In an evening filled with performances by Michael Mendez, Choral Artists of Sarasota, the Circus Arts Conservatory's Sailor Circus and Venice Theatre actors, the Alliance's Jim Shirley also welcomed winners of various grants and awards, some funded by the Tourist Development Cultural/Arts Grants.

Among those noticed for their contributions to the artistic (and wider) community were volunteers Sharon and Steve Dickman, arts education leader Michael Shelton of Embracing Our Differences, arts management honoree Jennifer O. Rominiecki (president and CEO of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens), philanthropist Elizabeth Lindsay, artistic achievement winner Dr. Joseph Holt (artistic director of Choral Artists and the Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota) and "Cultural Champion" Richard Storm.

Also announced were the recipients of the 2017-18 John Ringling Towers Fund Awards: Roger Real Drouin, Literary Arts; Mirella Martinelli, Performing Arts; and Nathan Skiles, Visual Arts, as well as the following Opportunity Grant Recipients: ensemblenewSRQ, Musica Sacra Cantorum, New World Celts, North Port Chorale and Sarasota Jewish Chorale. And a special video presentation honored the late June Lebell, a longtime, pioneering classical radio announcer and interviewer.

The evening was the kickoff for the Alliance's InspireSarasota! festival, which continues with a range of events and performances through Nov. 4. For more information, visit

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