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Ned and Debi Wyse were awarded the Artist of the year award in 2016: Courtesy|Debbie Wyse

Bringing Hillsdale County together through both com­munity encour­agement and involvement in the arts, Art­Works of Hillsdale is opening the nom­i­na­tions for the 2019 ‘Artist of the Year’ award to the public. Nom­i­na­tions can be made by any indi­vidual who rec­og­nizes a com­munity member’s advocacy or involvement in the local arts.

“In the past usually Art­Works board members nom­inate and vote on who receives the award,” Pres­ident of Art­works Connie Sexton said. “We are very excited about inviting the com­munity this year and hope they get excited about it, too.”

With this award, Art­Works rec­og­nizes a special indi­vidual or couple whose art influ­ences and impacts the Hillsdale County com­munity.

Art­Works seeks to rec­ognize those who promote and are involved in various dis­ci­plines of art, whether it be drawing, painting, music, theater, lit­er­ature, pho­tog­raphy, or dance.

The Art­Works board con­sists of 14 members, who will review the nom­i­na­tions made by the com­munity. The recipient, according to Sexton, will be announced in mid-April.

“We want the public to be part of the process. We are trying to encourage the public to be aware of Hillsdale’s vast art com­munity and Art­Works,” Sexton said. “The council sup­ports many art projects throughout the county and pro­vides venues to demon­strate and showcase Hillsdale County artists and musi­cians and numerous artistic endeavors.”

Some pre­vious winners of the ‘Artist of the Year’ award include Don and Jan Heck­en­lively for their con­tri­bution in pho­tog­raphy and painting, Arlan and Gudi Gilbert in art and lit­er­ature, Joan VanArs­dalen in dance, and Ned and Debbi Wyse in lit­er­ature and music.

Ned and Debbi Wyse received the Art­Works ‘Artist of the Year’ award in 2016, specif­i­cally for Debbi Wyse’s involvement as a Hillsdale College piano teacher and within the college’s chamber choir, and Ned Wyse’s recitation of Robert Frost poetry.

“I knew about Art­Works through a music com­pe­tition for high school and junior high stu­dents,” Debbi Wyse said. “I didn’t really know any­thing about the award, other than the fact that I had other friends who won the award.”

Debbi Wyse has been a part of the college’s music department since 1981 teaching piano, and this will be her 38th year working with the Hillsdale College choir.

“I still have no idea who nom­i­nated me, and I was com­pletely sur­prised,” Debbi Wyse said. “The award was not for a spe­cific concert or even per­for­mance, but rather for my con­tinued ded­i­cation to music over the years.”

Debbi Wyse teaches 24 private stu­dents piano, and works with the chamber choir and college choir. Every year, Debbi Wyse also co-directs Opera Workshop with Melissa Osmond, voice director at the college. Every other year, she and Kristi Gautche also run a program with two toy pianos called Child’s Play.

In addition to her involvement in the Hillsdale College com­munity, Debbi Wyse has been a harp student since 2003, and uses this new skill set within the Hillsdale com­munity through a hospice min­istry and vis­iting retirement homes.

“I’ve played for quite a few funerals, and accom­panied the Hillsdale Art Choral, but mainly my interest with harp is to play at bedside for people in their last days and retirement,” Debbi Wyse said. “It’s really neat to see the power that music has when people recov­ering from a stroke or some other con­dition.”

As for Ned Wyse, he per­formed his first recitation of Robert Frost poetry in May 1983 in Phillips Audi­torium. Since then, he has recited Frost poetry in nearly 28 states, and visits schools to recite poetry for stu­dents of various ages.

“I recite according to the audience – I accept requests, but ulti­mately will choose what is appro­priate for ele­mentary stu­dents, etc.,” Ned Wyse said. “I don’t know all of Frost’s poetry, but I do know quite a bit. I mem­orize his poetry while I do field work, because I’m a farmer, and so was Frost.”

Ned Wyse remembers one spe­cific memory from vis­iting one of his first public school assem­blies in 1984, which encap­su­lates why he loves to recite Frost’s poetry so much.

“I per­formed a recitation in an assembly, and a student came up to the teacher and said ‘He’s not an actor or any­thing, but a regular guy who likes poetry,’” Ned Wyse said. “Art should be acceptable. I think that whatever art it is, it is an enriching part of life. What would life be without art? Pretty dismal, I think.”

The Wyse’s received a private reception with their guests of choice at the Perennial Park Senior Center in Hillsdale, where hors‑d’oeuvres and drinks were served, and they received flowers and an award from the state of Michigan. Winners of the ‘Artist of the Year’ award receive an hon­orary reception, although the location is to be announced.

“We both received accom­mo­dation from the gov­ernor, and a special tribute signed from the gov­ernor and our state rep­re­sen­tative, Eric Leutheuser,” Debbi Wyse said. “We also received a piece of art from Gudi Wittgen, a Scher­ren­schnitt artist who creates art from scissor-cutting a single piece of paper. The piece is of me at a grand piano with a ball gown on, and Ned is standing beside the piano in a tuxedo and reciting poetry.”