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AMOCAT Arts Awards

The AMOCAT Arts Awards recognize people and organizations who positively impact the community with their passion, innovation, and commitment to the arts.

Instead of selecting only three award winners, the 2021 AMOCAT Arts Awards honor our collective community for the work we have done, in big and small ways, to buoy spirits and bring us together these past two years.

We acknowledge how difficult the past two years have been and we look to you, our community, to tell us who and what has made a difference in our community through the arts. Who inspired you with their creativity? Who kept you going through it all? Where did wonder and care show up in your neighborhood?

No creative contribution is too small. Think next-door, think down the street, think Tacoma! Consider the folx who made sidewalk chalk art, sewed masks, painted murals, set up displays in windows and yards, provided virtual arts experiences, and more.


Honor your community and share!

To submit your honoree, provide a name, short description, and photo or video, if possible, and share it with us anytime October 1 – 31 through one of these methods:

Image above: Saiyare Refaei painting a mural as part of their 2020 Tacoma Arts Month community engagement project. Image courtesy of Saiyare Refaei.
Banner image: Youth participant in Springtide Press’ 2020 Tacoma Arts Month community engagement project, ‘You’ll Heal Tacoma’. Image courtesy of Jessica Spring.

2021 AMOCAT Arts Award honorees include:


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Literary Community

My nomination for the AMOCAT Arts Award for 2021 is the small but mighty literary community in Tacoma that delivered amazing online community content during the pandemic. Through well designed & delivered Zoom content, these organizations made the isolation of the times melt away as they gathered like-minded individuals to participate in enriching events! Organizations that I am aware of (I am sure there are more I am missing) include: Creative Colloquy – Jackie Casella, Blue Cactus Press – Christina Vega, Write253 – Michael Haeflinger. Thank you! – Burl

Chris Serface, Dylan Twiner, Stepanie Kroeschel

Hi My name is Joe Fuller. I would like to honor, Chris Serface, Dylan Twiner, Stepanie Kroeschel at the Tacoma Little Theater. This is why.
The Tacoma Little Theater has something called ” Off the Shelf” where playwrights submit there plays and if picked the theater will perform a reading of the play for you. They picked my play which is called Autonomous which is a Musical drug and alcohol intervention I wrote twenty years ago. The director was Pauls Mac who had helped me with my play this year when he was living in New York but recently moved back to Washington. Pauls has worked with Chris and Stephanie before. I attended two rehearsals, the second rehearsal my wife came with as they casted her a role in the play. This is the first time since the pandemic we have been out in a crowd. We arrived a little early and sat in the lobby and watched Chris direct two actors practice a scene with singing going for a musical. It was so much fun. We went to rehearsal and my wife read her lines and went home. The play was performed 10/28/21 at TLT at 7:30 pm once again we arrived early and watched kids read there lines for a play they were practicing for. We need 11 actors for the play, at the beginning we had eight but Chris Stephanie, Dylan joined the cast and performed. Thirty brave souls came to the theater to watch the show as that night it was pouring rain, the audience were mostly family friends co-workers. The play turned out better than I expected. After the play ended, I was brought up on stage and got feedback from the audience and the Actors. Its was and exciting night. The Tacoma Little Theater the board of TLT and Tacoma Arts made my dream come true as I have been trying for twenty years to get my play produced. I am still on cloud nine. I wrote the play for one reason, to be made into a film and shown in treatment centers and jails. I want to thank the Tacoma Art community for getting me a step closer. Thanks

Kaylene Nelson

I would like to submit Kaylene Nelson for the AMOCAT Award. I remember the first news of the Covid pandemic hitting the media in January of 2020. Then the next week or two revealed that health care workers were desperate for simple face masks. Kaylene answered the call. Tacoma face mask brigade was born. I found Kaylene’s Facebook page “Homemade Masks For Medical Professionals” and jumped on to see how I could help. This one woman had just had a baby and was the nexus of sourcing materials to create a kit enough to make 10 masks. She was a whirlwind in action. What a big heart! Many groups reached out to her to get masks numbering 3,000 in no time. She solicited donations of materials and volunteers to cut the fabrics and create kits that could be handed out. I remember when it was almost impossible to find elastic! We were going everywhere to get it to put in the kits. I know that Kaylene personally funded many of the resources herself. Volunteers from Pierce and Thurston County called to help. I would go to Arts Supply on 6th and recruit women to sew masks for the collective. I had at least 10 working feverishly to sew enough to supply local hospital staff, medical clinics, etc. We had meeting spots all along the I-5 corridor. This group organized by Kaylene sewed thousands of masks and distributed them throughout Tacoma and Pierce County. Kaylene Nelson passed away very suddenly in December 2020 leaving her husband Nick and their daughter Audrey. She was only 31 yrs old. She was witty and funny with a strong heart for her Hilltop neighborhood. What an amazing woman. She was so strong and giving. I want to offer her in spirit for the kind of person who makes this sacrifice to help others in Tacoma. Sincerely, Diane Tilstra

