Ordway Center for the Performing Arts Announces 25th Annual Sally Ordway Irvine Award Recipients

Sally Awards honor extraordinary achievements in arts access, commitment, education, initiative and vision

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Aug. 23, 2017) — The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts is excited to announce the recipients of the 25th annual Sally Ordway Irvine Awards. The prestigious Sally Awards recognize and honor individuals and institutions that strengthen and enrich the state through their commitment to the arts and arts education. Winners will receive their awards during a celebration ceremony at the Ordway on Monday, Oct. 16.


The 25th annual Sally Award winners are:


ARTS ACCESS: Hunter Gullickson

COMMITMENT: J. Otis Powell‽

EDUCATION: Z Puppets Rosenschnoz


VISION: Rhiana Yazzie


The Sally Awards are a living tribute to the vision of Sally Ordway Irvine, who mobilized the community to support her dream of building a new performing arts center in downtown Saint Paul. In 1986, a year after the Ordway opened, Sally was honored with a “First Trust Award” for her vision, innovation and commitment to the arts and the community. In 1992, the award was reinstated and renamed the Sally Ordway Irvine Award.


The awards are presented annually to honor individuals and organizations that strengthen and enrich Minnesota with their commitment to the arts, arts education and arts access. Throughout the past two decades, the Ordway has honored more than 80 outstanding artists, administrators, volunteers and organizations through these awards.


“We are incredibly proud to be able to honor the artistic excellence of our peers and colleagues who are making a difference in communities throughout the state. The arts in Minnesota have over $1 billion in economic impact, and that is directly influenced by people like this year’s awardees,” said Jamie Grant, Ordway president and CEO. “In the past, we didn’t announce the Sally Award winners until the night of the awards ceremony. This year, we’ve decided to announce the winners in advance so that more members of the community can join us in celebrating the impact and value each of these important artists brings.”


The 25th annual Sally Award recipients were selected by a committee consisting of Ordway representatives, past Sally Award recipients, Minnesota State Arts Board representatives, media representatives and other leaders from the Minnesota arts and cultural community. The 25th annual Sally Awards program is supported by the Minnesota State Arts Board.


The 25th annual Sally Awards ceremony is free and open to the public, but space is limited. The event will be emceed by Robyne Robinson, with music by Raymond Berg. Those interested in attending can RSVP at www.ordway.org/sallyawards. The Sally Awards are sponsored by Deluxe.



Arts Access Award – Hunter Gullickson

As accessibility manager, Hunter Gullickson spearheads the Guthrie Theater’s access programs which include: American Sign Language interpretation, audio description, open captioning, Braille publications and the T.O.P. financial access initiative. Additionally, he looks beyond the performance experience, striving to ensure that the Guthrie facility is welcoming to people of all abilities. Hunter’s influence reaches many local arts organizations by providing access equipment and consultations. He helped establish the recently formed MN Access Alliance and serves on its steering committee. On a personal note, Hunter adores his family and enjoys drumming with highland bagpipe bands and creating fun crochet projects.


Commitment Award – J. Otis Powell‽

J. Otis Powell‽ is a writer, performance artist, mentor, curator and consultant. He is also a founding curator for Bridges, a performance arts program with Pangea World Theater. Powell‽ has released four books: “Waiting for a Spaceship” in June 2017; “Pieces of Sky” in 2014; “My Tongue Has No Bone,” a book featuring art by Janice Lee Porter, in 2001; and “Theology” in 1996. In February 2015, he was poetry editor for Blues Vision, an anthology produced in collaboration between Minnesota Humanities Center and Minnesota Historical Society Press. Powell‽'s words have been recorded and released on several CDs and DVDs: “News as Abstract Truth” with Bill Cottman, “Unsentimental” with Rene Ford, “BALM!” in association with SpeakEasy Records, “THIS CAT IS OUT” with The New Day Blues Band, “THEOLOGY: Love & Revolution and Words Will Heal The Wound.”


Powell‽ has studied with Gloria Anzaldúa, Quincy Troupe, Amiri Baraka, Alexs Pate, Sekou Sundiata and Yusef Komunyakaa. He worked as co-mentor and performed with Amiri Baraka for the Givens Writer's Retreat and TruRuts Endeavors. Grants and awards include: recipient of a Loft Creative Nonfiction Award, a Jerome Travel and Study Grant as well as a Jerome Mid Career Artist Grant and an Intermedia Arts Interdisciplinary McKnight Fellowship. He was selected for the 2014 CCLI at Intermedia Arts. The Minnesota Spoken Word Association awarded him their Urban Griot Innovator Award and inducted him into their Hall Of Fame. Powell‽ was a founding producer of the award winning Write On Radio! at KFAI-FM in Minneapolis while working as a program director and community liaison at the Loft Literary Center.


