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Distinction In The Arts Awards

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The Distinction in the Arts award is presented annually to an Artist, Organization or Individual who has provided enduring and effective cultural leadership, displayed exceptional artistic accomplishments and/or have made a significant contribution and impact to the San Antonio’s arts community. The inaugural celebration was held on November 17, 2015, and the second annual celebration was hosted on October 11, 2016. The 2017 celebration took place on October 17 at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.

Artists, Organizations and Individuals are nominated, reviewed and selected by the Distinction in the Arts Committee and the San Antonio Arts Commission based on the following criteria: Nominee has enhanced the cultural environment of San Antonio and will be long remembered as an artistic pioneer of the arts community, has advanced an innovative arts strategy that directly improves the cultural environment of San Antonio, or has made a significant contribution to the cultural landscape and development of San Antonio.

2017 News Release

DIA Award Honorees

Visual Art

Jesse Trevino

Jesse Trevino, Visual Art

  • Known for his large scale photo realistic murals
  • Trevino moved to San Antonio in 1948 and received his BA from Our Lady of the Lake University,
  • Later received his MFA from the University of Texas San Antonio.
  • In 1987 he was honored with the National Hispanic Heritage award as Artist of the year, and
  • The Bexar County Hidalgo Award in 2014.

Literary Arts

Dr. Thomas Ybarra Frausto

Dr. Thomas Ybarra-Frausto, Literary Arts

Tomas Ybarra-Frausto, Ph.D. is an independent scholar of Latin American and U.S. Latino arts culture. He was formally the associate director of creativity and culture at the Rockefeller Foundation.

Prior to joining the Rockefeller Foundation, Dr. Ybarra-Frausto was a tenured professor at Stanford University in the department of Spanish and Portuguese. He also taught UC San Diego, Tulane University, and the University of Washington. He served as chair of the Mexican Museum in San Francisco and the Smithsonian council, and has written and published extensively on Latin America and U.S. Latino arts and culture.

In 1998, Dr. Ybarra-Frausto was awarded the Henry Medal by the Smithsonian institution, and in 2007, the Mexican government bestowed “The Order of the Aztec Eagle” medal o him citing his life work in fostering cultural understanding between the United States and Mexico. In 2010, the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture awarded Dr. Ybarra-Frausto a lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the fields of Latino Arts and culture.



Jim Cullum

Jim Cullum, Music

  • An American jazz coronetist noted for his contributions to the Dixieland jazz tradition.
  • He has led the Jim Cullum Jazz Band and established the San Antonio jazz club, "The Landing," in 1963.
  • Traveled around the world including Mexico and Russia
  • Broadcast performances from the club on the Public Radio International series called Riverwalk Jazz since 1989.
  • He’s hosted numerous jazz legends at The Landing.
  • In addition to regular performances at "The Landing," Cullum has performed at venues like Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, and Austin City Limits.

Supporting Organization

Aaronetta Hamilton Pierce

Aaronetta Hamilton Pierce, Supporting Organization

  • A distinguished civil leader and tireless volunteer
  • Over forty years as an advocate for art and cultural achievements of African Americans and for a myriad of social, cultural, and political affairs.
  • She has served on numerous boards including the San Antonio Museum of Art, the San Antonio Performing Arts Association, the Witte Museum, the Las Casas Foundation, United Way of San Antonio, Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and the Development Board of the University of Texas at San Antonio.
  • One of her greatest honors is serving as Inaugural Chair of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission in 1986.
  • She also chaired the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Committee on the role of city government in the arts which resulted in the creation of the Department of Arts and Culture.
  • Ms. Pierce was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall Of Fame (1984), Texas Women's Hall of Fame (1994).
  • She has been recipient of the Girl Scout Trefoil Award (1995), the United Communities of San Antonio's Humanitarian Award (2007), and the NAACP Community Service Award (2010)

Arts Administrator

Maria López De León

Maria López De León, Arts Administrator

  • Executive Director and board member of the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC).
  • In January 2013, President Obama appointed Ms. De León to serve on the National Council on the Arts. In 2012 and 2013
  • Ms. De León was named among the nation’s Fifty Most Powerful and Influential People in the Nonprofit Arts.
  • Ms. De León is a cultural organizer and practitioner dedicated to strengthening communities through the arts and has multiple years of experience working with Latino artists and arts organizations.
  • She serves on multiple arts and culture policy panels and is a noted speaker and advocate for the arts, cultural equity and social and economic justice.
  • Ms. De León serves on the board of the First People’s Fund and is an advisory council member of San Anto Cultural Arts and Women of Color in the Arts.
  • She studied Journalism at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Visual Art

Vincent Valdez

Vincent Valdez, Visual Art

American, born 1977

Vincent Valdez was born in San Antonio, TX. He received a full scholarship to The Rhode Island School of Design and completed a BFA in 2000.

