Spark Awards

8th Annual Spark Awards (Virtual)

Presented by  M&T Bank logo

Wednesday, May 26, 2021
Presentation begins at 7:00 pm
on YouTube


Sponsor the Spark Awards

The Spark Awards is ASI’s annual awards celebration where outstanding individuals and organizations from across the Western New York arts community are recognized for their dedication, talent, and impact on the sector.

There are three ways you can support the eighth annual Spark Awards:

  1. Select the sponsorship package that’s right for you.
  2. Purchase a program ad or video shout out.
  3. Make a gift in any amount.

Click here to download the sponsorship form with more details on how you can support the 2021 Spark Awards.

We hope you’ll join us in celebrating this year’s incredible honorees!

2020 Spark Artist of the Year finalists2020 Spark Arts Integration2020 Spark Lewiston Council on the Arts

2021 Spark Honorees

2021 Spark Honorees

Arts Organization of the Year: Finalists
Buffalo Opera Unlimited
CEPA Gallery
Locust Street Neighborhood Art Classes

Artist of the Year: Finalists
Chantal Calato
Jalen A. Law
Stephen Solook

Arts Integration
Thembi Duncan, Shea’s PAC, and the Buffalo Police Department’s Body Language Competency Training for New Recruits

DEC Program of the Year
Defiant Monkey Improv’s “The Brain of Dr. Delgado”

Leading Where You Are
Nancy Clarke Mariani
Michael Quinniey
Jose Rodriguez
Gaitrie Subryan

Lifetime Achievement
Patrick Fagan

Rising Star
Nicole Cooke, WNY Book Arts Center

Supporter of the Cultural Sector
Cullen Foundation

Trailblazer of the Arts
Aitina Fareed-Cooke

Unsung Hero
Joan Fishburn

Learn More About Our 2021 Spark Awards Honorees

This award honors an arts or cultural organization for its achievements in the previous year. Three finalists will be named. The winner of this category will be announced at the Spark Awards.


Buffalo Opera Unlimited
2021 Finalist

Founded in 1985 by artistic director Tim Kennedy, Buffalo Opera Unlimited (BOU) is dedicated to producing professional opera and a variety of other musical forms with an emphasis on regional artists. BOU is also committed to making opera more accessible to a broader audience and to providing education to develop future audiences. The company is proud to draw an audience ranging from youth to seniors from a broad cross section of the community who respond with enthusiastic positivity to the quality BOU productions. With BOU, both traditional and nontraditional audiences can “Expect the Unexpected.”

Since its first performance, Mozart’s one act comic opera The Impresario with piano accompaniment, BOU has presented challenging works and high quality performances of fully staged operas, providing job opportunities for local professionals to share their craft with appreciative audiences. BOU has provided jobs for hundreds of artists and tradespersons, from the singers to the set and stage crew, choreographer, costumer and the musicians accompanying the singers.

Highlights from the company’s more than 35 years include the world premiere of The Fall of Stag Lee, composed by native Buffalonian Darryl Glenn Nettles, the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera Silent Night as part of the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI and a performance of Viva Verdi (celebrating his 200th birthday) which featured Latino, Asian, African American and Caucasian performers. “Unlimited” productions celebrated composers such as William Grant Still, Duke Ellington, Leonard Bernstein and Cole Porter. Most recently BOU has stepped into the virtual world, producing “On Stage with Buffalo Opera Unlimited,” a series of four programs featuring selections from our 35 years broadcast by WNED TV.


CEPA Gallery
2021 Finalist

The Center for Exploratory and Perceptual Arts (CEPA) is one of the nation’s foremost presenters of contemporary, photo-related art. Established in 1974, CEPA’s mission is to foster the exploration of photography and contemporary visual art to nurture creativity and encourage active learning. To execute this mission, CEPA curates significant exhibitions of world-renowned art by diverse, underrepresented artists; provides creation, exhibition, and teaching opportunities for artists at all stages of their careers; and, perhaps most importantly, educates WNY’s diverse populace with award-winning programming that is community-driven and outcomes-based.


