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Ordway Center Recognizes Minnesota Arts Community with 2015 Sally Awards

The Edge Center for the Arts, Cynthia Gehrig, Theresa Sweetland, the Steeles and the American Composers Forum have been lauded for their contributions to the local arts scene.

ST. PAUL, MINN.: The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts has announced the recipients of the 23rd annual Sally Ordway Irvine Awards, recognizing individuals and institutions that have strengthened and enriched the state of Minnesota, through their commitment to the arts and arts education. The awards are named after arts patron Sally Ordway Irvine, who mobilized the community and raised funds to build the Ordway Center.

“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 in a statement. “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.”

Edge Center for the Arts is the recipient of the Arts Access Award. The non-profit organization presents contemporary performing and visual arts, hosts artist residencies and partners with Native American artists to showcase their work. The Edge Center also brings education programs, recreation and the fine arts to the surrounding school district.

Cynthia Gehrig.
Cynthia Gehrig.

Cynthia Gehrig is the recipient of the Commitment Award. Gehrig is the president of the Jerome Foundation, a private foundation that provides arts grants throughout Minnesota and in New York City. She was a founding board member of Grantmakers in the Arts and has also served on the board for the Minnesota Council on Foundations, the Independent Television Service and chaired the board of Habitat for Humanity of Minnesota. She is the president of the Camargo Foundation, which supports scholarly and artistic work through subsidized fellowships in Cassis, France. She currently serves on the boards of the Minnesota Humanities Center, Alliance for Artists’ Communities and Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.

The Steeles, a group of musicians made up of five siblings, is the recipient of the Education Award. The Steeles’s mission is to educate and inspire young people through gospel, jazz, blues, pop, R&B and the classics and encourage students to pursue a higher education or profession in the arts and entertainment industry. The Steeles—made up of 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 and the national radio broadcast “A Prairie Home Companion.” The siblings also appeared in the musical The Gospel at Colonus, which played on Broadway in 1988 and at the Ordway in 2010.

Theresa Sweetland.
Theresa Sweetland.

Theresa Sweetland is the recipient of the Initiative Award. She currently serves as the director of development and external relations at the Minnesota Museum of American Art. As the executive and artistic director of Intermedia Arts for 17 years, she brought stability and national recognition to the struggling arts organization. She developed the high impact program Creative CityMaking, a partnership with the City of Minneapolis that aims to build collaborations between the city departments and community artists.  Sweetland is also the co-founding artistic director of B-Girl Be, the world’s first international women in hip-hop summit.

American Composers Forum (ACF), founded in 1975 by students at the University of Minnesota, is the recipient of the Vision Award. ACF promotes collaborations between composers and the community, via residencies, joint programming with outside organizations and emerging artists support.

The 2015 Sally Award recipients were selected by a committee consisting of Ordway representatives, the 2014 Sally Award recipients, Minnesota State Arts Board, media representatives, and other leaders from the Minnesota arts and cultural community.

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