Orange County has long had a strong support for the arts, which was recognized Sunday as several of the handcrafted, one-of-a-kind sculpted clay hearts came home to “the OC.”

It was a packed room Valentine’s night at Suga’s Deep South Cuisine and Jazz Bar in downtown Beaumont. Suga’s was the site of the fifth annual Hearts for the Arts fundraiser for the Southeast Texas Arts Council.

Patron’s sipped wine and tasted sweet and savory morsels, while perusing items in the silent auction and catching up with old friends. Music for the social hour was provided by Tone Canvas.

Not only was it a great opportunity to pick up some fine art, but a night of recognition for individuals and organization who have given outstanding support for the arts in the last year.

The “Heart” awards were created by local artist Michael Murphy. Orange County brought home several of those awards.

Two Orange Community Players board members were among the honorees. Jennifer Shuff was named as Outstanding Volunteer, while Brook Doss was received the award for Outstanding Educator.

Shuff was modest and brief when receiving recognition. “I accept with honor on behalf of all the many volunteers of the Orange Community Players. It’s been a privilege to be part of this group. Thank you very much.”

Codie Vásquez presented both Shuff’s and Doss’ hearts. “You made me sound so good!” said Doss. “Thank you so much Southeast Texas Arts Council for this incredible award, it means so much…this heart is exactly how I feel about my job…teaching theater.”

The Lutcher Theater was also named for Outstanding Achievement by an Arts/Humanities Organization for the quality of shows and 30 years of supporting the performing arts. Jim Clark, general manager, accepted the award for the theater. “Thank you,” said Clark as he looked at the large clay heart in his hands. “This is really fitting; because I have staff that all have really big hearts and everything we do at the Lutcher is because we care for our community, care for kids and we care for our adults.”

Gardner Clark of Bridge City was named as Outstanding Supporter, but was not in attendance.

Other winners of the evening were: 4-year-old Chase Bridgeman as Outstanding Junior Patron; Bonnie Cokinos – Outstanding Achievement by an Artist; B.A. and E.W. Steinhagen, Benevolent Trust through Capital One – Outstanding Support by a Foundation; Mead Westvaco – Outstanding Support by a Corporation; Beaumont History Conference – Outstanding Project; Common Ground Performing Arts Ensemble – Outstanding New Organization.

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.