June 30, 2017
Three members of the Cleveland Institute of Art community, including CIA President Grafton Nunes, were honored by the Cleveland Arts Prize at a ceremony on June 29, 2017.
Nunes, who joined CIA as president in 2010, received the Robert P. Bergman Prize, which is given to “those rare leaders whose life and work are illuminated by an energetic and inspiring dedication to a democratic vision of the arts.”
During his tenure, Nunes has guided CIA through an ambitious renovation, transforming the campus, raising the school’s visibility and cementing its status as one of Cleveland’s vibrant, essential arts institutions. Nunes has also overseen a growth in enrollment, the continuation of a successful capital campaign and the ongoing nurturing of academic and artistic excellence.
“I accept this award recognizing that it honors the Cleveland Institute of Art as much as it recognizes me, if not more so,” Nunes said as he received the prize during a ceremony at the Cleveland Museum of Art. “When our students graduate, we charge them to create works that make people comfortable with being uncomfortable. We charge them to celebrate difference, to develop in themselves and promote in others the critical openness to quest and to question, to express themselves with courage and honesty, complexity and clarity, and to constantly re-create themselves and their work.
“We urge our students to continuously ask What if? and Why not? and by so doing, they will shape our world.”
Sarah Kabot, associate professor and chair of CIA’s Drawing department, won the Cleveland Arts Prize Mid-Career Artist Award. Kabot, who has been teaching at the college since 2003, is a versatile visual artist who excels in watercolor, drawing, photography and sculpture. She is the recipient of numerous awards, and her work has been exhibited throughout the United States and in Europe.
“At the Cleveland Institute of Art, I get to teach future artists and designers. They exemplify the personal and artistic growth that can come from being enthusiastic, open-hearted, rigorous and intelligent,” Kabot told the audience. “They make powerful artwork in the face of what are sometimes atrocious difficulties. In Cleveland, I am privileged to participate in an engaged artistic community.”
Christi Birchfield, who earned her BFA in Printmaking from CIA, was honored with the Emerging Artist Award. She is manager of Zygote Press’s Ink House in Cleveland’s Waterloo Arts District, and her work has been exhibited worldwide. Her pieces are part of the permanent collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.
"Cleveland is a place where experimentation is possible," Birchfield said in her acceptance speech. "The space, resources, and community are why I truly believe Cleveland is the best place in the world to be an artist."
In addition to their honors, Kabot and Birchfield each receive a $10,000 cash award.
Presented annually since 1961, the Cleveland Arts Prize is the oldest award of its kind in the United States. Its mission is to identify and publicly honor Cleveland-area artists “whose original work and accomplishments have set a standard of excellence to which other artists can aspire.” The prize also recognizes the important contributions of other organizations and individuals who have cultivated the local culture of artistic expression and who have expanded participation and access to the arts.
The Cleveland Arts Prize has honored more than 60 CIA graduates and faculty members since its inception.
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