Locust Street Neighborhood Art Classes
2021 Finalist

Since 1959, Locust Street Neighborhood Art Classes has made it their priority to ensure that everyone has access to engage in the visual arts, especially youth, low-income and minority individuals. It has provided free, all-inclusive, high quality art classes for anyone interested in the visual arts, from age 4 to senior adults for over 60 years in drawing, painting, photography, ceramics, and animation.

This award honors an individual artist in any discipline for their achievements in the previous year. Three finalists will be named. The winner of this category will be announced at the Spark Awards.


Chantal Calato
2021 Finalist

Chantal Calato (b. 1982) is an American artist raised in Niagara Falls, New York near the infamously toxic Love Canal. Much of her art has been rooted in personal experience and research. Niagara Falls has become her muse, with a focus on exploring it’s underbelly – the long covered up parts of the city.

Calato has created her own mini universe working as a painter, sculptor, photographer, and installation artist. In 2018 she was among the first to receive the Global Warming Art Project grant to help fund “UNSEEN”. “UNSEEN” was her first solo museum show at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, New York in 2020. Additionally her work has been in venues including Castellani Art Museum, Trimania, Buffalo Museum of Science, Artpark and the Grain Silos for City of Night in Buffalo. She designed massive warehouse parties and outdoor spectacles for Chicago’s Redmoon Theatre in the parks on lake Michigan and her hand engineered costumes were worn at the official White House Halloween Party in D.C. during President Obama’s administration.

Calato’s multi-disciplinary practice is informed by a background in photography which she studied at the University at Buffalo where she received a BFA, and an MFA in Stage Design that she received at Northwestern University. She has lived in Brazil, Chicago, London, and New York City and is now back home in Buffalo.


Jalen A. Law
2021 Finalist

Born in Buffalo, NY, Jalen A. Law’s first sketches were circles at the age of two. By the age of five, he was creating his own comic books and children stories, selling them to kids in elementary school for Lunchables and extra computer time. He is a graduate from the University of Buffalo, and for the past eight years he has been live-painting and displaying his work in international exhibitions. The theme of Jalen’s artwork involves visually powerful images that attempt to force the viewer think about uncomfortable issues without deflecting their own feelings.

Currently, he is working on a research-based art program called the Emotional Intelligence Program to equip students with social and emotional tools that will assist them inside and outside of the classroom.


Stephen Solook
2021 Finalist

“Outstanding” percussionist Stephen Solook (Robert Bush, SoundDiego) is a new music specialist who regularly performs as an orchestral and world musician.

Looking to connect the past with the future, he highlights the possibilities of sound, beyond traditional notation. As a performer, he has collaborated with many of the country’s preeminent new music ensembles including Bang on a Can All-Stars, Eighth Black Bird, Ensemble Dal Niente, the International Contemporary Ensemble, and San Francisco Chamber Music Players. His duo Aurora Borealis, with soprano Tiffany Du Mouchelle, is noted for their dedication to expanding the repertoire for their instrumentation. Exploring the dynamic relationship of voice and percussion, their performance history, and the acoustic possibilities of each instrument, they have commissioned and premiered countless compositions by composers from around the world.

Solook’s interests in collaboration and heritage have led him to collaborate with artists of diverse backgrounds and mediums. Through the NGO Cultures in Harmony, he collaborated with cultural conservationists in Papua New Guinea, folk musicians and dancers in Cameroon, Egyptian musicians supporting youth advocacy in Alexandria, and as an educator for Programa de Orquestas y Coros Juveniles in Mexico City. As a dance accompanist he was an integral part in the revival of Jose Límon Dance Company’s Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías, enjoyed a creative partnership with Preeti Vasudevan, classical Indian dancer, and currently serves as staff accompanist for the University at Buffalo Dance Department.

