Longtime Twin Cities arts leader Cynthia Gehrig, who is stepping down at the end of the year after 38 years at the Jerome Foundation has been honored with a Sally Award. The accolade, given Monday by the Ordway Center and named after its founding champion, Sally Ordway Irvine, honors Gehrig’s enduring commitment to the arts.
The Jerome focuses its giving to artists in various genres in Minnesota and New York.
“It’s amazing to get this award, even though it felt a little strange initially that a grantmaker should receive it,” Gehrig said Monday. “But then I thought about it as not being for me personally, but as an affirmation of the kind of commitment that all of us arts administrators make to the jobs we have. They’re not jobs, really, but life callings that you do on weekends and night and all times to help to make our communities better.”
Other winners of this year’s Sallys include the Steele family of singers, whose gospel and jazz-infused soul style have helped define the Minnesota sound, and arts administrator Theresa Sweetland, former executive director of Intermedia Arts who is now director of development and external relations at the Minnesota Museum of American Art in St. Paul.
The Steeles, consisting of five siblings who have had impressive solo careers in their own right, have performed at some of the most august halls around the globe and were on Broadway in “The Gospel at Colonus.” They were honored for using gospel, jazz, blues, pop and R & B as educational tools.
Two arts organizations — the American Composers Forum of St. Paul and the Edge Center for the Arts in Bigfork won Sally Awards, the former for its enduring vision and the latter for providing arts access in a remote environment.
The 40-year-old Composers Forum nurtures and elevates the work of American composers.
The Edge Center is two hours northwest of Duluth in a town with a population of 460. The center has a 283-seat theater plus galleries. It is sustained by more than 300 volunteers. Noted raconteur Kevin Kling performed there last Friday.
“Every year, when you see the range of artists and organizations from around the state, you can’t help but marvel at how rich we are, culturally speaking, in Minnesota,” said Ordway President and CEO Patricia Mitchell. “There’s hardly a corner of the state that doesn’t have access to great art. That is something to sing about.”