Established by Teresa Heinz to honor the memory of her late husband, U.S. Senator John Heinz, the Heinz Awards celebrates his accomplishments and spirit by recognizing the extraordinary contributions of individuals in the areas of greatest importance to him.
This year’s recipients include an independent filmmaker and visual artist whose films explore the lives of working-class African Americans, and themes of labor and time; a nonprofit leader who is building a more diverse voice in conservation leadership and inspiring African Americans to explore their historic connections to the outdoors; a nurse researcher whose pioneering approach in care provides low-income older adults with handyman services alongside in-home nursing visits and occupational therapy to help them live more independently; a sexual assault survivor whose tireless activism resulted in securing state, national and international protections for victims of sexual violence; and a social entrepreneur who is focused on building a new economy for Appalachia and restoring its environment by putting unemployed young adults and laid-off coal miners back to work.
Collectively, they represent the vision, creativity and determination that produce achievements of lasting good and meaningful impact, which the Heinz Awards hopes to inspire.
Kevin Jerome Everson, independent filmmaker and visual artist, is recognized for a prolific body of work that explores the lives and experiences of working-class African Americans, and nature of work and labor in the United States.
With over 170 films in his name, Mr. Everson has quietly become one of the most respected artists working in film and media today. His films, which range from minutes to hours in length, occupy a space between fiction and documentary, their content woven from found and historical footage, scripted and staged scenes, still photography and edited archival film.
Themes of labor and time resonate prominently in Mr. Everson’s films, as in his highly praised works, Quality Control, which follows workers on the production line of a dry cleaning operation, and Park Lanes, an eight-hour film of factory employees working with metal and plastic to build components for bowling alleys, the length of the film mirroring the length of a work day.
In many of his works, archival footage is re-edited or re-staged to include real people performing fictional scenarios based on their own lives. Historical observations intermesh with contemporary narratives to suggest both the relentlessness of everyday life and its beauty.
“As an artist, I see poetry in repetition, in gesture, in the things being made.”
His film Erie consists of a series of entrancing, single-take 16mm shots in and around communities near Lake Erie, including Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Cleveland, as well as Mr. Everson’s former hometown, Mansfield, Ohio. The film’s opening shot of a mid-century billboard promoting employment opportunities in northern automobile factories is contrasted with later shots of workers affected as these same factories began to close. Erie, like many of his feature-length films, has been seen and honored at film festivals around the world.
Mr. Everson’s feature-length work also includes Cinnamon, The Golden Age of Fish, The Island of St. Matthews, 8903 Empire and Tonsler Park. Mid-career retrospectives of Mr. Everson’s work have been shown at the Tate Modern (2017), Whitney Museum of American Art (2011) and Centre Pompidou (2009 and 2019). He has also had surveys and premieres of his work at international film festivals and exhibited his work at institutions such as the Carnegie Museum of Art, Modern and Contemporary Museum in Seoul and the Museum of Modern Art.
Mr. Everson brings audiences an insightful and sensitive view of the work, daily conversations and actions of ordinary women and men. He is currently a professor of art at the University of Virginia.
Rue Mapp, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Outdoor Afro, is recognized for inspiring African Americans to reconnect with nature and for championing diversity in conservation leadership.
Launched in 2009 as a blog written by Ms. Mapp, Outdoor Afro has grown into a national network with more than 35,000 participants and volunteer leaders in 30 states around the country who organize outdoor activities and have established communities of African Americans experiencing the outdoors.
Developing African American leaders in the fields of conservation and outdoor activity and management is a key component of Outdoor Afro’s programming. Leadership training summits are held annually, with attendees learning about conservation efforts and how to advocate for natural resources; the health benefits of nature; trip planning; leave-no-trace principles; proper clothing and gear; and community organizing approaches. Once trained, leaders volunteer to organize local meetups in their home regions for local outdoor excursions, as well as larger destination trips to national parks and historical sites.
“Through Outdoor Afro, people from all walks of life and different professions have found this fire in their belly to lead others to experience and love the outdoors.”
Ms. Mapp acknowledges that historical racism has undermined the connection black people have with nature through race-related crimes frequently executed in local woodlands and Jim Crow laws that barred African Americans from using public outdoor facilities such as beaches and pools.
Outdoor Afro’s mission is to overcome these narratives and use nature as a vehicle to help black communities address the violence in their past and present. As an example, the group has organized opportunities for people to find solace in nature through “Healing Hikes.”
As part of her work challenging traditional conservation organizations to be more inclusive, Ms. Mapp consults with the outdoor industry, environmental nonprofits, and the national park system, as well as national and state administrations, and has been instrumental in helping shape national leaders’ understanding of how federal public land policies affect people of color.
Committed to expanding Outdoor Afro’s national impact, Ms. Mapp is focused this year on giving every African American child in her organization’s sphere of influence the opportunity to learn how to swim. She recently launched a “swimmership” program that offers scholarships for children and their caregivers to take swim lessons in community pools across the country.
Dr. Sarah Szanton, co-developer of the Community Aging in Place Advancing Better Living for Elders (CAPABLE) program, is recognized for her pioneering approach in care to help older adults continue to live independently. CAPABLE provides low-income seniors with home repair services along with in-home nursing and occupational therapy to help them age in place and decrease health care costs.
While making house calls as a nurse practitioner to homebound, low-income, older patients in Baltimore, Dr. Szanton noticed the challenges her patients faced caring for themselves and moving around in their homes were impacting their overall mental and physical health as much as or more than their medical needs, and were often a determining factor in their ability to remain in their homes.
