The Viola Awards are Flagstaff's Oscars for the arts and sciences community. Celebrating excellence in the arts and sciences, the Viola Awards recognize artists, educators, organizations and leaders who make positive contributions to the arts and sciences in Flagstaff. Over 500 people attend the gala event to celebrate and support these amazing folks.
Nominations are sent to Flagstaff Cultural Partners by the community at large; anyone can nominate an artist, leader, organization, business or event for an award in one of eleven categories. From this pool of nominees, a Panel of 25 past Viola Award winners select six nominees in each category to be the Official Viola Award Nominees (see the full list of nominees from last year). The Panel then meets to determine the winner in each category.
The Viola Award winners are announced each year at the Viola Awards Gala Event. This year's event is on Saturday, March 2, 2013, at the High Country Conference Center in Flagstaff.
The Viola Awards are named after Viola Babbitt, a long time advocate of the arts and painter. Viola was born in the Arizona territory in 1894. She taught music and reading before settling into a big house on Leroux Street in Flagstaff. She raised six children with her husband, Joseph. In the 1950's, she started painting and later, established the Art Barn as Flagstaff's first community arts center. She lobbied Coconino County to build a better facility for a community arts center: the Coconino Center for the Arts. Viola died in 1994, just shortly after her 100th birthday.
Tony Sutera was not present to accept the Performing Arts Award, as he was in California reprising his role as Walter in Development. It's the same role he performed at Theatrikos that led to his nomination and win.
Clifford E. White, a family man known for his mischief, his passion and his loyalty and dedication as a teacher, laid the groundwork for the NAU theater department during almost a quarter century at the university. Dr. White died Dec. 26, 2008, at the age of 83.
Dr. White brought the performing arts to the NAU stage by creating the university's first speech and theater curriculum. He also was crucial in developing NAU's television programming.
"He was very, very passionate about education, teaching the arts and NAU," said Robert Yowell, professor of theater. "He had a tremendous impact on students and was a very significant originator in the areas of communication, speech, theater and broadcasting."
Dr. White began his tenure at NAU in 1968 after he moved to Flagstaff with his wife, Doris Harper White, and their children. He served as chair of NAU's speech and theater department from 1968-1974. He retired in 1992. He was known for establishing a curriculum for the speech and theater department, creating a master's degree for speech pathology and providing quality student teaching experiences.
Doris and Dr. White also were involved with Flagstaff's community theater, Theatrikos Theatre Company. "You don't think about Cliff without thinking about his wife, Doris," said Former NAU President, Eugene Hughes. "They were known as Mr. and Mrs. Flagstaff Theater."
Dr. White was well-known for his mentorship to students and stayed in touch with many of them. "A man like Cliff epitomized the university model of people serving people," Hughes said. "Cliff served them to his utmost."