2019 Milley Award recipients include, clockwise from top left, Bob Burton, Karen Benke, Phil Pastuhov, Lorin Rowan and Robert Holmes. Courtesy images.

The Milley Awards, Mill Valley’s annual celebration of the community’s vast amount of creative achievement and distinguished accomplishments in the arts, unveiled its 2019 class of winners this week. As usual, the honorees come from a wide array of fields, all providing yet another reminder of the vitality of the local arts and entertainment scene in the 94941.

The Milley Award recipients are selected by a panel of judges from nominations received from the community, based on one or more of three criteria: Outstanding achievement in creating, performing or teaching in the arts; Demonstration of a significant body of work; Service to the arts community. Recipients must have a close association with Mill Valley and were born, educated, worked or lived in the town of Mill Valley or performed a large body of their work  in Mill Valley. This year the judges were Marin Theatre Company Literary Manager/Resident Dramaturg Laura A. Brukner, Marin Theater Company, Seager Gray Gallery co-owner Suzanne Gray, MV Chamber co-director Jim Welte, Mill Valley Librarian Anji Brenner and Throckmorton Theatre sound engineer Edwin DeShazo.
The 2019 Milleys marks the 31st anniversary of the very first Mill Valley Award for Creative Achievement, the precursor of the present Milleys, in 1988. It also marks the first year since founders Abby Wasserman and Trubee Schock handed the reins to the organization’s executive committee as the driving forces behind the event. The Milley’s annual gala, produced by a volunteer board under the auspices of the Mill Valley Art Commission, is set for October 20 at 6pm at the Community Center. Longtime ABC-TV arts & entertainment editor Don Sanchez hosts. Tickets go on sale in September. 

The following standouts will be honored:

Karen Benke for Literary Arts. Karen is the author of three popular and imaginative books that focus on creative writing for kids and kids at heart. Karen has coached and mentored writers of all ages, specializing in using creative techniques to tap into memories and experiences and risk putting their hearts on the page. Karen has been a teacher and collaborator in the California Poet in the Schools for over 20 years and brings her “magic ticket bag” to book fairs and community events to write poems-on-the spot for kids. Her Teacher’s Guide meets the Common Core Standards for 6th grades and up.

Bob Burton for Contributions to the Arts Community. Bob and his late wife Elza Burton, joined Sali Lieberman and other local art activists in founding the Mill Valley Center for the Performing Arts (now Marin Theatre Company). Bob supported numerous artistic endeavors, such as the original Sweetwater. He served on the Board of Directors of Marin Theatre Company in the 1980’s. He served as Mayor of Mill Valley for two years. In 2018 Bob was recognized by the City of Mill Valley/County of Marin for 50 years of volunteer public service.

Robert Holmes for Visual Arts and Design. British photographer Robert Holmes launched his distinguished career covering the 1975 British Everest Expedition for the London Daily Mail. At the invitation of Ansel Adams, in 1976 he visited California for the first time, moving to Mill Valley three years later. He has made it his home ever since. Widely recognized as one of the world’s foremost travel photographers, his accomplishments were acknowledged when he was invited to be one of the World’s 100 best photojournalists to participate in A Day in the Life of Africa. The first person to twice receive the Travel Photographer of the Year Award from the Society of American Travel Writers, he has been given the award an additional three times since. 

Phil Pastuhov for Performing and Film Arts. Phil, a longtime Mill Valley resident, is an Academy Award-winning aerial director of photography with over 120 feature films and hundreds of commercials to his credit. He pioneered the use of drones to capture aerials and was a featured speaker at last Spring’s National Association of Broadcasters’ annual convention. For four decades he has created some of the most iconic movie scenes ever, from his “helmet cam” days shooting Bond films to the sweeping helicopter-fueled imagery of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, from the The Matrix and Jupiter Ascending to adrenaline-rush films like Mission Impossible 2, The Fast & the Furious, and the final scene of 2012’s The Bourne Legacy.

Lorin Rowan for Musical Arts. Following graduation from high school in the early 70’s, Lorin and brother Chris teamed up as a vocal/guitar pop duo along with mandolinist David Grisman, formerly of Earth Opera. They moved to Marin County where they met with Grisman’s old bluegrass friend The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia. Garcia played pedal steel guitar on some of their demos, as well as on their first record for Columbia Records, “Rowan Brothers”, produced by David “Diadem” Grisman.  An early gig was opening for the Grateful Dead at the closing of the Fillmore West. Lorin, Chris & brother Peter recorded as “The Rowans” on three albums for Warner/Asylum. “The Cross” was the title cut from Ricky Skaggs Grammy nominated Gospel/Bluegrass CD. Lorin performed at last year’s Milley salute to his good friend, the late Marty Balin.​

Past Milley Award winners include: Gary Yost, Gini Wilson, Eve Pell, Michael Painter, Betty Goerke, Lisa Kristine, Jimmy Dillon, Jim Lange, Jane Hirshfield, Bill Champlin, Dan Hicks, Paul Liberatore, Si & Max Perkoff, Lucy Mercer, Suki Hill, Kathleen Quinlan, Rob Nilsson, Cyra McFadden, Bob Weir, Pirkle Jones, Scott Mathews, George Duke, Barry Spitz, John Goddard, Lee Sankowich, David Harris, Maria Muldaur, Dart Cherk, Jacques Leslie, Gretchen Mentzer, Mimi Farina, Martin Cruz Smith and Rita Abrams. Organizations and businesses have been honored as well, including the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society, the Mountain Play Association, the Outdoor Art Club, O’Hanlon Center for the Arts and the Depot Bookstore & Café.

Want to know what’s happening around town? Click here to subscribe to the Enjoy Mill Valley Blog by Email!