Here Are the Winners of the 2023 Muncie Mayor’s Arts Awards

From Left: Mayor Ridenour, Aaron Nicholson, Leon Crosby, Kelsey Timmerman, J.R. Jamison, Carol Burt, Mary Arnette-Delaney, David Dale, Erin Williams (winners not pictured: Janice Shimizu, Rick and Jeanne Zeigler, Lil Jay Jay). Photo by Michelle Heimlich.From Left: Mayor Ridenour, Aaron Nicholson, Leon Crosby, Kelsey Timmerman, J.R. Jamison, Carol Burt, Mary Arnette-Delaney, David Dale, Erin Williams (winners not pictured: Janice Shimizu, Rick and Jeanne Zeigler, Lil Jay Jay). Photo by Michelle Heimlich.

By Erin Williams—

MUNCIE, IN—The Muncie Arts and Culture Council (MuncieArts), in conjunction with the City of Muncie, celebrated the 5th biennial Mayor’s Arts Awards on Saturday, September 30, at Southside Middle School, with receptions at Munsee Lanes.

If you missed the ceremony and want to catch the performances, it will be broadcast on Thursday, October 12, at 9 p.m. and on Sunday, October 15 at 12:00 p.m. on Ball State PBS. More information at

The Mayor’s Arts Awards are the most prestigious honors given by the city to individual artists, teachers, non-profit organizations, and patrons of the arts. The selection is made by the Awards Committee, a rotating cohort of members from Muncie’s arts, education, business, and public service sectors. The Mayor’s Arts Awards are presented in nine distinct categories: Arts Advocate, Arts Leader, Arts Educator, Corporate Arts, Artist in the Community, Next Generation Artist, Maker, and Lifetime Achievement. The winners of these categories were selected from a pool of 16 nominations made by community members. This year, a new People’s Choice Award was added to the award categories and was decided by the audience during the ceremony.

The ceremony, in front of an audience of more than 300 people, opened with two songs by Sound of South, the Southside Middle School Choir under the direction of Jaelyn Hence, with an appearance by dancers from Harmony Movement Studio. This wonderful performance was followed by addresses by Chuck Reynolds, Associate Superintendent of Muncie Community Schools, and Erin Williams, Executive Director of MuncieArts, who each addressed the importance of the arts and arts education in the community.

The program continued with a performance by the Muncie Youth Symphony Orchestra, followed by an address from Mayor Dan Ridenour, who spoke about his experiences with the arts in Muncie.

Other performances during the ceremony included a preview of the Addams Family, the newest musical planned for Muncie Civic Theatre’s fall season; a stellar musical performance by fifth grade student, Lil’ Jay Jay (Javonta Brown), and a beautiful vocal performance by the Muncie Community Schools Minority Educators Council Choral Ensemble.

Emcees for the evening were Laura Williamson, Executive Director of Muncie Civic Theatre, and Michelle Kinsey of the Office of Community Engagement at Ball State University, who tried to keep the ceremony moving along despite interruptions by Carmen Clown (the current PlySpace artist-in-residence and professional theatrical clown).

L-R: Emcees Laura Williamson and Michelle Kinsey.

L-R: Emcees Laura Williamson and Michelle Kinsey. Photo by Michelle Heimlich.

The highlight of the evening, of course, was the announcement of the award recipients by Megan Quirk, President of MuncieArts, with each award – created by local artist Carrie Wright – presented by Chuck Reynolds.

The Award Recipients for 2023:

Maker: Aaron Nicholson

Aaron has lived in Muncie for over a decade moving here from Indianapolis in 2012 when he and a business partner were engaged by the David Owsley Museum of Art to build metal  mounts for nearly every three-dimensional work of art now  displayed in the museum’s galleries for non-western art. Aaron’s art has accumulated all over Muncie, including private commissions where he conceives of custom designs based on general ideas brought to him by his clients. He then fabricates the design most often by himself, but he also enlists skilled helpers when a project is too big for one person to execute. In 2018 he participated in a major project to erect a statue of Muncie native Hurley Goodall in Fireman’s Park on the corner of Jackson and Madison. Aaron helped to raise awareness and money for the project by making reductions of the sculpture’s head and offering them for sale. For the past two years, Aaron has organized iron pours that the public can watch and participate in at Muncie’s Fire Up Downtown events.

Arts Educator: Carol Burt

Carol Burt is an artist who expresses her unique voice and personality in ceramic art. She has long been active in a collegial group of 1-2 dozen ceramic artists for more than 15 years under the tutelage of John Peterson. As a former graduate student at Ball State, she is active in the academic environment thinking of herself as a lifelong learner. For 20 years she has been a member of the BSU Ceramics Guild with current students under the tutelage of BSU ceramics professor Ted Neal. Her command of ceramic techniques has earned her recognition as an Indiana Artisan where she represents Muncie’s artistic vibrancy around the state. She had a long career as an art educator in Muncie Community Schools where she was the K-5 art teacher at East Washington Academy since 2009. Before that she was at Sutton Elementary. She is retired now. Carol helps cultivate greater visibility and understanding of arts by producing works of very high quality and by sharing her knowledge with her students and colleagues.

