Governor Brad Little and First Lady Theresa Little have selected the recipients of the 2020 Governor’s Awards in the Arts. The biennial awards, established in 1970 by the Idaho Commission on the Arts, bring recognition to Idaho’s exceptional artists, arts organizations, and arts supporters. Awardees are Idaho residents who have made significant contributions to the cultural life of Idaho and to the arts, through their creative accomplishments or distinguished service. Awards will be presented by Governor Brad Little and First Lady Teresa Little in a public ceremony, the date and location of which will be determined, likely spring 2021. The recipients are:

Tabish Romario, Dancer, Boise Tabish is a professional Latin Ballroom dancer, instructor, and community leader who has dedicated his life to freedom of expression through the art of dancing. His courageous and voracious passion for this art form continues to gain momentum and it’s impact is making big waves on both a local and national level.

Tabish was born in Karachi, Pakistan and brought up in a community of Fundamentalist Islam. All of his early attempts at artistic expression were quickly punished with physical violence, ostracization, and/or public shaming because they were considered Westernized and sacrilegious. Instead of giving up, he fought for many years to extract himself from his environment. This ultimately meant accepting disownment by his family and risking his life. He started over in the United States and has been feeding his passion for dance ever since. He continues to train in Latin Ballroom dancing with world renowned coaches such as Anna Kovalova and Eugene Katsevman. He flies in and out of Los Angeles and New York multiple times a year in order to receive the best of the best in his continuing education. He competes professionally in Latin around the United States, taking 3rd place in the Open ProAm Championship at the United States DanceSport Championships in Orlando, FL last year.
Tabish shares his knowledge and love of partner dancing with so many, but he also shares a message of hope. Concepts taught in his dance lessons often lead to discussions about communication, relationships, and personal fulfillment. His lessons frequently double as life coaching sessions, focusing on developing mental and emotional fitness to achieve personal and interpersonal goals. His clients benefit on many levels from Tabish’s unique life experiences and perseverance towards artistic excellence.

Karen Day, Filmmaker, Boise Karen Day has a 25-year career in producing and directing documentary films. With 20 films in her catalog, Ms. Day continues to create award-winning films that represent Idaho at an international level. Her films have aired on NBC, PBS, and BBC, and been translated into 14 languages. Eleven have been recognized with awards at international film festivals, including the Cannes Independent Film Festival in 2016 and the Geena Davis’ Bentonville Film Festival.  Ms. Day focuses primarily on social justice and humanitarian issues in her work, with notable documentaries, such as Bamboo and Barbed Wire on the Minidoka WWII internment camp, and Girl from God’s Country on the life and work of Idaho’s first filmmaker Nell Shipman.  Ms. Day is also the founder and publisher of IdaHome magazine

Randy Van Dyck, Visual Artist, Boise Randy Van Dyck is an accomplished and widely collected painter who continues to make tremendous strides in his practice. His attention to detail, his trompe l’oeil technique, and the narrative quality of his paintings have always been compelling; but the evolution of his recent work is particularly notable. His new series, Transposed, is a departure from his style of the last ten years and explores isolation and our relationship with time by visually separating birds and flora from their natural environment. This new series has been partially sponsored by The Covid Cultural Commissioning Fund, a collaborative funding partnership between the Boise City Department of Arts and History, Treefort, and The Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts. Van Dyck was the recipient of the Boise Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2019 because of his sustained contribution to the visual arts community and the opening of a new art gallery in downtown Boise.

Nancy Martiny, Saddlemaker, May Nancy Martiny is known as one of the more remarkable leather artists in the country, as evidenced by the long waiting list for her hand-crafted western saddles. But more than that, she openly shares her expertise with others who are interested in learning saddle-making. Ms. Martiny participated in the first Idaho Cowgirl Congress, in September 2019, as a Master Artist. The Cowgirl Congress was convened to bring together women western artists from throughout Idaho for professional workshops and an exhibition. From that event, an organization now is growing, working towards formal incorporation, with Ms. Martiny serving on the organizing committee. As an accomplished artist in the cowgirl tradition, Martiny is a mentor for many women in the profession. And her peer-organizers of the Cowgirl Congress enthusiastically support her work.

