Since its inception in 1963, the Arts and Education Council has been fostering, supporting and celebrating the creative individuals and organizations that make up the St. Louis arts community.

For the past 26 years, the Council has turned a spotlight on our city’s most vibrant and influential artists, organizations, startups, patrons and promoters by honoring them at the St. Louis Arts Awards.

The evening was an inspiring mix of tributes to the beloved and familiar as well as to the new and innovative.

President and CEO of the Muny, Dennis M. Reagan, received recognition for his contributions throughout 50 seasons with a Lifetime Achievement in the Arts. What began as an after school job picking up trash at America’s largest outdoor theater became a lifelong passion as Reagan worked to continue a tradition that turns 100 this year: that guests could meet at the Muny and experience the joy and magic of a show under the stars. As a reminder of those warm, summer nights, the Buddy Boys performed a selection of songs from “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” which was performed at the Muny in 2015 at the awards ceremony.

On the flip side, the fledgling St. Louis Fashion Fund -which celebrated its one year anniversary last week – received the Arts Startup of the Year award.  The Fund looks to St. Louis’ past as a respected, bustling fashion hub in the early part of the 20th century to build a future where designers and manufacturers return to the Garment District and establish a strong, collaborative infrastructure.  As a nod to the current class at the Fashion Fund’s Incubator program, the Arts Awards Co-Chairs, Susan Block and John H. Russell wore bold, colorful pieces by Incubator designer, Reuben Reuel.

A dynamic performance by renowned jazz violinist, Regina Carter, accompanied by jazz pianist, Peter Martin, celebrated the contributions of Excellence in the Arts honoree, Gene Dobbs Bradford while Inversion Dance Theatre presented a powerful tribute to their artistic director – and Art Educator of the Year- Keith Tyrone Williams.

Perhaps the most moving and inspiring tribute of the evening was Dr. Stan Ford’s piano performance for his former music teacher, and recipient of a Lifetime Achievement in the Arts award, Johnetta Haley.  Ms. Haley began teaching music to high school students in 1945.  Throughout her long career, she experienced desegregation and all of the racial tension and inequality that surrounded it. Despite this, she became a beloved and respected teacher and had to add extra classes to her schedule due to popular demand. She eventually became faculty in the music department at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and became a co-founder of Young Heroes in Music.  

As Dr. Ford , now an acclaimed recitalist and professor at the Universitat Mozarteum Salzburg in Austria, played “Embraceable You” by George Gershwin – followed by a composition of his own – he looked gratefully and lovingly at the woman who had made such an impact on his life as a student at SIUE.

Ms. Haley – along with all of the other award recipients – were honored for their contributions not just to the St. Louis arts and education community, but to inestimable impact they make on its young and emerging members.  

As part of its goal to promote a more diverse representation of leadership in the city’s arts institutions, the Arts and Education Council announced Webster University senior, Quinton Ward as recipient of the Katherine Dunham Fellowship.   This opportunity allows Ward, who is currently finishing his BA in graphic design, to experience mentorship from influential leaders in the community and to develop the necessary skills to become a leader himself.  

Coming soon to HEC-TV: Learn more about Quinton Ward and the Arts and Education Council.  

(Event photos by Suzy Gorman and Quinton Ward’s headshot by Izaiah Johnson.)

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Date: April 18, 2015 Time: 10:00am