Arts in the Community Awards 2020

in partnership with the League of Wisconsin Municipalities

Arts Wisconsin, Wisconsin’s statewide community cultural development organization, is pleased to present the twelfth annual Arts in the Community Award, in partnership with the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.  These awards honor civic leaders as champions and communities in Wisconsin focused on creativity as integral to economic, educational and community vitality.  The award was presented at the League’s 122nd annual conference on October 15, 2020.

Zach Vruwink, former Mayor of the City of Wisconsin Rapids, current interim administrator of the City of Rhinelander, and immediate past-president of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, is the recipient of the 2020 Arts in the Community Award.

“The Arts in the Community Awards celebrate visionary leadership in and committed advocacy for the arts in all corners of the state,” says Arts Wisconsin Board President Melinda Childs. “We all know that creativity is more essential than ever in this time of COVID.  We’re proud to partner with the League of Municipalities to present this important recognition, appreciative of the sponsors who make the awards possible, and glad to shine a spotlight on the great work happening around the state.” 

Throughout his career, Zach Vruwink has been focused on collaboration, building bridges, and sustainability towards a good quality of life for all starting at the community level. During his eight years as Mayor of Wisconsin Rapids, he convened, messaged and amplified the significance of a collaborative approach to promote the value of the arts and humanities and build capacity for the role of the arts as a vibrant community resource accessible for all.  Under his leadership, the city partnered with local and state organizations to build a roadmap for long-term, sustainable arts and cultural development, economic and workforce development at a city level, and community based cultural planning and engagement. 

As President of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities 2019-2020, Vruwink supported the League’s partnership with Arts Wisconsin in creative economy development and access.   “Under Zach’s leadership the League has highlighted the key role that arts play in every Wisconsin community,” says Jerry Deschane, Director of the League.  “Zach celebrates the arts, in his own city, and as an essential element in the success of all municipalities throughout Wisconsin.”

Join Arts Wisconsin in positioning the arts and creativity as an investment for a strong future throughout Wisconsin by making a year-end membership contribution.

Arts Wisconsin presented Vruwink with a poster highlighting a quote from the late UW-Madison professor and community arts leader Robert E. Gard:  “Let us put firmly and permanently aside as a cliche of an expired moment in time that art is a frill.  Let us accept the goodness of art where we are now, and expand its worth in the places where people live.”

About the presenting organizations:

  • Arts Wisconsin is Wisconsin’s community cultural development organization.  Arts Wisconsin works to ensure that everyone, everywhere in the state has the opportunity to in participate the arts, speaks up and advocates for, and advances the arts, creativity and culture throughout Wisconsin, and connects and serves the wide-ranging, diverse, creative people, organizations, businesses and communities making the arts come alive in every corner of the state.
  • The League of Wisconsin Municipalities is a nonprofit and nonpartisan association of cities and villages that acts as an information clearinghouse, lobbying organization, technical assistance provider, and legal resource throughout Wisconsin.   

Generous sponsor of the 2019 awards:

  • Heid Music,  a music education center and a full line music playground, in Appleton, Green Bay, Madison, Oshkosh and Stevens Point

Previous Arts in the Community honorees:

  • 2019:  the City of Waupaca and the Waupaca Arts and Culture Coalition for ongoing partnership on the city’s first-ever cultural plan, and Altoona Mayor Brendan Pratt
  • 2018:  Ken Juon, President, Board of Directors, Artstart, Rhinelander, and Ryan Heise, Village Administrator, Village of Egg Harbo
  • 2017:  Mark Elliott, Executive Director, Northwest Passage, Webster; and Stephanie Samarripa, Anti-Graffiti Program Coordinator, City of Milwaukee Department of Neighborhood Services
  • 2016:  Creative Downtown Appleton, led by Josh Dukelow, community activist, and Paula Vandehey, City of Appleton Public Works Director; and Alan Nugent, civic leader and a founder of the Widespot Performing Arts Center in Stockholm
  • 2015:  the City of West Bend, for long-term commitment to promote the visual and performing arts in West Bend; and the Waunakee Creative Economy Initiative, a village-led, ongoing effort to grow Waunakee’s creative economy.
  • 2014:  Circuit Court Judge Joseph Boles and Pierce County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, based in Ellsworth, WI, for using the arts to improve law enforcement training in de-escalating mental health crisis calls; and Reedsburg Mayor Dave Estes, Reedsburg City Administrator Ken Witt, and Reedsburg Chamber of Commerce Director Kristine Koenecke for support of Fermentation Fest – A Live Culture Convergence and the Farm/Art DTour. 
  • 2013:  Rice Lake Main Street Program, Rice Lake; and the Sheboygan Performing Arts Association, Shebo2012:  State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, River Falls; State Sen. Bob Jauch, Poplar; Marlene Doerr Kreilkamp, Founder/former Director, SHARP Literacy, Milwaukee; and Anastasia Shartin, Visual Arts Director, Phipps Center for the Arts, Hudson
  • 2011:  Bill Schierl, President, Arts Alliance of Portage County, Stevens Point; and former Mayor Jeff Scrima, Waukesha
  • 2010: Lois Smith, founder of “Walls of Wittenberg,” Wittenberg; Julia Taylor, President, Greater Milwaukee Committee, Milwaukee; the Green Bay Neighborhood Leadership Council’s Beautification Committee, Green Bay; and The Hometown Gazette newspaper, Clayton
  • 2009:  Carol Kratchowill, Vice President, Sauk County Art Association, Merrimac; and Former Menomonie Mayor Dennis Cropp and former Dunn County Board member B. Jane Hoyt, for the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts, Menomonie.

For more information on the Arts in the Community Awards, Wisconsin’s creative sector, and Arts Wisconsin, contact Anne Katz, Executive Director, 608 255 8316 |