Respect and Love Reverberate at 2012 Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Awards

At the end of September, artists and partners, friends and family gathered together at The Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts in the Twin Cities of Minnesota for the 2012 Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Awards. More than 350 people gathered to honor this year’s recipients—six culture bearers who have demonstrated outstanding work in their art, passion in their communities and a desire to pass on their tradition to others. 

This year, David Boxley (Tsimshian), Charlie Hill (Oneida), Duane Goodwin (Anishinaabe), Elizabeth Jaakola (Anishinaabe), G. Peter Jemison (Seneca), and Jackie Parsons (Blackfeet) were welcomed into the Community Spirit Awards family. 

Since that wonderful evening, First Peoples Fund has heard from artists and friends from across the country who traveled to the Twin Cities. Friends have shared what a special, unique event it was. How it moved people, awakened them… perhaps even taught a little something new too. Vickie Benson, arts program director at the McKnight Foundation, wrote after the event: 

“The Community Spirit Award Ceremony was meaningful and funny and warm and educational and incredibly wonderful. Respect and love were reverberating through The Cowles Center.” 

The momentum from the CSA has carried on since that September evening. Community Spirit Award honoree Peter Jemison says he has been experiencing great strides forward following the honoring. At the awards, in addition to receiving the honor, he donated and sold his painting “Snow Snake“ at the pre-show art auction. Now, he will be a featured artist at the “Changing Hands 3: Art Without Reservation” exhibit at the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester. This is a traveling exhibit that began at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. 

“All of my work is suddenly getting out there,” Jemison says. “With the Community Spirit Awards and now this exhibit, I couldn’t be happier. When you’ve been at it as long as I have been—since I was 20 years old—my career has been up and down. Art is long-term… it’s your life, and you go through periods when people are interested in your work, and other periods when people don’t get it. 

“I’m going through one of those periods,” he continues, “when it’s going well for me. I’ve felt extremely blessed, I want to share it with others.” 

“We are humbled by all who brought that collective spirit that surrounded us at The Cowles Center,” says Lori Pourier, president of First Peoples Fund, “and continue to generously extend those values—those feelings—in their art, in their work, and in their lives every day. I think we all saw that in the energy, spirit and humbleness of the exceptional performances onstage, and the new friendships formed offstage.” 

View photos from the Community Spirit Awards on Facebook at