Iris Awards Highlights Elk Grove’s Creative Talent 

 May 6, 2022

After a two-year hiatus, the Elk Grove Arts Commission honored the city’s artists and volunteers in a magnificent way at the May 18 “Iris Awards” held at the Center in Elk Grove District 56.

Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen along with Deputy Mayor Darren Suen; City Council members Kevin Spease and Pat Hume attended.

“I’m proud to be the mayor of this amazing city and to acknowledge my colleagues,” said Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen, “We really value and appreciate the arts.”

“We look forward to not only celebrating these kinds of events, but also supporting the arts in general.”

-The Mayor of Elk Grove, Bobbie Singh-Allen

“I think it’s very important that we recognize artists in the community – they’re all professional artists,” said Nan Mahon, chairman of the Elk Grove Arts Commission.

“We are chosen based on their commitment to the arts, their past work and what they have done to help the community in some way use their profession.”

– Nan Mahon, chairman of the Elk Grove Arts Commission

This is the third year of the awards, which are named after Strauss Festival author Iris Zimbelman. In addition, the winner of the 2018 Iris Awards in the “Performing Arts” category, Gary Mendoza, was the presenter of the evening.

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This year’s winners were recognized in five categories.

Performing Arts / Nat Brown

Nat Brown sometimes skipped school, spending most of his free time looking at the saxophone in a pawn shop window.

“I would dream of myself on stage. I took piano lessons, which I hated. The saxophone – there was something about it. It felt good. It was my instrument.”

-Nat Brown

Brown lost his sight in a shooting while playing in the street. He was only 12 years old and could give up those dreams. Instead, a persistent social worker would not let this happen. When she recovered, she promised him a saxophone if she enrolled in the Missouri School for the Blind. Two years after his first lesson, he played at East St. Nightclubs. Louis, Illinois.

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His work includes a long list of greats of history, such as Ike and Tina Turner; Etta James and Little Richard and the Coasters. Brown would eventually go on to record eight CDs and win two Grammy nominations. Locally, Brown often plays for patients at assisted living facilities in Elk Grove, producing country, blues and pop westerns. Every Sunday morning, he is the man of gospel music at the Paradise Baptist Missionary Church in Sacramento. The audience fainted with Brown’s solo performance before Arts Commission chairman Nan Mahon handed out his award.

“I just have fun playing,” Brown said, “I was lucky in many ways.”

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Library of Literary Arts / Friends of Elk Grove

The Friends of the Elk Grove Library are a book-loving group of about 95 members. They want public libraries to be a viable place for people to get together.

“Everyone involved believes in the concept of libraries as the backbone of the community. We are here to support the library in any way you need. “

-Paul Lindsey, President, Friends of the Elk Grove Library

Paul Lindsey of the Friends of Elk Grove Library
Photo by: Marissa Johnson

The group is affiliated with the Friends of the Sacramento Public Library. On this year’s “Big Day of Giving,” the Elk Grove branch helped raise $ 99,000 for the Book First program. In addition, books will be distributed to almost all undergraduate students in the region due to this program.

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Visual Arts / Margaret Munson

Margaret Munson’s love of art began in elementary school. Farmer’s local magazine found his 8-year-old pencil sketches of large Live Oak trees impressive and published his work. Afterwards, recognitions kept coming.

He used oils, acrylics, cakes, and pottery and ventured into watercolors. A self-taught artist, he continues to evolve and determine which medium and genre he prefers.

The Elk Grove Fine Arts Center and the Tong Gallery exhibited his work. In addition, Munson is a member of “Northern California Artists” and vice president of “The Elk Grove Artists, Inc.”

“It’s a small group, we do shows and we save the money we earn, and at the end of the year we present it for scholarships.”

-Margaret Munson

Margaret Munson (L) pictured with Cheryl Griess, Vice President of the Arts Commission
Photo by: Marissa Johnson

Patron of the Arts / Marsha Holmes

Marsha Holmes was a practical player in the city’s art and philanthropic scene for many years. Today it is considered “while grazing.”

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“I was on the sidelines cheering everyone on,” said the fifth-generation Elk Grove resident. “I don’t think people forget. That’s cool.”

Holmes was one of the seven pioneers of the Strauss Festival. She worked on it for 20 years and served as chair of the board. He was a member of the city’s initial Arts Committee, now the Arts Commission. In addition, she has worked with the Elk Grove Community Foundation BBQ and Blues, which helps provide scholarships for local youth.

Photo by: Marissa Johnson

She loves the arts as she has traveled the world with her husband to see museums and festivals. She has “no artistic talent,” she said, but she enjoyed being a behind-the-scenes player.

“You don’t do anything for recognition. You just do the things that your heart throws at you and the ones that you really like.”

-Marsha Holmes

Rising Star / Stephen Kimball

Stephen Kimball, a 28-year-old musician who has been conducting the “Stephen Kimball Blues Band” for the past year. He started playing guitar two weeks after his grandfather passed away to help him deal with his pain. Kimball learned to play the blues in 2011. He later joined a band led by Gary Mendoza, and eventually took the reins. Mendoza has been a big fan of Kimball ever since.

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“The boy loves to play the guitar. He was born for that,” Mendoza said. “I’m very proud of him.”

Kimball talked about how he was inspired by a family at a previous concert. Her son was singing the blues chords coming out of his guitar. The family noticed how their band helped their 3-year-old son dance to the music. Kimball was walking behind the family as he played the guitar, and when the boy turned to him, he opened his eyes.

“His face just lit up. It’s something I love to do: play for the kids. They’re some of our best audiences. They’ve been doing it to me … maybe they think they can do it these days.”

-Stephen Kimball

Kimball is in demand, with performances ranging from Elk Grove to Roseville.

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“I still don’t think I deserve the award,” he said. “I’m surprised.”

Gary Mendoza (L) photographed with Stephen Kimball
Photo by: Marissa Johnson

To learn more about the Elk Grove Arts Commission CLICK HERE

Iris Awards Highlights Elk Grove’s Creative Talent Source link Iris Awards Highlights Elk Grove’s Creative Talent


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