Throughout Buffalo, Steve can be found performing as an extra percussionist with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Slee Sinfonietta at University at Buffalo, or Masti Ensemble, giving a solo performance, or collaborating in one of the city’s many chamber music series. He can be heard in recordings on Bridge, Vortex, and Mode Labels, and as the on screen talent for the popular “Standard of Excellence” snare drum series. His compositions, published by Bachovich Music Publications, offer a reverence to the past while amplifying new possibilities of timbre, expression, and extending technical possibilities of the instruments he writes for.
As an educator, he is committed to making sure every student finds their own voice. In addition, Steve dedicates his research to developing pedagogical practices that aid students with learning disabilities in reading music notation. Dr. Solook received his Doctorate of Musical Arts degree from the University of California San Diego, after attending Mannes College, and Ithaca College.

This award honors an individual or organization, either within or outside of the arts industry, who spearheaded a non-arts project, program, or initiative that utilizes the creative process to enhance the project’s objectives or engage with the public.


Thembi Duncan, Shea’s Performing Arts Center, and the Buffalo Police Department’s
Body Language Competency Training for New Recruits

Thembi Duncan is a director, actor, playwright, and teaching artist who has been developing and executing theatre-based body language training for nearly two years in the city of Buffalo. She holds a B.A. in Theatre, Summa Cum Laude, from the University of Maryland and currently works as the Director of Arts Engagement and Education at Shea’s Performing Arts Center.

Lieutenant Craig Macy has served as a community police officer for the BPD Housing Unit and has worked as part of the department’s Neighborhood Engagement Team. His background is in military service, having been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as a member of the New York National Guard. Lt. Macy has been honored by the Erie County Bar Association and the Police Athletic League for his community service.

Captain Steven J. Nichols has been a Buffalo police officer for 24 years. He oversees the department’s Community Police Officers and Citizen Police Academy. Cpt. Nichols directs all of the department’s special events, has been honored by Crime Stoppers Buffalo, and has been interviewed about community policing on multiple media platforms.

This award honors one of ASI’s DEC grantees for their hard work and successful project in the previous year.


Defiant Monkey Improv’s “The Brain of Dr. Delgado”

Defiant Monkey Improv is a two-person improvisational group that creates on-the-spot theatre based on audience suggestions and participation. Performers Karen L. Eichler and Andrew M. Spragge are experienced improvisers, actors, professional development specialists, and teaching artists who love to have as much fun as possible. They are the authors of the books The 5 Elements of Improv: How to Take Your Improv to the Next Level and The One Minute Improviser.

Karen began performing improvisation in 1997, graduated from The Second City Toronto and has performed on stages across the country. She has also performed with a script in shows such as Annie the Musical, and as Madame Thenardier in Les Miserables and has been a children’s show performer and storyteller since 2000. Karen has a Master’s Degree in Education and has been a university professor since 1997, most recently teaching Public Speaking and College Writing.

Andrew began improvising in 2005 and has been acting and directing since 1982. He has been seen in various productions over the years including as Daddy Warbucks in Annie, and Monsieur Thenardier in Les Miserables. An accomplished actor, director, children’s show performer and corporate trainer, Andrew is also a graphic designer and worked as a middle school science and math teacher as well as a Mission Commander at the Challenger Learning Center in Lockport, NY.

Their 2020 DEC-funded program Royalty Free Radio Hour presents, In the Dark. Tonight’s episode: “The Brain of Dr. Delgado” began as a live action radio play for seniors. However, due to COVID safety restrictions, they instead partnered with the Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service, which provides blind and low-sight people of Western New York access to print news through dedicated volunteers who read and broadcast daily papers. While access to the broadcast has traditionally been limited to those who qualify for a special radio, the reading service is now available online to anyone. Their production was also made available through podcast players (Spotify, iTunes, and Stitcher), smartphone players (Seros and Zeno apps), and through Amazon and Google smart speakers.

