Sue Hess Maryland Arts Advocate of the Year Award

The “Sue Hess Maryland Arts Advocate of the Year Award,” is named in honor of our first Chair of the Board of Trustees and the longest serving member of the organization.  The award recognizes an individual whose advocacy efforts have significantly increased support for and public recognition of the Arts in Maryland.  

The award’s namesake, Sue Hess, has been a leader and staunch defender of the Arts in Maryland for over forty years. Soon after the founding of MCA in 1977, Sue became the Chair of MCA and is the longest serving member on the Board of Trustees. Working on her own for the first three years at her kitchen table in Ocean City, Sue began forming a network of grassroots art supporters across the state. Over the years, she has been instrumental in driving the tremendous change and growth for the arts in the state.

Beginning in 2009, the Sue Hess Award has been presented during Maryland Arts Day to individuals whose advocacy efforts have significantly benefited the entire Maryland arts community.

Nomination Instructions

Nominations for the 2018 Sue Hess Arts Maryland Advocate of the Year Award are open from now until Noon on Friday, January 12, 2018.  

Nominees must be residents of Maryland. Current government and elected officials, current Maryland State Arts Council staff and councilors, and current trustees and staff of Maryland Citizens for the Arts are INELIGIBLE.

Submit a completed nomination form for each nominee. Please DO NOT submit multiple forms for the same nominee. For more information call 410.467.6700 or send an email

Past Award Winners

2017 - Busy Graham

Busy Graham has been a passionate advocate for the arts over the past four decades, starting with a career in music education and then in arts administration. She recognized at an early age the impact of the arts and the importance of arts accessibility for everyone. This lifelong dedication has resulted in her imaginative conception and direction of “big picture” arts programs at both state and local levels.

During her time as director of the Institute of Musical Traditions in the early 90’s, and as an elementary school parent, Busy realized that schools and PTAs needed help in identifying high quality cultural arts assembly programs and artist residencies that reflected and celebrated the diversity of their communities. In response, she founded the non-profit Artivate (link to http://www.goartivate.org/) (formerly Class Acts Arts) in 1995 and developed a roster of international master artists/educators and program offerings.

During her ten-year tenure with Artivate, Busy initiated and expanded outreach to include low-income schools, special needs centers, senior care facilities, wounded warriors, and other underserved audiences throughout Maryland, D.C., and Northern Virginia – facilitating an average of more than 2,000 performances, workshops and residencies, reaching an estimated 250,000 residents each year. In 2000, she launched the Project Youth ArtReach (link to http://www.goartivate.org/about-our-programs/artreach/project-youth-artreach/) program with Artivate, which has earned national recognition for the quality and impact of its programs in correctional facilities and juvenile detention centers. The organization is now celebrating its 22nd anniversary and continues to flourish.

In 2006, Graham founded Carpe Diem Arts, (link to https://www.carpediemarts.org/) presenting multi-generational and multi-cultural community events and arts outreach activities on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and in Montgomery County.  Among her signature programs are Jump Start with the Arts, Ukes on the Move, Carpe Diem Choral Arts Residency Project, Youth ArtBeat after-school programs working with immigrant and refugee populations; Spanish and French immersion summer arts camps; numerous public performance series; and the Arts-to-You e-postings of arts events and activities.

In Talbot County, she has succeeded in raising the funds needed each year since 2010 to guarantee that all schools receive 100% of matching funds for Arts-in-Education programs. As a result, 10 public and private schools in the County will benefit this year from more than 60 programs plus artist residencies-more than double what would otherwise have been possible.

Through fundraising, block-bookings, and creative partnerships with other non-profits, schools, housing developments, and social service agencies, Carpe Diem Arts has effectively extended its reach, while also supporting the livelihoods of many visual, literary, and performing artists representing diverse cultures and traditions.

2016 - Herb Massie

Director of Community Engagement, Baltimore Clayworks

Herb Massie is a community artist, organizer, teacher, sculptor, mosaic artist, and Director of Community Engagement at Baltimore Clayworks. Having grown up in Baltimore, Herb is self-taught and pulls from his experiences in the city. He uses clay, spanning from individual projects to collaboratively designed and executed installations, as a vehicle for healing, relationship development, advocacy, and community building with a diverse pool of participants. He has worked to overcome stereotypes, prejudices, and misconceptions to bring dignity, voice, and strength to young people, teens, students with disabilities, senior adults, and those who are experiencing addiction recovery through hands-on arts experiences in Maryland for over 25 years.

