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The envelope, please: This year’s Ordway Sally Awards go to …

This year’s winners of the Ordway Music Theater’s Sally Ordway Irvine Awards for outstanding contributions to Minnesota’s cultural life are:

Mixed Blood Theatre for vision; St. Francis Music Center for education; actor-director Wendy Lehr for commitment; Bruce Coppock, former president and managing director of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, for initiative.

Here’s what the Ordway said about each, and about the Sally Awards themselves, in announcing this year’s awards:

Mixed Blood Theatre
“Mixed Blood theatre is a professional, multi-racial theater promoting cultural pluralism and individual equality through artistic expression. using theater as a vehicle for artistry, entertainment, education and social change, Mixed Blood addresses the artificial barriers that keep people from succeeding in American society.

“The company’s work is guided by the following core values:

“Pluralism: its programming, audience, artists, board and staff model a plurality of coexisting peoples. On stage, Mixed Blood presents the world not as it is or was, but rather as it would like it to be.

“Broad Perspective: Each decision made by its leadership must simultaneously ask and answer the question: ‘How does this affect Mixed Blood, its communities and the field?’

“Risk Taking: Mixed Blood creates bold, new and risky productions that carry the possibility of failure as well as success.

“Quality Environment: its work and working conditions must attract and reward the very best theater artists and staff in the nation.

“Mixed Blood theatre has been recognized for its artistic merit and political commitment with numerous awards, including the Metlife Foundation 2007 Award for Excellence in Arts Access, two 2006 Ivey Awards, the VSA Arts of Minnesota 2005 Arts Access Award, an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Minneapolis Commission on Civil Rights (1995), and three Drama Critics Circle Awards. Artistic Director Jack Reuler has received a 2009 Spirit Recognition Award from Actors’ Equity Association, a lifetime Achievement Recognition at the 2006 Ivey Awards, and the 2006 Local Legend Award from the United Negro College Fund.”

St. Francis Music Center
“In 1979, a new music center opened its doors in little Falls for the first time, with four teachers offering private and group lessons in piano, strings, winds and dance. Today, that organization has a staff of 18 professionals who teach 340 students per week. the curriculum has been expanded to encompass gymnastics, pre-school music, voice, band, two string orchestras, a community chorale, college prep theory classes, conducting classes, creative dramatics, and more. A program of this scope would be impressive in any metropolitan area, but for a small town of 8,000 in central Minnesota, the term remarkable would not be an overstatement.

“St. Francis Music Center provides high quality arts education to the largely rural population of Morrison County and surrounding region in central Minnesota. the primary audience is comprised of students in grades K-12, but the Center also serves younger children through pre-school programs as well as senior citizens and people with disabilities. Morrison County’s median household income is $10,000 below the state average, and artistic opportunities are very limited in the local schools. thanks to several endowed funds and other private donations, the Center can subsidize its class fees so that they are accessible to families with limited resources.

“St. Francis Music Center is a safe haven for citizens of all ages. It believes that music and the arts are key to nonviolence, to celebrating the many cultures of our world, and to finding the good in humanity. The Center plays an integral part in the Little Falls community, serving as a resource for schools and churches, many of which struggle to maintain their own music programs. The Center has also formed alliances with regional arts, nonprofit and early childhood education programs, making it an indispensable part of the community’s fabric.”

Wendy Lehr
“At the age of four, Wendy Lehr saw a vision of her future while attending a production of The Nutcracker in New York City. Captivated by the experience, she enrolled in ballet classes, an experience that led to her lifelong love of dance. She began acting in high school and continued on with college and community theater productions. Now, thousands of performances later, she is one of Minnesota’s most acclaimed theatrical personalities.

“In 1966 she joined the newly formed Children’s Theatre Company (CTC), where she spent the next twenty years under the direction of John Clark Donohue honing her craft. In 1986 she joined many other Minnesotans at the Arizona Theatre Company, then under the directorship of Gary Gisselman. After four years in Tucson she returned to CTC as Associate Artistic Director and Director of Education.

“She was offered opportunities to direct and choreograph, skills which ultimately took her to other parts of the country and beyond. In 1998 Lehr joined her partner Gary Briggle on the freelance circuit, acting, directing, choreographing and teaching.

“When the Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists opened in 2004, she was recruited to serve as its artistic director, but she still found time for the stage. She has continued to maintain her home base in the Twin Cities, acting or directing in productions for CTC, Guthrie Theater, Park Square Theatre, Great American History Theatre, University of Minnesota, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, SteppingStone Theatre and others. Jungle Theater audiences will remember her performances in ‘House of Blue Leaves’ and ‘The Gin Game’ with long-time friend Bain Boehlke. She is currently performing in the Park Square Theatre-Ordway coproduction of ‘Grey Gardens.’ “

Bruce Coppock
“Bruce Coppock served as the President and Managing Director of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) from 1999 until 2008. The longest-serving managing director in the SPCO’s 50-year history, he presided over wholesale changes in the artistic profile of the orchestra. At the core of this work was placing the musicians of the SPCO at the center of the organization’s artistic direction. through an evolution of contractual and structural changes during his tenure, SPCO musicians now share with management in the artistic governance of the institution.

“An essential and groundbreaking step in the SPCO’s artistic development was the replacement of the traditional music directorship with a diverse group of rotating Artistic Partners. In collaboration with a committee of SPCO musicians and management, the Artistic Partners have developed distinctive multi-year programming plans focused on the particular musical interests they share with the SPCO.

“Under Coppock’s leadership, the SPCO audience has grown by nearly 50%, through a range of audience development strategies that involve aggressively low ticket pricing, multiple venue locations, distinctive programming, and an unremitting commitment to artistic quality.

“At the heart of Coppock’s work has been a concerted effort to create a culture of partnership among musicians, board and management, with an emphasis on participatory decision making. A crucial component of building this culture of participation was the creation in 2004 of the SPCO Center, a 36,000 square foot facility which houses the SPCO offices and meeting space as well as practice, rehearsal, recording and performance facilities, allowing members of the orchestra, board and staff to do their work together under the same roof.

“Coppock’s collaborative style was also a key element in the formation of the Arts Partnership, a long-term agreement among the SPCO, Minnesota Opera, Schubert Club and Ordway that will ensure the long-term presence of all four organizations at the Ordway.”

The Sally Awards
“The Ordway Center Sally Awards were created to honor individuals and organizations that strengthen and enrich our state with their vision, initiative and commitment to the arts, as well as their ability to instill a passion for the arts in others,” said Patricia Mitchell, Ordway president and CEO. “Their talents and determination have helped make Minnesota one of the most vibrant arts centers in the country.”

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