About the Sally Awards

About the Sally Awards

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.

From then to today

To honor Sally’s commitment to all of the arts, the Sally Awards are presented annually to acknowledge achievement and contribution in the three areas for which Sally herself was recognized: Vision, Initiative and Commitment. A fourth category, Education, was added in 1996 to acknowledge the importance of education in nurturing a passion for the arts in future generations. In 2010, another category was added to complement the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s focus on engaging more people in the arts. The Arts Access category recognizes the importance of increasing access and citizen participation in the arts. Nominees’ achievements in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion will be highly valued in reviewing and selecting award recipients in all five categories.

As Minnesota’s arts communities evolve in response to the dynamics of society, The Sally Awards also evolved. In 2018, the category, Social Impact, was created to recognize the powerful role of art in raising awareness on important social issues and affecting social change. The categories, Initiative and Vision were combined to maintain the same number of categories and in response to feedback. Finally, the category of Education has been renamed to Arts Learning.

Each year, one person or organization is honored in each of these 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 lifetime achievement, contribution, and leadership in the arts and/or culture.


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

Social Impact

Recognizes admirable efforts in using art to raise awareness on relevant social issues affecting the community, challenging social norms and encouraging progressive social change.

Thank You