Recipients of state arts awards to be honored

Lorraine Photography/Courtesy photo

Lorraine Photography/Courtesy photo

As community arts programs get slashed in government budgets nationwide, five individuals and two organizations will be honored at the event for their contributions to the arts in Nevada.

The 31st Annual Governor's Arts Awards reception and ceremony will take place Wednesday at the Brewery Arts Center in Carson City. The reception begins at 5 p.m. followed by the awards ceremony at 6:15 p.m. Gov. Brian Sandoval is scheduled to attend.

Tickets are $30 for the reception and awards ceremony. Online registration is available at

Among those being honored are Carson City's Sue Kitts Jesch, for her work with Strings in the Schools, and the Nevada State Museum in Carson City for its leadership in the arts.

Sue Kitts Jesch - Leadership in Arts Education

"Jesch has created an ongoing musical legacy that will contribute to the regions' quality of life for generations to come," says the press release announcing the Governor's Arts Awards.

According to Jesch, the Strings in the Schools program is about working together as a community to find creative ways to make education the best it can possibly be. Strings in the Schools, in its sixth year, is a partnership between the Carson City Symphony and the Carson City School District that began with a grant from the Nevada Arts Council.

When the program started, "I hoped to get 20 kids to sign up, and thought that would be great. Eighty did," Jesch said. "The program didn't grow, it exploded. It shows a real need and desire for the arts in the schools."

Strings in the Schools provides instruction on stringed instruments for little or no cost. It started in both middles schools. Jesch is now making plans to expand it to the high school.

"Kids don't have to pay to have band lessons in public school. We didn't want students to have to pay to have string lessons," said Jesch, who has 37 years experience teaching strings, first in Minnesota and Oklahoma before coming to Carson City. She works in the schools five days a week, besides giving lessons at her private studio.

Janelle Zahtila, a retired string teacher for the lower strings - bass and cello - gives focused instruction once a week to students learning those instruments.

"This community is amazing," Jesch said referring to the many people who volunteer with Strings in Schools as mentors, drivers, and donating both money and instruments, "anything I need help with."

Through Strings in Schools and the Nevada Arts Council award, Jesch hopes more "people will see how vital arts education is to improving education in school."

The students work hard and take pride in a job well done, which is carried on to their other classes, she said.

"At a time when the arts is threatened with cuts across the board, we have to get creative. The symphony partnering with schools is part of that," she said.

"The Strings in Schools program is a great story about partnerships."

Nevada State Museum - Leadership in the Arts (Organizations)

"Visitors (to the Nevada State Museum) come to expand their knowledge of Nevada history, Native American culture, plants and animals, or geology, but leave the museum awed and inspired by the breadth, grace, and elegance of their artistic experience," says the announcement of the Governor's Arts Award.

That's a tribute to the extensive remodeling and refocusing the museum has recently undergone, plus a dedicated staff, said Exhibit Manager Ray Geiser. "We were thrilled when we got it."

It's also a boost to the museum, which have also been hit hard with budget cuts.

"We struggled through all of that (construction) and had the grand opening of the new concourse, then came the budget cuts," which included cutting days of operation, Geiser said.

The remodeling and restructuring created 5,000 square feet of changeable museum space, a direction in which most museums are moving, he said. With static exhibits, people come a couple times then never set foot in it again, feeling "I've been there, seen it, it never changes."

The new floor plan places the changing exhibit near the entrance so people can pop in on their lunch break to catch what's new, Geiser said. The changes also provide for programming space for such things as classes, lectures, workshops, and folk dancing that enhance the exhibits.

The new vision has stirred interest in the museum and it's activities. Recently, people had to be turned away from a packed lecture, Geiser said.

"If you look at the guest book, what people write, most of the customers are coming from out of state."

And there's more to come.

With the 150th anniversary of the museum fast approaching, the staff is planning a "blockbuster show," he said. "We've got a couple surprises that we're working on."

Additional Awards

• As a special honor this year, the Nevada Arts Council and Nevada Humanities will be presenting the Nevada Arts & Humanities Award for Public Service to former Senator William J. Raggio and former Speaker of the Assembly Joseph E. Dini, Jr. This award honors their leadership in ensuring access to arts and humanities programs for Nevadans throughout the state.

• Andrea Lenz, Reno - Excellence in the Arts

• Mary Warner, Las Vegas - Excellence in the Arts

• Tsurunokai Taiko, Reno - Excellence in Folk and Traditional Art

• Wally Cuchine, Eureka - Leadership in the Arts: Individuals

• The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation - Patronage in the Arts


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