This award honors influencers who have made significant contributions to their art form, organization, or the field through their work. Nominees can be employed in any capacity of the arts field and be at any level of their career. These natural leaders may not head an arts organization or be a featured/lead artist, but their work is vital to the success of the organization, community, or arts and cultural sector within Western New York and should be recognized.


Nancy Clarke Mariani


Nancy Clarke Mariani is an exhibiting member of the Buffalo Society of Artists (BSA) and is a member and President of the Fine Arts League of Buffalo (FALB). She is also a signature member of the Pastel Society of America (PSA) since 2012 and was one of the founding members of the Pastel Society of Western New York (PSWNY).

She has served on the board of the Lancaster Opera House since 2015 and have been its President since 2018.

Nancy has taught Art at Lancaster High School for the past thirty-one years and has been the Art Department Chairperson K-12 for the past twenty-two years. She is the advisor of the Art Honor Society / National Art Honor Society at Lancaster High School. The Art Honor Society has performed the Living Masterpieces in school and at the Albright Knox Art Gallery for “Art Alive” from 1996 to 2016 and, although it will be on a smaller scale, they will be doing a Drive-Up Living Masterpieces on Friday, May 21, 2021 after school.

Nancy has had the honor of exhibiting my artwork in several International Exhibitions, in Gramercy Park, Manhattan, NY, National Exhibitions, Buffalo and Rochester exhibitions. She works with many mediums but found her “nitch” in chalk pastels, using realism techniques, painting human subject compositions.


Michael Quinniey

Michael Quinniey was as an employee of WKBW-TV for over 25 years. He joined the station in of 1987 after working with AM Buffalo and commercial production and the Engineering Technician. Prior to that Michael worked in local radio news at WGR and WBFO as a sports reporter.

Born in Buffalo, New York Michael Attended Northeastern University where he completed an introductory program in civil engineering and he double majored in Business Administration and Broadcast Management at Missouri college. In June of 2017 he graduated from the University at Buffalo School of Management CEL (Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership).

Michael worked as a technical engineer/producer and has done freelance work with the Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Sabers as well as with ESPN, MSG, and the Fox Network. Serving as a union steward for 17 years Michael was the chief union steward for NABET/CWA local #25 for 12 years and negotiated four contracts for a staff of over 110 members while serving on the local broadcasting executive board and serving as financial officer on the broadcasting federal credit union board.

In 1998 Michael co-founded the Western New York Minority Media Professionals Inc a non-profit organization committed to educating / mentoring and informing the public through the use of multi-media. Michael served as co-creator and executive producer for 3 TV programs, a business show called the Western New York Magazine (now called UPFRONT TV) and 2 student produced entertainment programs called Late Nite Noise and OFFICIAL HEAT that aired on WKBW-TV for 10 years.

On January 1st, 2008, we developed a high school youth media program which hosts and mentors 50-100 high school kids every Friday called Eagle E.Y.E.S. (Experienced, Youth, Expressing, Skills).

Michael is the of chair the restoration of the Historic Sattler “Broadway” Theatre, built in 1914 located at 512 Broadway near (Mortimer). He has been instrumental in founding Upfront Business Magazine, The Queen City Black Film Festival, and The Great Day in Jazz Buffalo Event.


Jose Rodriguez

Jose Rodriguez is the team supervisor for the environmental services department at Shea’s Performing Arts Center. In this position, he manages handles the ins and outs of making sure his staff and the building are ready for events, such as Broadway shows, concerts, wedding, and fundraising events. Jose graduated from McKinley High School in 2003 and started working at Shea’s right after. He is starting his 18th year at Shea’s and is looking forward to building the future.