Joanne Hultstrand, Norwegian Rosemaler, Boise Joanne Hultstrand has shared her talents as an artist, teacher, and mentor with many students and fellow rosemalers over the years, ever since she started this decorative painting in 1991. Her enthusiasm and love of her Norwegian heritage have reflected her life’s journey and filled it with the art of rosemaling. Joanne has turned what started as a hobby into a professional art business, and she now sells her painted pieces as commissioned works and at various shows and Norwegian festivals. She has mentored five apprentices through the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program of the Idaho Commission on the Arts. Ms. Hultstrand has participated in numerous shows, given painting demonstrations, and taught rosemaling at schools and community learning centers. Her Norwegian rosemaling has been featured in a variety of magazines such as Horizon Air and the Idaho Journal, and in newspapers such as the Idaho Statesman. And she has been nominated as the best exhibitor at the Norsk Hostfest in Minot, North Dakota.

Gary Eller, Arts Volunteer, Nampa Gary Eller, born and raised in West Virginia, has deep roots in the traditions of Appalachia and a deep love for music, stories and history. He brought this passion to Idaho in 2005, where he began to search out the songs and stories of the people who helped to build this state. He found it challenging to root out ‘native-born’ story-songs that tell the tales of Idaho’s early years, so he set himself to the task of finding and preserving them. Starting with a modest Idaho Humanities Council grant, Mr. Eller began his quest and in 2009, produced, The Idaho Songbag, a collection of over two dozen songs based on historical Idaho people, places, and events. The resulting compact disc featured songs performed by Eller and notable Idaho musicians ranging from Pinto Bennett to “Dugout Dick” Zimmerman. Eller’s continuing work led him to hundreds of “Idaho” songs and inspired the creation of The Idaho Songs Project, which to date has published nineteen topical historically-based CDs accompanied by interpretive booklets providing background on the stories in the songs, songwriters, and performers. Eller also is a banjoist, bluegrass/oldtime/early country performer, songwriter, and teacher. He served on the board of National Oldtime Fiddlers, Inc. in Weiser and formed a volunteer team to renovate the dormitory rooms in Slocum Hall so the festival and contest could more fully fulfill its mission. Since 2015 he has organized an annual banjo camp and contest and a number of other music-related camps supporting the fiddle contest organization’s mission. Eller is also a founding board member of Co-Opportunities, Inc., a nonprofit that heads up the Bee Tree Folk School and oversees the Simpson-Vassar Collections Museum in Weiser. He continues to serve on the board and is a valuable asset to the school’s ongoing development.

Dr. Nikki Halverson, Arts Volunteer and Supporter, Twin Falls Dr. Nikki Halverson, a dedicated volunteer and enthusiastic supporter of both the visual and performing arts, was elected to the board of directors of the Magic Valley Arts Council in 2012. She serves as the chair of one of the largest art contests in the Northwest—Art and Soul of the Magic Valley—which annually showcases the talents of almost 300 artists during a two-week event that engages thousands from the community. This event provides an economic boost in Twin Falls as it draws art lovers from around Idaho and the region into Twin Falls exhibit locations, including local businesses. In addition to Dr. Halverson’s involvement with the Magic Valley Arts Council, she served for two years, from 2016 through 2017 as a judge for the regional and final competitions of the Danny Marona Performing Arts Scholarship Fund, a local scholarship fund that supports high school and college performing arts students in South Central Idaho. Dr. Halverson is known as a “Drama Mom” in the Twin Falls High School Drama Department, where she provides assistance with productions by raising funds, providing food, and transporting students to regional and state competitions. She is an avid collector of local art and has supported the Arts on Tour program at the College of Southern Idaho for over a decade.

