ARTS Awards: The Design Industry's Oscars

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The ARTS Awards, often referred to as the Oscars of the home furnishings industry, will take place during Dallas Market on Friday January 19th. It's a black-tie event, but the design divas I spoke with won't be wearing black. Fashion Snoops's Jaye Anna Mize will be making a bold and beautiful color statement. Julia Buckingham will be swathed in a "most amazing pink and red Adam Lippes silk floor length gown." Michelle Workman is planning on a silver lamé brocade gown from the 60's.  I'm also attending and haven't decided what I'm wearing but it will probably be black. The opportunity to get dressed up and celebrate our industry is absolutely thrilling.

Celebrating its 29th year, The ARTS Awards is the premier awards program for the home industry identifying up to 27 categories of excellence in everything from manufacturing to marketing, retail and consulting. As Executive Director of ART for the last 25 years, Sharon Davis (above with Mark Phillips of Phillips Collection) says the best part of her job is connecting people from all the various factions of the home design world and continually refining the Awards structure that honors them. ART provides mingling opportunities for the makers and interior designers, through networking, educational activities and special events -- the Dallas ceremony being its grandest production. From the nominating process to judging and production of the black tie affair, it is an extraordinary conversion of admiration, respect, ingenuity, and design.

Through conversations, emails and texts, I gathered some comments from judges, presenters, and nominees and edited them for grammar and succinctness:

Caroline Hipple ( right ) President of Norwalk Furniture, has judged twice and is a past winner for Storehouse Furniture

Caroline Hipple (right) President of Norwalk Furniture, has judged twice and is a past winner for Storehouse Furniture

It's really an honor to be a judge. You get to read about companies doing incredible things. You witness dedication, and their hard work is inspiring. As judges, we analyze businesses, what they do, how they do it and what's special about them. The quality of the presentation can be quite seductive and you've got to look inside at the content. The event itself is like the Academy Awards. It's consistently magical and professional. Sharon's goal is to raise the bar and she succeeds. (Caroline is seated next to Susan Inglis, Executive Director of Sustainable Furniture Council)

Julia Buckingham , Interior Designer, Product Designer, Author and first-time presenter:

Julia Buckingham, Interior Designer, Product Designer, Author and first-time presenter:

I am thrilled to be a presenter this year. I have never been nominated and this is my first year attending. As far as I am concerned, it is just as much an honor to be asked to present as it must be to be nominated. Just the excitement of congratulating the winner -- Manufacturer of the Year -- will be a fantastic moment."

Jaye Anna Mize, from  Fashion Snoops , is a judge for the second year in a row.

Jaye Anna Mize, from Fashion Snoops, is a judge for the second year in a row.

One change between last year and this was the location and space in which the items were presented and judged. We were in the new building (Interior Home + Design Center) and it is gorgeous. The products were displayed in a special room and it was very easy to get interactive with them. The biggest difference is the curation of judges that Sharon brings together. After judging so intensely for two days you feel very connected. I've made some amazing contacts through this experience.

Steven Avitable ( standing behind Jay e), Vice President of  Theodore Alexander 's Designer Division, 2016 ARTS Award Judge

Steven Avitable (standing behind Jaye), Vice President of Theodore Alexander's Designer Division, 2016 ARTS Award Judge

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience as a judge with industry peers that I hold in such high esteem. The obvious love of our industry and the desire to recognize the efforts of all nominees united us. We had fun, learned and worked hard. Though I'm on jury duty current -- and grand jury at that -- I will have just enough time to grab a Friday flight to be at this year's Awards. 

Kerrie Kelly  is a finalist in the category of Interior Designer and is humbled to be included among the other talents.

Kerrie Kelly is a finalist in the category of Interior Designer and is humbled to be included among the other talents.

"Opportunities for interior designers have elevated beyond designing spaces. By designing products and collections for manufacturers, meeting the artisans, touring facilities, we get an additional layer of industry understanding that not only makes us better designers but allows our design dreams to come to life in a more meaningful way...While preparing the presentation takes a lot of time and effort, it is also a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how our business has evolved and how our contribution to the interior design world has grown over the past year."

Michelle Workman  is a finalist for Product Designer for the  Facet Collection , a collaboration with French Heritage.

Michelle Workman is a finalist for Product Designer for the Facet Collection, a collaboration with French Heritage.

I'm downright giddy about being nominated. There is quite a process and culling to be one of the top 5 finalists. To think that my industry peers put me in the top 5 is a win from the start. I have stiff competition so I am not getting my hopes up, but would be over the moon if I actually won!! (Above: ARTS Judge Greg O'Neal reviews the Negroni Sofa Table which features brass inlay.)

For a complete list of finalists, click here.

To buy tickets, go here.

Sandy Hughes