Gaitrie Subryan

Gaitrie Subryan is an Educator, Performer, Choreographer, Teaching Artist, and Yoga Instructor. She founded Buffalo’s first Bollywood dance classes, Devi Bollywood Performing Arts in 2013. She is a company member for The Sa Dance Company, under the artistic vision of the world-renowned choreographer Payal Kadakia. Gaitrie’s training with Indian dance consists of Kathak, Bharatanatyam, Garba, Bhangra, and Semi-Classical dance.

Gaitrie has received grants from Give for Greatness grant funded by Arts Services Initiative, NYSCA, and is a SPARK award recipient. Over the years Gaitrie has worked with artists in the Western New York area such as Naryan Padmanabha, Elaine Gardner, John Lehrer, and Robin Hibbert.

Gaitrie’s work has evolved through her continuous dedication to learning Indian Classical dance which has given her a very unique style of choreography. She is currently studying Kathak dance through Leela Institute of Kathak and with renowned Kathak choreographer and teacher Jayeeta Dutt.

Gaitrie’s passion for movement can also be seen in her practice of Yoga. She is certified Kids yoga instructor through Kidding Around Yoga and an adult Yoga instructor she received her RYT 200 certification through East Meets West Yoga studios in 2016.

Gaitrie’s mission to continue to offer a platform for individuals from all backgrounds to experience Indian dance and culture.

This award honors an individual in the arts and cultural community for their career-long body of work, especially on the occasion of a new phase of that work, such as retirement.


Patrick Fagan

Patrick Fagan is a well-respected leader in the arts and entertainment field. As president of Shea’s Performing Arts Center, he successfully led the growth and renaissance of this venerable institution, transforming it into one of the premier stops on the Broadway touring circuit. During his tenure, Shea’s was converted from a rental house into a nationally recognized presenting arts center, drawing 300,000 patrons in his last season, 2001/02.

The centerpiece of his 16-year tenure was the construction of a $15 million state-of-the- art stagehouse that was completed in April 1999. It was dedicated with a successful four-week engagement of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera.

He was on the faculties of The University at Buffalo, Trocaire College, and Erie Community College serving as an adjunct professor. He lectured on business management, theatre management, history, and arts administration. He also provided consulting services to several organizations. Patrick has been honored many times for his contributions to the arts community in Buffalo Niagara, including a special lifetime achievement award from the Arts Council in Buffalo and Erie County.

Patrick was the theatre reviewer for WKBW, Channel 7, from 1992-1999. He was a member of The Broadway League. He served on several committees and was a Tony voter from 1992-2003.

Patrick holds an MA in Comparative Government from The Catholic University of America and a BSBA from Saint Joseph University (Philadelphia). The former Dunkirk native resides in Williamsville with his wife, soul mate, and best friend, Janice Walek.

This award honors a relatively new organization or an individual (artist or arts administrator) who is early in their career, new in their position, or entering the next phase of their career. Nominees must demonstrate the promise of success.


Nicole Cooke

Nicole Cooke is the Executive Director at the WNY Book Arts Center, an arts education & cultural nonprofit dedicated to printing and book related arts. Prior to leading the organization, Nicole had been a Book Arts volunteer for several years including service as a member of its Board of Directors, where she was identified as an ideal candidate for her role as part of a planned leadership succession in 2019.

In her first year as ED, Cooke completed the Harvard Business School of Buffalo Alumni Club’s Not For Profit Management Program and initiated Book Arts’ participation as one of only 9 organizations invited to take part in StoryGrowing WNY, a competitive six-month communications training program facilitated by the John R. Oishei Foundation. She also oversaw the development and implementation of a full visual rebrand, including a new logo and website – which won a coveted gold ADDY Award from the American Advertising Federation in early 2020. Throughout her tenure as Executive Director, Nicole has overseen extensive top-to-bottom remodeling of Book Arts’ building at 468 Washington Street.