In response, along with colleagues, she designed CAPABLE, a program that addresses the barriers older adults face in carrying out everyday tasks such as bathing, dressing, and preparing meals, while also helping them manage their medical issues.
Developed at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, CAPABLE works from the foundational belief that home is where health is. CAPABLE teams work collaboratively toward the goal of enabling patients to carry out everyday tasks, achieve greater independence, and stay in their homes.
The program prioritizes the goals that patients themselves identify as important to making their lives more fulfilling and meaningful, such as cooking or walking to the library. Team members use motivational interviewing techniques—including active listening, follow-up responses, and using the person’s own words—to determine how barriers to independent living can be overcome.
CAPABLE programs operate in 28 locations in 14 states, and the list is growing. Recent studies show that an investment of roughly $3,000 in CAPABLE is associated with more than $20,000 in medical savings from reduced inpatient and outpatient expenditures. Difficulties in day-to-day functioning fell by half, accompanied by improvements in depression and medication management.
At a time when healthcare costs are skyrocketing, Dr. Szanton’s insightful, practical approach that protects what is essential to health as we age should be a model and inspiration for all those caring for older adults.
Amanda Nguyen, founder and CEO of Rise, is recognized for her tireless work in securing protections for victims of sexual violence that has resulted in the enactment of the national Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights of 2016 and the introduction and passage of similar legislation in more than 25 states across the country and internationally.
Ms. Nguyen’s persistence in establishing legal rights for sexual assault survivors is driven from personal experience. Sexually assaulted as a college student, Ms. Nguyen learned that in Massachusetts, where her crime took place, rape kits were routinely destroyed after a six-month time period, even though the statute of limitations to report sexual assault is 15 years. Recognizing the burden that policies like these impose on those who have been through the trauma of assault, Ms. Nguyen worked to rewrite the law to protect the civil rights of sexual assault and rape survivors, and in that process founded Rise, a nonprofit social justice coalition of survivors and allies.
In a rare legislative feat, Ms. Nguyen’s proposed legislation successfully moved through the federal legislative process in just eight months. The 2016 Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act is one of only 21 bills in U.S. history to be unanimously passed by Congress. The bill entitles survivors to free medical exams, mandates that forensic evidence be kept for at least the statute of limitations on rape, and provides victims the option of extending that timeline.
Ms. Nguyen and Rise continue to focus their efforts on providing legal safeguards for survivors of sexual assault and are pushing for state-by-state reform. To date, 25 laws have been enacted in states across the country ensuring the rights of 72 million sexual violence survivors.
“No one is powerless. Each of us can make an impact on the issues and communities we care about most – it’s all a matter of knowing where to start.”
The passage of the U.S. federal law has drawn international attention. In 2018, Ms. Nguyen was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work to protect sexual assault victims. She is working with members of the U.N. General Assembly on the development of an international Sexual Violence Survivors’ Rights Resolution, developed by Rise, with input from survivors and member states of the United Nations.
Committed to the pursuit of justice for all, Ms. Nguyen recently launched Rise Justice Labs, a first-of-its-kind social movement accelerator that offers resources and training on how to establish a grassroots campaign and navigate the legislative process.
Brandon Dennison, founder and CEO of Coalfield Development, is recognized for his transformative employment-based social enterprises that are helping to end generational poverty and create a new, diverse and environmentally sustainable economy for Appalachia.
Coalfield Development puts low-income young adults and laid-off coal miners back to work and sets them up for a lifetime of employment by providing jobs with training, paid college tuition and technical certification training, and life skills support. At the same time, Coalfield is incubating new businesses that provide a place for those job skills to be put to work in a way that is healing to communities and to the land in Appalachia left ravaged by the mining industry.
A family of social enterprises, Coalfield is staffed by people facing barriers to employment. In 2012, it launched Revitalize Appalachia, developing the green-collar workforce on projects that include rejuvenating empty buildings. It helped start southern West Virginia's first solar installation company in 2013, Solar Holler, as well as an enterprise designed to produce fresh, healthy, local food called Refresh Appalachia. Since 2013, the organization has incubated two wood shops, a coffee shop, and an antique mall. The newest social enterprise is SustainU, which makes shirts out of recycled material and holds a license with Major League Baseball.
In addition to starting new enterprises, Coalfield is part of region-wide coalitions to address systematic challenges. Reintegrate Appalachia is a collaborative effort to support people in recovery from drug addiction in finding employment, and the Reclaiming Appalachia Coalition is a three-state network exploring more innovative, sustainable approaches to mine-land reclamation.
Coalfield’s approach follows a 33-6-3 model: 33 hours a week spent in on-the-job training, along with participation in workshops and trainings; six hours a week devoted to community college and business classes for an associate degree in applied sciences; and three hours a week committed to personal development coaching and life skills.
A sixth-generation West Virginian, Mr. Dennison has always had a passionate commitment to the people, environment and economic future of Appalachia. His organization harnesses the tremendous potential and talent of Appalachia’s people while also creating new, sustainable jobs in emerging fields and addressing the social barriers that have hindered opportunity.
The recipients of this year’s awards are creating opportunities for individuals to access the foundations of a healthy, free and just society ‒ well-paying jobs, a just legal system, equity of opportunity, and a life of dignity when we are not able to care for ourselves.
These awardees have demonstrated not only innovative thinking, but also persistence, courage and an inspiring compassion for others.
We are grateful to them for their contributions, which so beautifully exemplify the spirit of the Heinz Awards.
— Teresa Heinz, Chairman of the Heinz Family Foundation
This year, the Heinz Awards celebrates 24 years of honoring the outstanding contributions of those who are changing our world for the better.