Ordway announces 23rd annual Sally Ordway Irvine Award Recipients

Jessica Petrie, Ordway 6/23/16

Sally Awards honor extraordinary achievements in arts access, commitment, education, initiative and vision

The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts is excited to announce the recipients of the 23rd annual Sally Ordway Irvine Awards. The prestigious Sally Awards recognize and honor individuals and institutions that strengthen and enrich the state through their commitment to the arts and arts education.

The 23rd annual Sally Award winners are:

ARTS ACCESS: Edge Center for the Arts
COMMITMENT: Cynthia Gehrig
EDUCATION: The Steeles
INITIATIVE: Theresa Sweetland
VISION: American Composers Forum

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. The awards are presented annually to honor individuals and institutions that strengthen and enrich Minnesota with their commitment to the arts, arts education and arts access. Throughout the past two decades, the Ordway has honored more than 80 outstanding artists, administrators, volunteers and organizations through these awards.

“For more than 20 years, the Sally Award honorees have modeled excellence in our diverse artistic community,” said Ordway President and CEO Patricia A. Mitchell. “This year’s award recipients are no exception. These leading advocates and organizations have each made a palpable difference by serving Minnesota through art. Their value to the community cannot be overstated.”

The 23rd annual Sally Award recipients were selected by a committee consisting of Ordway representatives, the previous year’s Sally Award recipients, Minnesota State Arts Board, media representatives, and other leaders from the Minnesota arts and cultural community. The 23rd annual Sally Awards program is supported by the Minnesota State Arts Board and The Saint Paul Hotel.

Arts Access Award – Edge Center for the Arts

The Edge Center for the Arts is nestled in the woods of far northern Minnesota in the town of Bigfork, population 400. Its motto, “Wildly Unexpected!,” both resonates with the area’s wilderness location and describes the artwork one is likely to encounter in the Center’s well-equipped 283-seat theater or on its gallery walls. Sustained by more than 300 volunteers drawn from the surrounding countryside and supported with only a part-time paid office manager, the Center presents the latest contemporary performing and visual art, hosts artists’ residencies, and partners with Native American artists to showcase their work.

The Edge Center was the vision of former Grand Rapids School District superintendent Dan Kaler and The Blandin Foundation. The 501(c)(3) they helped to form in 1992 brought enhancements to the Edge area in education, recreation, and the fine arts. After decades of itinerant programming, the Edge Center opened its new $2.2 million building in 2005. Contiguous with the area’s K-12 school, the building became possible because of a successful local capital campaign, the generosity of major funders, and the Center’s operating synergy with the school district. The district owns and maintains the building, while cultural programs are managed and financed by the non-profit Edge Center.

Commitment Award – Cynthia Gehrig

Cynthia Gehrig is president of the Jerome Foundation, a private foundation that provides arts grants throughout Minnesota and New York City. She joined the Foundation 38 years ago as a program associate, and has served as its executive since 1978. Gehrig has served on the board of directors of the Minnesota Council on Foundations, serving as both vice-chair and chair. She was one of the founding board members of Grantmakers in the Arts, a national affiliation of grant makers interested in arts philanthropy. She has had a career-long interest in grant writing research, and has continued as an advisor to Grantmakers in the Arts on the regular collection and publication of arts philanthropy research. Gehrig facilitated the first arts funding benchmark publication issued by the Foundation Center in cooperation with Grantmakers in the Arts. She is the president of the Camargo Foundation, an operating Foundation that supports scholarly and artistic work through subsidized fellowship residencies at a work-study center in Cassis, France. She served on the Board of ITVS (the Independent Television Service) and chaired the board of Habitat for Humanity of Minnesota. Gehrig currently serves on the boards of the Minnesota Humanities Center, Alliance for Artists’ Communities and Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.

Education Award – The Steeles

The Steeles consist of five siblings whose musical style is an integral part of the Minnesota sound. Their mission is “to educate and inspire young people through Gospel, Jazz, Blues, Pop, R&B and the Classics with the intent to encourage students to pursue a higher education or profession in the arts and entertainment industry.” J.D., Fred, Jearlyn, Jevetta and Billy Steele have recorded and performed with Prince, Donald Fagen, Morgan Freeman, George Clinton, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Mavis Staples, Johnny Lang, The Five Blind Boys of Alabama, the national radio broadcast “A Prairie Home Companion,” and many others throughout their long and storied career. The family has traveled around the world in the acclaimed musical The Gospel at Colonus, which appeared on Broadway at the Lunt Fontanne Theatre in 1988 and at the Ordway in 2010. Their accomplishments span far and wide and include corporate projects with Target, AMBEV, and Delta Airlines. They have been featured on numerous local and national commercials and, in 2013, the NBA used their music as part of its 2014 “BIG is On” season campaign.

Their bold, heartfelt, melodic sounds have been shared in Paris, London, Barcelona, Italy, Moscow, Brazil, and Scotland as well as throughout the U.S. The Steeles have also contributed to several film soundtracks such as the documentary Hoopdreams and movies Graffiti Bridge, Blank Man, Corrina and The Meantime. The siblings continue to perform in world class productions, most recently appearing at the 150th anniversary celebration of the renowned Mayo Clinic in 2014.

Initiative Award – Theresa Sweetland

Theresa Sweetland is an experienced executive director, fundraiser, curator and leader in the field of community cultural development and creative placemaking. She is currently the director of development and external relations at the Minnesota Museum of American Art in St. Paul. For 17 years, Sweetland served as executive/artistic director of Intermedia Arts, a Minneapolis-based multidisciplinary arts organization. Her leadership successfully revived this renowned arts organization from near death in 2009 to stability and national prominence. She has brought together diverse sectors of the community to build collaborations that enrich lives and build community. Sweetland is widely recognized for her leadership in developing high impact programs, such as Creative CityMaking, a partnership with the City of Minneapolis that builds in-depth collaborations between City departments and skilled community artists. She is also the co-founding artistic director of B-Girl Be, the world’s first international women in hip-hop summit.

Vision Award – American Composers Forum

Founded in 1975 by students at the University of Minnesota, the American Composers Forum (ACF) has established itself over 40 years as one of the leading composer organizations in the country. It has built a reputation for collaborative work that nurtures creativity of composers and strengthens community through its active participation in that work. Long standing residency programs, such as Faith Partners, have provided a bedrock of substantive support for decades. Creative new ventures, such as BandQuest®, Composers Datebook®, and the Innova Recordings label, have been recognized nationally for their unique approach to creating a wider appreciation for the composer as a living artist. Joint programming with leading orchestras, choruses and chamber ensembles has led to extraordinary opportunities for professional composers. Educational initiatives such as the newly launched Next Notes™ High School Composition Awards are designed to discover and nurture emerging talent at the highest level. Myriad partnerships at both the local and national levels have provided a network of support for the field that few other organizations can claim. Through all its work, the Forum builds awareness of the composer as a living artist and their work as a reflection of our culture.

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