Local Community Arts Award winners

By Alisha Siebers, VCAC Executive Director

Could there be something in the water of Scotts that creates arts enthusiasts? Two of our own Scotts residents have received 2022 Community Arts Awards from the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo. Sydney Bastos has won the Theodore C. Cooper Award for Distinguished Volunteer Service for her work with the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center, and John Speeter has received the prestigious Community Medal of Arts for his lifetime of building up support for traditional acoustic music in our region.

For us at the VCAC, it’s no surprise that Syd has won the volunteer of the year award. Syd, quite simply, is an arts dynamo for south county. She has been serving as board chair the past three years, putting in 1,600 hours in 2021 and on the way to the same in 2022. Hundreds of people have received support and encouragement from Syd.

Almost every program she creates or participates in is supportive — a writing competition that provides encouraging judges’ comments for kids; a nurturing kids camp that helps children try new things and gives artists a chance to learn to be teachers; a warm volunteering opportunity that teaches teens how to mentor younger children; a gallery space that encourages artists to keep creating. Anyone who works with Syd feels inspired, uplifted, and cared for. Her impact is that she helps us all feel that anything is possible if we work together.

John was nominated for the Community Medal of Arts for his life-time of leading music organizations, building partnerships, creating festivals and events, and volunteering his time and talents. An accomplished cartoonist and illustrator, John’s books “Looking Forward to Monday Morning and “How to Fish and do It Well” are distributed on a national basis.

Music and art have been his passion his whole life. He is one of the founding members of the Great Lakes Acoustic Music Organization (GLAMA); a founding performing member of the Schlitz Creek Bluegrass Band, the Somewhere in Time Band, The Sleepy Hollow String Band, Mudslide the Bluesman; and served as president for many years of the K’zoo Folklife Organization (KFO).

What was the starting point for this life as a performer? The Vicksburg Rotary Showboat! John had been playing alone, teaching himself long before online instructional videos by playing and replaying sections of vinyl records by the blues masters. Under the direction of Jim Shaw, John sang and played his banjo in the Showboat and lost his fear of performing in public. Thinking back over the years, John mused about why music is such a powerful medium: “Music is a language that cuts across cultural, religious, and political lines. It speaks to everyone.” Thank you, John, for sharing that language with so many audiences over so many years. Syd and John will receive their awards at the Community Art Awards Celebration on December 7 at 5:30 p.m. at the Gull Lake Center for the Fine Arts. The public is welcome at this free event, so come out to hear their acceptance speeches!

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