The INDY always strives to support the arts in the Triangle, even while we scrutinize and criticize them. But for almost three decades now, in one of our favorite annual issues, we take a moment to pause and simply celebrate a group of people who had a notable impact on the arts, either that year or over time—people whose work is so fundamentally important that it can often be taken for granted.

The Indies Arts Awards vividly capture what mattered in the Triangle in a given year. Rooted in the arts but also transcending them, they open into political and social realms. The story of the Triangle’s art workers and leaders always turns out to be the story of the Triangle itself, and it’s inspiring to see afresh how much the arts matter, and how amazing the people powering them here are.

The winners we choose for these awards often must be convinced to accept the spotlight for a moment, rather than sharing the award with their entire creative community. This says a lot about why we select them in the first place. All of them—whether as creators, producers, administrators, or in other roles—serve those around them as much or more than they serve themselves. All of them understand that, to matter, art must be a kind of community service, not a vanity project. And that means, first, knowing what one means by community, and, second, actually listening to what they want.

We are incredibly grateful to exist in the same creative ecosystem as people like this year’s winners: performance-art pioneer Monét Noelle Marshall, women’s comedy impresario Erin Terry, theater revolutionary JaMeeka Holloway-Burrell, powerhouse poet Jaki Shelton Green, Durham lifestyle leader Gabriel Eng-Goetz, and transformative NCMA director Larry Wheeler.

We know this is a humble honor, for us to write profiles of them and take their pictures. But we’re thankful we get the chance to tell them without qualification how much they mean to us, and how much they mean to this area for making life in the Triangle richer, more equitable, better.

We hope you’ll be inspired to reach out to tell them the same thing yourself, and to follow their example in your daily lives. We know we do. And we invite you to remember with us that the arts matter, but we all must work together to make them matter for everyone.

Performer, Creator, Organizer, Consultant—Monét Noelle Marshall’s Many Roles All Uplift Black Art

Stand-Up Comedy Has Long Been a Boys’ Club. With Eyes Up Here, Erin Terry Is Changing That

With Black Ops and the Bull City Black Theatre Festival, JaMeeka Holloway-Burrell Is Remaking the Local Stage

As Our State’s New Poet Laureate, Jaki Shelton Green Amplifies Her Life’s Work of Literary Empowerment

Runaway Is Ending After This Season. But Its Seven Years in “Durm” Will Leave a Lasting Legacy.

Over a Quarter of a Century, NCMA Director Larry Wheeler Put a Regional Museum on the World Stage