John Anderson, Music Teacher, Salmon John Anderson has been the Salmon High School music teacher for the past 14 years. Upon his arrival, the music program at Salmon High was struggling. During his tenure, Mr. Anderson doubled and even tripled the sizes of the music classes and ensembles he teaches. Students want to be in his class. Mr. Anderson is sensitive to the needs of his students and reaches out with encouragement to those who may be shy or less accomplished. Besides regular band and choir concerts, he has organized the stage band and teaches a popular classical guitar class and courses in applied music. With proceeds from many fund-raisers, Mr. Anderson has purchased equipment, instruments, visual aids, and technical equipment—even paint for the walls of the band room. He has acquired portable risers and backdrops that he willingly lends to other groups in the community for their own performances. John Anderson has brought music to the forefront for the City of Salmon, with his ability to inspire and motivate the city’s youth.

Michele Chmielewski, Art Teacher, Past President, Idaho Art Education Assn., Coeur d’Alene Michele Chmielewski is known as an outstanding teacher, both in the brick and mortar classroom and virtually through the Idaho Digital Learning Academy. She is the Past President of the Idaho Art Education Association and the current Vice President of the Pacific Region for the National Art Education Association. Even with overlapping leadership responsibilities, not to mention her primary, classroom instructional work, she is focused and is dedicated to providing meaningful and relevant professional development opportunities for Idaho educators through two annual conferences—in fall and spring—which are held in regional rotation around the state, allowing close access for as many educators as possible. Ms. Chmielewski has built strong partnerships with colleges and universities throughout Idaho to not only provide continuing education credit to educators but also to promote post-secondary programs and build collaborative opportunities for art teachers at all levels of education. She has continuously brought superior keynote speakers and workshop presenters and striven to make every Idaho Art Education Assn. conference unique, meaningful, and educational for all participants. The membership of the IAEA has grown rapidly and continuously, providing significantly more Idaho art educators with support and tools for their academic programsdue to her diligence. Under her guidance, “Pop-Up Art” shows that showcase art teachers’ personal artworks have become a part of the annual fall professional development conference, recognizing and promoting members as artists as well as educators. Ms. Chmielewski also has worked with the Idaho State Department of Education to refine and revise teacher certification standards for visual art teachers.

Kathy Stefani, Music Teacher, President, Idaho Music Educators Assn., Moscow Kathy Stefani has been a music teacher in Idaho for more than 30 years. She has worked mostly in rural schools and always strives to build positive connections with her students and community. As part of her email byline, Kathy states, “They don’t care what you know until they know you care.” This statement applies to her as an educator as well as to her drive to further arts education in the state of Idaho. Kathy has advocated for music education in Idaho by reaching out to educators across the state, by presenting at the Idaho Music Educators Association In-Service Conferences, and by working with the State Department of Education on academic standards. She also took it upon herself to begin a statewide mentorship program for new music teachers, to help communities recruit, retain, and maintain high-quality music teachers and programs in schools throughout Idaho. Kathy is an individual who works tirelessly for her students and fellow educators to ensure all students have a well-rounded education in the State of Idaho—and that includes music education.

Mark Junkert, General Director, Opera Idaho, Boise Under Mark Junkert’s leadership for the past 12 years, the little opera company he agreed to lead has been transformed into a thriving musical explosion of good will throughout Idaho. Mr. Junkert directs and inspires a team of volunteers and music professionals who fill not just theaters, but also classrooms, parks, and sidewalks with the remarkable voices of sopranos, tenors, and baritones. Outside of Idaho, opera has a reputation for being a snobbish business. But not here, and Mark Junkert gets much of the credit for that. He is a feeder of souls who, through his work, spreads joy, humor, and inspiration. Clear as well is his commitment that Opera Idaho is not just for those who grew up with opera. It’s for school children, for young adults, truck drivers, and farmers. It’s for people like Cecilia Violetta López, who grew up in Rupert in a hardworking family of migrant farmworkers picking potatoes, and now has a thriving career as an opera singer.