Prior to joining the team at Book Arts, Cooke worked her way up to Communications & Development Manager at Valu Home Centers over her 5-year tenure at the local, family owned chain of hardware stores. She was responsible for a wide variety of duties, from assisting the VP of Marketing & Development with all public-facing communications in print and digital media, to photography and graphic design, and community relations. It was here that Cooke developed and implemented Valu Crew, a volunteer program for Sales Associates that was met with great enthusiasm and served 5 counties with hundreds of hours of service in its first year. It was for these efforts that she was honored with a ‘30 Under 30’ award by Buffalo Business First in 2017.

Cooke is passionate about artistic engagement and professional development; experimentation with process-based media; educating WNY’s diverse populace; and promoting the democratic sharing of ideas and information. Most recently, Cooke was elected to serve on the board of directors for the WNY chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals beginning in early 2020, and has been serving on their Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) committee since mid-2019. She is also a member of the Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance, a steering committee that advocates on behalf of cultural organizations in the WNY area. Most recently, Nicole completed Linda Ray’s Fund Development Boot Camp in 2020, where she enthusiastically returned as a Camp Counselor in 2021.

In addition to her commitment to Book Arts, Cooke is an 8-time (soon to be 9!) participant in the Ride for Roswell, supporting Roswell Park Cancer Institute with over 380 miles ridden and $20,000 raised in memory of her late grandfather. She lives in the City of Buffalo with her partner Mike West, and their two cats Biscuit and Porkchop.

This award honors an individual or an organization outside the arts sector for their work directly aiding or supporting the cultural sector.


Cullen Foundation

The Cullen Foundation serves the residents of Erie County by providing funding and support that significantly enhances the education of students in grades pre-K through 12 and advances theatre and the performing arts. In 2020, they granted $1,123,690 out among 39 performing arts grantees in Erie and Niagara counties.

This award honors an individual for their impact on the arts and cultural field through their work in advocacy, arts administration, education, or promotion. This individual can be at any level of their career or involvement in the arts industry, but has created pathways for Western New Yorkers to access, participate in, and/or engage with the arts.


Aitina Fareed-Cooke

Aitina Fareed-Cooke was told at a young age that she would be a “failure to thrive” as a result of her biological mother’s addiction to drugs. At 14 months old her and her 2 siblings were placed into foster care and diagnosed as “Emotionally Handicapped”. When Aitina was three years old her and her sibling lost their mother due to a drug overdose. Though the odds were against her she managed to strive due to her adoptive mother’s efforts in keeping her involved in extracurricular activities, community arts programs which introduced her to photography, film, and creative writing. Aitina continues utilizing her camera or “my weapon of mass creativity” and her love of writing music and poetry as a type of “Art Activism” igniting thought and change within her community.

Aitina received her Associates degree in Arts & Humanities at Erie Community College (2009), Bachelor Arts degree in English (2012) and Masters in Science & Education with a focus in Educational Technology (2016) at Buffalo State. Aitina has worked within various non-profit organizations for over 15 years throughout the city of Buffalo NY where she has developed, managed and implemented countless high-quality creative arts programs. Her unique and innovative ideas have assisted countless youth and young adults in fostering opportunities for growth in creative thinking and problem solving, self esteem, self expression, social awareness, and peer collaboration.

Aitina has worked with organizations such as Say Yes to Education serving as a Community Schools Navigator; Young Audiences of WNY serving as the ArtWorks Director & Education Coordinator, Community Action Organization serving as a Youth Services Site Coordinator; CEPA Gallery continuously serving as a Photography Teaching Artist and Board Member, just to name a few. Throughout her tenure at each organization she was able to contribute to the increase in retention rates of youth and parent involvement in programming and activities, the development and increase in community engagement and partnerships, and securing grant funding for the successful longevity of such programs within such organizations.