Valdez' life and career has focused on the practice of drawing and painting. Recognized for his intensive devotion to skill and detail, his monumental portrayal of the contemporary figure remarks on a universal struggle within various sociiopolitical arenas and eras.

Exhibitions & Collections include venues such as : The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, The Ford Foundation, The Blanton Museum of Art, The Snite Musuem of Art at Notre Dame, Artpace, The Parsons School of Design, Paris, France, OSDE Buenos Aires, among others.

Valdez is a recipient of The Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant for Painters and Sculptors, The Skowhegan School of Painting ’05 and the Kunstlerhaus Bethania Berlin Residency ‘14.

Literary Arts

Naomi Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye, Literary Arts

Naomi Shihab Nye is an award-winning Palestinian-American poet, writer, anthologist and educator who describes herself as a “wandering poet.” She grew up in St. Louis, Jerusalem and San Antonio.

Nye is the author and/or editor of more than 30 volumes, and her books of poetry include: "19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East," "Fuel," and "You & Yours."


Flaco Jiménez

Flaco Jiménez , Music

Flaco Jiménez began performing at the age of seven, with his father, Santiago Jiménez Sr, who was a pioneer of conjunto music and began recording at age fifteen as a member of Los Caminantes. He played in the San Antonio area for several years and then began working with Doug Sahm in the 1960s. Sahm, better known as the founding member of the Sir Douglas Quintet, played with Jiménez for some time.

Flaco then went on to New York City and worked with Dr. John, David Lindley, Peter Rowan, Ry Cooder and Bob Dylan. He appeared on Cooder's world music album Chicken Skin Music and on the Rolling Stones' Voodoo Lounge. This led to greater awareness of his music outside America and, after touring Europe with Ry Cooder, he returned to tour in America with his own band, and on a joint bill with Peter Rowan. Jiménez, Peter Rowan and Wally Drogos were the original members of a band called the Free Mexican Airforce.

Jiménez won a Grammy award in 1986 for Ay Te Dejo en San Antonio, one of his father's songs. He was also a member of the Tejano fusion group Texas Tornados, with Augie Meyers, Doug Sahm and Freddy Fender. The Texas Tornados won a Grammy award in 1990, and Jiménez earned one on his own in 1996, when his album Flaco Jiménez won the Grammy Award for Best Mexican-American Performance.

In 1999, he earned another Grammy award for Best Tejano Performance for Said and Done (released by Barbed Wire Records) and one for Best Mexican-American Performance as a part of the supergroup Los Super Seven.In 2012 Jiménez received a National Heritage Fellowship awarded by the National Endowment of the Arts. In February 2015, Jiménez won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

He also won a Best Video award at the Tejano Music Awards and earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from Billboard Latin Magazine for "Streets of Bakersfield" with Dwight Yoakam and Buck Owens. Jiménez's 2014 CD, Flaco & Max: Legends & Legacies, was issued by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. In 2015, "Legends & Legacies" won Flaco Jiménez and Max Baca an award in the Latin Album category at the 14th Annual Independent Music Awards.

Supporting Organization


H-E-B, Supporting Organization

H-E-B, with sales of more than $22 billion, is one of the largest privately held companies in the United States and the largest private employer in Texas. H-E-B has been a leading corporation donating to and participating in the arts in the communities it serves.

In 2011, H-E-B received the distinguished Texas Medal of Arts Award in recognition for its vast contributions to the arts across Texas. In San Antonio, the corporation is known for its commitment to creating accessibility to the arts by sponsoring free access for families to museums in the city. Not only is H-E-B a place where Texans shop, it is a place to view public art and art created by local artists such as Alex Rubio, Vincent Valdez and the most recent announcement of H-E-B acquiring art by the late Chuck Ramirez.

The H-E-B Performance Hall in the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts is a recent example of the company’s long-term commitment to the performing arts, along with its long-standing support of the resident organizations including the San Antonio Symphony, Ballet and Opera.


Teresa Champion

Teresa Champion, Dance

Teresa Champion is a world renowned dancer who has had a lasting impact in the art world as an award-winning performer, teacher and advocate of the arts.

Champion, along with her husband William, are the founders of Flamenco in San Antonio. A native of San Antonio, Champion has danced for presidents, royalty, and alongside Mexican artists including Lucha Villa, Pedro Almendáriz, Lola Beltran, Mario Moreno (Cantinflas), and many others.


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Friday, October 20, 2017