On January 21, the Arts and Education Council (A&E) will celebrate seven honorees whose contributions to the arts in St. Louis have made our region a better place to live, learn, work and play. While their contributions, interests and backgrounds vary, they are united in three key ways they keep art happening.

They inspire the next generation.

Ken Page (Lifetime Achievement in the Arts) got his professional artistic start in St. Louis on the Muny stage and he moved to New York shortly after, with the encouragement of his professors at Fontbonne. In New York, he was mentored by many artists who had gone before him. As his career has developed, Page hasn’t forgotten those who have guided him along the way and now looks for opportunities to pass on his lessons learned and experiences to the next generation of talented artists.

Amy Freet (Art Educator of the Year) teaches music in the Ferguson-Florissant school district. She recognizes the value of arts education, particularly the power of the arts to help her students learn reading and math. As a certified music therapist, Freet also uses the arts to help her students express themselves and cope with difficult situations. Over the last 15 years, she has partnered with some of St. Louis’s premier arts organizations, including Jazz St. Louis, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, the Sheldon and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (all A&E grantees), to expand her students’ horizons and inspire fresh perspectives for them through field trips, performances and artist visits.

They ask why not.

Chris Hansen (Arts Innovator) uses his resources, partnerships and innovative thinking as executive director of the Kranzberg Arts Foundation (KAF) to transform the St. Louis arts community. He is not afraid to dream big dreams and move at breakneck speed to realize them. And, he invites more voices from the community to the table for an open conversation about what might be possible. Under Hansen’s leadership, KAF has attracted organizations and audiences back to Grand Center Arts District by opening the .ZACK performing arts incubator, restoring the historic Grandel Theatre, launching artist residency programs and opening the Marcelle and The Dark Room on Grand (now in the Grandel Theatre).

Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis (Arts Startup of the Year) wasn’t supposed to be a festival. Its first iteration was intended to be a stand-alone performance, but after that success, Carrie Houk, founder and executive artistic director, realized the show must go on. “Bringing Williams back to St. Louis should’ve been done years ago,” noted Houk. She hopes to see St. Louis noticed on the world’s stage, making St. Louis the destination it should be.

Brent Benjamin (Excellence in the Arts), the Barbara B. Taylor director of the Saint Louis Art Museum, has been committed to showcasing the museum’s impressive collection and enriching visitors’ experiences since he came to St. Louis in 1999. From raising $160 million to build a new wing that shares more of the museum’s collection to introducing programs like Art in Bloom, Art on the Hill film series or SLAM Underground, Benjamin is dedicated to stewarding the relationship between the public and its art museum has earned the respect of his staff and St. Louis.

They champion St. Louis.

Sue Greenberg (Champion for the Arts) insists that much of her career has come as an accident, but as executive director of the St. Louis Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts (VLAA) and company manager at The Muny, she has made taking care of artists her life’s work. At VLAA, she has ensured arts organizations and artists receive affordable legal and accounting services, among other training and programs. While there is a network of similar programs across the country, VLAA is one of few that provide services from both lawyers and accountants. Without the support of VLAA, there would be far fewer arts organizations. Even large organizations like STAGES St. Louis (an A&E grantee) have been supported by VLAA’s programs. Greenberg is a sounding board for artists and arts organizations because she recognizes nurturing the creative spark is critical to a stronger, healthier St. Louis.

Noémi and Michael Neidorff (Excellence in Philanthropy) are dedicated to making our community stronger. They consistently demonstrate their deep-rooted and personal love for the St. Louis region’s arts and cultural offerings 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. In a 2017 interview with Washington University’s “The Source”, Noémi Neidorff shared, “We tell everyone that St. Louis has everything that New York or any big city has, but it’s more affordable and accessible. Our city’s many wonderful institutions are such great treasures.”

The 2019 St. Louis Arts Awards honorees show us that there are many ways to work together to keep art happening. At A&E, we know how the arts spark innovation, energize communities, inspire our kids, build bridges between cultures and enrich lives. By supporting the Arts and Education Council, you provide meaningful arts experiences to millions of adults and children throughout our region. Join A&E and the 2019 honorees in the campaign to keep art happening with a gift today.

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Tickets for 2019 St. Louis Arts Awards are on sale here.