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Arts and Education Council to celebrate seven honorees at 28thannual event, Jan. 21, 2019
The Arts and Education Council(A&E) has announced seven honorees for the 2019 St. Louis Arts Awards. Celebrating its 28thyear, the St. Louis Arts Awards is the region’s preeminent event honoring artists, educators, individuals and organizations that achieve a legacy of artistic excellence and enrich St. Louis’ arts and cultural community.
The 2019 honorees are: Ken Page, Broadway and film star, Lifetime Achievement in the Arts; Brent Benjamin, Saint Louis Art Museum, Excellence in the Arts; Amy Freet, Airport Elementary School, Art Educator of the Year; Noémi and Michael Neidorff, Excellence in Philanthropy; Sue Greenberg, Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts, Champion for the Arts; Chris Hansen, Kranzberg Arts Foundation, Arts Innovator; and Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis, Arts Startup of the Year.
The 2019 St. Louis Arts Awards, co-chaired by Solomon Thurman and Pat Smith-Thurman, will be held Monday, January 21 at the Chase Park Plaza. Thurman, an artist, research and teacher, is widely recognized for his painting commissions, including “Celia”, a portrait of a slave girl commissioned by St. Louis civil rights attorney Margaret Bush Wilson, and “Black Americans in Flight”, a 51-foot-long mural depicting the Tuskegee Airmen, located at St. Louis Lambert International Airport. He received the Missouri Arts Council’s 2018 Individual Artist of the Year Award. Thurman and Smith-Thurman, a former IT executive at Mastercard, opened the 10thStreet Gallery downtown in 2011. Smith-Thurman served on the Board of Directors of the Arts and Education Council from 2003 to 2006.
“The Arts and Education Council (A&E), along with our event co-chairs and sponsors, looks forward to celebrating these very deserving honorees at the 2019 St. Louis Arts Awards. Their contributions to the St. Louis arts and culture community have created a ripple effect that continues to make our region a vibrant place to live, learn, work and play,” said Cynthia A. Prost, A&E president and CEO.
Centene Charitable Foundation returns as presenting sponsor of this year’s event and Edward Jones returns as principal sponsor. Proceeds from the 28thannual St. Louis Arts Awards benefit the Arts and Education Council’s annual campaign which provides financial support, professional development, incubator space and collaborative opportunities to nearly 100 organizations throughout the bi-state region.
Lifetime Achievement in the Arts – Ken Page, born and raised in St. Louis, started his career at The Muny, appearing as a chorus member at the St. Louis landmark the summer after his freshman year at Fontbonne College. He has returned to The Muny stage almost every year since 1994, even after his acting career took him to movie and television screens and countless stages performing on Broadway and in London’s West End. Page is perhaps best known as voice of Oogie Boogie in Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” His Broadway and New York credits include the original Broadway cast of “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Cats”, “Guys and Dolls” and “The Wiz”. In recent years, Page has developed and performed his concert of “Page by Page”, and directed various regional and touring productions, including a 2017 production of “Carousel” with Union Avenue Opera. His productions of “Café Chanson” and “Sublime Intimacy” as writer/director received six St. Louis Theatre Circle Award nominations, including Best New Play and Best Director.
Excellence in the Arts – Brent Benjamin, Barbara B. Taylor Director of the Saint Louis Art Museum, has been committed to strengthening the museum’s collection and enriching visitors’ experiences since he became director in 1999. He led the initiative to expand the museum and raise $160 million in the largest capital campaign for a cultural institution in St. Louis. He has overseen the purchase of numerous works of art, has secured important gifts of major works of art and entire collections and has launched several art education and community programs that have enriched the arts and culture of St. Louis.
Art Educator of the Year – Amy Freetseeks out any opportunity to enrich her students’ lives through music. She teaches general music and string orchestra at Airport Elementary and string orchestra at the new STEAM Academy in the Ferguson-Florissant School District. Freet successfully seeks out grants and opportunities for performances, internships, arts experiences and transportation which are valued at up to $32,000 per year. She also uses her background in music therapy to establish programs that promote mental and behavioral health within the Ferguson-Florissant School District and the community, often incorporating music. Freet holds bachelor’s degrees in education and psychology from Maryville College and is a registered music therapist.
Excellence in Philanthropy – Noémi and Michael Neidorff have championed and supported the St. Louis arts and cultural community for more than three decades. The Neidorffs consistently demonstrate their deep-rooted and personal love for the St. Louis region’s arts and cultural community through their philanthropic giving, influence and leadership at dozens of organizations, including Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Radio Arts Foundation-St. Louis, the St. Louis Symphony (all A&E grantees) and the Arts and Education Council, among others. Nationally, Michael Neidorff serves as Chairman of the Board of the National Urban League and treasurer on the Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
Champion for the Arts – Sue Greenberg has been a fixture in the St. Louis arts community, advocating for the arts and artists year-round, for more than 30 years. Greenberg serves as part-time executive director of the St. Louis Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts (VLAA), which provides time and expertise to nonprofits navigating financial and legal matters. VLAA also provides information and skills training designed to help the creative community develop sound business practices and protect their rights. Additionally, Greenberg is company manager at The Muny during the summers and teaches legal issues in the arts for Webster University’s Arts Leadership graduate program.
Arts Innovator – Chris Hansen, executive director of the Kranzberg Arts Foundation (KAF), is a leader who thinks about the work of supporting artists and arts organizations differently. Since taking the helm in August 2013, Hansen has used his resources, partnerships and innovative thinking to transform the St. Louis arts community. Under Hansen’s leadership, KAF has opened the .ZACK performing arts incubator, restored the historic Grandel Theatre and launched artist residency programs and opened the Marcelle and The Dark Room on Grand (now in the Grandel Theatre). In May 2018, Hansen and his team announced KAF’s plans to develop affordable housing and studio options for artists in the Gravois Park area.
Arts Startup of the Year – Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis, since its first season in 2016, has attracted thousands of attendees to the readings, panel discussions, concerts, art exhibitions, productions and playwriting contests celebrating the art and influence of Tennessee Williams. The Festival has also offered educational outreach programs for underserved students to read and see plays and partnered with many St. Louis arts organizations to create lively, multi-faceted programming honoring the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.
For more information about the 2019 St. Louis Arts Awards, visit KeepArtHappening.org/2019ArtsAwards.