To help celebrate October as Arts and Humanities Month, and to kick-off the call for nominations for this year's OMA awards, we'll be highlighting our 2020 OMA Award of Achievement winners throughout the month with our OMA Award Spotlight. We are featuring these Award Winner Spotlights during Arts and Humanities Month to help champion the amazing projects, programs and professionals that make Ohio's museum community strong.
The Awards of Achievement are presented to reflect the outstanding quality and caliber of work by Ohio museums and their professionals in two categories: Institutional Achievement Awards and Individual Achievement Awards.
Nominations for these awards are incredibly detailed. This in-depth process helps to illustrate how these institutions and individuals have gone “above and beyond” the normal call of duty to support their institution, serve their public and advance the cause of the museum community.
Each year, the review panel is overwhelmed by the outstanding projects, innovative programming and dedication to our field as exhibited in each of the institutional and individual nominations. Congratulations again to each of our 2020 award winners!
Today, we'll be finishing up the celebration of this year's award winners by featuring the recipient of the 2020 award for Professional of the Year.
As founding President & Executive Director of the Rickenbacker Woods Foundation National Historic Landmark & Learning Center, Michael D. Aaron has spearheaded development of the tiny boyhood home of American war hero and industrialist, Eddie Rickenbacker, into a true community anchor and education center for the Driving Park neighborhood of Columbus.
Since 2014, Michael has reinvigorated this institution and successfully persevered in answering community needs through a series of partnerships with government, private, and corporate support to make the foundation’s historic properties an integral part of the community’s activities – all while drawing awareness to the historic importance of the site as well as the societal contributions made by Columbus natives Rickenbacker and Granville T. Woods.
With a tiny annual institutional budget of only $8,000 that covers insurance, utilities, office supplies and fundraising costs, Michael Aaron and his assistant have organized more than 30 community and educational activities over the past five years, and completed successful fundraisers totaling $120,000 for the organization. From 2015-2019, Michael and his assistant worked at the organization on a volunteer basis, dedicating their time to developing the robust programming at the site.
The public programs range from social gatherings – like the Family Fun Day, a neighborhood carnival with over 700 in annual attendance, education seminars and financial literacy classes for adults and young teens, healthy eating and cooking classes, a community garden, annual college visitation tours that have taken more than 120 high school students on college visits across Ohio, Thanksgiving and Christmas turkey giveaways, home ownership classes, and an award winning after-school program. All of these programs and events are offered free to the public.
Michael’s passion and dedication to his community is what has driven this remarkable and invaluable community anchor. According to State Representative Erica Crawley, “Mike is passionate about educating his community and is so dedicated to supporting Ohio museums that he is ensuring Driving Park has their own museum right in their backyard. His work to rebuild this historic home has signified an important landmark to anchor the community around. This development represents an important part of preserving the notable events and experiences that are unique to this neighborhood. Mike’s tenacity and overall commitment to the progress of the Driving Park community has provided a strong foundation for which the historical home will be successful.
Do you know someone who exhudes outstanding leadership and professionalism, whose work leads to the continual growth and development of their organization? Be sure to nominate them for the 2021 award for Professional of the Year! Learn more here.
One of the fun features of OMA's 2021 Virtual Awards Ceremony was being able to recognize our honorees "accepting" their award via video message. See below for Michael D. Aaron's award acceptance video.