Mayor’s Awards in the Arts – A new way to celebrate.


Each year, Ogden City hosts an event to celebrate achieving artists at the Mayor’s Awards in the Arts. A tradition which, according to records, began as early as 2001, inspired by the Mayor’s Awards in Humanities. Artists are nominated by the public in different artistic and creative disciplines and voted on by the Ogden City Arts Advisory Committee. Of course, this event did not take place, due to the ongoing pandemic. But art did not disappear because people stayed home. In fact, it flourished in new ways.

In 2001, gas was only $1.46, and a stamp was .34 cents. Apple had just released the first generation of the iPod, and Wikipedia made its debut online. In Italy, the Leaning Tower of Pisa reopened after being closed for 11 years of repairs. In Ogden, the kinetic sculpture in the Ogden Mall, “High Ball” by George Rhoads, dazzled shoppers. The Skateboard Sculpture by Lorrin Farr Park and the Ogden Amphitheater were being installed, and our community was preparing for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

A lot has changed since then. Gas, stamps, and virtually everything is more expensive. The Ogden Mall was demolished and replaced by the Junction, with new Public Art installations (see River of Light by Leonard Grassli and Glide, Soar, Fly by Jonnie Hartman). The Skateboard sculpture and the Ogden Amphitheater still stand, though public gathering at events has altogether halted, as has travel to Italy (and everywhere) to visit the architectural wonders, iconic paintings, and sculptures.

In twenty years, Ogden has erected and retired hundreds of new art projects, performances, and installations. Even though we are amid a global pandemic, the Ogden community has shown their courage by helping each other, supporting local, and are doing their best to get through these trying times. And despite it all, the creativity has not disappeared. Countless artists, creatives, and makers have built, imagined, performed, and adapted. Today, we honor nine of them.

So, without further ado, please meet the 2020 Mayor’s Awards in the Arts Honorees, all of whom have provided immeasurable benefits to our community!

*If you would like more information on the Mayor’s Awards program or want to nominate a local creative or arts-based organization to be honored in 2021, be sure to visit

Visual Arts – Lydia Gravis

Lydia Gravis

“A drawing inspired by the world doesn’t have to resemble it,” says Lydia Gravis, explaining the complexities of her art styles. “This realization seems liberating, and the responsive marks begin forming a new language to communicate with a universe in which I feel absolute smallness, yet undeniable belonging.” Gravis and her work have made their mark in Ogden City.

Lydia Gravis was born in 1981 in Spokane, Washington. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Painting and Drawing from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C. in 2003, and her Master of Fine Arts in Visual Art from the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University in 2013. Gravis has had solo exhibitions at the Northern Arizona University Museum of Art, Nox Contemporary gallery in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake Community College, and Carper Contemporary at the Argo House in Ogden. She’s shown in numerous group and juried exhibitions in the United States and has been awarded an artist residency for July 2021 at the Fremantle Art Center in Fremantle, Western Australia.

Gravis works as Gallery Director and Curator of the Mary Elizabeth Dee Shaw Gallery within the Department of Visual Art and Design at Weber State University since 2014, and lives and works in Ogden, Utah, with her husband and two young children. Visit her website,, for photographs and information about her work.

Arts in Education – Weber State University Arts Learning Collaborative

The WSU Arts Learning Collaborative is being honored in the category of Arts in Education. The Collaborative provides year-round professional learning opportunities in arts integration for K-12 teachers, instructional coaches, arts specialists, and WSU students. The WSU Arts Learning Collaborative leadership includes Director Tamara Goldbogen, Program Coordinator Kelly Bruce Glynn, and Program Assistant Erinne Garfield Roundy.

Since its inception, the Collaborative not only supports arts education in the elementary and high education sector, but also actively participates, organizes, and funds community art programs throughout Ogden City. Their most notable events include an annual Arts Integration Conference supporting over 150 local teachers, ArtsBridge Community Project, and Arts Internships that support increased art education experiences for K-6 students in the Ogden area. Through advocacy, research, partnerships, and professional development, the Arts Learning Collaborative provides resources and support for arts education throughout Utah.

Receiving the award is Tamara Goldbogen, the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Endowed Chair for Arts Learning, and director of the award-winning Arts Learning Collaborative. Tamara teaches in the College of Arts & Humanities, the College of Education, and the Honors Program. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Drama and Theatre for Youth from the University of Texas at Austin.

Be sure to check out the ArtsBridge Community Project “Utah Birds & Ecosystems” installed in 2020 at the Ogden Nature Center.

Arts Advocacy– Jake McIntire/Union Creative Agency

Jake McIntire

Putting an Ogden touch on things is essential; that is why McIntire works closely with residents to guide progress and build community.

