Artsbridge announces Re-Imagined 2021 Shuler Awards

Speakeysie News Desk — October 10, 2020

ATLANTA – Sept. 24, 2020 – Demonstrating sustained organizational resilience in the name of thousands of Georgia students and educators navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, this week ArtsBridge Foundation announced the path forward and key dates for the re-imagined 13th Annual Georgia High School Musical Theatre Awards.

As announced during late summer, the Shuler Awards will take place in spring 2021, marking the 13th straight year of competition. The Registration Day to determine the remaining 67** of 75 competing Georgia high schools is now set for Nov. 2, with a special Shuler Pre-Registration Town Hall-style Zoom call set for Oct. 5, providing a free, virtual tutorial for all schools planning to apply for this year’s competition.

“We encourage interested schools to attend to learn the important specifics of our re-imagined all-virtual format,” said Angela Farr Schiller, director of arts education for ArtsBridge Foundation. “While many aspects of the Shuler Awards remain intact, the all-virtual format does include key changes that are important to know as schools prepare to enter and compete this year.”

The competition, also known as The Shuler Awards or “The Shulers” – named for the Marietta-born stage and screen star Shuler Hensley – will take place in an updated format tailored for 2020-2021 school year. The date of the 2021 awards event remains to be determined and announced during early next year.  Out of respect for the safety of the event’s volunteer judges, all adjudication for the 2020-2021 competition will take place online.

ArtsBridge Foundation Executive Director Jennifer Dobbs provided context for the changes to the 2020-2021 Shuler Awards competition.

“As noted mid-summer, we surveyed many high schools about their evolving plans for the new school year, and determined moving back the Shuler Awards Registration Day – now set for Nov. 2 – would only help everyone during these times of extraordinary change,” said Dobbs. “While Registration Day typically takes place in August, this year we set a new date with nearly six weeks of advance time to help Georgia high schools to prepare their applications in advance, informed by their school district’s updated classroom and extracurricular formats.

“We encourage all Georgia high schools to register and attend the free Shuler Awards Virtual Town Hall on Oct. 5 to learn details specific to this year’s awards entry process,” added Dobbs.

In response to the global pandemic during spring 2020, ArtsBridge Foundation presented a re-imagined Shuler Awards ceremony as an online-only event. Pivoting to anticipate government-mandated changes for the 2020-2021 school year, the organization also began creation of a re-imagined Shuler Awards competition for the new school year. Dobbs restated the organization’s stance on changes to the adjudication process.

“Prevention measures necessitate that our team get creative to ensure the safety of students, educators, and our volunteers – many of whom are in higher-risk for COVID-19 – who donate their time to provide fair and accurate adjudication of the Shuler Awards competition,” said Dobbs. “Our mission remains to expand arts education for all Georgia students, and these changes are made with detailed research and consideration for all who are touched by ArtsBridge Foundation initiatives.”

Once the adjudication process begins during November, the all-virtual format will include a mix of traditional and new-for-2021 timing. More updates will be shared on the Oct. 5 virtual Pre-Registration Town Hall. To register for the Town Hall, visit https://forms.gle/Bb7HWzK5EiNW4KyL7. Other updated information will be available online during the school year via ArtsBridgeGA.org/programs/shuler-awards.

Since 2009, the Shuler Awards engaged over 60,000 students from 142 schools and 38 counties/school systems. Last year’s registration day (for the 2020 competition) broke records with 75 schools from 26 counties enrolling in the program online, filling the application pool in less than 20 minutes.

**Due to the COVID-19 preventing eight schools from completing the Shuler competition in spring 2020, the following schools received an automatic berth for the 2021 competition should they choose to compete:

Decatur High School in Decatur (DeKalb)

Duluth High School in Duluth (Gwinnett)

Johnson High School in Gainesville (Hall)

Lambert High School in Suwanee (Forsyth)

Mill Creek High School in Hoschton (Gwinnett)

Mount Paran Christian School in Kennesaw (Cobb)

Mountain View H.S. in Lawrenceville (Gwinnett)

Roswell High School in Roswell (Fulton)

The main objectives of the Shuler Awards program are to increase awareness, advocacy and support for Georgia’s arts education programs, to develop and foster growing talent by providing learning and performance opportunities, and to cultivate/nurture productive relationships among Georgia’s promising thespians and educators.

Competition categories – which numbered 17 in 2019-2020 – may be updated for the 2020-2021 competition. The Shuler Award categories traditionally include direction, music direction, orchestra, lighting design, showstopper, choreography, featured performer, ensemble, overall production, technical execution, sound, scenic design, costumes, and best performances by a leading actress, actor, supporting actress or supporting actor.

The Shuler Award leading actress and actor winners traditionally travel to New York City as Georgia’s entrants for the National High School Musical Theatre Awards program named The Jimmy Awards® and participate in the awards show at the Minskoff Theatre on Broadway in June, with merit scholarships and professional opportunities up for grabs. These national competitions were canceled in spring 2020 due to pandemic-related Broadway closures, with 2021 status to be a virtual format with more information to be released by Broadway League.

Shuler Award candidate productions will be evaluated by a group of up to 60 volunteers who are Georgia-based arts professionals. The accounting firm Bennett Thrasher will tabulate the results for the 2021 Shuler Hensley Awards nominees. More information is available online via ArtsBridgeGA.org/programs/shuler-awards.  

ArtsBridge Foundation is dedicated to providing quality arts education and community programs that engage, motivate, inspire, and elevate the next generation of artists and arts supporters. ArtsBridge provides arts education opportunities to K-12 students with programs – including virtual learning sessions, master classes, workshops, summer camps and the annual Shuler Awards – through the organization’s home at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.  Since 2007, ArtsBridge has served more than 410,000 students and educators from 67 Georgia counties plus students from five bordering states. ArtsBridge Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. ArtsBridge Foundation and GPB-TV’s live broadcast of The Shulers won the Southeast Emmy® Award in 2017, 2018 and 2019 for special event live coverage, indicative of the superb quality and high production value Georgia students bring at show time. To learn more visit ArtsBridgeGA.org.

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