience.  A restlessness drives Gordon if he’s not writing, composing, or performing, and after several planned tours were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he has pioneered new ways to share his music via FaceBook and live streamed mini-concerts. Drawing on Gordon’s well established and ever growing fan base, he has reached out to local craftsmen and small business owners on the Schoodic Peninsula that he and his wife Veronica, or Ronni, now call home. Offering the local entrepreneurs the gift of a free concert, held in their establishment, Gordon performs several of his past and new songs, intermingled with interviews with the artists and craftsmen while using his airtime to showcase their products.  Painters, ice-cream vendors, makers of brass bells, purveyors of hand made soaps, jams and jellies, craft beer brewers,  and even a “rock”  have benefitted from Gordon’s concert, presence, and audience.

Since his high school days working with other musicians in his garage band, Gordon has continued to write and compose.   His inspiration for song and story comes from several areas – a love of local history,  concerns over climate change, the need for raised awareness of social justice issues as well as that intangible, indescribable muse that hits him from the ether.  Calling upon his extensive fan base, built over years of performing, presenting, producing, and painting musical portraits that plumb the depths of emotions bringing the past to life, Gordon connects his audience with the community that he has recently embraced.  The power of online ordering enables the local artists and craftsmen to reach these new customers.

This sharing of his gift and his audience with others in the community who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic is one of many reasons Gordon has received Schoodic Arts for All’s WOW award.  An established artist, finding new and exciting ways to share his passion, Gordon is quickly becoming an icon of all that SAFA represents.

Deiran Manning is the artistic director of the Winter Harbor Music Festival. He is a concert pianist and a fine baritone. His family lives in Gouldsboro and Deiran had been living in New York City until the pandemic.

Deiran is an amazing pianist and has played many times in Hammond Hall and at the town park in Prospect Harbor. He teaches piano in New York. He is also an actor, singer, director, and organizer.

What made me think of Deiran, was that in this terrible time of the pandemic, he, a well known and accomplished musician, found himself stranded in Gouldsboro and made lemonade. I just returned from the opera he directed and starred in and I must say, after seeing many operas in my life, this was one of the best. He pulled together an orchestra of violins, violas, cellos, bases, bassoon, and piano, sang the lead, and organized the sound. The audience of 48 people yelled bravo and brava throughout the opera and his costar was Celeste Mittelhauser, one of our previous WOW recipients. He has taken a bad situation and turned it around to sing.

2019 WOW Award Recipient

This year’s recipient of the $1,000 award is clothing designer Brianna Saad, who has made the unlikely journey from her Maine hometown of Steuben to the London College of Fashion and recently concluded a six-month apprenticeship with Nepalese designer Prabal Gurung in New York. Gurung has dressed celebrities such as the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, Nicki Minaj and Michelle Obama and is considered one of New York’s most socially conscious luxury women’s brands. At last month’s New York Fashion Week, Gurung’s diverse models all wore a pageant-style sash with the words: “Who Gets To Be American?”

“She has attended all of the Schoodic Arts for All festivals since she was little and was an exemplary student,” said Executive Director Mary Laury. “Her creativity has always amazed me. And her skill in the arts was beyond her youthful years.”

Saad was nominated for the Wow! Award by SAFA Board Chairman Colleen Wallace, who said she was an “outstanding young woman and artist.

Excerpted from an article in the October 9, 2019 Ellsworth American.  Click here to view the full article and to learn more about Brianna.

2018 WOW! Award Recipients

Wendilee Heath O’Brien is originally from Pennsylvania, and attended Earlham College in Indiana. After graduating, she lived in Japan, where she taught at a Quaker school in Tokyo. While there, she studied art, learning Japanese brush techniques and traditions such as Asian ink and gold-leaf painting. That experience continues to influence her artwork combining Asian and Western styles.

O’Brien’s husband, Denny, notes she has a strong command of Japanese language.  “She’s really modest about it, but she speaks fluent, idiomatic Japanese, which is really special,” he said.

Since moving to Maine in 2005, O’Brien taught English and social studies at Sumner Memorial High School. Over a decade ago, she began focusing wholly on art, both teaching and selling her paintings in the Schoodic area. As an educator, she sees the WOW! Award as a means to expand her offerings.

O’Brien’s underlying mission is to share her knowledge and connect with people through her artwork. To acquire a piece, she offers people multiple options from rent-to-own to installment plans. “I believe everyone should have access to original art,” she said.

Excerped from “Artist, musician honored for enriching cultural scene,” in the March 22, 2018 Ellsworth AmericanClick here to view the entire article.

Pedro Najar lives in  Texas, where he attended a magnet performing arts school. His summers, though, have been spent in Winter Harbor, where he and his sister have engaged in Schoodic Arts for All’s programs since they were toddlers.

At age 12, Najar served as a “junior intern” assisting at the organization’s two-week Schoodic Arts Festival. He has ably assisted with stage sound and lighting for live musical performances during the festival for several years.

“He’s so amazingly poised for his age, everyone thought he must have been in college,” said Laury of Najar as an intern.

Excerped from “Artist, musician honored for enriching cultural scene,” in the March 22, 2018 Ellsworth AmericanClick here to view the entire article.

2017 WOW! Award Recipient

Celeste Mittelhauser grew up in Gouldsboro, Maine and participated in numerous SAFA programs from a young age, including the Schoodic Summer Chorus and two of the steel drum bands, Pandemonium and Schoodic Steel. This early exposure to music and performing inspired Celeste to earn her degree in Classical Voice from the University of Southern Maine.

Celeste is passionate about helping SAFA continue to support the arts in downeast Maine because she’s sure she wouldn’t have developed or pursued her interest in music without this organization. Celeste is a regular performer with the Winter Harbor Music Festival and The Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Maine and is the co-founder of the group Biea Duette with harpist Phoebe Durand-McDonnell, which specializes in early music and art song.

Celeste also works for Maine Natural History Observatory as their database developer, outreach coordinator, and graphic designer. Her hobbies include learning languages, medieval music, computer programming, visual design, and making sauerkraut.

2016 WOW! Award Recipient

For the first “Wow!” Award the Board has chosen Israel Fickett, a local artist, to receive $1000.00 from the fund. You can see Izzy’s art on his website

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