Since 1990, the Independent Weekly has honored outstanding artistic figures in the Triangle. We look for people who have demonstrated long-term commitment to the region and have a history of spreading our cultural wealth as widely as possible. With input and nominations from readers, the editorial staff of this paper found a striking, strong group this year.

In some cases, we turn the spotlight on people doing amazing things behind the scenes, such as Tess Mangum Ocaña in Carrboro, or Jason Perlmutter in Durham. Other figures are more prominent in roles of advocacy and organizing, such as Sarah Powers in Raleigh and Pam Gutlon in Durham. And then there are people who put themselves out in front of the public, either as a performer, like Mike Wiley, or as an arts-supporting business, like the four independent bookstores we’ve honored this year.

A survey of past winners reveals a remarkable array of talent. Some of the names are no longer familiar to younger people here or to newer migrants to the area. Others still have seen their profile only get bigger over the years. This is the case with the 1991 winners we revisited, Ed Hunt and Jeff Storer of Manbites Dog Theater, who will celebrate 25 years of bringing cutting-edge theater to Durham this December.