Jake McIntire and his brainchild, Union Creative Agency, is being honored in the category of Arts Advocacy for the 2020 Mayor’s Awards in the Arts. Union Creative Agency is a stakeholder-centered design consultancy based in the Nine Rails Creative District. Through their work in arts-based community development and cultural-planning, they infuse creativity, culture, and strategy into communities and organizations statewide. Under the direction of McIntire, Union Creative Agency is among the most experienced cultural-planning organizations in the State of Utah with extensive experience and roots in Ogden. McIntire has been instrumental in the development and creation of Ogden’s Master Plan for Arts and Culture, the Nine Rails Creative District’s Master Plan, and he is currently working with city and community stakeholders on the new Dumke Arts Plaza.

Receiving the award is founder Jake McIntire. He holds a Master of Fine Arts in Collaborative Design from the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Honors in Intermedia Sculpture from the University of Utah. Jake returned home in 2015 and has been working over the past five years to grow the local arts sector by working with local artists, government leaders, and community partners to ensure the arts are seen as a vital part of Ogden’s cultural and economic identity.

Folk Art– Project Success Coalition

Betty Sawyer

“Keeping hope alive is our motto, and we continue our strong commitment toward inspiring and supporting the dreams of youth and families in the greater Ogden area.”

This is the motto for Project Success Coalition, who is being honored in the category of Folk Arts for the 2020 Mayor’s Awards in the Arts. Project Success Coalition has proudly served Utah since 1989, providing after-school and summer academic programs, cultural arts and awareness, health prevention education and advocacy, and community and economic development.

Receiving the award on behalf of the organization is co-founder and director Betty Sawyer. Through her work with Project Success, Betty coordinates the Statewide Juneteenth, Black Independence Day, Festival, and Holiday commemorations, now in its 31st year as a statewide celebration. Juneteenth, held each year on or near June 19th, honors the oldest celebration marking the end of slavery in the United States. The event occurs over several days and is replete with live performances, great food, activities, and resource information.

Literary Arts – Laura Stott

Laura Stott

“Beneath all our feet, beneath arms waving, cheers and screams, the water opens wide, down there, a whale’s massive tail disappears into the blue, its eye blinks, its body rolls,” an excerpt from Laura Stott, Beneath.

Laura Stott is being honored for her contributions in Literary Arts for the 2020 Mayor’s Awards in the Arts. Stott is the author of two collections of poetry, Blue Nude Migration (Lynx House Press, 2020) and In the Museum of Coming and Going (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2014). Her poems can be found or are forthcoming in various journals and magazines, including Barrow Street, Sugar House Review, and Mid-American Review as a James Wright Poetry Award finalist.

Stott holds an M.F.A. from Eastern Washington University. She currently teaches creative writing and poetry at Weber State University, where she is also the faculty sponsor for the English Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta, whose primary mission is fostering literacy and the language arts in the community.

Stott has served on the Weber Book Links Utah Humanities Book Festival committee in recent years, helping plan book festival events locally, including Poetry and Gardening and a Field Work: Poetry and Science event featuring former Utah Poet Laureate, Katharine Coles, and our local Deseret Hive Supply, merging the worlds of poetry and the science of bees. Stott has also helped forge community connections and events for the Lindquist College of Arts and Humanities Hurst Artist in Residence Program. She loves working in the garden, obsessing over her dahlias, being outdoors, and impromptu dance parties with her family.

Lifetime Contribution – Brad Wheeler

Brad Wheeler

“If you play a harmonica and study archeology, you might be an old soul.”

A longtime friend of the late Joe McQueen is being honored in the Lifetime Achievement category of the 2020 Mayor’s Awards in the Arts. Brad Wheeler, a musician and radio personality, has been performing on stage and the airwaves, as well as hosting and storytelling, since he started playing the harmonica at age 19.

Wheeler, a WSU graduate with an emphasis in Archeology, Anthropology, and Art, was born in Lakenheath, England. He spent the first few years of his life in Hawaii before arriving in Utah at the age of eight. Wheeler attended Ogden’s St. Joseph Catholic School and had a vantage point of historic (and historically “notorious”) 25th Street where “after class, he used to watch people at a distance spill out of the Kokomo Club like little ants.”

Wheeler entered the music scene through his harmonica. As he formed friendships with Ogden City’s deep musical strata, he became a converser in its history. Wheeler is passionate about music, and he reveres its past. He respects every aspect of how Utah and music converged to the present moment. He can speak confidently in almost any musical language, the one exception being jazz; he does not read or write music, but he has an ear for it. Even his preferred genre is so steeped in American history, it can’t help but be held in the deepest of reverence: blues.

“The harmonica is this weird instrument. The fact that I chose the harmonica meant I wasn’t going to hang out with young people. I had to hang out with older people, people who wanted to talk about paying their dues. I guess the anthropology background was a factor too,” Wheeler shares.

