Each year, ARTSConnect looks forward to highlighting some of the best and brightest that the arts in Topeka have to offer. Below, you can read more about each of the 2018 Arty Award Finalists, and we hope that you will join us in celebrating at the 2018 Arty Awards on October 27th from 7-11p at the Jayhawk Theatre.


Great Spaces Art & Music Series
Great Spaces Art & Music Series presents local, regional, national and international musicians performing high-quality, professional concerts in the unparalleled space at Grace Cathedral which provides both incredible acoustics and visual beauty.  Thanks to word of mouth literally around the world and the 15+ years of performances, the series has put Topeka and Grace Cathedral on the international performers’ map, resulting in increased access to world class performances in Topeka. The series fills a primarily classical performance music niche providing concerts not offered anywhere else in Topeka on a regular basis. Read more at www.GreatSpaces.org.

NOTO Arts and Entertainment District
The historic NOTO Arts and Entertainment District offers an eclectic mix of art galleries, antique shops, restaurants, and other retail combined with various trade and service businesses bookended by two thriving non-profit organizations that serve the area and larger community. Broadly defined, art is present throughout the district with murals, paintings, sculptures, music, performances, dance, poetry, storytelling, artifacts, and events and celebrations of all kinds. NOTO is a community of art and its nomination reflects the contributions of everyone in the community. Read more at www.explorenoto.org 

State Street Elementary Performing Arts Signature School
State Street Elementary is a PreK-5th grade elementary school proving daily that exposure to the arts can happen within the school walls. At State Street, students receive weekly performing arts lessons and can participate in Instrument Club. They also have the chance to audition and star in productions for various plays and musicals. Our scholars can try out for singers clubs and then entertain people all over Topeka. Lastly, students are offered the opportunity to take ballet thanks to our partners, Kansas Ballet Academy. Read more at https://www.topekapublicschools.net/state-street.


Alex Grecian
Topeka native Alex Grecian is the New York Times bestselling author of the “Scotland Yard Murder Squad” historical novels, including The Yard, The Black Country, The Devil’s Workshop, The Harvest Man, and Lost and Gone Forever. He co-created the long-running and critically acclaimed graphic novel series Proof, which NPR named one of the best books of the year, and the ten-part comic book series Rasputin. Both series have been optioned for TV/film development. He has also written an original e-book, The Blue Girl, and an original graphic novel, Seven Sons, as well as a multitude of other short stories and comics. His most recent novel, The Saint of Wolves and Butchers, is set in modern day Kansas. Grecian still resides in Topeka with his wife and son, as well as a dog and a tarantula. Read more at http://alexgrecian.com/.

Huascar E. Medina
Huascar is a poet, playwright and member of Topeka's Speak Easy Poetry Group and the Red Tail Collective of Lawrence. As Lit Section Editor for seveneightfive magazine, he writes to increase the visibility of literary artists throughout Kansas.  Huascar has worked tirelessly to build a special sense of community for Topeka - through his writing, through his support of local poetry events and through his immense talent, he makes our world a better place. Ad Astra Theatre Ensemble recently staged Huascar’s original play, Theodore’s Love, as a part of the 5th Annual Homegrown Playwright Project. Read more at https://www.seveneightfive.com/homegrown-love/.

Kevin Young
Kevin Young, a 1988 graduate of Topeka West High School, is the Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and Poetry Editor of the New Yorker. He is the author of thirteen books of poetry and prose, most recently Brown (2018); Blue Laws: Selected & Uncollected Poems 1995-2015 (Knopf, 2016), longlisted for the National Book Award; and Book of Hours (Knopf, 2014), a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize for Poetry from the Academy of American Poets. His collection Jelly Roll: a blues (Knopf, 2003) was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Read more at http://kevinyoungpoetry.com.


Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey – Topeka AileyCamp
Topeka has a very special relationship with Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey (KCFAAA). This means that Topeka youth have the opportunity to participate in this world-renowned program which includes training in ballet, jazz and modern dance techniques and also offers unparalleled personal development opportunities. In addition to the participation by Topeka youth, KCFAA brings an annual performance by the Ailey Trio which is open to the public for no cost to attend. Across all of their programs, KCFAA serves a three-part role as an educator, presenter, and unifier.  KCFAA believes in making dance accessible to all, teaches young people critical life skills through dance and models interracial and multi-cultural community partnerships. Read more at www.kcfaa.org.

Elder Steven Massey
Elder Steven Massey is the Founder/Director of It Takes A Village, Inc. ITAV is a nonprofit afterschool performing arts youth center. Massey also serves as the Artistic Director/Producer of The Chocolate Nutcracker Midwest, Say What Say Wiz and The Chocolate Nutcracker Kansas City 2018.  He has been involved in performing arts since the age of 6 and will be turning 55 in January of 2019.  It Takes A Village, Inc has been providing performing arts services since 2012. Through this program, more Topeka youth learn about the performing arts and develop the leadership skills and other lessons that benefit all facets of their lives. He is a devoted teacher and mentor who works tirelessly to help our youth reach their full potential. Read more at www.itav4arts.com.

