Honoring Minnesotans in the arts since 1992

The Sally Awards recognize and celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of artists, educators, volunteers, philanthropists, and leaders who strengthen and enrich the stage of Minnesota with their commitment to the arts and arts education.

Since 1992, the Sally Awards have honored individuals and institutions that strengthen and enrich our entire state with their commitment to the arts and arts education. The awardees’ talents and determination help enrich Minnesota’s unique culture and quality of life.

The Sally Award is based on the “First Trust Award” presented in 1986 to Sally Ordway Irvine, whose initiative, vision, and commitment inspired the creation of the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. Her award is permanently installed in the Ordway’s Target Atrium.

27th annual Sally Awards recipients. Photo by Laura Alpizar.
26th annual Sally Awards recipients. Photo by Dan Norman.
25th annual Sally Awards recipients. Photo by Laura Alpizar.
24th annual Sally Awards recipients. Photo by Rich Ryan.


Sally Awards recipients can be nominated for consideration by any individual, group, organization, or business. Recipients are chosen by a Selection Committee composed of immediate past award recipients, representatives from the arts community and the media, a representative from the Minnesota State Arts Board, and leadership from Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. Nominees’ achievements in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion are highly valued in the selection of award recipients in all five categories.

Award categories

Each year, one person or organization is honored in each of five categories.

Arts Access

Recognizes extraordinary efforts to engage a broader and more diverse audience in the arts, or to deepen the involvement that Minnesota citizens have with the arts. This award was inspired by the Legacy Amendment and its impact on enhancing access to the arts statewide.

Arts Learning

Recognizes an individual, organization, or particular project that has had a significant impact on education or mentoring in the arts, and has contributed to increasing knowledge about the arts throughout the community.


Recognizes bold new steps and strategic leadership undertaken by an individual or organization in creating never-before-seen projects or artistic programs that will have a significant impact on strengthening Minnesota’s artistic/cultural community.

Social Impact

Recognizes admirable efforts in using the arts to raise awareness on relevant social issues affecting the community, challenge social norms, and encourage progressive social change.


Recognizes lifetime achievement, contribution, and leadership in the arts and/or culture.

Sally Awards recipients

27th annual Sally Awards

Kao Kalia Yang – Social Impact Saymoukda Vongsay – Initiative Janis Lane-Ewart – Commitment Monkeybear’s Harmolodic Workshop – Arts Learning Lakes Area Music Festival – Arts Access

26th annual Sally Awards

Mizna – Social Impact Maia Maiden – Initiative Gao Hong – Commitment Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop – Arts Learning Washburn Blackbox Acting Program – Arts Access

25th annual Sally Awards

Rhiana Yazzie – Vision Bee Yang – Initiative J. Otis Powell‽ – Commitment † Z Puppets Rosenschnoz – Education Hunter Gullickson – Arts Access

24th annual Sally Awards

Rebecca Moran Cusick of Los Alegres Bailadores – Vision Kyu-Young Kim – Initiative Steven Schmidt – Commitment Reverend Carl Walker and Grant West – Education May Lee Yang – Arts Access

23rd annual Sally Awards

American Composers Forum – Vision Theresa Sweetland – Initiative Cynthia Gehrig – Commitment The Steeles – Education Edge Center for the Arts – Arts Access

22nd annual Sally Awards

Franconia Sculpture Park– Vision Kristine Sorensen – Initiative James Samuel “Cornbread” Harris Sr. – Commitment Lyz Jaakola – Education MacPhail Online – Arts Access

21st annual Sally Awards

Jimmy Longoria – Vision Faye M. Price and Noël Raymond – Initiative Anthony Caponi – Commitment Hillcrest Community School – Education David J. Fraher and Arts Midwest – Arts Access

20th annual Sally Awards

Ta-Coumba T. Aiken – Vision TU Dance – Initiative Kevin Smith – Commitment Ross Sutter – Education Rick Jacobson – Arts Access

19th annual Sally Awards

Michelle Hensley and Ten Thousand Things Theater – Vision Kathy Mouacheupao and the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT) – Initiative Willie Murphy – Commitment Anton Treuer – Education Amy Stoller Stearns and the Historic Holmes Theatre/DLCCC – Arts Access (Inaugural)

18th annual Sally Awards

VSA arts of Minnesota – Vision Bedlam Theatre – Initiative Myron Johnson – Commitment T. Mychael Rambo – Education

17th annual Sally Awards

Mixed Blood Theatre – Vision Bruce Coppock – Initiative Wendy Lehr – Commitment St. Francis Music Center – Education

16th annual Sally Awards

Rick Shiomi – Vision Michael Burgraff – Initiative Al Milgrom – Commitment Project SUCCESS – Education

15th annual Sally Awards

Joe Dowling – Vision Hal Cropp – Initiative Dale Schatzlein – Commitment † Arts for Academic Achievement – Education

14th annual Sally Awards

Seitu Jones – Vision Chris Osgood – Initiative Joan Mondale – Commitment SteppingStone Theatre – Education

13th annual Sally Awards

Graywolf Press – Vision Gary Hines – Initiative Leigh Kamman – Commitment Park Square Theatre – Education

12th annual Sally Awards

Dale Warland – Vision BJ Shigaki/Rochester Arts Center – Initiative Bruce Carlson – Commitment Sheila Livingston – Education

11th annual Sally Awards

KFAI Fresh Air Radio – Vision Textile Center of Minnesota – Initiative Lawrence M. Redmond and Minnesota Citizens for the Arts – Commitment MacPhail Center for the Arts – Education

10th annual Sally Awards

Minnesota Fringe Festival – Vision Maya Lopez-Santamaria – Initiative Philip Brunelle – Commitment Pillsbury House Theatre’s Chicago Avenue Project – Education

9th annual Sally Awards

Wing Young Huie – Vision The Loft Literary Center – Initiative Sage and John Cowles, Jr. – Commitment Linwood A+ Elementary School – Education

8th annual Sally Awards

Michael Robins and Bonnie Morris – Vision Rick Kvam – Initiative George Morrison – Commitment Pamela Paulson – Education Carl B. Drake, Jr. – Distinguished (Special Award in 1999)

7th annual Sally Awards

Armando Gutierrez – Vision Marj Hawkins – Initiative Sen. Dick Cohen – Commitment St. Paul Central Touring Theatre Program – Education

6th annual Sally Awards

Theatre de la Jeune Lune – Vision Grand Marais Art Colony – Initiative Elizabeth W. Musser – Commitment John Caddy – Education

5th annual Sally Awards

Dorit Cypis for Kulture Klub – Vision Patrick’s Cabaret – Initiative Judson Bemis Sr. – Commitment Minnesota Rural Arts Initiative: A Program of COMPAS (Community Programs in the Arts) – Education (inaugural)

4th annual Sally Awards

John R. Killacky – Vision Intermedia Arts – Initiative In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre – Commitment

3rd annual Sally Awards

Asian American Renaissance – Vision Rebecca Petersen – Initiative Lou Bellamy – Commitment

2nd annual Sally Awards

John Davis – Vision Native Arts Circle – Initiative Topsy Simonson – Commitment

Inaugural Sally Awards

Artspace Projects, Inc. – Vision The Jungle Theater – Initiative Bruce Dayton – Commitment

† Awarded posthumously.