About the 2017 Viola Awards

2017 Award Winners

2017 Nominees

2017 Event Photos & Videos

2017 Sponsors

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About the 2017 Viola Awards

2017 Viola Award Winners

The Viola Legacy Award goes to individuals for Lifetime Contribution to the Arts and Sciences in Flagstaff, Arizona. This year there were two recipients: Nando Schellen and Robert Breunig.

Nando (Fernandus) Schellen was the longtime Director of Opera Theater at Northern Arizona University where he directed countless musical productions and impacted the lives of thousands of students until his retirement in 2015. He passed away on March 28, 2016. Read more about Nando on his Legacy page.

Robert Breunig was the Director of the Museum of Northern Arizona, where he continues to work as President Emeritus and has held other positions going back to 1977. Dr. Breunig led the Museum through incredible growth and out of conflict and challenges he inherited when hired in 2003. Read more about Dr. Breunig on his Legacy page.

There were twenty-nine first-time nominees this year, including every nominee in the Excellence in Storytelling and Emerging Artist categories. Karen Knorowski gets her first nod for the Rainbow de Rio mosaic mural project in the Visual Arts category, and Judith Cloud is recognized for her original composition, Beethoven’s Slippers, in the Performing Arts category.

The nominee pool included a few former Viola Award winners, too. James Jay, a two-time Viola Award winner for Literature and Storytelling, is part of three nominations this year. He is nominated with Jesse Sensibar in Leadership, and Uptown Pubhouse, which he owns with his wife Aly, is nominated in Business for the Arts. Jay is also the co-Editor of Jim Simmerman’s nominated poetry book. Linda Sutera, former Viola Award winner for Excellence in the Performing Arts, is nominated for her electric turn as Violet in Theatrikos Theatre Company’s August: Osage County. Other former winners nominated this year include Shawn Skabelund, Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, and Joe Maniglia.

A record 186 nominations were sent in to the Arts Council from members of the community. Panels of former Viola winners, experts, educators and artists reviewed all nominations and selected the official nominees.

The awards were announced at the High Country Conference Center in Flagstaff, Arizona, venue for the Viola Awards since 2011. Emcee Garrison Garcia led the audience through the awards ceremony, which featured performances by Viola Award winners Dark Sky Aerial and Kristopher Kohl, and Viola Award nominees False North and the Mother Road Trio.

Award Facts and Information

  • This year’s Viola Awards artist was Steve Warburton. He crafted the awards with the spirit of reaching upwards, using local and exotic woods to symbolize unity in diversity (see photo at right).
  • Shawn Skabelund became just the sixth two-time recipient of a Viola Award. He won also in 2014 for his exhibition, Virga: The Hunt for Water.
  • Composition for Forests, the collaborative performance and visual art project by Shawn Skabelund and Janice ChenJu Chiang, is the first project to be nominated in two categories in the same year.
  • Most winners this year were first time nominees. Dark Sky Aerial, Elizabeth Hellstern, Sheila White, Melissa Cripps, Kristopher Kohl, David Christiana, and Janice ChenJu Chiang were all first time nominees.
  • Dark Sky Aerial’s OPIA received more nominations from the community than any other nominee this year.
  • Elizabeth Hellstern’s Telepoem Booth actually features several Viola Award winners, reading poems in the dial-a-poem booth: Tony Norris, James Jay, and Jane Armstrong.
  • This is the third time in Viola Award history that a Panel has awarded two Viola Awards in a category. The first time was in 2015 when both Tina Mion and Ulrike Arnold won in the Visual Arts. This year, both the Storytelling and Performing Arts categories had two winners.

Official 2017 Viola Award Winners

The 2017 Viola Legacy Award Recipients are:

The 2017 Viola Award Winners are:


Official 2017 Viola Award Nominees

To learn more about the Viola Awards, visit the Viola Awards section of our website.


2017 Viola Event Photos & Videos

Winner Photos
Gala Photos

Check out the 2017 Nominee Blooper Reel here >

Special thanks to Brian Cass of Echo Productions for his video production work. He is the producer behind all the nominee videos. Click here to view our YouTube channel to see all the videos in one place.

How Viola Award Winners are Selected

2017 Viola Award Sponsors

The Flagstaff Arts Council would like to salute the many sponsors who make the Viola Awards possible. Without their support, this amazing community program wouldn’t have become the wild success it is today. Your 2017 Viola Awards Sponsors are listed below. For information about becoming a sponsor of the Viola Awards, please contact Elizabeth Vogler by email or phone at (928) 779-2300 x109.

2017 Title Sponsor

2017 Premier Sponsor


2017 Major Sponsors



Findlay Toyota




Garrey, Woner, Hoffmaster & Peshek, P.C. » Andrew Peshek


2017 Table Sponsors

Aspen Loft Artists / Magella Champagne

12.12 Studios

Mountain Heart Health Services

The Gallery in Williams

Marshall Magnet Elementary School

Coconino County Manager & Board of Supervisors

City of Flagstaff

Babbitt Ford

The Arboretum at Flagstaff

Tom Alexander Photography

Flagstaff Shakespeare Festival

Melissa Cripps State Farm

Museum of Northern Arizona

ReMAX Peak Properties


KNAU Arizona Public Radio

Brandy’s Restaurant