Grammy Award-winning soprano Christine Brewer and St. Louis star Linda Kennedy will perform at the St. Louis Visionary Awards on Mon., April 24, at The Sun Theater in Grand Center (3625 Grandel Square). Brewer and Kennedy’s performances will honor six local women who will be recognized for their numerous contributions and achievements to the arts. Soprano Christine Brewer “We couldn’t be more thrilled to have two renowned entertainers – Christine an internationally acclaimed singer and Linda, a beloved and long-established St. Louis actress, director and educator –celebrating with us and honoring these six women who have made such an incredible impact in the arts,” said Kim Eberlein, committee co-chair for the Visionary Awards. “Christine’s own work in the schools both here and in Illinois, and Linda’s work with students at the Black Rep, is a living example of how two women can impact an entire community. The audience is going to be in for a special treat.”
In 2015, the St. Louis Visionary Awards were relaunched by an independent committee of women to celebrate the numerous contributions and achievements of women who work in or support the arts in St. Louis. From established working arts professionals and arts educators to emerging artists and community impact artists, each year’s honorees are truly “visionary.”
The 2017 Visionary Award honorees include: poet Shirley Bradley LeFlore (Outstanding Working Artist); photographer Kat Simone Reynolds (Outstanding Emerging Artist); artistic director of the Pink House, Regina Martinez (Community Impact Artist); playwright Nancy Bell (Outstanding Arts Professional); dancer and choreographer Vivian Anderson Watt (Outstanding Teaching Artist); and philanthropist Sally S. Levy (Major Contributor to the Arts).
Brewer, named one of the top 20 sopranos of all time (BBC Music), is highly regarded for her striking portrayal of the title role in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, which she has performed with the Metropolitan Opera, Opera de Lyon, Theatre du Chatelet, Santa Fe Opera, English National Opera, and Opera Theatre of St. Louis. She created the role of Sister Aloysius in the world premiere of Doug Cuomo’s opera Doubt with the Minnesota Opera in 2013, a role that was performed by Meryl Streep in the film version of the story. She reprised the role in August 2016 with the Union Avenue Opera in Louis. Brewer has worked with many of today’s most notable conductors, including Sir Colin Davis, David Robertson, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Sir Charles Mackerras, and Sir Simon Rattle, to name a few, and has made over 25 recordings. She continues her work with the Marissa, Illinois 6th graders in a program called Opera-tunities, which is now in its 13th year. She also works with the voice students at Webster University, and will be doing a weeklong residency this month on African-American composers. The residency will culminate in a recital with the students and Brewer. Kennedy, an artistic associate with The Black Rep, has worked both on and off stage with the company for more than 30 years. She most recently appeared in the company’s Seven Guitars by August Wilson and the New Jewish Theatre’s production of Intimate Apparel. Other credits include The Glass Menagerie, Windmill Baby, Marijah’s Pictures, Helver’s Night and Blood Wedding (Upstream Theater), Agnes of God (Avalon Theatre), The Gin Game (Actor’s Studio). Her directing credits include, Clybourne Park (Stephens College), Crumbs from the Table of Joy (Mustard Seed Theatre), I'm Not Rappaport (The New Jewish Theatre) and The Mountaintop (The Black Rep), to name a few. In addition, Kennedy has performed several historical vignettes for the Missouri History Museum, and has taught theatre and dance to youth and adults. Kennedy has received numerous accolades for her work including the Go List Best Actress Award, the Missouri Arts Individual Artist Award, the Griot Award from the Griot Museum and, in 2012, the Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award from the Arts and Education Council. Kennedy is also a former Visionary Award recipient. The awards ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. followed by a cocktail reception at 7 p.m. For tickets or more information, please visit www.vizawards.org,www. vizawards.org/tickets/ or call Haley Sturguess at 314-584-6068. Event co-hosts are Alison Ferring and Emily Pitts. Presenting sponsors include PNC Bank, the Steward Family Foundation, and Centene Charitable Foundation.
