Taylormade Soundz, the founder and CEO of Soul Café Awards, introduces the event in 2022 from behind a podium, next to a large screen that reads "Soul Café Awards"

Fueling Artistic Growth: The Annual Soul Café Awards Uplifts the South End Artistic Community

by Victor Simoes

The stage is set and the red carpet is rolled out for the Third Annual Soul Café Awards. With 21 categories and more than 50 nominees, the award ceremony will take place at Rainier Arts Center on Sept. 9 from 6–10 p.m. The award show honors the very best in the South End performing arts community, from breakthrough artists to seasoned veterans. This event showcases the talent and contributions of community leaders’ achievements, personal accomplishments, influence, creativity, and leadership.  

The evening will kick off with a VIP dinner at Rainier Arts Center, where guests will engage, dine, and partake in a red carpet experience with the nominees. VIP attendees will hear from the artists about their work and what is next in their careers. Following the dinner, the award ceremony will feature performances and presentations across a spectrum of categories, primarily in the performing arts with Singer, Songwriter, and Actor of the Year, but also recognizing institutions that made a positive impact, with categories such as Business and Nonprofit of the Year. 

Past winners include Josephine Howell. Awarded Female Artist of the Year in 2022, Howell used her voice as an outlet of love in the community and an uplifting tool to overcome financial difficulties. Howell’s musical extravaganza night, Sounds of the Sound, celebrated a successful fifth year last November.

Awarded Author of the Year in 2021, Rosa Brooker released her first children’s book, Tot’s Big House, that year. Since then, she has been working on her first stage play and was featured in various news outlets, including the Emerald. The 2022 Nonprofit of the Year was CHOOSE 180, which started as a community initiative in partnership with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. The organization offers nine programs, including advocacy, counseling, and therapy, to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline. 

Rosa Booker (right) winner of the Author of the Year award in 2021, hands the 2022 award to Athena Holtz. (Photo courtesy of Taylormade Soundz.)

This year’s show will introduce two new awards: the Promoter of the Year Award and the People’s Choice Award, the first category in Soul Café Awards history where the public will choose the winner. The evening will also feature hosts D. Lamont Hall and Sharon W. Williams and an after-show party with live music performances and DJ sets, which will also take place at the Rainier Arts Center.

Actively engaging the community throughout the nomination process is central to the Soul Café Awards. Nominations are crowdsourced through social media and email outreach, enabling individuals to recommend candidates across the categories. Winners are then chosen by a jury composed of a variety of community leaders in the performing arts industry.

“I want to make sure that people know this award [show] is intended to create a live experience for people that really are making a difference in the community,” said Taylormade Soundz, founder of Soul Café Awards. “And for people that may not have a platform, this is their platform.” 

Soundz’s experience with events organizing began with Soul Café, where she transformed various venues into elegant settings to create a distinct ambience for live musical performances. Soundz says her goal with Soul Café was to create an atmosphere of love and connection, both on and off the stage.

The idea to scale up and recognize talent on a broader platform took shape with the first edition of the Soul Café Awards in 2021. Soundz’s desire to acknowledge and celebrate the outstanding contributions of individuals and organizations in the Pacific Northwest motivated her to organize this event. 

“I wanted to recognize people on a bigger platform because they deserve it, because of their gifts and talents and what they bring to the Pacific Northwest,” said Soundz. “I wanted to create this elegant, extreme greatness for the Pacific Northwest.” 

According to Soundz, the Soul Café Awards transcends the boundaries of a mere annual event, embodying a more profound purpose that extends far beyond its glitzy ceremony. 

“I grew up in a love atmosphere,” said Soundz. “I didn’t even know what the word hate was. So when I started [the award show], I wanted to bring a love atmosphere and connect people together.”

By recognizing and honoring exceptional artists, Soundz hopes the awards ceremony inspires others to embark on their creative journeys, ultimately nurturing the growth and expansion of the artistic landscape. This ripple effect not only elevates individual artists but also enriches the entire creative community, ensuring a brighter future for South End arts.

Flyer for the 3rd Annual Soul Café Awards. This year, past winners will come back to announce the new winners in 21 categories. (Photo courtesy of Taylormade Soundz.)

Voting for the Third Annual Soul Café Awards nominees remains open, and attendees can also vote in person at the event. Tickets are still available on the event’s Eventbrite page. Organizers ask that attendees wear formal attire.

Victor Simoes is an international student at the University of Washington pursuing a double degree in journalism and photo/media. Originally from Florianópolis, Brazil, they enjoy radical organizing, hyper pop, and their beloved cats. Their writing focuses on community, arts, and culture. You can find them on Instagram or Twitter at @victorhaysser.

📸 Featured Image: Taylormade Soundz, the founder and CEO of Soul Cafe Awards, introduces the event in 2022. (Photo courtesy of Taylormade Soundz.)

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