Nationally renowned artist, curator and educator Lee Steadman, a 1982 graduate of Edinboro University’s Art program, was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by Erie Arts & Culture on Dec. 5.
As a professional artist for more than 30 years and community arts educator for nearly two decades, Steadman – who also earned his Pennsylvania teaching licensure from Edinboro – was chosen based on his catalogue of individual and client work and his dedication to the Erie County community.
“I was definitely surprised to receive this award, but I am also honored to be selected,” Steadman said. “I owe a debt of gratitude to Erie Arts & Culture for helping me learn to become a community artist beyond my career as a fine artist.”
In addition to Steadman’s award, Erie Arts & Culture also recognized 2000 Edinboro University grad John C. Lyons, a local filmmaker and Edinboro employee, with the Bruce Wright Artist of the Year Award. This year, Lyons and his film production crew launched the environmental horror film “Unearth” at several international film festivals.
Steadman’s professional collection of art includes work produced in major national publications. In 1988, Steadman illustrated “Galapagos: Discovery on Darwin's Islands,” which was published by Smithsonian Press. His nature and scientific artwork was also featured in “Field Guide to Birds of North America,” courtesy of National Geographic Society.
Currently, Steadman continues his painting career as a watercolor expert and has also dabbled recently with clay and sculpture. Whatever the medium for his art, Steadman said his goal is always to improve and share his perspective.
“You must have the courage to be imperfect,” he said. “It’s impossible to be creative and perfect at the same time. My artwork is supposed to help you slow down and enjoy what’s around you.”
At Edinboro University, Steadman served as a board member for the Arts Incubator and was awarded a Distinguished Alumni Award in Arts in 1992.
“Lee’s commitment as an artist and as an arts leader has long made an impact in Northwestern Pennsylvania and beyond,” said Amanda Sissem, interim assistant vice president of Edinboro University Advancement. “His passion can be found at the intersections of art, wellness and community building, and his warm personality makes art-making approachable for all who come in contact with him.”
As an Edinboro student, Steadman developed the foundation for his art through shared student experiences and influence from expert faculty. In fact, to this day, the McKean, Pa., artist still uses techniques he learned in Professor James McMurray’s drawing courses in the mid-70s.
“Edinboro has always had a well-renowned art program,” said Steadman, who noted that his first success at Edinboro was meeting his wife, Lori. “I’ll always appreciate how Edinboro allows you to find out who you are as an artist and a person.”
Locally, Steadman has served as a board member for Erie Arts and Culture and has curated and juried arts exhibitions in museums and galleries for more than 25 years. In 2011, he was appointed by then Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett to serve as a board member for the Pa. Council on the Arts.
According to Patrick Fisher, executive director of Erie Arts & Culture, the Lifetime Achievement Award honors individuals with at least 20 years of documented accomplishments in the fields of arts or arts education. Steadman was selected based on his accomplishments as an artist, his previous work as a teaching assistant with Erie Arts & Culture and his role as director of Bloom Collaborative, a nurturing artist collective and behavioral/mental health program that served Erie clients through 2020.
“The award is reserved for individuals who have made a significant impact on a large number of individuals, communities or organizations in Northwestern Pennsylvania,” Fisher said. “We also celebrate that Lee is an alum of Edinboro University.”
Since 1988, Erie Arts & Culture has recognized individuals, organizations, businesses and foundations in the Erie region that have helped build and sustain the community’s vibrant creative and cultural sectors. The list of this year’s award winners also include Benedictine Sisters of Erie (Diversity Equity and Inclusion Award), Carla Hughes (Imagine Award – Art Educator of the Year), Tesha Nesbit (Applause Award – Volunteer of the Year) and World of Music (Leadership Award – Business of the Year).