Ordway Center for the Performing Arts Announces 26th Annual Sally Award Recipients

Goff Public 9/14/18

Sally Awards honor extraordinary achievements in arts access, arts learning, commitment, initiative and social impact

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Sept. 4, 2018) — The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts today announced the recipients of the 26th annual Sally Awards. The prestigious award recognizes individuals and organizations that strengthen and enrich Minnesota through their commitment to the arts and arts education. Winners will receive their awards during a celebration ceremony at the Ordway on Monday, Oct. 15.

This year’s Sally Award winners are:

ARTS ACCESS: Washburn Blackbox Acting Program, an innovative social justice theatre program at Washburn High School in Minneapolis

ARTS LEARNING: Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop, which brings high-quality creative writing education programming to prisons across the state

COMMITMENT: Gao Hong, a musical prodigy committed to sharing Chinese musical traditions with communities across Minnesota

INITIATIVE: Maia Maiden, scientist, dancer and creator of many powerful performances which focus on cultural representation

SOCIAL IMPACT: Mizna, a St. Paul-based Arab American arts organization which strives to create spaces where Arab voices can be heard

The Sally Awards are a living tribute to the vision of Sally Ordway Irvine, who mobilized the community to support her dream of building a new performing arts center in downtown Saint Paul. After the Ordway opened in 1985, Sally was honored with a “First Trust Award” for her vision, innovation, and commitment to the arts and the community. In 1992, the award was reinstated and renamed the Sally Ordway Irvine Award.

“The Sally Awards have honored more than 80 outstanding artists, educators, and leaders since they were first introduced, and we are proud to continue this tradition by honoring these five inspiring recipients this year,” said Jamie Grant, Ordway president and CEO. “This year’s winners use art to share their cultures and traditions and help Minnesotans of different backgrounds engage with art to tell their stories. We are proud and humbled to recognize their contributions to communities across the state.”

This year’s awards feature a new category, Social Impact, which recognizes efforts to use art to raise awareness of social issues affecting the community, challenge societal norms, and encourage progressive social change. Also new this year, the former Education Award has been renamed the Arts Learning Award to fully capture the category’s emphasis on arts education for all ages.

The 26th annual Sally Award recipients were selected by a committee consisting of Ordway representatives, past Sally Award recipients, Minnesota State Arts Board representatives, media representatives, and other leaders from Minnesota’s arts and cultural communities.

This year’s recipients will be honored with their award and a check for $1,000 during the Sally Awards ceremony at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 15, at the Ordway Concert Hall. Local poet and lyricist SEE MORE PERSPECTIVE will emcee the event, which will also include performances from Oshkii Giizhik Singers, Gaelynn Lea, and Raymond Berg.

The Oct. 15 ceremony is free and open to the public, but space is limited. Those interested in attending should RSVP by visiting ordway.org/sallyrsvp or calling 651-224-4222.


More information about the 2018 Sally recipients:

Arts Access Award – Washburn Blackbox Acting Program

Recognizing the need for youth to be heard and honored, this innovative social justice theatre program provides a safe space for youth to create, perform and tour original theatre to diverse audiences across the Twin Cities. The Blackbox Acting Program is open to all students and brings together youth from a variety of racial, ethnic, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds to engage in a rigorous training program that results in their creation of original theatre.

Arts Learning Award – Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop

Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop (MPWW) brings high-quality creative writing education to prisons across the state. Since its founding in 2011, MPWW has grown into an organization with more than 70 instructors and volunteer mentors, serving more than 1,000 students in almost every state prison in Minnesota. Emphasizing self-reflection and seeing art as an ongoing habit, the workshop teaches students to tell their own stories in a way that is found to be profoundly rehabilitative.

Commitment Award – Gao Hong

Gao Hong, a Chinese musical prodigy and master of the Chinese lute, the pipa, began her career as a professional musician at age 12. She graduated with honors from China’s premier music school, the Central Conservatory of Music, where she studied with Lin Shicheng. Gao has received numerous top awards in both China and the U.S., including 1st Prize in the Hebei Professional Young Music Performers Competition and an International Art Cup (Beijing). She has performed in Europe, Asia, South America, North America, and Australia in solo concerts and with symphony orchestras, jazz musicians, and musicians from other cultures. She has performed at major venues and festivals worldwide, including Lincoln Center Festival, Carnegie Hall, the International Festival of Perth, and the Festival de Teatro d’Europa in Milan.

Committed to sharing the Chinese tradition of the pipa with diverse communities, Gao has presented educational programs and lectures at schools and colleges across Minnesota and the nation for many years. She is currently an instructor at Carleton College and guest professor at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing and the Tianjin Conservatory of Music in China.

Initiative Award – Maia Maiden

Scientist by day, dancer by night, Maia Maiden has been a pillar in the dance community for over 20 years. Born and raised in South Minneapolis, she has studied all genres of dance primarily focusing on West African, Hip Hop and Step. Her work has been featured in Momentum: New Dance Works 2008; the Hip Hop Theater Festival 2008 and Fringe Festival 2008 in Washington D.C.; Snapshots: Reflections of Women 2010; the Catalyst Series 2012; and CHANGEMAKERS Profile Series presented by Intermedia Arts.

Maia’s passion for cultural representation in the arts has led to the creation of innumerable powerful performances including ROOTED: Hip Hop Choreographers’ Evening, the first and only choreographers’ evening dedicated to Hip Hop dance and its roots in the Twin Cities which showcases high-school level to professional-level choreographers, as well as the multidisciplinary Sistah Solo | Being Brothas, which features solo performances by women and men of color.

Social Impact Award – Mizna

Since 1999, the St. Paul-based Arab American arts organization Mizna has been a platform for contemporary Arab American literature, film, art and other cultural programming. Seeing anti-Arab, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim rhetoric grow in recent years, Mizna strives to present a different view by creating spaces where often silenced and vilified Arab voices can be heard. Its literary journal, Mizna: Prose, Poetry and Art Exploring Arab America, remains the only Arab American journal in publication and has published more than 300 authors. Mizna also brings independent Arab cinema and visiting filmmakers to Minnesota audiences through its Twin Cities Arab Film Festival; offers language and drumming classes; and hosts performances, community dialogues, and skill-building cohorts.


Click here to download photos of the 2018 Sally Award winners.

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