Education Award – Z Puppets Rosenschnoz

Z Puppets Rosenschnoz is a nationally-touring company based in Minneapolis that brings the transformative power of playfulness to children and adults through performances and workshops. Their combination of hand-crafted puppetry, quirky humor and live music has won awards from Jim Henson Foundation, Puppeteers of America, MN State Arts Board, IVEY Awards and Jerome & McKnight Foundations. Z Puppets' creative directors and founders, Shari Aronson and Chris Griffith, have earned the support of the National Endowment for the Arts, Educational Theater Association, Perpich Center for Arts Education, VSA MN, Arts for Academic Achievement and COMPAS for their extensive work in arts education. Z Puppets is a leader of innovative arts education in both academic and community settings through three key initiatives: Arts for All Abilities; STEM of Puppetry; and Arts and Mindfulness.


Initiative Award – Bee Yang

Bee Yang was born in the high mountains of Laos in the break of the Laotian Civil War and grew up during America's Secret War in Laos. As a child, he sat at the knees of the great song poets of his time. As a young man, he became a respected voice in song poetry for his people, singing the songs of their lived experiences, giving voice to their grief, channeling generations of hope and despair. In 1979, with no room to run, Yang and his family made their way to the refugee camps of Thailand. There, he continued to sing the songs of his people, document their tragedies and yearn for home. In 1987, Yang came to St. Paul, Minnesota with his young family as part of the biggest wave of Hmong refugees to enter the country. He continued to sing at Hmong New Year's festivals and family gatherings. In 1992, he came out with an album of song poetry titled, “Kwv Txhiaj Hmoob” (Hmong Song Poetry). Bee is a recipient of a 2013 Minnesota Arts Board Grant for Folk and Traditional Arts. In 2014, he came out with his second album titled, “Thaum Hluas Txog Hnub Laus” (When the Days of Youth are Gone). In 2017, Yang was recognized as one of AARP's 50 Minnesotans Over 50. His life has inspired the 2017 Minnesota award-winning book, “The Song Poet.” Yang practices Hmong song poetry not only for the elders who remember the times before, but for the young generations to come so they will not forget the beauty and artistry of the song traditions they come from.


Vision Award – Rhiana Yazzie

Rhiana Yazzie is a Navajo theatre artist and filmmaker. She is a 2016/2017 Playwrights’ Center McKnight Fellow, a two-time Playwrights’ Center Jerome Fellow (2010/2011 and 2006/2007) and was a Playwrights’ Center Core Member for three years. She was a playwright in residence at the William Inge Center in Independence, Kansas, Fall 2014 and is currently working on a play commission for the Inge Center. This past fall she was a resident at the MacDowell Colony. Other recent projects include a joint commission from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Public Theater to write a play for American Revolutions: the United States History Cycle. Yazzie created New Native Theatre in 2009, a company based in the Twin Cities; it is a new way of looking at, thinking about and staging Native American stories. Notable recent productions include Native Man the Musical, which was praised by the Twin Cities’ local Native American newspaper, The Circle News. Other successes include an original commission of a full-length musical comedy, 2012: The Musical! Yazzie is creating a 13 episode podcast, a comedy-drama series called Little Apple Big Apple about the highs and lows of being Native American living in the Twin Cities. Yazzie will finish shooting her first feature film, A Winter Love, this fall.  Yazzie’s history of filmmaking includes working on and appearing in Musa Syeed’s new feature, A Stray (SXSW 2016; MSP Int’l Film Festival “Best MN-Made Narrative Feature 2016′′). Yazzie is a graduate of the Masters of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California where she had the pleasure to produce events for the student body, which included lectures and concerts by Madeleine Albright, Herbie Hancock, Spaulding Grey, Paula Vogel and Stephen Hawking. 



The Ordway is widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading nonprofit performing arts centers and Saint Paul’s most elegant and inviting performance space. The Ordway’s Music Theater and Concert Hall attract diverse audiences with an array of productions showcasing the finest in American musical theater, world music, dance and vocal performance. Education and community engagement are integral to the Ordway’s mission, with major initiatives including the annual Flint Hills International Children’s Festival and Ordway Education programs that serve more than 50,000 students annually. Together with Minnesota Opera, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and The Schubert Club, the Ordway is a member of the Arts Partnership and serves as the principal venue for their performances. For more information, visit www.ordway.org.