The musician, often referred to as “Bad” Brad Wheeler, has shared the stage and long relationships with many Ogden legends, including Joe McQueen and Roby Kap. Thanks to his high-profile position in the scene, his ambassadorship meant he got to share his passion for Ogden. “I see a lot of traveling musicians that fall in love with the geography here and fall in love with the people here,” Wheeler shared.

When asked about how he felt about his award, Wheeler said the following: “I know I have already used the word humble to describe this acknowledgment, but to think of how many talented, talented people there are from Ogden, and to be given this designation, kind of makes a person speechless. I have always been very, very proud to be from Ogden, to receive this honor makes it deeper. I want to quote my late 100-year-old Grandmother; she used to have a saying she would tell me growing up …….. “love is reflected in love. “ I have to say…I love you, Ogden. Thank you so much for making me feel loved and connected.”

Emerging Artist– August Akada

August Akada

Augustine has always enjoyed music. As a young boy, he and his brothers were always singing and writing new lyrics; a tradition he has continued with his own children.

Augustine Eden Akada, being honored as the Emerging Artist, is a local musician with a passion for learning who resides in Ogden with his wife and three boys. Known as Awegust the Great, Akada performs on countless stages and for many different charity events.

Awegust the Great’s music has a special focus on uplifting others and an array of topics, including educating people on social justice and about disparities that are a reality in the world we live in today. When he performs, he does not just perform his music; he makes sure everyone in the audience has an entertaining and educational experience. Something he likes to refer to as Edutainment. He uses his musical gifts to inspire youth in schools and detention centers, as well as recovering addicts, giving them hope that their shortcomings in life do not define them.

Media Arts – Daniel Matthews

Daniel Matthews

“We are the unofficial magazine of the Ogden community. We are steered purely on our love for the city we live in and the community we are representing.”

Daniel Matthews is being honored in the category of Media Arts. Matthews serves as Editor in Chief for the Indie Ogden Magazine seen on local newsstands around town. Dedication, a passion for storytelling, and sheer stubbornness aids to keep this magazine circulating, according to Matthews.

Matthews stated, “Our goal is to shine a light on members and groups within our community that make a positive impact on the place we call home. In my opinion, we best represent Media Arts by being fiercely independent and marching to our own drumline. With our connections to the Ogden community, we can draw on stories and inspirations directly from them.”

Matthews was born and raised in Ogden. When he had the opportunity to move back a few years ago, he jumped on it. Matthews now enjoys calling Ogden home, where he lives with his partner Lauren and their daughter Vivian.

Performing Arts – Joseph Blake

Joseph Blake

The bell in the lobby rings and a rush of excitement enters your spine. You stagger with everyone toward the door and are handed a paper program. As you take your seat, the lights begin to fade, the program rolled in your hand. The lights go out; in the darkness, everything is still. It begins.

Joseph Blake, being honored for Performing Arts, is a performer, choreographer, and educator. Joseph “Jo” Blake earned his M.F.A. from the University of Washington (2017) and BFA from the University of Utah (2003). As a member of the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company (2003-2013), he taught and performed internationally, dancing in works by such artists as Alwin Nikolais, Doug Varone, Wayne McGregor, Carolyn Carlson, Bill T. Jones, Susan Marshall, Charlotte-Boye-Christensen, along with many other influential dance makers.

Blake’s interest in educational theory, community-based engagement, and social justice has led him to work with community outreach projects such as Yoga Behind Bars and Mark Morris’s Dance for Parkinson’s Disease. From 2017-2018, Blake spent eight months traveling the world, immersing himself in culture on UW Bonderman Travel Fellowship, providing inter-/intra-personal research benefitting his mission of equity and inclusivity in the arts, as well as education.

He is the director of joBdance., a conceptual site-specific multidisciplinary dance company. The company’s premiere (dis) connect 2019, with an evening-length duet that included a live-feed interface and multi-screen video projections. He continues to create, produce, and perform in project-based productions throughout the country.

Blake is thrilled to be starting his second year with the Weber State University Department of Performing Arts. Previously, he was an adjunct professor/part-time lecturer at Utah Valley University, University of Washington, and Western Washington University.

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We are so lucky here in Ogden. We have an active and strong creative community that makes this place very special – a hub of artistic energy that all can enjoy. We are thrilled that the Mayor’s Awards in the Arts program exists to shine the light of recognition on our local creatives and arts-based organizations.

Over time, this place will grow and change. Soon, the creativity in this community will rival that of ancient Italy. And in another 20 years, art lovers and historians will visit our mountainside town in awe. Until then, the Ogden Community looks forward to more poems, paintings, performances, designs, lessons, stories, concerts, installations, and celebrations.

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