Tyson Williams
Passion, enthusiasm and creativity are the bedrock of Tyson Williams’ very existence. An accomplished pianist, composer and businessman, his dream to create, write, produce, compose all the music for, direct and act in his stage play productions has rocket-launched with his unforgettable shows: ‘The Misfits’ Christmas’ and ‘The Misfits’ Revenge’ – an anthology filled with family, comedy and mesmerizing twists. Relocating to Topeka, Kansas in 2015 to run his family’s funeral home, Peaceful Rest Funeral Chapel, this young visionary has immersed himself in the community to contribute his talents, gifts and benevolence by serving on many boards and organizations. As he endeavors to create film and television soon, Tyson is most excited about his upcoming productions – the third installment of The Misfits and his once-in-a-lifetime commission to create, write and produce the Brown v. Board of Education story, both on stage in the spring of 2019. Read more at www.TheMisfitsRevenge.com. 



Jennifer Bohlander
Jennifer has been tattooing for more than 25 years and painting for her entire life. Her staunch support of NOTO as an artist, business leader and muralist have been a highlight for patrons all across the region. She has spent much of 2018 painting beautiful murals all over the NOTO Arts and Entertainment District. Before becoming a tattoo artist, she was a Russian linguist in the U.S. Army. Studying the Russian language and culture has given her a unique appreciation of different world perspectives and approaches to art. Read more at www.nototattoo.com.

Michael Bradley
Raised in Wichita, Michael attended KU and graduated with degrees in Economics and Communications and a certificate to teach elementary school.  As a student housing assistant, Michael helped to develop the Hashinger 'Art' Residence Hall and was hooked by the ceramics studio there.  After a six-year stint teaching elementary school in Sydney, Australia, he returned to KU to pursue an undergraduate degree in ceramics.  Michael was the first full time Kansas Arts Commission Artist in Residence and subsequently the first full time Education Director at the Lawrence Arts Center during the 80's.  After serving as the Program Director at Kaw Valley Arts in KCK, and as the AIDS epidemic grew, Michael switched career paths to human services and became Director of the support program for HIV+ women, children and men at the KCK YWCA.  Michael returned to KU one last time to complete a Master’s of Social Work and finished his career working with mentally ill and behaviorally disordered juveniles at The Villages.

Approaching retirement, Michael - along with Edie, Don and Zach Snethen - bought an abandoned building in NOTO and started preparing for a return to the pursuit of art by taking classes in what he terms the Washburn 'Keep the Old People Off the Streets' program which welcomes over 60 auditors. Michael took classes in ceramics from Monette Mark in ceramics and Michael Hager in printmaking to dust off skills and rented the back room at Studio 831 which he shares with his partner of nearly 30 years, Hi Stockwell, an oil painter.  Michael continues to work on the old building which is the home of NOTO ArtsPlace and is the Chair of the Committee for the Kansas Artist Craftsmen Association Conference which is being held in NOTO November 16 & 17. In retirement, making art and supporting artists is Michael's full time passion! Read more at http://www.notoartsplace.com/.

V. (Vidhi) Shah
For V, henna is a way to connect with other humans in sharing something unique and personal – that speaks to her sense of self-identity, culture and traditions. She shares her art during many art events all across the city and her work represents her passion, entrepreneurial vision and willingness to share her spirit and talent with others. Read more at www.essentialhennabyv.com.


Amused Gallery – 907 N Kansas Avenue
Amused is a collection of working studios, an art gallery, a winery & a gift shop. We feature local and regional artist, art installations, special events, local craftspeople and unique gifts. The following studios are part of the Amused family: Pirate's Walk Art, Pandamonium Arts, Foole's Dream Studio, D. Morrison Art, Sunflower Girl's Photography Studio and Prairie Fire Winery. Read more at www.imsoamused.com.

Creations of Hope Gallery – 727 S Kansas Avenue
The Creations of Hope Gallery is a partnership of artists from across the community, from emerging artists to professional, dedicated to the mission of mental health awareness.  Through exhibits and events we celebrate the power of the arts as a force for healing and hope.  The gallery is sponsored by the Expressive Therapies program at Valeo Behavioral Health Care. Read more at www.facebook.com/creationsofhopeart.

Leaping Llamas – 725 S Kansas Avenue
Leaping Llamas offers a variety of avenues for everyone to engage in art. From purchasing one-of-a-kind pieces created by Kansas-connected artists to taking classes as they discover the artisan from within, people of all ages and skill level can take a piece of art home with them. Read more at www.leapingllamas.com.