For the Tacoma Arts 2021 AMOCAT Arts Awards I want to honor Tinkertopia. Over the past year-and-a-half, Tinkertopia has stretched themselves to operate as always but to also adjust to the moment. They have been creative and improvisational, and they are an important part of the vibrant downtown stretch by UWT and the museums. Tinkertopia is such a fun idea and shop, and they are a great part of what makes Tacoma unique (go spend some money there because businesses need to stay in business). @commander_rr and and

Lisa Fruichantie

I’d like to give a shout out to Lisa Fruichantie the executive director for Alma Mater.  The work she is doing is absolutely fantastic- she’s indigenizing spaces and making sure that BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other artists who have been historically excluded in our city now have ample opportunities to work and shine!  I love her and am so proud of her.  She is truly a gift to the artistic community in Tacoma. Kelly Lynch

Tacoma City Ballet (TCB)

Dear Committee,

I would like to nominate Tacoma City Ballet (TCB) for the AMOCAT Award for Community Outreach by an Organization. 66 years ago, Jan Collum founded a local ballet studio to teach children classical ballet. Over the years the school has grown, changed names, became a 501c3 organization, and is now run by Erin Ceragioli, the artistic director. Through these many years, never has Tacoma City Ballet lost sight of its mission; to provide classical ballet training to all who wish to study the art. Most from our community do not know the long tradition TCB has of inclusion; providing access to ballet training and performances to children from historically excluded groups. To date, TCB has given $1.5 MILLION in scholarships ensuring dance students from across Pierce County would be provided the opportunity to study classical ballet regardless of the dancer’s background or their family’s financial constraints. Additionally, TCB provides $5,000 in tickets annually to performances of The Nutcracker and other productions to schools and community organizations where classical ballet has not always been accessible.

In the seven years my daughter, Jillian, has been dancing with TCB, I have had the honor of serving backstage as hair, makeup, and costume assistant. I have gotten to know the teaching staff and the dancers well. In that time, Jillian has blossomed from an extremely hesitant and shy child to one who has found her love of performing and confidence in what she loves to do. She has ballet friends from all over the area, many she would not have met were it not for TCB. And, as a parent, I have been encouraged by not only the caliper of the dancers trained at TCB, but the caliper of young adults who graduate TCB and go out into the world. Classical ballet teaches more than feet and arm positions and French dance terms. The dancers learn about perseverance, commitment, focus, time management, and what it means to be part of something bigger than themselves. It is no surprise that historically more than 90% of TCB’s dancers go on to college where these same traits are needed to flourish and graduate.

The impact TCB has had and continues to have on dancers, families, and our community is immense.

I have included a few photos, the TCB Mission, and a video below. Should you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to me or any other TCB parent.

Kindest regards,

~Barbara Bartolatz


The link below is an example of the programming provided by TCB.


Barbara Bartolatz (she/her)

Gerardo Pena

Susanne Marten

Tacoma City Ballet


I would like to nominate Tacoma City Ballet for the category of Community Outreach by an Organization. For 66 years, Tacoma City Ballet has dutifully served the community of Tacoma and the South Sound by providing accessibility to the arts for all. Under the powerful and thoughtful leadership of Executive/Artistic Director, Miss Erin Ceragioli During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tacoma City Ballet provided a safe and supportive environment for young people to continue dancing. This critical need of social engagement, allowed hundreds of Tacoma students and families the opportunity to remain hopeful and optimistic for the uncertain year that was 2020.

Thank you for your consideration!

Aleecia Ramsey-Gonzalez

Phi Pottery

For the Tacoma Arts 2021 AMOCAT Arts Awards I want to honor Phi Pottery. Phi has been doing amazing work and grassroots fundraising for BIPOC and LGBTQ communities, and this work has largely ramped up during COVID. Phi Pottery offers reduced and free classes for BIPOC and LGBTQ students, and is making really strong and genuine efforts to reduce barriers. And they have raised thousands for organizations related to BIPOC and LGBTQ causes, largely with auctions of ceramics and pottery made by colleagues in the clay world. @phipottery and


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