Long Center’s Icon Awards – Why We Celebrate Austin’s Extraordinary Arts Supporters

We know you’re familiar with the Long Center (where you can’t wait for year 4 of The Drop-In to start soon) but you probably haven’t heard of Long Center’s Icon Awards. That’s because it’s not a red carpet premiere or a high-profile, star-studded show, but as a non-profit organization, it IS our biggest fundraiser of the year!

2024’s Icon Awards are coming up on Wednesday, March 27, so we’re here to give you some background on why this event matters, why supporting the arts matters even more, and who is receiving the Award this year.

Pianist Anton Nel plays at the 2023 Icon Awards, which honored philanthropist Eva Womack and AT&T. Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro
What are the Icon Awards?

The Long Center started the Icon Awards because we saw a need to highlight something different in the arts & culture world, something bigger than just the Long Center. Namely, the people who, through their support, have made arts & culture in Austin a reality for all kinds of organizations making and creating art across town. The LC wanted to honor this commitment to the arts by bringing like-minded folks and organizations together to underscore our shared belief that creativity is a necessity, because it’s through strong partnerships and the artistic spirit of Austin that the Long Center is what it is today.

The Icon Award — yes, recipients do get a “real” award and it’s beautiful — honors individuals, corporations, and organizations in the community for their outstanding commitment to the arts in Austin. It embodies our non-profit values and also recognizes those who have been guiding forces along the Long Center’s quest to fuel community through creative expression.

To celebrate, we host a luncheon on the Meredith Family Stage with the best background possible. No, we’re not talking about the incredible view of the downtown skyline from our H-E-B Terrace (more on that later), but we are talking about the breathtaking view of Dell Hall (our 2,442-seat theatre where you may have seen Neil deGrasse Tyson or a symphony performance) that you can only experience from a performer’s perspective.

But it’s not just lunch and good conversation. This year will include performances from Austin Opera mezzo-soprano Claudia Chapa, Austin Symphony Orchestra Assistant Principal Cellist Anna Park, a special tribute video from Ballet Austin, local singer-songwrier BettySoo, and a Heller Awards for Young Artists Best Lead Female Nominee Sophie Gwaldo from Rouse High School that will likely knock all of our socks off. All emceed by Austin Mayor Kirk Watson.

Better yet, all proceeds from the event support Long Center’s mission to serve and uplift Austin’s creatives while being a catalyst for creative discovery in our community. Tickets are almost sold out, though! If you’re interested in attending, please contact Julia Campbell, our Director of Development.

Local artist Scott Strickland performs ast 2023's Icon Awards, photo by Suzanne Cordeiro
Who are this year's awardees?


The Long Center story began with three forward-thinking and resilient Texas women. For nearly two decades Jare Smith, Jo Anne Christian, and Jane Sibley encouraged and persuaded Central Texas philanthropists and civic leaders to recognize and celebrate the performing arts by creating a premier cultural showplace in Austin.

Their tireless work on behalf of Austin Opera, Austin Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Austin (the LC’s three Founding Resident Companies) and dozens more arts organizations, spearheaded the civic movement and intitial Capital Campaign that built the Long Center.

As unwavering and persistent advocates, the trio became known as “The Three J’s” — you’ve probably seen their joyful, iconic photo in lobby. The award will be presented to Jare Smith and given posthumously to Jo Anne Christian and Jane Sibley.

The Three J's, from left to right: Jo Anne Christian, Jane Sibley, and Jare Smith


It’s no secret that Texans love their grocery stores, but it’s just one grocery store in particular… you know the one! If you’re not familiar with H-E-B, all you have to do is look around at your favorite places in town to see this grocery chain’s philanthropic impact. Our outdoor space is called the H-E-B Terrace after all, and that’s as community-centric as you can get!

Giving back to the communities it serves is at the heart of H-E-B’s corporate values and is one of the reasons why the people of this state love it so much. H-E-B has been an impactful and dedicated supporter of the Long Center from the very beginning and their continued support for over 15 years has helped the Long Center bring hundreds of free community events and performances to Austin on our H-E-B Terrace. 

Accepting the award for H-E-B will be Senior Vice President for Central Texas, Cathy Harm.


Helping us move through the ceremony is Mayor Kirk Watson, who for three decades has been immersed in public policy, spanning local and state government in Texas. During his previous tenure as mayor, Watson won praise for bringing different political sides together around transformative and economic development initiatives. During this time he was also a key partner in helping push the Long Center and its vision forward, so it’s only fitting that he’ll take the stage to celebrate our founding by honoring this year’s Icon Award recipients with us!

The 2024 Icon Awards will take place Wednesday, March 27 on the Meredith Family Stage in Dell Hall.


Of course, a huge thank you to all of our sponsors who have supported the 2024 Icon Awards 👏👏

Skyline Sponsors

  • AT&T – recipient of last year’s Icon Award
  • Dr. Ernest & Sarah Butler
  • Frost Bank
  • Felicia & Craig Hester | Araminta & Tom Sellers

Ring Beam Sponsors

  • Kelly Hart & Hallman LLP
  • H-E-B
  • LCRA
  • Mr. Joe Long
  • Emily Moreland & Moreland Properties
  • Carolyn & Marc Seriff
  • Jare Smith
  • St. David’s Healthcare
  • Westminster Manor

With additional support from

  • ABHR – Trey Lary
  • Elizabeth Christian
  • Carolyn Lewis

And special thanks to the Founding Resident Companies of the Long Center — Austin Opera, Austin Symphony Orchestra, and Ballet Austin. Three non-profits making incredible art!

If you’re all-in on the arts now (just kidding, we know you already were), come and see us! There’s so much more you can do at the Long Center than just see a show, but we have plenty of those, too. Check out our calendar, think about volunteering, read more from other community creatives, or see what Membership at the LC is all about.


At the Long Center, we’ve always got a new partnership or something cool we know you’ll want to check out! Find and follow us @longcenter on your social media platform of choice, and we’ll see you real soon.

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Year-End Gift 2023 | Long Center
Your Support Today, Transforms Tomorrow

We’ve made it our mission to support creativity in all its forms, and we hope this season you’ll join us and do the same. Your donation doesn’t just support our work, it’s a declaration that creativity belongs to everyone

Amplify Austin is here – and we need your help to provide free arts experiences for K-12 students through our Long Reach for the Arts program.  Because the kids need art!