Roger Rowley, Executive Director, Prichard Art Gallery, University of Idaho, Moscow Undeterred, creative, and committed are a few of the words that describe Roger H. D. Rowley. For 16 years, Mr. Rowley has worked tirelessly at the University of Idaho Prichard Gallery to bring outstanding arts programming to Idaho. Known as a brilliant curator determined to bring a quality of art rarely experienced in most small towns, Roger’s efforts in 2019 brought the Swiss artist Zimoun to create a site-specific installation in Moscow. This exhibit more than doubled the attendance of any previous Prichard exhibit and attracted people from around the U.S. Along with bringing international artists to Idaho, Roger consistently celebrates local and regional talent and has developed traveling exhibits that share the talents and professional excellence of Idaho artists, and celebrate the natural beauty of Idaho with the country. His curated exhibit, Facing the Inferno, The Wildfire Photography of Kari Greer began at the Prichard Gallery and is currently on exhibit in New Mexico on its tour around the country. In 2014, Roger organized the project that later toured Idaho, “Lonnie Hutson, 38 Minus, The Idaho Fish Project” in which Hutson collaborated with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to create paper casts of every native Idaho fish species. Roger is resolute in helping every artist with whom he works to realize their unique visions, giving the same energy to students as he does to established artists.

Kay Hardy, Arts Volunteer and Philanthropist, Boise Kay Hardy has spent her lifetime in support of the arts in Idaho. She helped co-found American Festival Ballet, the precursor of Ballet Idaho. She served on the board of the Boise Art Museum and many of its committees and provided both financial support and gifts/loans of a wide variety of spectacular artworks–a commitment to the organization that spans 50 years. Ms. Hardy also has served on the boards of still-more nonprofit cultural institutions including the Boise Baroque Chamber Orchestra, Opera Idaho, Sun Valley Museum of Art, and numerous national arts organizations. She has also served on the commissions of the Boise City Department of Arts & History and the Idaho Commission on the Arts, the latter serving as chair. The City of Boise recognized her contributions by awarding her the Mayor’s Award for Support of the Arts in 2007. She has supported the arts in higher education, both at Boise State University and the College of Western Idaho, and is the force behind Boise’s cultural jewel, the Egyptian Theater. She and her family rescued this treasure from demolition in 1978. A renovation in 1999 brought the beauty of the original building back to life. Under her guidance, the Egyptian hosts annual series such as the Cabin’s Readings and Conversations, the Boise Philharmonic’s “Uncorked” series, Curtis Stigers’ “Extreme Extravaganza,” and many more. The theater hosts Opera Idaho as its home venue. Ms. Hardy’s support for the arts takes a wide lens, seeking to integrate the visual and literary arts with nature and history. She has done this by serving on the Hemingway Legacy Initiative for the Ernest and Mary Hemingway House and Nature Preserve in Ketchum and by endowing the Art in the Garden at the Idaho Botanical Garden, including gifting 17 sculptures. Her generosity continues with financial support for cultural organizations through the AK Hardy and Gregory Kaslo Philanthropic Gift Fund at the Idaho Community Foundation. Kay Hardy is a deep thinker, kind, thoughtful of others, and seeks to do the right thing. She is passionate about the arts and how they make our community better.

Diana Thompson, creator of the COVID Concert Series on Facebook, Rigby When COVID-19 took hold in the U.S., Diana Thompson immediately recognized two things: (1) musicians with canceled shows will be struggling from a loss of income, and; (2) music has the power to bring people together in hard times. The next day she created the COVID Concert Series hoping that it would reach out to a few hundred people and give them a place to play music. Within two weeks it had over 20,000 members in more than 80 countries. The premise was simple—any musician regardless of skill level can go to the page and click, “go live.” Musicians perform a set and are able to interact with fans in real-time. No payment was required, but musicians were encouraged to place links to their PayPal and Venmo accounts so that audience members could donate directly to the artists if they liked the music they were hearing. Ms. Thompson received messages from performers saying that they were able to pay rent and buy groceries from donations received through the site. And the participating musicians didn’t need expensive equipment or elaborate sounds stages—they could perform in front of thousands using a cell phone in their kitchen. Even though the page had a global reach, Diana continued to focus on local Idaho bands by helping them set up events, working through technical issues, and mentoring them on getting the most views for their videos. The site has thus far resulted in collaborations between Idaho artists and performers in Uganda, England, Scotland, Australia, Costa Rica, and more. Without Diana’s site and endless encouragement, these local musicians might never have played a show for more than a handful of people. But now, despite stay-at-home orders, they are consistently playing global shows on Facebook, which for the time being is quite likely the biggest stage in the world.