2015 - Brooke Kidd

Founder/Director, Joe’s Movement Emporium

Since 1992, Brooke Kidd has championed community responsive programming at Joe’s Movement Emporium. Her pioneering efforts to utilize the arts in Maryland as a vehicle for progressive education, workforce training and economic growth have made her one of the most well-respected arts managers in the region. A vocal advocate for the arts, Brooke has participated in state and national panels to educate and support other leaders involved in community arts service, capacity-building innovations, and arts and entertainment districts. A winner of the Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award for choreography, Kidd’s successful vision has created a gold standard for community-based arts organizations throughout Maryland. Local families hungry for affordable, quality childcare can find it at Joe’s in their Club Joe’s after-care program. When teens from the neighborhood came to her for jobs, she fashioned a workforce development program to train them for positions in technical theatre and digital media. Her drive and vision anchored an entire arts district—the Gateway Arts District of Prince George’s County—joining small businesses and the arts community in pursuit of economic growth.

2014 - Fred Lazarus IV

Former President, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)

A founding chair of both Americans for the Arts and the National Coalition for Education in the Arts, Mr. Lazarus has demonstrated extraordinary leadership in advocating for the arts and arts education at the federal level. In Maryland, in addition to serving as MICA’s president since 1978, he has chaired the Maryland Independent Colleges and Universities and the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance, was a Founding Trustee of the Baltimore School for the Arts and the Baltimore Design School, and has served on such boards as the American Visionary Art Museum, Maryland Art Place, and the Maryland Commission on Artistic Property. He is a national leader in using academic institutions to energize communities, and has been recognized both for his work as an education innovator and for his success in creating cooperative models for economic development.

2013 - Susan S. Farr

Former Executive Director, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland

Susie Farr is a nationally recognized arts administrator and arts advocate with significant experience in all areas of performing arts management, both in the national nonprofit arena and at the university level.  She came to the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center in 1999 from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, where she served as executive director for 13 years. During her tenure there, she administered the National Task Force on Presenting and Touring the Performing Arts, an 18-month project that brought together arts professionals from around the country to address the complex issues facing the arts and culture in America. The resulting report, An American Dialogue, presented a vision for the arts in American communities that became a touchstone for performing arts professionals nationwide.  

During her tenure at the Clarice Smith Center, Ms. Farr instilled a passion for fostering collaborative and meaningful relationships between the Center, the University of Maryland, and the diverse communities of Prince Georges and Montgomery Counties.  From the beginning Ms. Farr displayed a strong commitment to accessible programming.  The Center is now presenting more than 600 free events annually reaching thousands of Marylanders.

She has earned a reputation for adventuresome programming and community engagement. She has extensive experience in creating and administering new initiatives in support of audience development, diversity and arts advocacy. She has served as a panelist on numerous review panels for state arts agencies and the National Endowment for the Arts and has served on the boards of Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS, The National Jazz Service Organization, the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington and Miriam’s Kitchen, a breakfast program for the homeless.  She was twice selected by Washingtonian magazine for its list of “Washington’s 100 Most Powerful Women” (2002 and 2006).

2012 - Toby Orenstein

Founder and Artistic Director, Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts

Ms. Orenstein is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts in Howard County. Ms. Orenstein was inducted in to the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame and in 2005 she was honored for Outstanding Service to Educational Theatre by the Maryland Theatre Association.

For more than 50 years, Ms. Orenstein has served the arts community of Maryland with a particular emphasis on using theatre to better the lives of children. As an arts educator and advocate, Toby was inspired by her early experiences in the Harlem, NY schools. Selected by Eleanor Roosevelt as one of 12 teachers to participate in the “All Day Neighborhood School Project” she worked to motivate and stimulate disaffected and under privileged youth to learn in a different way, through the arts. Toby was practicing “arts integration” long before the phrase was coined.

2011 - E. Scott Johnson

Former Chair, Maryland State Arts Council

Mr. Johnson is a Principal with the law firm Ober|Kaler. He chairs the firms Intellectual Property Group.  He was named one of Baltimore Magazine’s Top Attorney’s in 2005 and one of their Baltimore’s 115 Best Lawyers in 1993. It is not his legal work that the arts community is celebrating today but rather his extraordinary dedication to promoting the arts community throughout Maryland over the last 20 years.  Mr. Johnson’s service in the arts began in 1991 as a board member at Maryland’s Young Audiences/Arts for Learning. He served for thirteen years with six as president and vice president. From 2004 -2007 Scott served on the Board of Creative Alliance and played a crucial role in securing a Maryland State Bond Bill allowing Creative Alliance to locate in and anchor the Highlandtown Arts & Entertainment District. In 2004 Scott was appointed to the Maryland State Arts Council by Governor Robert Ehrlich. He was re-appointed in 2007 by Governor Martin O’Malley and was elected Chair in 2008 when he guided the Council through their recent Imagine Maryland strategic plan.

In addition to his great service to the Maryland State Arts Council, Mr. Johnson has also served on or chaired the boards of CityLit Project, the Maryland Film Industry Coalition, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Washington Area Music Association, the American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers, and was a critical force in the resurgence and growth of Maryland Lawyers for the Arts.