Award Brings National Attention to Richmond Arts

Richmonder John Bryan, president of CultureWorks, has been selected by Americans for the Arts as the 2012 recipient of the Selina Roberts Ottum Award – an honor that “recognizes outstanding contributions in the local arts agency field and honors individuals who have made a meaningful contribution to their local communities.” The award presentation, along with a national press release, will take place June 7-10 in San Antonio at Americans for the Arts’ 2012 Convention. Bryan is the first Virginia recipient of this national award that was established in 1991 and is presented annually.

“This award,” said Bryan, “is certainly a confirmation of the Richmond Region Cultural Action Plan and of the leadership of Bill Martin, Director of the Valentine Richmond History Center, with the Plan’s Task Force. That whole process has produced important results that have benefitted the region: a get-things-done Plan, a cohesive and collaborative arts and culture community, an understanding by the business and government communities of the values of strong arts and culture, and of course the formation of CultureWorks.”

"John has been a transformational leader in the Richmond arts community since he became head of CultureWorks,” said Peggy Baggett, longtime Executive Director of the Virginia Commission for the Arts. “He is constantly building new collaborations among artists and arts organizations and finding new ways, such as Cultsha Xpo, to promote the arts to a wider audience. The Selina Robert Ottum Award recognizes the high quality of John's work on behalf of the arts but also brings national attention to the growth of the arts in Richmond."

Bryan moved to Richmond in 1981 to develop the fundraising program for VCU’s School of the Arts - a program he led for 23 years. Bryan has had a variety of involvements throughout the community, and his honors include the Richmond Jazz Society’s Virginia Jazz Award, the Richmond Public School System’s Outstanding Contributions Award, and the James River Association’s Guardian of the River Award. Bryan is also an exhibiting painter and a published writer of articles and books.

“John Bryan has continued to provide strong leadership for arts and culture in the Richmond region, and this award is one more confirmation of that fact,” said Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones. “My administration looks forward to our continued involvement with CultureWorks and to supporting efforts that further strengthen our arts and cultural community.”

In 2009 Bryan became the founding president of CultureWorks – the organization created to provide leadership and service for arts and culture in the Richmond region. CultureWorks has established a respected track record for its Grants Program, advocacy involvements, being a catalyst and convener, and a broad range of services for arts and culture organizations, the business community, government entities, and others. CultureWorks created and coordinates the annual Cultsha Xpo – a signature event that showcases the region’s arts and culture organizations. The 2012 Cultsha Xpo will take place on June 23 from 10am until 5pm at The Science Museum of Virginia.

Americans for the Arts, founded in 1960, is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education, and plays significant roles shaping national policy, conducting research, providing professional development, and generating recognition and visibility. From offices in Washington, DC and New York City, the organization provides a rich array of programs that benefit over 150,000 members and stakeholders.

Selina Roberts Ottum had significant roles with the arts including as deputy chair of the National Endowment for the Arts and president of the National Assembly of Local Arts Agencies. According to Americans for the Arts, “Selina’s leadership skills were accompanied by her straightforwardness, humor, honesty, caring, and ability to bring people together. Her work was always important to her, but making the community a better place to live was most essential. To encourage these qualities in those working in the arts, an endowment fund was established to create an annual award in her honor.”

“John is the epitome of a servant leader,” said Brooks M. Smith, Partner at Hunton & Williams and chair of the CultureWorks board of directors. “He is constantly thinking of creative, thoughtful, and lasting ways to shine a light on our region's vibrant arts and culture community. This award is a wonderful reflection of John's efforts, which are felt far and wide.”

Comments from Richmond leaders:

“There is no greater advocate for the Richmond cultural community than John Bryan. His leadership in the implementation of the Richmond Region Cultural Action Plan has significantly elevated the region’s understanding of the importance and diversity of its museums and galleries, historic sites, theaters, and performing and visual artists. With CultureWorks and John Bryan, Richmond has a clear voice for the creative life of Richmond.”
- Bill Martin, Executive Director, Valentine Richmond History Center

“Since coming to Richmond four years ago, I’ve been incredibly impressed with the work of CultureWorks and the organization’s ability to drive collaboration among groups that normally don’t play well together. The driving force behind their success is John Bryan. John has a quiet, confident and determined manner that results in the people around him working together for the common good. He just doesn’t take no for an answer. John is a true asset to our community and deserving of this recognition.”
- Kim Scheeler, President & CEO, Greater Richmond Chamber

“John Bryan’s leadership and commitment to building a strong arts and culture community has been vital to this region. He is an innovator, strategic thinker, and a relationship builder. His approach mixes all the tools needed to bring together a wide array of interests. We are super proud of and happy for him. Definitely well deserving.”
- Tyrone Nelson, Pastor, Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church, and Member, Henrico County Board of Supervisors

“This award is richly deserved. John Bryan’s leadership of CultureWorks has established this new arts agency as the voice of the region’s cultural sector. The 2009 Richmond Region Cultural Action Plan called for a body capable of implementing the plan to be created: CultureWorks has become exactly what was proposed. John’s approach, and that of CultureWorks, has been to learn, to listen and to lead - quietly but firmly - providing greater support for individual artists and for small/medium-size organizations, and encouraging collaboration, sustainability and innovation across the cultural sector as a whole.”
- David J.L. Fisk, Executive Director, Richmond Symphony

“John has been a leader in the Richmond arts community for three decades. As the founding president of CultureWorks, he has worked successfully to bring collaboration among arts and cultural organizations, to the benefit of the entire Richmond community. “
- Marjorie N. Grier, Director, Corporate Philanthropy, and Vice President – The Dominion Foundation

“John's leadership in our larger community and his dedication to CultureWorks' leadership, culture of collaborative conversation, and capacity for supporting regional arts organizations has had a tremendous impact on the greater Richmond arts community. Our own small theatre, Sycamore Rouge, located in Petersburg, VA, has benefited from CultureWorks’ training and cultivation sessions, grants, and the now-annual Cultsha Xpo. John has personally taken the time to provide Sycamore Rouge staff with guidance, insight, and resource-based opportunities. John's impact on our cultural community simply cannot be measured; it is a genuine pleasure to see Americans for the Arts honor him with the Selina Roberts Ottum Award.”
- kb saine, Producing Artistic Director, Sycamore Rouge

“The arts are exploding in the Richmond Region…and we all know explosions can be chaotic without inspired management. John Bryan’s expertise, knowledge and passion have unified, enhanced and promoted the arts in our area. He is a visionary leader with the ability to bring many different groups together for the betterment of all. This award bears the name of someone dedicated to making her community a better place to life…and John does exactly that. Thanks to his efforts, the arts are a vibrant, organized, energetic community serving the Richmond Region. We have all learned and grown from his efforts.”
- K Alferio, President, The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen

“I’ve known John throughout my tenure at The Community Foundation and have a first-hand awareness of his service to arts and culture. John’s leadership is predicated on his belief that the creative arts have the potential to transform individuals and communities. CultureWorks demonstrates the value of a strong local arts and cultural community and this sector’s important contributions to the vibrancy of our region.”
- Darcy S. Oman, President & CEO, The Community Foundation Serving Richmond & Central Virginia


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