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27th Obelisk Awards ‘Unite Commerce and Culture’ in North Texas 8

Dr. Eric Olson of the UT Southwestern Medical Center, delivering the Neil Young portion of his lecture on the heart at the Obelisk Awards. Photo: Jerome Weeks

At a sold-out luncheon in the Fairmont Hotel’s International Ballroom today, the Business  Council for the Arts presented this year’s Obelisk Awards. Since 1989, the awards have encouraged and recognized businesses and individual leaders who’ve worked to support and form partnerships with North Texas arts organizations.

This year’s awards were different, explained Kevin Hurst, chairman of the awards. They departed from the traditional ‘obelisk’ shape with glassblower Jim Bowman creating dark purple, bowl-shaped sculptures. This year’s keynote speaker was also an unusual choice: Dr. Eric Olson, an internationally recognized expert on regenerating heart tissue from UT Southwestern Medical Center. But Olson spoke about both the heart as a muscle and the heart as a metaphor. Besides, he’s part of the ‘unofficial’ UT Southwestern rock band, the Transactivators, which is why he could relate stories of opening for Willie Nelson as well as play a pretty fair cover of Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold.'(This earned him a compliment from Edwin Cabaniss, owner of the Kessler Theater, who won an Obelisk Award as an outstanding alumnus of the BCA’s Leadership Arts Class.)

The final awards recipient of the day, Dr. Scott Rudes, principal of the Booker T. Washington Arts Magnet, detoured from his prepared remarks to hail the work of doctors like Olson. He was born with a congenital heart defect, which led to a burst heart valve during a triathlon — and a new heart valve. A different form of support for the arts.

As master of ceremonies, Mary Anne Alhadeff, president and CEO of KERA, did the honor of presenting the awards. She commented after Rudes spoke that, of all the awards presentations she attends, the Obelisks always have the best acceptance speeches.

The 2015 honorees are:

• Atmos Energy Corporation, nominated for arts education by WaterTower Theatre

• Beyond the Horizon, nominated for new initiatives by Undermain Theatre

• Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, nominated for outstanding non-profit organization by Neiman Marcus Group

• Edwin Cabaniss, nominated for outstanding alumnus by Steven Roth

• Neiman Marcus Willow Bend, nominated for arts partnership by North Texas Performing Arts and Plano Children’s Theatre

• NorthPark Center, nominated for its support of the Soluna Festival by Dallas Symphony Orchestra

• Spec’s Wines, Spirits & Finer Foods, nominated for arts partnership by UNT, College of Music

• Stephen A. Waldman of Waldman Brothers, nominated for arts leadership by the Dallas Holocaust Museum

• The Dallas Weekly, nominated for arts partnership by Dallas Black Dance Theatre

• Virgin America, nominated for new initiatives by Dallas Film Society