Spotlight Award


Presented by the Santa Cruz County Arts Commission
Honoring Local Emerging Artists

2023 Spotlight Award Recipients

This year’s recipients include Kevin Painchaud (photojournalist), Heejin Lee (mixed-media artist), AugieWK (painter/muralist), Nikia Chaney (writer/poet), and Madeline Aliah (writer/poet).

Exhibition of 2023 Awardees Work

The work of 2023 awardees is featured at an exhibition on the 5th floor of the County Government Center now through October 20. A First Friday opening reception will be held August 4 from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. 

About the Award

Through the Spotlight Award, the County Arts Commission publicly recognizes individuals who have achieved a high level of excellence and creativity in their work, but who have not received widespread acknowledgment of their talent. This annual award recognizes younger artists as well as those who are discovering their artistic voice later in life. Judging criteria includes the effective use of media and tools to communicate their own personal style. The award is given to artists who work in the following mediums: visual art, performing arts, and literary arts.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Artist must be a current resident of Santa Cruz County.
  • Artist must have completed works that show a high degree of excellence, individuality, innovation, and/or creativity.
  • Artist must show significant artistic promise, as demonstrated in a significant achievement for at least one completed piece of artwork, performance, exhibit, or written work, recognized by critics, educators or professionals.
  • Artists working in any medium are eligible, including literary, visual, and performing arts.
  • Only residents of Santa Cruz County are eligible to make nominations.
  • Deadline for nomination letters: 2024 Nomination letter dates coming soon.
  • Send your nomination letter to:
Due to COVID-19, information on this page is subject to change.
Please check for updates.
Nomination Information
Only residents of Santa Cruz County are eligible to make nominations. Deadline for nomination letters: March 3, 2023. Send your nomination letter to: – Subject Line: Spotlight Award Nomination Your nomination letter of no more than two pages must include:
  • The name of the artist and their contact information, including: e-mail, website (if available), phone and local address
  • A brief description of your relationship to the artist, why you are nominating them for the award, and how they meet the criteria (how they stand out as an emerging artist).
Santa Cruz County Parks staff will notify the nominees and provide them with the application information. Nominees must return their materials by the required date to be considered (April 14, 2023). A new process will open each year. Materials will not be carried over into the next year, but artists previously considered may be nominated again in subsequent years.
Selection Process
The selection panel, composed of members of the Santa Cruz County Arts Commission, will review eligible applications. Awardees will be selected based on the nomination letter and the application materials provided by the artist using the following criteria:
  • Excellence in the body of work presented
  • Effective use of media and tools to communicate personal style
  • Innovation/creativity

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