The skills that Aitina has developed over time has led her to developing Get Fokus’d Productions (GFP). GFP is a creative media arts company dedicated to capturing project-based stories, designing curriculums to teach youth soft skills through the implementation of photography, film, and creative writing programs, and giving back to the next generation of creatives through a movement called Young & Fokus’d . Aitina’s original work has been exhibited at CEPA Gallery , Jamestown Community College, Darwin Martin House, Crzurles-Nelson Gallery at SUNY Buffalo State, Main Street Art Gallery, Blue Plate Studio, and PineAppleCo.

Aitina is now an award-winning photographer, teaching artist, creative director, and lyricist earning recognition through 43North ’s Ignite Buffalo People’s Choice Award, CEPA Gallery Exhibition Award, SUNY Buffalo State Young Alumnus Achievement Award, Canisius College Trailblazer Award, the National Society of Leadership & Success Excellence in Teaching Award, Kingdom Choice Up Next and Breakthrough Artist Award, BULYPNY Entrepreneurship Award, Mayors Citizens Participation Academy Award, and more. Aitina has also been featured in Buffalo Healthy Living Magazine, Upstart New York, Challenger News, Buffalo News, Buffalo State Alumni Magazine, National Young Audiences Emerging Leaders, DJ Booth , Rapzilla, Trackstarz and much more.

This award honors an unpaid individual or group that has made a significant impact on an arts organization, artistic discipline, or the entire sector through their volunteer service.


Joan Fishburn

Originally from Philadelphia, Joan Fishburn began playing violin in 3rd grade. In high school she added the playing of the trombone in bands to her musical life. From there, she went to Penn State to pursue a degree in music education.

In 1959, Joan moved to Buffalo with her family and immediately joined the all-volunteer Amherst Symphony Orchestra. There she made a number of connections and found opportunities for service, creativity, relationships, and personal growth.

While still playing with the ASO, Joan also served as President of ASO’s Women’s/Friends Committee and President of the Amherst Symphony Association’s board. Under her leadership, many programs were initiated and expanded. Joan was instrumental in scheduling ASO members into area schools for educational presentations and for providing transportation and seating for residents of retirement homes to attend all ASO Concerts. Through these relationships, she was able to bring hundreds of young people to participate in their concerts and be featured in pre-concert productions.

Joan helped the ASO make meaningful and long-lasting connections with the county, town, and village leaders to enhance and improve their community. She was invited to be part of the Glen Park Committee where she served for 25 years. She developed and maintained consistent relationships with local corporations to secure concert sponsorships. Joan also developed and prepared the ASO’s concert programs for over 30 years.

Joan Fishburn did all of this in support of the ASO while continuously actively playing in the orchestra. Her 60 plus-year tenure with the ASO has created innumerable memories and friendships, and made a lasting and impactful impression on the community.

Sponsors

We appreciate the support of our Spark Awards sponsors! Their partnership helps us fulfill our mission of recognizing the hard work of those in our arts community during a challenging time for the creative industry, and allows us to bring everyone together in celebration safely.

Presenting Sponsor

Supporting Sponsors

Patron Sponsors

Spark Awards News and Features

Past Spark Awards Winners

7th Annual Spark Awards

Presented on:
Monday, November 16, 2020
at 7:00 PM

The Spark Awards is ASI’s annual awards celebration where outstanding individuals and organizations in the Western New York arts community are recognized for their dedication, talent, and impact on the sector.

In an effort to keep everyone safe and to meet the County’s guidelines for in-person gatherings, we streamed the presentation through our YouTube page, making it free and available to anyone who wishes to join the celebration!

Click here to download the online program book.