The 2017 Visionary Award honorees
Sally Levy,Major Contributor to the Arts Thanks to her vision and generosity, Sally Levy has made a critical impact on Opera Theatre Saint Louis. With her support, OTSL opened the Sally S. Levy Opera Center, providing space for administrative, rehearsal and community outreach needs. She and her family later created a fund to endow master classes with distinguished artists who cultivate young people in the field. Most recently, she established the Sally S. Levy Family Fund for New Works, allowing the organization to produce contemporary operas that will shape the future of opera for 21st century audiences. Sally has been honored with the National Trustee Opera Recognition Award from OPERA America and the Excellence in Philanthropy Arts Awards from the Arts and Education Council.
Shirley Bradley LeFlore, Outstanding Working Artist, is an internationally recognized poet, playwright, author, performance artist and educator who also has been a trailblazer in community arts, especially as a member of the Black Arts Group of St. Louis. During a career that has spanned five decades, she has performed for audiences throughout the world and her work has been published in numerous books, anthologies and magazines. Shirley is equally recognized for her vision as a creative collaborator with dancers and visual artists and is known for blending the vocal texture of her poetry with musical giants from jazz, blues, gospel and classical music.
Nancy Bell, Outstanding Arts Professional, the playwright in residence for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, tells stories about our neighborhoods through the eyes of the bard. As author of “Shakespeare in the Street,” Nancy has conversations with residents, business leaders and artists from a single neighborhood. Based on themes that emerge, she adapts one of Nancy Bell, Outstanding Arts Professional Shakespeare’s plays to be performed in that neighborhood by a mix of professional actors and community members. In 2013, she was awarded the St. Louis Theatre Circle Award for Outstanding New Play for this program. Nancy also wrote “Tales of Shakespeare” for children and families which was performed at Powell Hall in partnership with the Saint Louis Symphony. An accomplished actor with credits on national television shows and theatrical performances throughout the country, Nancy also is an assistant professor of theatre at Saint Louis University. Kat Simone Reynolds, Emerging Artist, shows relentless dedication as a photographer who leads her audiences into unexpected spaces in order to challenge perceptions. Her work has been described as conceptual storytelling through portrait and architectural photography. Adept at capturing her subjects’ emotional states, Kat creates an intimacy even from a distance. Themes in her work cover a broad range, including everything from black female depression to the superwoman complex. Her photographs have been shown at fort gondo, Beverly, Museum Blue and have been featured in Alive Magazine and various blogs.
Vivian Anderson-Watt, Outstanding Teaching Artist. As a dance teacher at Better Family Life and choreographer for Gitana, Inc., for the past 43 years, Vivian Anderson Watt has trained more than 50,000 at-risk and underserved young people. Her dynamic talent is matched by an unimpeachable belief that through the discipline and teamwork required in dance, all students can flourish, no matter what their backgrounds. Vivian is proud to have trained many successful dancers and dance teachers including a protégé who performed with Beyoncé and on the television show Empire. Her students have performed in cross-cultural collaborations and in shows at the MUNY, the Contemporary Art Museum, Powell Hall and the St. Louis International Salsa Congress.
Artist Regina Martinez, Community Impact Artist, is dedicated to changing St. Louis one art initiative at a time. With a bachelor’s degree in photojournalism and a master’s degree in social work, Regina is passionate about creative process and collaborative relationships. She is interested in cultivating relationships that encourage us to take risks and enhance opportunity. For five years, she served as Artistic Director of the Pink House,a neighborhood arts space in Pagedale, organizing Regina Martinez, Community Impact Artist creative exchanges designed to support a cohesive community. Regina is a graduate of the Community Arts Training Institute and the Institute’s Graduate Education and Research programs through the Regional Arts Commission. She is co-founder of the clothesline, a monthly installation where artists intersect to transform a space for one night only. She is also a part of Yeyo Arts Collective, dedicated to the creative empowerment of women and their families.