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Sue Hess Legacy Arts Advocate of the Year Award
The “Sue Hess Legacy Arts Advocate of the Year Award” is named in honor of our first Chair of the Board of Trustees. 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, was 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 served on the Board of Trustees, and had other advising capacities with MCA for numerous decades. 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 was instrumental in driving the tremendous change, continued investment, and growth for the arts in the state.
In 2009, the Sue Hess Award was presented during Maryland Arts Day to individuals whose advocacy efforts have significantly benefited the entire Maryland arts community. With Sue’s passing in April 2020, the award now continues as a testament to her work and commitment to honor a new generation of Maryland arts advocates.
Congratulations to this year’s award winner, Cara Ober!
For more information about Cara, click on her picture or click HERE.
Past Award Winners
2021 Kibibi Ajanku
Kibibi Ajanku is a multi-faceted artist. She makes and presents ethnically charged art because her passion embodies the thrust of the African Diaspora. Ajanku’s creativity is the ongoing and ever-evolving effort of her life journey. Her work is eclectic and innovative. It is ancient while at the same time new-world and always changing becoming artistry that is layered with, and entrenched in, indigenous folkways. Kibibi Ajanku’s work embodies research, identity, and the gathering of elements of African retention, in hopes of evoking intuitive memories that reach back into ancestral histories and stories that impact the here and the now.
She is known broadly as the Founder of the Baltimore-based Sankofa Dance Theater. Since 1989, her company has featured elements of the distant past, existing present, and imagined future, all drenched in the traditions of the historical Mali Dynasty. Under her direction, the group has exhibited new-world costuming and choreography, with a nuance that embodies authentic traditions of West Africa. Sankofa’s major projects have included visual, as well as, performance art and have been artistically curated, providing an experience that is an informative journey to the exotic places.
Ajanku believes that when presented properly, art is the perfect vehicle to move forward into greater intercultural awareness for the global community. To that end, Kibibi Ajanku curates and guides the elements of the Urban Arts Leadership Initiative for the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance where she serves as Equity and Inclusion Director. Under her leadership, the Fellowship has increased racial inclusion within arts sector leadership and has positively altered workplace best practices through actively training, placing, and referring an annual cohort of emerging professionals. Additionally, she holds space as the Resident Curator for a small gallery in the Fells Point area of Baltimore, Maryland. Ajanku is also the Urban Arts Professor for a rotating cohort of students at Coppin State University, and serves as a Resident Artist/Researcher for Maryland Institute College of Art Fibers Department. Furthermore, Ajanku is excited to administer the evolution of a new Urban Arts Field School project with UAL fellows and community folklorists, recently funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.
2021 WombWork Production, Inc.
Mama Rashida Forman-Bey is a director, actress, teaching artist, community activist, song writer, storybook author, and Master Virtues Project facilitator. Mama Rashida, as she is known in the community, is a native of Baltimore, Maryland. She is one of the founding Directors of WombWork Productions, Inc., a Baltimore based, 501c3 social change theatre company. WombWork’s performances tackle relevant social issues endemic throughout the world such as gun violence, domestic abuse, grief, drug/alcohol abuse, gang violence, HIV prevention, sexual assault, health disparities, and racial inequities.
For over 25 years WombWork’s community programs have served to enrich local neighborhoods through cultural programs incorporating yoga, spirituality, traditional African dancing, drumming, singing, and theatre. Mama Rashida conducts character-building and professional development workshops across the United States, primarily targeting youth, youth facilitators, college students and adults. These workshops have included facilitator training for African Rites of Passage (culturally relevant womanhood training and the Virtues Project International, (a character -building model).
Mama Rashida has been seen in numerous productions, including Under the Skin, Tell Pharaoh, and For Colored Girls. She also in October 2018, directed For Colored Girls by Ntozake Shange at Coppin State University. She is currently a Distinguished Community Arts Fellow and graduate student at Maryland Institute College of Art. She is a teaching artist and Professional Development facilitator with Young Audiences of Maryland; training many of their staff and teaching artists to incorporate character building into their lessons plans.
Utilizing the performing arts as a tool for transformation, Mama Rashida has been committed to helping urban youth and their families reach their full potential for over 35 years. In her spiritual walk, Mama Rashida considers herself a lifelong learner who companions others in their spiritual journey through drama, meditation, rituals and the most powerful religion in the world, LOVE.
Artists are keepers of the culture. They tell the story of a people. They inspire change. The performing arts has the power to act as a mirror for society, for us to view ourselves, heighten our awareness, inspire community dialogue, and make positive changes in our own lives.
