Yuma, Arizona - A versatile musician known for keeping the beat in a wide range of ensemble groups for more than 45 years took home the area’s top arts award for 2021.

With its “Starry Night” theme, the 21st annual Tribute of the Muses Awards ceremony was held Friday, Oct. 8, at the Historic Yuma Theatre. The ceremony expanded this year to include four awards categories.

The Tribute of the Muses award, which honors an outstanding member of Yuma’s arts community who has shown exemplary devotion and excellence in the arts, went to Jon Knudtson. A musician who primarily plays bass and horn, Knudtson has played with a diverse group of ensembles including Yuma Jazz Company, Yuma Brass Ensemble, Yuma Civic Orchestra and Chuckawalla Rhythm Kings, and at events such as the Two Rivers Renaissance Faire and nearly 40 commencement ceremonies at Arizona Western College. Knudtson’s vast musical instrument collection often includes permanent and long-term loans to community members who need instruments to play.

The Helios Award honoring the top newcomer in the arts community went to Samuel Guerrero, with the Bordertown Arts Project, which began five years ago with the aim of offering “a new set of experiences and support to young people in our community.” That support includes supplies for students, scholarships, sponsorships for young people to visit workshops with renowned experts, and visits from experts to provide workshops in Yuma. Their latest project is to secure funding to open a teaching kitchen and community center in downtown Yuma.

The Odyssey Award for an outstanding organization, business, or group went to the Yuma Orchestra Association, a consortium that supports enrichment classes that enable youth and adults to participate in a string orchestra. The association offers an extensive music library, an instrument loan program, tuition/lesson scholarships, educational programs for students and conductors, a student mentoring program, physical and monetary support to performing ensembles, and an annual performance.

The Apollo Award for an outstanding arts educator went to Holly Hendrick, lead arts educator and ceramics teacher at Cibola High School, who has more than 20 years’ experience in local arts education. She is also an artist whose sculptures and creations are often on display with the North End Artists Co-op, housed in the United Building on Main Street. With degrees in both studio art and counseling psychology, she seeks to produce pieces that provoke thought, interest and joy.

“We are always humbled at this event by how amazing our arts community is and the comradery between artists, organizations, and patrons alike,” said Arts and Culture Program Manager Lindsay Benacka. “On behalf of the City of Yuma, we congratulate all of the award winners and thank all of the nominees for their contributions to making Yuma a more vibrant place to live and visit.”

The recipient of the Tribute of the Muses Award is honored with a custom art award designed and created by a local artist. The 2021 award, titled “Dream Keeper,” was designed and created by 2011 Tribute of the Muses recipient Judy Phillips.

Award recipients were selected by the Parks, Arts and Recreation Commission and past Tribute of the Muses winners.

The name Tribute of the Muses originates from Greek Mythology, where the nine daughters of Zeus called Muses were considered the inspiration for the arts and sciences. Each Muse possessed a distinct gift among the disciplines of poetry, art, dance and music.