Since 1983, the Missouri Arts Council and the State of Missouri have been honoring our state’s arts heroes – the people who make the arts happen. Our annual Missouri Arts Awards celebrate people, organizations, and communities that have made profound and lasting contributions to the cultural and artistic climate of the state. Including the 2020 honorees, the awards have acclaimed 223 people, organizations, and communities throughout the state. Honorees are selected by an independent panel in six categories: Arts Education, Arts Organization, Creative Community, Individual Artist, Leadership in the Arts, and Philanthropy.
The 2020 Missouri Arts Awards were presented in a ceremony in Jefferson City on Wednesday, February 5, 2020.
Arts Education | William Ash, St. Louis
Creator and continuing champion of St. Louis Classical Guitar’s pathbreaking Guitar Horizons education initiatives, begun while he was the organization’s director 1980-2017 and now reaching thousands of underserved children in city public schools
Arts Organization | Bach Aria Soloists
Adventurous chamber music ensemble in their 20th year of celebrating the genius and relevance of J.S. Bach, his contemporaries, and composers he has inspired through today, by presenting performances including multi-genre collaborations and their education program
Creative Community | Grand Center Inc., St. Louis
Nonprofit developer and facilitator of Grand Center Arts District, the landmark destination for arts and culture in St. Louis’ midtown, home to more than 60 organizations, 22 bars/restaurants, 17 museums and galleries, 16 theaters, and 10 music venues
Individual Artist | Maryfrances Wagner, Independence
Nationally renowned poet with nine published collections of her works, editor of books and magazines, reviewer, teacher, mentor, arts volunteer, community leader, and advocate for cross-cultural arts – a leader in the Midwest literary world for decades
Leadership in the Arts | Quin Gresham, Arrow Rock
Producing artistic director of Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre since 2005, who has built the 60-year-old company into a major professional producing theater that attracts audiences from across the U.S. and is a cultural and economic treasure for rural central Missouri
Philanthropy | Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield, Westphalia
Ardent supporters of music education and the composition and performance of new music, especially through the University of Missouri in Columbia via competitions, festivals, awards, scholarships, and the leading gift toward a new music building
Life’s a Chess Move by Cbabi Bayoc
Signature Image and Awards Artwork
Signature Image | Life’s a Chess Move, acrylic on canvas by Cbabi Bayoc, St. Louis, is featured on the 2020 Missouri Arts Awards poster, invitation to the awards ceremony, and program for the ceremony.
Awards Artwork | The 2020 honorees (other than the Creative Community, which receives special signage) receive glass artwork by Tyler Kimball of Monarch Glass Studio, Kansas City. Encased within clear glass, the intricate pattern of each of the five awards is completely different.
Awards artwork by Tyler Kimball, Monarch Glass Studio
Arts Education | William Ash, St. Louis
William Ash has been a Missouri arts luminary for four decades through his work with St. Louis Classical Guitar (SLCG): its leader from 1980 to 2017, education director the next year, active volunteer and education advocate today. In addition to building SLCG into one of the country’s premier musical organizations, he created and continues to champion Guitar Horizons, SLCG’s life-changing education program that serves more than a thousand children in neighborhoods of poverty.
In 2014, Mr. Ash had already established several education initiatives – young people’s performances, master classes, community outreach – when 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed on a Ferguson street and violence erupted. “This gnawed at me,” Mr. Ash said. “What could my organization do to support this community?” He found funding and worked with a team in the Ferguson-Florissant School District to start a pilot program of group classical guitar lessons in two elementary schools.
Guitar Horizons has been a swift and profound success. The program now reaches children in 25 schools and other locations. Guitar Horizons provides teaching artists, professional development for schools’ own music teachers, and in-school residencies by world-class guitarists.
“Our guitar clubs have helped children find themselves in ways we could not have otherwise,” says Cameron A. Coleman, principal of St. Louis’ Adams Elementary School. “There is a sense of pride, accomplishment, and connection students now carry with their guitars…because of Bill’s passion, direction, and support.”
Arts Organization | Bach Aria Soloists, Kansas City
The sublime music of Johann Sebastian Bach is the inspiration and springboard from which the inventive chamber music ensemble Bach Aria Soloists (BAS) creates a dazzling variety of original productions. Now in its 20th anniversary season, BAS plays music from Baroque to contemporary, intertwines with other genres from literature to dance, and partners with guest performers from Shakespearean actors to trumpeter Rodney Marsalis.
“I didn’t ever think we would do only Bach,” says BAS founder, artistic director, and violinist Elizabeth Suh Lane. “But what we’ve evolved into is the result of my love and my colleagues’ love for collaboration. Audiences are always going to see something unexpected.”
BAS attracts people of all ages and backgrounds. The group performs not only in concert halls but in breweries, libraries, museums, churches, and private homes for their beloved public “Hauskonzerts.” Some recent shows are Night of Tango, Bach & Love with scholar Dr. Markus Rathey, and Celebrating Women featuring music by women from the Middle Ages through today.
