STL's Visionaries: 7 Top Women in the Arts Honored Monday

By Laura Schilli
In Culture

On Monday night at Grand Center’s Sun Theater, attendees of the St. Louis Visionary Awards celebrated seven local women who strive to support, educate, and inspire the city with all platforms of art.

Organizers Sara Burke, Kim Eberlein and a small committee of women revived the awards this year to recognize the wonder women in the St. Louis art community who have dedicated themselves to serving the community and embracing artistic expression, a group that, this year, included art professionals, educators, emerging artists and artists with community impact (the latter is a new category this year).

Saint Louis Visionary Award recipients (from left): Thelma Steward, Freida Wheaton, Amy Kaiser, Ilene Berman, Shualee Cook, Cecilia Nadal and Kelly Pollock. Photo by Victoria Lafferty/ALIVE Scene Team.

St. Louis Visionary Award recipients (from left): Thelma Steward, Freida Wheaton, Amy Kaiser, Ilene Berman, Shualee Cook, Cecilia Nadal and Kelly Pollock. Photo by Victoria Lafferty/ALIVE Scene Team.

 

The honorees and their awards are:

Thelma Steward, community volunteer, Major Contributor to the Arts

Kelly Pollock, executive director of COCA, Outstanding Arts Professional

Amy Kaiser, St. Louis Symphony chorus director, Successful Working Artist

Ilene Berman, public art advocate, Community Arts Educator

Shualee Cook, playwright, Emerging Artist

Cecilia Nadal, cross-cultural leader, Community Impact Artist

Freida Wheaton, arts activist, Community Impact Artist

Burke opened the evening’s ceremony with an introductory number by Sara Shepard, an understudy for “Beautiful: The Carole King Story” on Broadway. There was also an energizing performance by Cheeraz Gorman, an inspirational spoken word artist whose enlightening poems demanded the audience‚Äôs attention.

Each of the seven honorees delivered their own expression of gratitude for receiving such an outstanding award. Wheaton, whose work in response to Ferguson contributed to her win for Community Impact Artist, spoke for unity, equality and positive change in St. Louis. Steward (Major Contributor to the Arts) asked Denise Thimes, a St. Louis singer, to perform a song: Her power-house voice captivated the audience and called for standing ovation. Cook was honored as the 2015 Emerging Artist for her achievements in playwriting. She’s also the first transgender woman to be recognized at the St. Louis Visionary Awards.

Each woman honored has established great respect in bringing cultural diversity, new opportunities for new generations and for enriching the community by advocating artistic expression. Congratulations to all of the 2015 Visionary Award Honorees.

Members of the planning committee included: Co-chairs Sara Burke and Kim Eberlein, as well as Adrienne Davis, Renee Franklin, Linda Kennedy, Kathy McDermott, Cynthia Prost, Andrea Purnell, Marylin Shepard, Katie Verkruyse and Donna Wilkinson.

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