Arts Services Initiative of Western New York announced details of their inaugural “Spark” Cultural Awards. The awards party, “Celebrating Those Who Ignite Arts & Culture,” will take place Wednesday, June 25, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Hotel @The Lafayette.

The event will feature the awards, live performances, a gallery featuring the works of the winners and finalists, open bar and food. Tickets are $50, with patron tickets, patron tables, program ads and sponsorships also available at and at Groom Service at the Hotel @ The Lafayette. A limited number of free tickets are available through ASI’s Arts Access program at

Following over 100 nominations from the field, a panel of cultural representatives from throughout Western New York selected the 2013-14 winners. They are: Lifetime Achievement – Molly Bethel (Locust St. Neighborhood Art Classes), Advocate for the Cultural Sector – Lynn Marinelli, DEC Program of the Year – Karen Sirgey, Connections Sculpture Project w/Niagara Wheatfield High School, Rising Star – Infinity Visual & Performing Arts Center, Supporter of the Cultural Sector – Fund for the Arts, and Unsung Hero – Dick & Carmen Gilman (1812 Fredonia Opera House).

The panel also selected finalists in the following categories, with the winners to be announced at the event: Artist of the Year – Shasti O’Leary Soudant, Mikel Wintermantel, MarCe Zerrate; Cultural Organization of the Year – Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Squeaky Wheel, Torn Space Theater.

“Arts Services Initiative promotes the cultural sector’s vital role in our community, and highlighting the work of these incredible individuals and organizations is a great way to meet our mission,” ASI Executive Director Tod A. Kniazuk said. “The event reimagines the old Arts Council’s ‘Arts Awards’ into an awards party that properly honors the winners while showcasing the best in our cultural community and being fun for everyone in attendance.”

Proceeds of the Spark Awards will benefit ASI’s capacity building, collaboration and advocacy efforts for the cultural sector in five counties, all of which is provided free to those they serve. M&T Bank is the event’s title sponsor, and Crowley Webb is the presenting sponsor.