The core musicians with Ms. Suh Lane are soprano Sarah Tannehill Anderson, keyboardist Elisa Williams Bickers, and cellist Hannah Collins. Performing partners often join them for the BachReach educational programs for community venues and schools. A favorite is Ferdinand the Bull for violinist and actor, based on the children’s classic about being true to yourself. BachReach also includes BAS’ highly popular coaching clinics for school orchestras and singers. Thanks to donors, all BachReach programs are free.
Bach Aria Soloists: Dr. Elisa Williams Bickers (harpsichord, organ, piano), Hannah Collins (cello), Sarah Tannehill Anderson (soprano), Elizabeth Suh Lane (violin, founder, artistic director) | photo, Dan White
Creative Community | Grand Center Inc., St. Louis
Grand Center Inc. is the nonprofit that works to create the conditions for the Grand Center Arts District to be a thriving creative community. For the district’s many entities great and small, Grand Center Inc. serves as a communications hub, facilitator, and developer.
Since the early 20th century, the arts have been the heartbeat of North Grand Boulevard in St. Louis’ midtown. In 1980 a concerted civic effort to revitalize the area led to the birth of Grand Center Inc. and the Grand Center Arts District. Progress has steadily accelerated.
Renowned institutions like the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Fabulous Fox Theatre flourish alongside start-ups like the Creative Reaction Lab and .ZACK Performing Arts Incubator. Historic structures continue to be redeveloped, such as the 1920 Missouri Theatre transformed into the Angad Arts Hotel. New buildings arise, for instance the Nine Network of Public Media and Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. The district boasts hundreds of arts, entertainment, education, and business opportunities: organizations’ headquarters, theaters, music venues, museums, galleries, creative industries, bars and restaurants, parks and plazas, eight schools and two universities. A 2015 study by Americans for the Arts found that the district’s nonprofits alone generate more than $106 million annually in economic impact.
Building on strengths nurtured over the past 40 years, Grand Center Inc. is pursuing a new array of projects to increasingly attract entrepreneurs, residents, and visitors, so the district will become even more of a living, growing community.
Strauss Park and Jazz St. Louis in the Grand Center Arts District
Individual Artist | Mary Frances Wagner, Kansas City
Maryfrances Wagner’s poems “consistently engage,” says former Missouri Poet Laureate William Trowbridge, “with their insight and compassion, their fresh, straightforward language.” Since the 1980s, Ms. Wagner has published nine books of her poems to national acclaim, most recently The Immigrants’ New Camera. Her book Red Silk won the Thorpe Menn book award for literary excellence. Her works have also appeared in dozens of magazines and anthologies. And she extends her artistry and activism far beyond her poems.
Ms. Wagner has co-edited poetry anthologies and the New Letters Review of Books. She has been a co-editor of I-70 Review magazine for the past 10 years. She has been an active volunteer with The Writers Place, Kansas City’s literary community center, from its opening in 1992, and has served in many ways including as a board member and co-president. She is currently board vice president and programming chair.
Ms. Wagner has been a board member of the American Poet Series and secretary of Kansas City Creates. She helps coordinate scores of public readings, workshops, literary events, and cross-cultural collaborations, from the KC Fringe Festival to Art Fest at Crown Center. She taught English and creative writing at Raytown High School and the University of Missouri–Kansas City for 30 years and has won awards for excellence in teaching. She and her husband, Greg Field, established and fund the Crystal Field Scholarship for creative writing students at UMKC.
“It is rare for such a gifted writer to so generously serve the community as well,” says poet and professor Kathryn Nuernberger, University of Central Missouri and University of Minnesota. “But Maryfrances has a generosity of spirit that permeates her voice both on and off the page.”
Leadership in the Arts | Quin Gresham, Arrow Rock
In December 2019, with the sixth annual production of A Christmas Carol that he adapted and directs, Quin Gresham completed his 15th season as the producing artistic director of the Lyceum Theatre in Arrow Rock. The tiny village, perched on a Missouri River bluff in the Boonslick region of central Missouri, has only about 50 residents. But every year, the Lyceum’s professional Broadway-caliber productions draw more than 35,000 people from across the U.S.
The Lyceum was established in 1961 in an 1870s church, part of the 19th-century heritage that earned the entire village the status of National Historic Landmark. Each Lyceum season features nine productions. During his tenure, Mr. Gresham has produced 134 shows, 32 of which he directed.
Since Mr. Gresham became director in 2005, ticket sales revenue and private donations have doubled, corporate sponsorships have tripled, and audiences have grown by 75%. He has spearheaded renovations to the theater and construction of new housing for performers, expanded the theater’s permanent staff, created residencies for lighting and scenic designers, formed partnerships with local organizations and the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University in St. Louis, and created the annual Theatre for Young Audiences production.
Mr. Gresham’s leadership style gets rave reviews. “He is a multi-faceted diamond, master of a million details – an impresario, producer, writer, actor, greeter, politician, radio and service club guest,” says Beatrice B. Smith, Lyceum board secretary. “He is loved for his wit and warmth, admired for his professional competency, and appreciated as a compassionate friend.”
