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Milwaukee Recreation honors young creatives and teaching artists at arts showcase

On Thursday, May 30, Milwaukee Recreation hosted its annual Partnership for the Arts & Humanities Showcase, an event dedicated to the various forms of artwork created by Milwaukee youth in programs funded by the Partnership for the Arts & Humanities program.

Jerri Dawson receives Outstanding Young Creative AwardMilwaukee Recreation ended the evening by recognizing the finalists for two awards: Outstanding Young Creative of the Year and Teaching Artist of the Year.

The nominees in each category were honored not only for their devotion to their work in the arts and humanities, but also for their continuous display of leadership, commitment, and discipline to their craft.

Outstanding Young Creative

  • Winner: Jerri Dawson, Running Rebels


  • Liliana Nunez, Art Start
  • Javi Ramirez, Milwaukee Visionaries Project
  • Viviana Ramirez Vazquez, UWM ArtsECO
  • Raichel West, Milwaukee Repertory Theater
  • Deontrenique Woodson, Black Arts MKE

Jerri Dawson, a member of the Running Rebels Community Organization since 2022, has been a passionate and dedicated contributor who uses her voice and art to uplift her community. She is well known for her remarkable leadership qualities and ability to encourage others to come out of their shell.

Her passion for spoken word started at a young age, and since then, she has continued to develop and reinvent her craft as a way of expressing herself. Dawson’s art encompasses the struggles historically and continuously faced by Black people, while also depicting her thoughts on the importance of female empowerment. 

Dawson’s extraordinary leadership skills shine through her participation in various leadership groups and intergenerational conversations. With her leadership, Dawson hopes to bridge the gaps between generations by finding similarities in their passions and their humanity. She has shown tremendous dedication to the Milwaukee community, and actively works to brainstorm how it could become a better place in the future.

Dawson, who performed spoken word pieces at both the 2023 and 2024 Partnership for the Arts & Humanities Showcase events, continues to strive for excellence as she moves onto her next chapter at UW-Milwaukee in the fall. Receiving recognition for the work she has put in thus far has only strengthened her passion and commitment to uplift voices in the community. 

“An award like this means a lot,” Dawson said. “It shows that people are paying attention.” She also stressed the value and importance of youth participation in the arts and humanities. “It gives them a voice when nobody is listening."

Teaching Artist of the Year

  • Winner: Dionna Hayden, ArtWorks for Milwaukee


  • Sejain Bastidas, Milwaukee Ballet
  • Kevin Christensen, Running Rebels
  • Kim Cosier, UWM PSOA: Milwaukee Visionaries Project
  • Camille Hunt, Black Arts MKE
  • John Kowalczyk, Artists Working in Education, Inc.
  • Stacey Pagac, Realize Your Dream with Kids From Wisconsin
  • Marco Romantini, ArtWorks for Milwaukee
  • Kristelle Ulrich, Doerfler Public School & Artists Working in Education, Inc.
  • Darryl Wedgeworth, TBEY Arts Center, Inc.

Dionna Hayden joined ArtWorks for Milwaukee in 2021, leading their graphic design and mental health advocacy internship. She has continuously served as a guiding force for Milwaukee youth ever since, helping them to discover their voice, passions, and life paths. 

Dionna Hayden receives Teaching Artist of the Year AwardHayden is an integral part of the internship program as she guides the success of the program and its participants. Past interns often describe Hayden as an “outstanding” and “wonderful” teacher, while also expressing their appreciation for the comfortable, attentive, and supportive environment she creates. 

Above all else, Hayden aims to show people just how important the arts and humanities are to the Milwaukee community. Her recognition as Teaching Artist of the Year solidifies her beliefs and spreads her message to a larger audience.

“This means so much to me because it points to the work that we're doing, the interns we’re employing, and brings attention to how the arts can merge with society in healthy ways that help to build it,” Hayden said. “This award is helping to direct the attention where I really want it to go.”

Hayden also emphasized the importance of community-wide involvement in the arts and humanities.

“Art is a therapy of sorts, but it's also a part of human nature that we sometimes forget about. It’s a part of everybody,” Hayden said. “So to remind people to go back to their childhood and be creative definitely helps us in more ways than one, in our bodies and our minds. Our mental health will thank us for it.”

Congratulations to all of our finalists and award recipients! Visit our Facebook page to see more photos from the 2023-24 Partnership for the Arts & Humanities Showcase (photo gallery one, two, three, and four).

© Milwaukee Public Schools 2022
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