Arts Achievement Awards

Four people with medals on

The Arts Achievement Awards originated in 1975 and has been a long standing Presidential level ceremony to celebrate the outstanding career achievements of Wayne State University alumni and former students from the programs that comprise the College of Fine Performing and Communication Arts. Exceptional career achievement appropriate for recognition includes research, creative work, performance, publication, advocacy, composition, exhibition, education, discovery, management and /or leadership in their profession or artistic practice.

We are very fortunate to have distinguished alumni who through their accomplishments bring great notoriety and honor to the College and to Wayne State. We believe it is important to acknowledge these achievements and hold them up as models for our current and prospective students. Actor and producer James Lipton, film, stage and television actress S. Epatha Merkerson, artists Ellen Phelan and John Egner, renowned tenor George Shirley, Detroit jazz legend Yusef Lateef, Pulitzer prize winner and Poet Laureate Philip Levine, and former Howard University President Sidney Ribeau, among many other distinguished artists and professionals have been past recipients of the Arts Achievement Award.

Join us as we celebrate 41 years of history and this year's special honorees.

The 2020 Arts Achievement Award winners are...


2020 Career Achievement Award in Communication 

Lisa Wiegand Lisa Marie Wiegand (BA '89) graduated in 1989 from Wayne State University, and obtained her MFA in cinematography from UCLA in 1998. In 1995, she received a Master's in Cinematography from the American Film Institute AFI. Wiegand has been featured, several times, in American Cinematographer Magazine and has been awarded for 'Excellence in Cinematography' by the American Society of Cinematographers. Wiegand taught cinematography at The American Film Institute, UCLA, and Loyola Marymount University for several years. She also volunteers her skills to the Sundance Institute's Filmmaker's Labs. She is known for her work on Mayans M.C. (2018), Chicago Fire (2012-present), Detroiters (2017) and Detroit 1-8-7 (2010).

2020 Career Achievement Award in Theatre & Dance

Jan Gist

Jan Gist (MA '76) has been the voice, speech and dialect coach for Old Globe productions on 89 shows and for 50 USD/Shiley MFA productions. She has coached at theatres around the country including Ahmanson Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., The American Shakespeare Center, Utah Shakespearean Festival, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Arena Stage, San Diego Repertory, North Coast Repertory, Milwaukee Repertory, PlayMakers' Repertory, Indiana Repertory, American Players Theatre, and Mo'olelo Performing Arts Company. She coached dialects for the film The Rosa Parks Story and recorded dozens of Books To Listen To. She is an original member of the Voice and Speech Trainers Association (VASTA), and she has presented at its conferences, as well as to Voice Foundation's conferences. Gist has taught workshops at London's Central School of Speech and Drama and the International Voice Teachers Exchange at the Moscow Art Theatre in Russia. She has been published in numerous VASTA Journals. Chapters in books include an interview in Voice and Speech Training in the New Millennium: Conversations with Master Teachers, exercises in The Complete Voice And Speech Workout,  and Yiddish, in Jerry Blunt's More Stage Dialects. Most recently her article  "Voicing Poems", including some of her poems was published in Voice and Speech Review.  She is a professor in The Old Globe/USD Shiley Graduate Theatre Program.

2020 Career Achievement Award in Art & Art History

McArthur Binion

McArthur Binion (b. 1946)(BFA '71) has maintained an engaging and historic artistic practice that spans over forty years. Sourcing narratives of an African American experience in rural America and his presence in the white-dominated heyday of American Modernism in New York City, Binion has developed a unique style of action painting which places personal memory in dialogue with visual elements of Modernism.

Binion combines collage, drawing, and painting to create autobiographical abstractions of painted minimalist patterns over an "under conscious" of personal documents and photographs. From photocopies of his birth certificate and pages from his address book to pictures from his childhood and found photographs of lynchings, the poignant and charged images that constitute the tiled base of his work are concealed and abstracted by grids of oil stick. The complexly layered works, from a distance, appear to be monochromatic minimalist abstractions however; Binion's works are intensely personal and deeply dedicated to the rigorous process of making a painting. 

​Upon closer inspection, these monochromatic abstractions come into focus: the perfect grid becomes a series of imperfect laboriously hand-drawn lines, behind which emerge intimate details of Binion's identity and personal history. Having begun his career as a writer, Binion is highly influenced by language and music, as can be seen in his titles and the ways in which he layers information to be "read" rather than simply seen.

Binion received his BFA from Wayne State University, Detroit, MI in 1971 and his MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI in 1973. Binion's works were featured prominently in the 57th Venice Biennale, VIVA ARTE VIVA, curated by Christine Macel.

His work is in numerous public and private collections, including the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, NY, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, NY, the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY, the Cranbrook Museum of Art in Bloomfield Hills, MI, the Detroit Institute of Art in Detroit, MI, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

2020 Career Achievement Award in Music

Jacqueline Echols

Lyric soprano Jacqueline Echols (BA '03) has been praised for her "dynamic range and vocal acrobatics" (Classical Voice) in theaters across the United States. Ms. Echols' 2018/19 season begins with her return to the Kennedy Center in the title role of Verdi's La Traviata for a new production by Washington National Opera, directed by Francesca Zambello. Following her debut with the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra for their 2017 season opening gala concert, she returns to the orchestra for her first performances of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in April. A frequent performer of both standard and contemporary repertoire, Echols debuted the role of Helen in the world premiere performances of The Summer King at the Pittsburgh Opera in 2017, and reprised the role in her hometown of Detroit with Michigan Opera Theater in 2018. She has performed the role of Pip in Heggie's Moby Dick with the Los Angeles, Dallas, and Pittsburgh Operas, as well as the role of Sister Helen in the composer's Dead Man Walking with Washington National Opera.

Additional appearances include Cincinnati Opera as Countess Ceprano in Rigoletto, First Lady in The Magic Flute, and Clara in Porgy and Bess; Micaela in Carmen with Eugene Opera; and New York Harlem Productions as both Clara and Bess in Porgy and Bess, for which she was featured in the documentary Porgy and Me which premiered in Germany in January 2010. Ms. Echols is a 2012 second prize winner at the Gerda Lissner International Vocal Competition. She completed her master's degree and artist diploma at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), where she appeared as the Female Chorus in The Rape of Lucretia, the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro, Anne Truelove in The Rake's Progress, and Pamina in The Magic Flute.