Philanthropy | Jeanne & Rex Sinquefield, Westphalia
“I want to make Missouri into a mecca for new music composition,” said Jeanne Sinquefield when she and her husband, retired financier Rex Sinquefield, gave $10 million to the University of Missouri in Columbia as the lead gift toward a new music building. Since the Sinquefields began supporting the School of Music in 2005, they have donated nearly $17 million and worked closely with the School to develop the programs they espouse.
Their Mizzou New Music Initiative encompasses the Creating Original Music Project (COMP) statewide competition for composers in grades K-12, a high school summer camp, scholarships for composition majors, Mizzou New Music Ensemble, Missouri International Composers Festival, annual Sinquefield Composition Prize, and the distance-learning Composer Connection.
Some of their other musical philanthropies are sponsorship of the new-music ensemble Alarm Will Sound, performances of young composers’ work by the St. Louis Symphony, and the Missouri Composers Orchestra Project that brings composers from around the state to Columbia to hear their music performed. “Opportunities to create new music are extremely rare in our country,” says Stefan Freund, composer and Mizzou professor of composition, “and we are incredibly fortunate that the Sinquefields help us to have them in our state.”
Rex Sinquefield also focuses on Missouri politics and other nonprofits especially the Saint Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center, which he founded and serves as president and chair, and its sister organization, the World Chess Hall of Fame.
Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield | photo, Steve Dolan, courtesy of Saint Louis University
Artists of the signature image and awards artwork
Signature Image | Cbabi Bayoc, St. Louis
Children, family, and music, plus abstracts designed with line, bold color, and phunk! are favorite subjects for painter and illustrator Cbabi (kuh-BOB-bi) Bayoc. “Cbabi” stands for Creative Black Artist Battling Ignorance. “Bayoc” stands for Blessed African Youth of Creativity.
After receiving his degree from Grambling State University in Louisiana, Mr. Bayoc worked as a caricature artist at Six Flags St. Louis before pursuing a career as an illustrator. His first notable client was Rap Pages Magazine. For a full year he was given the RPM section on a monthly basis to display a caricature of the featured artist. That same year, he sold artwork for the first time to the singer/songwriter, Prince, who collected his art for many years. Prince used one of Mr. Bayoc’s pieces as the cover for his 2001 studio album, The Rainbow Children.
In 2012, Mr. Bayoc began his 365 Days with Dad series. His New Year’s resolution to paint a positive image of black fatherhood each day for a year led to an inspiring journey, with the sharing of many stories. The project started a dialogue within the community about the importance of a strong foundation and support system for all children, no matter their age.
Today, Mr. Bayoc is creating a variety of projects including portraits, children’s book illustrations, and school and community murals.
Awards Artwork | Tyler Kimball, Kansas City
Tyler Kimball is the founder, owner, and gaffer – the leading master craftsman – of Monarch Glass Studio in Kansas City’s historic 18th & Vine Jazz District. He has worked with glass since 1999.
Born and raised in Kansas City, he established Monarch in 2015 upon returning home after 17 years of working in studios in Seattle and Portland and doing artist residencies and teaching courses at studios and colleges throughout the country. During his time away, his art grew in stature and is now shown in galleries and featured in museums and private collections internationally. He continues to act as instructor, visiting artist, and artist-in-residence at an array of educational facilities around the globe.
Mr. Kimball is uniquely known for his sculptures reflecting on the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s iconic shuttlecocks. He uses fine-line detail work to play with pattern on the “skirt” of the larger-than-life badminton birdies. For the Missouri Arts Awards, he has created a Spirograph-style design: intricate patterns stuffed with clear glass, encased in clear glass, turned into discs, cut, polished, and attached to a crystal base.
“From a young age I marveled at how humans could create such a beautiful material as glass,” Mr. Kimball says. “Glass is fun, light, and bright. I try to reflect that in the work I make.”
Choosing the Honorees
William Ash with students in the Guitar Horizons program of St. Louis Classical Guitar at Kennard Classical Junior Academy, St. Louis Public Schools
An independent panel of Missourians representing the arts community throughout the state selects the honorees from among public nominations. These panelists chose the 2020 honorees:
Barth L. Fraker, chair, Springfield | vice chair, Missouri Arts Council and Trust Board
Consuelo Cruz, Kansas City | arts marketing coordinator, City of Kansas City Office of Culture and Creative Services
Sarah Dresser, Columbia | manager, Office of Cultural Affairs, City of Columbia
Jerry Ford, Cape Girardeau | director, The Jerry Ford Orchestra | 2017 Individual Artist Honoree
Michael Gaines, Hannibal | executive director, Hannibal Arts Council and Missouri Association of Community Arts Agencies | 2012 Leadership in the Arts honoree
Sharon Kosek, St. Joseph | 2018 Leadership in the Arts honoree
Cecilia Nadal, St. Louis | founder and executive director, Gitana Productions, St. Louis | 2019 Leadership in the Arts honoree
Steve Snyder, Mount Vernon | 2019 Individual Artist honoree