Each January, the Arts and Education Council (A&E) presents the St. Louis Arts Awards, an inspiring evening honoring the artists, educators, philanthropists, corporate citizens and arts organizations whose outstanding contributions to our cultural community make St. Louis such a vibrant place to live, learn, work and play. Since 1992, the St. Louis Arts Awards has celebrated more than 170 honorees and raised more than $7.2 million to benefit A&E's annual campaign, which supports nearly 100 arts organizations in the bi-state region. This year's sold-out St. Louis Arts Awards will honor seven extraordinary individuals and organizations, including Keith Tyrone Williams as Art Educator of the Year.

A proud East St. Louis native, Keith Tyrone Williams is that rare breed of performer and educator. In the 1970s, he trained under the legendary dancer, choreographer and social activist, Katherine Dunham at the Performing Arts Training Center (PATC) in East St. Louis. He is now one of the few people in the world trained in the Dunham Technique, which focuses on more than dance, but on a way of life that trains students to be better artists and community leaders.

After performing extensively across the United States and Europe, Williams returned to the St. Louis area with a commitment to training the next generation of artists and leaders.

“I had a calling and a yearning to share what I’ve learned over the years,” remembered Williams.

Williams now teaches dance, acting and musical theatre at the Grand Center Arts Academy, a St. Louis public charter school located in the heart of St. Louis’ vibrant cultural arts district. As Williams puts it, he teaches more than the arts as he “guides young people to think outside their box.” His goal is to inspire his students to understand their path in life is “not limited to where they live or where they come from” — and he has high expectations for them.

“He was nothing like the other teachers,” said former student Sevahn Henderson. “He was strict. But then he became my teacher [in high school] and I knew why he was like that. Mr. Keith taught me the importance of this being my gift.”

Through his teaching and his work as artistic director of Innervision Dance Theatre, Williams is committed to carrying forward Dunham’s legacy in the arts and social justice. In May 2017, he directed, choreographed and produced “The Ties That Bind,” a thought-provoking production on social justice and youth empowerment. He has twice won the prestigious Kevin Kline Award and has received the NAACP Award for his contributions to the cultural arts and art education.

He holds a bachelor’s in theatre/dance from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, a master’s in theatre/directing from Lindenwood University and is completing his master’s of fine arts with an emphasis in arts management from Lindenwood.

To make a tribute gift honoring Keith Tyrone Williams, click here. For more information about the 2018 St. Louis Arts Awards, click here.

The Art Educator of the Year Award is sponsored by Monsanto.

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