Next Generation Artist: Mary Arnette-Delaney

Mary Arnett-Delaney is a prolific local artist who has exhibited work throughout Muncie and the surrounding area. She is currently employed at Pengad Printing and Made In Muncie Pottery. Mary’s distinctly earnest and witty artistic voice enhances the vibrancy of Muncie’s creative community. She makes creative expression accessible to folks of all ages through her workshops and collaborations. In addition to her practice in traditional fine art media, Mary’s small works like zines, prints, and stickers can be held in your hands at just the moment you need them, shared with friends, and priced accessibly for anyone in our community. Mary has worked in partnership with MadJax and Muncie Public Library, and teaches workshops with local organizations such as Muncie OUTreach and Ball State University’s College of Fine Arts.

Arts Leader: Rick and Jeanne Zeigler

The Zeigler’s have been a creative force in Muncie for over a decade. Rick Zeigler stands out as an arts advocate for the Muncie community in both his passion for music and his dedication to neighborhood beautification through the Sherman and Marjorie Zeigler Foundation. Rick is responsible for instituting the Three Trails Music Series which brings Grammy winning musicians to Muncie. Jeanne is an artist and responsible for designing Muncie’s recent public sculpture installation called Kaleidoscope near the White River Lofts. They conceived and organized the resources to build the newly dedicated Muncie Memory Spiral in Heekin Park. From the outset of the project, the Zeiglers built a team of people who could refine the idea of the Memory Spiral and make it a truly collaborative venture.

Arts Advocate: Janice Shimizu

Janice Shimizu, AIA, is an Assistant Professor of Architecture and a partner at Shimizu + Coggeshall Architects. She is the co-coordinator of Muncie Makes Lab and was co-recipient of the Ball State University College of Architecture and Panning Academic Excellence grant through which the Muncie Makes lab was developed. Janice is a founding member of Exhibit Columbus and was an associate curator for the 2020-21 cycle, New Middles: From Main Street to Megalopolis, What Is The Future Of The Middle City? Through these opportunities, she explores the nature of design processes, the construction of architecture, and their ability to have consequence in the world. She has worked with numerous community partners, BSU students, Motivate Our Minds students, and community volunteers to generate content in the Muncie Makes Gallery, and to create a community garden and gathering space next to the historic Shaffer Chapel in the Whitely Neighborhood that merges play, learning, and food production activities.

Corporate Arts: The Facing Project

Founded in 2012 by Muncie residents J.R. Jamison and Kelsey Timmerman, The Facing Project is now a national nonprofit that has brought its unique model of citizen interviews to over 100 communities around the country. The techniques they use to help communities face difficult issues were first developed in Muncie with cooperation and shared resources of many of our arts institutions like Muncie Civic Theatre, Ball State University, and countless volunteers and project participants willing to share some of their most painful and difficult experiences. As the Facing Project has grown national in scope, their mission of encouraging empathy through listening became clear. “We bring people and communities together through acts of empathy that include listening, storytelling, and connecting across differences with the belief that stories are the most powerful tool for change.”

Artist in the Community: Leon Crosby

Leon Crosby has been working with Cornerstone Center for the Arts since the fall of 2014 teaching Creative Drawing, Anime, Youth Painting, Animal Drawing, Graffiti, and Calligraphy. He is known for having a unique ability to help each student on a personal level to create the art that is within them. Just a few of his accomplishments include a graffiti mural created with students at McCullough Park; participation in numerous community art shows such as Festival on the Green, Yart, Muncie Maker’s Market, and Cornerstone art show events; and a dedicated career serving students at various locations in the community. Leon has impressed artists statewide. Following a conference where he taught his expertise in urban graffiti art, Leon has been asked to visit other communities around the state to share his expertise. Leon’s method of teaching is humble. He is confident in his gifts, but he is more concerned about being a leader, mentor, and teacher to his students.

Lifetime Achievement: David Dale

David Dale is a beloved artist in Indiana and has lived and worked in Muncie for nearly his entire life. As an artist, he is perhaps best known for traveling the full length of the Wabash River, where he and his friend Jim Faulkner painted at least one painting in every county that the river flows through. The project took 14 years and produced 144 works of art, resulting in a major exhibition at the Indiana State Museum in 2006. It was later exhibited in Muncie at Minnetrista. Dale was also a successful interior designer and founded his design firm in 1969. He is largely responsible for making Muncie a community that can support an unusual number of career artists.  As an interior designer, he was committed to incorporating genuine local art as integral to the spaces he designed. His clients were not only hiring a designer, but also an art consultant who filled Muncie’s corporate interiors with the work of talented local painters, sculptors, and potters. His compassion and empathy inform his designs, especially interiors he has designed for hospitals. His design for the Cancer Center within IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital combines a warm familiar space with a fireplace and adds small natural wonders that include gently sparkling geodes and simple wooden plaques adorned with dried leaves. The result is both soothing and mildly wonderous.

People’s Choice Award: Javonta Brown

Lil Jay Jay was selected as the People’s Choice Award winner from a pool of seventeen nominees. The nominees for this award were nominated by the audience prior to the ceremony, and were voted on during the award ceremony.

Congratulations to all of the nominees and winners who were celebrated at this year’s ceremony.

The 2023 Mayor’s Arts Awards are made possible through support from the Muncie Arts and Culture Council and the City of Muncie; with Award Sponsors Pridemark Construction, Ball State PBS, Gordy Fine Arts and Framing, the City of Muncie, Ball State University College of Fine Arts, and the Muncie Visitors Bureau.

Muncie Arts would also like to thank all of the volunteers, committee members, individual sponsors, members, partnering institutions, and lovers of the arts who have made this program successful and have spurred excellence in the Muncie arts community.

Learn more about Muncie Arts & Culture Council at

Erin Williams is Executive Director, Muncie Arts & Culture Council and PlySpace Artist Residency