Fort Wayne & NE Indiana News

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Arts United Announces Award Recipients

Arts United announces the recipients of the 2016 Arts United Awards in celebration of the outstanding people and organizations who are making significant contributions to communities in northeast Indiana through arts and culture.

In 2016, Arts United received 16 nominations in four categories. During the celebration on January 19, 2017 in the Arts United Center, all nominees were recognized and recipients were announced. A full list of nominees can be found at

Arts United is pleased to recognize the following Arts United Awards recipients:

Outstanding Arts Advocate
Robert Nickerson, Ellsworth Smith and Bill Zabel (nominated by Embassy Theatre)
Two days before the Embassy Theatre’s demolition in 1928, a group of six men successfully put a stop to the destruction through their hard work, time and talent. Robert Goldstine, Dyne Pfeffenberger and Buddy Nolan have passed away, and Robert Nickerson, Ellsworth Smith and Bill Zabel remain actively involved and invested in the Embassy Theatre. These three engineers were integral in saving the Grand Pipe Organ and the Embassy Theatre, and they continue to share their knowledge, time and treasure to keep the Embassy as a beacon for arts and culture in northeast Indiana.

Outstanding Artist
Robert Nance (nominated by Stephanie Carlson)
Maestro Nance has demonstrated exceptional artistry and leadership in his twenty-seven year career as a performing artist in Fort Wayne. His vision and exceptional leadership has caused Heartland Sings to grow into a dynamic, nationally competitive vocal performing arts institution, providing the community with access to the vocal arts.

Outstanding Collaboration
Fort Wayne Children’s Choir (nominated by Heartland Sings)
As a part of the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir’s growth and education, they believe strongly that they should offer a variety of musical experiences to the singers, and a significant part of this comes from the opportunities presented through collaborations. Some of the many collaborations include performances with IPFW, Heartland Sings, Fort Wayne Ballet, Fort Wayne Youtheatre, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, FAME, area high schools and more. The Fort Wayne Children’s Choir students learn about music, history, culture, team building, giving back to the community and much more.

Outstanding Volunteer
Jeff Sebeika (nominated by Fort Wayne Philharmonic)
Jeff has been a loyal and constant volunteer to the arts community for many years. He is a contributor and supporter to countless youth and arts education programs, as well as providing expertise and leadership at the board and committee levels for many of Fort Wayne’s finest arts organizations.

Lifetime Achievement
Karen Gibbons-Brown
Karen Gibbons-Brown has dedicated her career to not only perfecting her craft, but also to sharing her expertise with others. Her early training and performing included ballet as well as modern jazz, tap and theater dance. She is known for her work in the classroom and enjoys teaching a variety of dance related subjects including ballet, pointe, repertoire, terminology, dance history and more. Her dancing and teaching has taken her everywhere throughout the United States as well as Italy and France. She assumed directorship of the Fort Wayne Ballet in 1998 and has been leading the organization to excellence ever since.

Lifetime Achievement
Betty Fishman
Betty has served Fort Wayne’s arts community for 50 years, since here days as an art instructor at the Fort Wayne Art School and in the East Noble School Corporation. Many of us know Betty through her leadership of Artlink from 1994 to 2005. Betty has been recognized with many awards including a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Arts from University of Saint Francis, the Theodore Thieme Award from the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, the Esther Ritz Collyer Award for lifetime achievement in arts education from Arts United, and most impressively, Betty was named a Sagamore of the Wabash in 1997, the Indiana Governor’s Award for highest achievement. Betty continues to be actively engaged in our arts community and frequently serves as a professional art appraiser.