Honorees

WNED/WBFO , 2017
Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation, 2016
Paul Hogan, 2015
Lynn Marinelli, 2014

Children’s Guild Foundation Autism Spectrum Disorder Center at Oishei Children’s Hospital, 2020
Sam Savarino
, 2019
Learning Disabilities Association of WNY,
2018
Roswell Park Cancer Institute
, 2017
Elgin Wolfe & Tri-Main Development, 2016
Dr. Timothy Murphy and the University at Buffalo Clinical and Translational Research Center, 2015

Tom Toles (The Washington Post), 2016
Tom Calderone (President VH1), 2015

Lewiston Council on the Arts’ Iroquois Market, 2020
Annette Daniels Taylor for “Heritage Walk: Traveling Buffalo’s Underground Railroad Seminar and Workshop,”
 2019
Lockport Public Arts Council: Sweet Chalk Festival,
2018
University District Community Development Association in collaboration with Nicholas Conrad Miller for “Bailey Fights Blight” Mural Program
, 2017
710 Main Theatre and Buffalo Laboratory Theatre for “The Mystery of the Silver Chalice,” 2016
Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara Fine Arts Program, 2015
Karen Sirgey with Niagara Wheatfield High School, 2014

Robert G. Wilmers, 2018
M. Jacquie Lodico, 2017
Burton Notarius, 2014

Vincent O’Neill, 2020
Craig Centrie
, 2019
Thomas Burrows,
2018
Anthony C. Conte
, 2017
Saul Elkin, 2016
Jonathan Rogers, 2015
Molly Bethel (Locust Street Art), 2014

Michele Agosto, 2020
Rob Lynch
, 2019
Michael J. Beam,
2018

West Falls Center for the Arts, 2020
Aimee Levesque
, 2019
Buffalo String Works,
2018
Jon Lehrer
, 2017
University Heights Arts Association, 2016
Danceability, 2015
Infinity Visual & Performing Arts Center, 2014

Joel Feroleto, 2020
John McKendry
, 2019
John & Carolyn Yurtchuk,
2018
M&T Bank
, 2017
Buffalo Spree Magazine, 2016
Rigidized Metals (Silo City), 2015
Fund for the Arts, 2014

Beth Pedersen (Buffalo Society of Artists), 2020
Clyde Terry (Shea’s Performing Arts Center)
, 2019
Friends of the Japanese Gardens,
2018
Rita Argen Auerbach
, 2017
Carl Klingenschmitt & Sue Fay Allen (Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra), 2016
Gerald Mead, 2015
Dick and Carmen Gilman (1891 Fredonia Opera House), 2014

Winners & Finalists

JoAnn Falletta, 2020 (WINNER)
Chris J. Handley, 2020
Edreys Wajed, 2020

Julia Bottoms, 2019
Caitlin Cass, 2019
Muhammad Zaman, 2019 (WINNER)

Gary Earl Ross, 2018
Fotini Galanes,
2018  (WINNER)
Keith Harrington,
2018

Drea d’Nur, 2017 (WINNER)
David Moog, 2017
Gary Sczerbaniewicz, 2017

Zuri Elise Appleby, 2016
Chuck Tingley, 2016
Adam Zyglis, 2016 (WINNER)

Sarah Fonzi, 2015
Ntare Ali Gault, 2015
David Michael Miller, 2015 (WINNER)

Shasti O’Leary Soudant, 2014 (WINNER)
Mikel Wintermantel, 2014
MarCe Zerrate, 2014

1891 Fredonia Opera House Performing Arts Center, 2020 (WINNER)
O’Connell & Company, 2020
Unique Theatre Co., 2020

National Comedy Center, 2019
Road Less Traveled Productions, 2019
Buffalo Sugar City, 2019 (WINNER)

Buffalo Arts Studio, 2018 (WINNER)
Niagara Falls National Heritage Area,
2018
Resource: Art,
2018

1891 Fredonia Opera House, 2017
Kenan Center, 2017 (WINNER)
Springville Center for the Arts, 2017

Buffalo Choral Arts Society, 2016
Just Buffalo Literary Center, 2016 (WINNER)
Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, 2016

Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 2015
Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Center for Comedy, 2015
Niagara Arts & Cultural Center, 2015 (WINNER)

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, 2014 (WINNER)
Squeaky Wheel/Buffalo Media Resources, 2014
Torn Space Theater, 2014

All Proceeds Benefit