CreativeOhio Champion Advocacy Awards

CreativeOhio: Recognizing Arts Advocates and Visionaries

Every year the CreativeOhio Foundation hosts the CreativeOhio Champion Advocacy Awards Luncheon to recognize the arts advocates and visionaries in a different area of the state.

Proceeds from this event provide critical funding to consolidate and strengthen the advocacies for the arts in our community. The arts contribute directly to the quality of life in our community. You can help us celebrate those who promote all forms of creativity throughout Ohio by becoming a host region, nominating advocates, sponsoring, or attending.


The 2023 CO-Champion Advocacy Awards winners were nominated in an open process by peers and institutions, and selected by members of the CreativeOhio Board of Directors. Awards will be presented in person at the CO-Champion Advocacy Awards Luncheon. All winners will receive commissioned original art pieces.

Photo of Rebecca Keck, 2023 Arts Educator Champion


Rebecca Keck is President and Founder of Students Motivated by the Arts (SMART) in Youngstown, Ohio, and is known for her advocacy of art-focused teaching and learning. Through Keck’s leadership, the 26-year-old organization has provided learning opportunities for Youngstown State University students, led a capital campaign for SMARTS downtown campus, provided programming to Warren City Schools through the Any Given Child Initiative, and helped bring the arts to eight counties in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Keck’s dedication has made, SMARTS has become a model for arts advocacy throughout the state.

Daniel Rauschenbach, 2023 CreativeOhio Artist Champion winner

Artist Champion: Daniel Rauschenbach

 Artist Daniel Rauschenbach is the co-owner of Soap and Sage Galleries in Youngstown and Struthers, respectively. He received his BFA from Youngstown State University and has had solo exhibitions throughout the state of Ohio. Rauschenbach uses his galleries as a platform to promote emerging and established regional visual artists, and frequently collaborates with other arts organizations, including LIT Youngstown and Students Motivated by the Arts (SMARTS), where he also teaches. Rauschenbach is known as a leader among his peers, and has effectively galvanized his community around the importance of arts and creativity as an integral part of economic development.

Huntington Bank

Business Advocate Champion:

Huntington’s commitment to serving others has been our core value and purpose since our founding in 1866. This dedicated focus on being a trusted partner has never been more important. Our stakeholders—our communities, customers, colleagues, and shareholders—are living through periods of rapid innovation and promising change.

Our continued progress would not be possible without the dedication of Huntington’s nearly 20,000 colleagues. We thank them for bringing Huntington’s Purpose into focus each day. We also thank our stakeholders for their shared belief that we have an opportunity to make people’s lives better.

Portrait of Jim Tressel

Individual Advocate Champion: Jim Tressel

Jim Tressel is the former President of Youngstown State University (YSU). A native of Northeast Ohio, Tressel received education degrees from Baldwin-Wallace College and University of Akron. Tressel coached football before dedicating his career to higher education administration. Tressel then served as Executive Vice President of Student Success at the University of Akron, and became President of YSU in 2014, where he positively impacted retention and graduation rates and enrollment. In his tenure, Tressel ensured that arts and culture were paramount to YSU’s strategic plan, helped form The Culture Alliance, and has personally and professionally advocated for music and theater organizations in the Mahoning Valley region.

Photo of Lou Zona

 Lifetime Achievement Award: Dr. Louis A. Zona

Dr. Louis A. Zona has been Executive Director of The Butler Institute of American Art since 1981. The Butler, founded in 1919 is the first structure in the United States built specifically to house a collection of American art and ranks today as one of the nation’s most renowned museums. Under his direction, the Butler has grown dramatically in physical size and in the scope and quality of its programming. Dr. Zona has won numerous national awards, published several articles on art and art history, and continues to teach Art History at Youngstown State University, where he has served since 1970. Dr. Zona is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University (Doctorate), The University of Pittsburgh (M.S. in Ed.) and Youngstown State University (B.S. in Ed.).


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Silver Sponsors

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