I want to walk in the footsteps of those great Indigenous ancestors; keeping the culture, telling the story, and companioning others in creating magical, life changing moments through the performing arts. In my work, I bring together community voices, stories, culture, history, knowledge and information through theatre, dance, music, and visual arts, to heal the spirit and inspire social change. – Mama Rashida Forman-Bey
For over five decades, Kay Lawal has performed around the world on stages from New York to Edinburgh, Scotland, Amsterdam to… Kenya. Blending Artistry with Activism, Ms. Lawal- Muhammad is a founding director of Actors against Drugs, Kuumba Women’s Theatre Company, and WombWork Productions Inc. A dramatic as well as Comedic Performer, Ms. Lawal-Muhammad has appeared in the Emmy award-winning episode of the television series “Homicide.” Other television appearances include “American Most Wanted”, “The Corner” and the “Wire.” One of Ms. Lawal-Muhammad’s most acclaimed productions was her long running comic partnership with the provocative comedy team, “The Thunder Thigh Revue” starring Artist Joyce Scott that toured the United States, Canada and Europe.
A good laugh never hurt anyone. In fact, humor actually help promote healing and productivity. Through her “Kayotic Komedy” she takes the title… “Laugh Therapist”. Kay lets loose a unique brand of humor, born of her personal struggles. Tapping universal themes, she invites audiences in on the healing process. She speaks from the heart. She shows audiences how to laugh through ups and downs. Timing is everything and Kay’s is impeccable!!
Known as “Mama Kay” to the thousands of youth and families which have had life-changing experiences through the work of WombWork Productions, Ms. Lawal serves as Artistic Director of the production company. Pioneering a three-tier mentoring process through the production companies three performance ensembles, Nu World Art Ensemble (ages 18 and up), Nu Generation Art Ensemble (13-17) and Next Generation Art Ensemble (5-12 ).Mama Kay now has a film director credit added to her resume. Mama Kay is an official Rites of Passage Facilitator and a Master Virtues Facilitator (Virtues Project ™.)
2020 - Rebecca Massie Lane
Rebecca Massie Lane became Director of the Museum of Fine Arts-Washington County (MFA-WC) August 1, 2008. She received her B.A. and M.A. in Art History from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville and from 1989-2008, was Director of Museums and Galleries, and Associate Professor and Program Director, Arts Management Program, at Sweet Briar College, Sweet Briar, Virginia. Previously, she was Director of the Knoxville Museum of Art, Knoxville, Tennessee and served the curatorial and education departments at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia.
Throughout her career, she has engaged in arts advocacy. She has attended Maryland Arts Day every year since taking her position in 2008. She has maintained communications with the Washington County Delegation, apprising them of arts needs and initiatives locally, regionally and statewide. She has enjoyed the relationships she has developed through arts advocacy, and seeks to share the transformative power of art in all of her work. In Virginia, she led the Arts Management Program at Sweet Briar College, where she introduced students and volunteers to the importance of Arts Advocacy, helping them develop their voices as advocates, participants and supporters of the arts. She also was active with the Virginia Council for the Arts and during her tenure at the Knoxville Museum of Art in Tennessee, in the efforts of the Tennessee Arts Commission.
Since 2008, Rebecca has led the museum in undertaking strategic planning, balancing the budget, developing a collections philosophy and collections management policy, and originating innovative exhibitions and programs funded by new grant sources such as the Henry Luce Foundation, the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, Japan Foundation, Target Foundation, Maryland Humanities Council, Maryland Energy Administration, and the Art Dealers Association of America Foundation. She led the museum in completing three Museum Assessment Program (MAP) grants, and in 2016, she successfully led the museum through the rigorous American Alliance of Museums’ (AAM) national reaccreditation process, for which the MFA-WC received unqualified reaccreditation.
During her tenure, the museum has completed the refurbishment and reinterpretation of the Singer Memorial Gallery and the 19th and 20th Century American Art Galleries; each project entailed curatorial advances for the museum’s interpretive program as well as aesthetic and facility improvements. In 2011, the Museum completed the enclosure of the Museum’s central courtyard to create a glassroofed atrium, for which it exceeded its $2.5 million fundraising goal. Recent capital projects have totaled over $4.5 million. In addition to the gallery refurbishments, these funds supported two roof replacements with energy-efficient white membrane roofs, historic skylights repair, refurbishing the two major galleries, improving the North Entry Plaza, upgrading the catering kitchen, replacing existing lighting with energy-efficient LEDs, and completely upgrading the HVAC System. The facility upgrades have not only improved the artistic impact of the museum’s galleries, but have also reduced the MFAWC’s energy consumption by 40%.
