In 1986 the Arts Council began recognizing local businesses for their support of the arts in Region 8 with the Business ART (BART) Award. In 1989 the Arts Council added the Volunteer of the Year Award. Additional categories have been added through the years with the current categories of the BART Award, the Volunteer of the Year Award, an Artist of the Year Award for both Visual Arts and Performing Arts, and the Emerging Artist of the Year Award. New in 2021 is the Arts Organization of the Year Award.
This award is given to an organization that has shown a tangible impact on the region's residents, tourists, youth, and businesses with innovative programing, progressive outreach efforts and exemplary creative vision.
Nominees are submitted by individuals and organizations throughout Region 8. Winners are selected by panelists from outside of Region 8. Periodically, the Arts Council Board of Directors selects an outstanding individual or organization who they feel has performed long term service of such value that it has had a dynamic impact on the cultural face of Region 8. This award, given on an irregular basis, is named after long time local arts lover and advocate Mary Lee Milam.