16th Annual Arts and Cultural Heritage Arrowhead Arts Awards

The 16th Annual Arts and Cultural Heritage Arrowhead Arts Awards celebration will take place over two nights this year: the Maddie Simons Advocate Award will be awarded on Friday, May 30th, 2014 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Backus Community Center in International Falls, and the George Morrison Artist Award will be awarded on Saturday, May 31st, 2014 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Fond du Lac Tribal Community College in Cloquet. These events will recognize two individuals who have made significant contributions to the arts in the Arrowhead Region. These awards are presented by the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council in recognition of the arts in the seven counties of northeastern Minnesota.


George Morrison Artist Award

Lyz Jaakola

The Arrowhead Regional Arts Council is proud to announce that the recipient for this year’s George Morrison Artist Award is singer/songwriter, performer, and contemporary Native American composer Elizabeth Jaakola. Jaakola, a member of the Fond du Lac band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, has spent the past 20 years composing, performing, and teaching music in the Arrowhead region and beyond. Her mixed heritage has allowed her to embrace performing and writing in many musical styles and genres, influencing young musicians throughout the region.

After earning a Masters in Music from University of Minnesota Duluth, Jaakola embraced teaching full-time Music and Indian Studies at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College before embarking on her performance journey. She is an accomplished performer, having performed locally as well as internationally, in various styles and genres. Jaakola has performed at the Rome Operafestival (Mezzo Soprano) and Carnegie Hall, and with the Duluth Festival Opera, Lyric Opera of the North, and Arrowhead Chorale. She is a Traditional ceremony singer, a jazz scat singer, Blues siren, and regional soloist in venues around northern Minnesota.

In addition to teaching and performing, she is currently compiling her native-based choral pieces and striving to promote Anishinaabe music performances and education in the area. Jaakola’s Native-based compositions have been heard on radio stations, television, video, and many stages near to her home on the Fond du Lac reservation.

Jaakola is the Founder of the Anishinaabe Youth Chorus, the Native women’s handdrum group, and a founding member of the award winning group Oshkii Giizhik Singers. In 2001, she received a Regional Emmy Award for the PBSEight Documentary Series, “Ojibwe Waasa Inaabidaa” and was nominated for a Northeast Minnesota Book Award for her book “Our Journey.”

Jaakola has put out four CDs and performed on several more. She serves on the boards of the Fond du Lac Tribal College, the First Nations Composers Initiative, the American Composers Forum, and the National and Minnesota Education Association.

The George Morrison Artist Award is named after internationally acclaimed visual artist George Morrison (1919-2000), who was an important member of the second generation of American abstract expressionist artists. Morrison was heralded for successfully synthesizing American Indian themes with abstraction and surrealism. As a life-long member of the Grand Portage Chippewa, he resided and worked for many years in the Arrowhead Region of Minnesota.


Maddie Simons Arts Advocate Award

John Faith

The Arrowhead Regional Arts Council is proud to announce that the recipient for this year’s Maddie Simons Advocate Award is John Faith. John Faith has been known as “Mr. Music” in International Falls for over 40 years. Faith has spent his career teaching music, band, orchestra, giving lessons, and developing an exceptional commitment to both students and the community.

Faith started his music career performing across the U.S. and Europe in the U.S. Navy band, which played for such dignitaries as John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Vice Presidents Humphrey and Mondale, and the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie. Since 1970, he has been teaching music at the International Falls Public School, as well as being heavily involved in bringing music to the community through performing, teaching classes, arranging concerts and bringing in outside performances. He has been a member of such groups as the Rainy Lake Community Orchestra, President of the Backus Community Center, the Borderline Community Orchestra, the Fort Frances City Band, and other musical ensembles.

Faith’s advocacy for the arts is well documented – one example being his work to preserve and save two historic school buildings in the community, the Alexander Baker School (1912) and the E.W. Backus Jr. High School (1937) from being demolished. He and his colleagues formed a nonprofit corporation and purchased the buildings in 2002 with the goal of restoring them as a center for the performing arts, now the Backus Community Center. The Center, now on the National Register of Historic Places, is a thriving venue that hosts not only performing arts but dozens of community events each year.

Through his career, Faith has inspired and influenced many, while having never sought out or coveted any recognition for his work. He has devoted countless hours of his own time with music lessons, and has purchased musical instruments for students with his own funds. Faith’s passion for music, teaching, mentoring, and performing continues to have an impact to this day on thousands of people in Koochiching County and beyond.

The Maddie Simons Arts Advocate Award is named for Madeline Simons, the first volunteer Chair of the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council Board. A long-time resident of Grand Marais, MN, she owned a dance studio, helped start the Grand Marais Playhouse, the Lutsen Art Fair, and Minnesota Citizens for the Arts.


A partial list of past recipients of the Arrowhead Arts Awards:

George Morrison Artist AwardGeorge Morrison, visual artist, Grand Portage; Cheng-Khee Chee, watercolor artist, Duluth; Louis Jenkins, poet, Duluth; William Bastian, tenor, Duluth; Ellen Olson, Native American bead artists; Grand Portage; Jim Brandenburg, photographer, Ely; Mary Casanova, author, Ranier; Gareth Andrews, sculptor, Zim.

Maddie Simons Arts Advocate Award:  Jay Anderson, Grand Marais; John Steffl, Duluth; David Marty, Grand Rapids; Eileen Keen, McGregor; Paul Deaner, Finland; Patricia Feld, Bigfork, Cheryl Kramer-Milder, Cloquet, Dr. Stanley Wold, Duluth.