By BRENNA GRITEMAN
The latest class of artists, one with ties to Motown and the other with ties to Tibet, will be inducted into the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts’ Fifth Third Wall of Fame on Friday evening.
Philip Sugden and Al Abrams (posthumous) will be honored during a public ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the MCPA.
Wall of fame inductees are chosen based on nominations submitted year-round by members of the community. Nominees living or deceased must be from or have an association with Findlay/Hancock County and must have demonstrated expertise in the performing arts, including the disciplines of music, dance, theatre and visual arts.
Mary Beth Hammond, Fifth Third Bank vice president and senior private banker, noted Sugden is the first in the visual arts category to be enshrined on the wall.
Hammond said dozens of nominations were submitted this year, and Fifth Third Bank is honored “to be able to continue this tradition of recognizing those who have significantly contributed to the arts in Hancock County.”
Here’s a closer look at this year’s inductees:
Philip Sugden is an expert in pen and ink drawing, and makes his own paper. He is an accomplished painter, and has made and produced videos and illustrated books. He has traveled around the world, and is not afraid to make a political statement in his work.
In 1988, Sugden met the Dalai Lama during an eight-month trip of drawing and painting, writing and interviewing, photographing and planning, in Tibet and the Himalaya. This trip culminated in a 30-minute PBS film and companion book titled “White Lotus: An Introduction to Tibetan Culture.” In 1991, he brought the Dalai Lama to Findlay.
In 2015, he and wife Carole Elchert secured scholars’ visas to film and interview the activist-artists of Havana, Cuba. The trailer for their resulting film, “Activismo: Art & Dissidence in Cuba,” can be viewed on YouTube, with screening, festival submissions and promotion planned for 2019.
Sugden’s work has been exhibited in over 200 shows throughout the United States and abroad, yet he maintains his studio in downtown Findlay. He has been an art professor at Bluffton University for over three decades, and will step down as chairman of the art department this summer. He is a former member of the University of Findlay’s Art Department.
Sugden teaches artist workshops in prisons, donates artwork to Findlay’s American Red Cross chapter and various other nonprofits, and serves on advisory boards for various local nonprofits. He and Elchert have organized many collegiate cross-cultural trips to foreign countries, and provide scholarships at the Amrit School in Kathmandu.
Sugden will accept his award via a live feed from his studio in the Jones Building during ArtWalk.
“Al Abrams was on center stage for a music revolution that became a 1960s movement for change in a divided country.”
Those words are listed in Abrams’ nomination form, which goes on to list his many accomplishments.
Abrams grew up in Detroit and worked behind the scenes as a press officer for three record labels, including Motown. He created press for such famed musicians as Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Flo Ballard, The Supremes and The Miracles, and is credited with writing Bob Seger’s very first press release.
In 2009, Abrams co-wrote and starred in the musical “Memories of Motown” along with Motown song writer and record producer Mickey Stevenson.
In his 14 years as a resident of Findlay, Abrams authored several books reflecting on his involvement in the national music industry and its correlation to the Civil Rights movement. In 2011, he created “Motown Black & White,” which travels to venues around the globe.
Abrams died in 2015. His philanthropic efforts continue to benefit local agencies including the Findlay-Hancock County Public Library, Hancock Historical Museum, Zonta Club of Findlay, the Hancock County Literacy Coalition, City Mission, Hancock Park District and First Step.
Accepting the award on his behalf will be widow Nancy Abrams, a resident of Findlay.
Individuals inducted to the wall of fame in years past include Micheal F. Anders, Jonathan T. Baker, Barbra J. Hennigs, Jack M. Taylor, Russel Crouse, Scott Lavender, Gavin Creel, David Cryer, Clifford Leroy Hite (posthumous), Dr. William Jack McBride (posthumous) and Wendene Wilson Shoupe.
Nominations for 2020 inductees are being accepted through Dec. 31. Forms may be downloaded and submitted electronically at www.marathoncenterarts.org/info/walloffame, or printed and submitted via mail.