The two men behind the "Together 250 Challenge" in Portsmouth are being honored with Governor's Arts Awards from the NH State Council on the Arts.

Mark Stebbins, who was the managing partner of XSS Hotels prior to his sudden death in June, and Jeff Johnston, principal at the real estate investment development firm Cathartes, came up with the fundraising challenge earlier this year to help arts, restaurants and hunger nonprofit organizations make it until summer returned and business could pick up again.

XSS Hotels and Cathartes partnered with the Music Hall, 3S Artspace, Prescott Park Arts Festival, Seacoast Repertory Theatre and the Portsmouth Music and Arts Center.

On Monday, officials at the NH State Council on the Arts made the announcement that they had chosen Stebbins and Johnston as individual arts champions.

Stebbins was told he had been named an awardee before his passing, according to a press release.

Two groups in Portsmouth and Dover are also being honored as recipients of 2021 Governor's Arts Awards.

They include the New Hampshire Theatre Project in Portsmouth and Dover Arts Commission.

Silver Lining Resilience Awards were created this year and have been earned by one entity from each Executive Council district. These awards honor creative and innovative solutions that were implemented and supported as a way of offsetting challenges brought about by the pandemic, according to the release.

In District 3, Seacoast Repertory Theatre was the winner. Leaders there have said the theatre was one of the first in the country to put on full musical performances after the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

People can see a full list of winners by clicking here.

To be eligible for nominations, individuals must reside in New Hampshire or have made significant contributions to the arts while living in the Granite State. Nominated organizations, cities and towns must be physically located in New Hampshire.

A celebration will take place at StudioLab in Derry on Oct. 26, beginning at 5 p.m.

Gov. Chris Sununu is scheduled to host the ceremony, which will include both live music and videos profiling awardees. The free event will be live-streamed to reach the broadest audience possible, according to the press release.

NH Governor’s Arts Awards are distributed every other year. While the awards are non-monetary, they publicly recognize outstanding contributions to the state’s arts and cultural life made by individuals, organizations and communities.

The awards are supported entirely through private funding.

Contact Managing News Editor Kimberley Haas at

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