She has worked tirelessly to seek endowed positions for the museum’s Curator and Educator. In 2016, the Agnita M. Stine Schreiber Foundation endowed the curatorial position, and the Nora Roberts Foundation has provided half of the needed funds to endow the Museum Educator’s post. She initiated the Cushwa High School Scholarship and the Cushwa Internship with the assistance of Jean Cushwa’s heirs. She has developed robust, expanded programming to enliven the museum and serve new and diverse audiences. The MFA-WC’s commitment to diversity, equity, access and inclusion is a paramount goal and touches every aspect of the museum.
In 2016-17, the Museum commemorated its 85th anniversary with a year of special exhibitions and programs. The Museum’s endowment campaign has raised over $3,000,000.00 specifically dedicated to artistic and educational purposes. The museum completed a 3-year art collection inventory funded by a Museums for America grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Other art collections stewardship grants have been received from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Arts education grants have been received from the National Endowment for the Arts. Rebecca Massie Lane served for ten years on the Washington County Convention and Visitors’ Bureau board of directors for which she was Secretary, the Hagerstown Arts and Entertainment District Board, the Hagerstown Cultural Trail Advisory Committee, the Maryland Commission on Artistic Property, and the Maryland Fine Arts Education Advisory Panel. She has served as a grant reviewer for the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Virginia State Arts Council, The Tennessee Arts Commission, and the Maryland State Arts Council; she has often served as a juror for regional art exhibitions.
Rebecca has said, “I am privileged to have worked in the field of art museums for my entire career, where I have engaged with a community of creative people who have enriched my life beyond measure. I am immensely grateful for the gift of art in my life.”
2019 - Julia Di Bussolo
Executive Director, Arts Every Day
Julia Di Bussolo is a community artist, advocate, and arts administrator working to improve equity and access to the arts in Baltimore City Public Schools. She holds a Masters of Arts in Community Arts and Bachelors of Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art.
As executive director of Arts Every Day and as a Baltimore City parent, Julia serves as a leading voice of arts education advocacy. Arts Every Day strengthens learning by making the arts an integral part of classroom instruction for all students in Baltimore City Public Schools. The organization provides over $300,000 in support and annual funding for student art experiences, staff development, and program support. As a leader, she seeks out strategic partnerships and organizes several annual events to celebrate and elevate Baltimore City students as artists, musicians and performers.
Working in conjunction with the city school district, Julia successfully secured a $50,000 Collective Impact grant from the National Endowment of the Arts in 2017. Under her leadership, inspiration, and direction, the grant funded the launch of the Baltimore Education Arts Initiative; a community/district partnership to develop and implement a strategic plan to ensure every student in Baltimore City receives arts education. With Julia’s leadership and guidance, over 100 educators, advocates, arts partners, parents, students, district, and city leaders, helped to create a comprehensive Arts Education Strategic Plan and measurable implementation goals. The plan has been incorporated into the district’s Blueprint for Success and a five-year implementation plan is underway. Powered by the efforts of district partners, educators, community members, artists, and organizations, the initiative seeks to shift budget and operating policy to ensure all Baltimore City students have access to art, music, dance, theatre, and media arts education every year.
2018 - Sandy Oxx
Former Executive Director, Carroll County Arts Council
Sandy Oxx has had a varied career in the arts for the past 37 years including positions at the Museum of the City of New York, the O’Neill Theatre Center and the Hudson River Museum. She has served on the Maryland State Arts Council’s Board and was named as one of the 50 Women to Watch by the Baltimore Sun. For the past two decades she has been the Executive Director of the Carroll County Arts Council, bringing it from a 600 square foot basement to a home in a magnificently restored art deco movie theatre in downtown Westminster that now welcomes more than 55,000 annual visitors. The facility hosts more than 140 events each year including everything from the National Players to Baltimore’s acclaimed STEP dance team to an annual foreign film festival and a wide variety of musical productions. Arts camps, a musical instrument bank, studio classes, bus trips, a kazoo band and a dynamic series of art exhibits round out the schedule.
Sandy may be best known for creating the PEEPshow, which is now in its 11th year and has garnered the attention of NBC Nightly News, the Today Show, and even Who Wants to be a Millionaire! The marshmallow masterpieces entered into this event are indeed engineering marvels and have been purchased by the American Visionary Art Museum, PBS and JustBorn, the company that makes PEEPS. The free event magically earns more than $85,000 annually to help underwrite arts programs throughout the year. However, the real reward, according to Sandy, is “seeing an extraordinary work of art created by a State Trooper and his kids in his garage…that means the world to me.” Sandy is retiring in June and is anxious to have the time to enjoy more of the astounding arts activities that Maryland has to offer.
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.