Circle Of Excellence

Committee Calls For Public Nominations

Posted: March 7, 2014

Now in its second year, the Forbes Center Season Announcement will also include the naming of the Circle of Excellence in the Arts Award winner. (Photo by Photo Courtesy of the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts)
Last year, Stanley Swartz was named the Circle of Excellence in the Arts Award winner. (Photo by Photo Courtesy of the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts)

As the first designated Arts and Cultural District in Virginia, Harrisonburg — home to numerous galleries, theaters and museums — is known for its thriving arts community.

The Forbes Center for the Performing Arts, the Arts Council of the Valley, and the College of Visual and Performing Arts at James Madison University have teamed up to present an award that will honor an individual who contributes to that thriving culture.

The Circle of Excellence in the Arts Award was created in 2013 as a way to recognize and promote the arts scene and the individuals who help shape it.

The recipient, who is chosen by a committee, is revealed during the annual Forbes Center Season Announcement — an occasion that brings together many local artists and organizations.

“It’s a gathering place to celebrate how the arts are really impacting our community in a positive way,” Regan Byrne, executive director of the Forbes Center, said of the event.  

Ragan McManus, executive director of the Arts Council of the Valley, says promoting the diverse arts culture of the Friendly City is vital to the community.

“Part of the award is appreciating the arts,” McManus explained. “It’s also about recognizing the importance of the arts in an overarching capacity.”

McManus says that the artists and organizations represent a group of individuals who are “thinking outside of the box,” a lesson that’s beneficial to anyone — whether artist, teacher or business person.

However, McManus believes the arts community is not always recognized for its widespread influence.

“[This award] is a way of showing the value of the arts, which I don’t think is done enough,” McManus said.

“It’s a small way of recognizing the importance, and vitality, and fundamental qualities of the arts.”

 And The Winner Is
The recipient of the 2013 Circle of Excellence in the Arts Award was Stanley Swartz, theater director at Harrisonburg High School.

An introductory script that was given during the event last year says Swartz, who has now worked in the HHS theater department for almost 30 years, “has dedicated his life to arts education,” helping to shape the performing arts community.

Swartz first joined Harrisonburg High School as the theater director 28 years ago, and transformed the program, which had little support and a non-existent budget, into an award-winning department.

“He is someone who is really committed to the arts community,” McManus said. “We started throwing names together and his kept coming up in dialogue with anyone we talked to … whether we were talking about the award or not.”

“That’s when you know you have someone deserving.”

Byrne added that the choice was quickly unanimous.

“He is the perfect representation and absolutely everything we’re talking about; an educator and a community member who has touched the lives of thousands of students and their parents, and helped bring the community together by providing these performances,” she said.

Calling For Nominations
It’s this model of passion and dedication that the committee for the Circle of Excellence in the Arts Award hopes to recognize.

Although the first recipient was decided solely by the committee, the public is now being extended a voice. This year, the committee has opened a call for nominations from the community.

“We’re really hoping to encourage the public to help in this process,” Byrne said, adding that the committee wants the award to reflect the community, and for the people who work among these inspiring individuals to help in choosing the recipient.

All visual and performing artists, arts administrators and arts educators, who have impacted the arts in the Shenandoah Valley, are eligible for nomination.

Byrne says an ideal candidate is “an individual or organization that has a history of strengthening the culture of the community and are advocating for artistry at a very high level.”

“We’re looking for someone who really has a sustained contribution and has really improved the culture of the Valley; that’s the core,” she said.

McManus added that the award recognizes “someone who goes above and beyond the call of duty, who really shows a love for and advocacy of the arts.”

“We’re looking at their creative impact on the community, how are they giving back to the community with their craft,” she continued.

Nominees must reside in Virginia when nominated, and can not have previously received the award. Candidates may not be self-nominated.

The committee will choose the recipient, based on the public’s recommendations. The winner will be announced to the public at the 2014 Forbes Center Season Announcement to be held in June.

For more information regarding nominations, visit

All nominations must be received by 6 p.m. March 31.

Contact Sarah Stacy at 574-6292 or

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