Major Contributor to the Arts
A registered nurse by profession, a devoted wife; mother and grandmother, Thelma Steward’s other passion besides her family, is giving back to our community. She, together with her husband David, donate their time, talent and financial resources to a wide variety or causes and organizations. Among her positions on various boards, accomplishments and accolades, Thelma serves on the Sheldon Arts Foundation Board; the Saint Louis Symphony Board, and the Saint Louis Art Museum Board. Together with her husband, David, she co-chaired the 2012 Symphony Gala, and was instrumental in recruiting the legendary Jazz great, Wynton Marsalis, to headline the event. Thelma also chaired the 2013 100th Anniversary of the Sheldon Concert Hall; and sponsored numerous jazz artists at the Touhill for Jazz St. Louis. Recently, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis created, through a generous contribution from the Stewards, the Thelma Steward Endowed Artist Position. This award is given to deserving young talented singers of color.
Kelly Pollock, Executive Director of COCA
Outstanding Arts Professional
Kelly Pollock has served as the Executive Director at COCA (Center of Creative Arts), a dynamic community arts center in St. Louis, MO, since 2010. Prior to her current role, Pollock served as COCA's general manager since 2006, overseeing all business operations and programming. She joined COCA in 1997 and served as its director of development for eight formative years as the organizational budget grew from $1.7 million to $5 million. Under Pollock's leadership, COCA has developed and launched COCAbiz, an innovative arts-based training division for businesses that helps individuals and teams embrace creative problem-solving, innovative thinking and more dynamic leadership. The program is among the first of its kind in the country. COCA is undoubtedly one of the most vital arts organizations in the St. Louis community, and Ms. Pollock's visionary and dynamic leadership of this organization has taken its impact to a nationally recognized level. Her extensive knowledge, networking and innovation inspire this community to new artistic heights. She educates, leads, nurtures and shows unwavering commitment to fostering creativity and encouraging ongoing participation in the arts.
Amy Kaiser, St. Louis Symphony Chorus Director
Successful Working Artist
Amy Kaiser was already considered “certainly among the best choral directors in the country” according to Maestro Gerard Schwarz, when she left NYC in 1995 to assume the position of St. Louis Symphony Chorus Director. By then, she had extensive experience conducting orchestras and choruses, presenting educational concerts series and preparing choruses for many prestigious music organizations, including all the major orchestras in NYC, such as the New York Philharmonic. Now celebrating her 20th year with the St. Louis Symphony, she has worked with three successive music directors and many international guest conductors to prepare the chorus for all types of music. She remains one of the few women choral directors of large orchestras in the country and serves as an inspiration for young women aspiring to conducting careers. Her career includes a Fulbright Scholarship, a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, and the Smith College Medal. Aside from her renown as a choral director, she is increasingly known and loved for her free preconcert talks for the St. Louis Symphony, and for her sold-out lecture series for both opera and symphony fans in the St. Louis area.
Community Arts Educator
Ilene Berman is a St. Louis-based sculptor with a durational arts practice aimed at addressing issues of social justice. Her practice is based on her belief that an art can (and should) change the world. She understands change to be the result of small shifts often expressed through simple, artful gestures. Her most recent creation, Room13Delmar, is a tricycle-based mobile art studio. She has a Masters of Fine Arts and in Sculpture from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and currently holds a two-year post-graduate fellowship in Social Practice in the Department of Fine and Performing Arts at St. Louis University. Her work has been featured in Sculpture Magazine, the St. Louis Beacon, St. Louis Post Dispatch and on the BBC. For the past seven years her practice has primarily been focused on seeking to address St. Louis' Delmar Divide by developing a more visible arts presence in the blocks of the Grand Center Arts District, north of Delmar Boulevard.
Shualee is an exemplary emerging playwright. In a community with proportionally few local plays are produced on professional stages, the caliber of her work is already world-class. Her newest play, "An Invitation Out," will receive its world premiere as a MainStage production at Mustard Seed Theatre. She's also a talented director and performer. Her play "Osgood Rex" was performed at the first St. Louis Fringe Festival and it won the audience favorite vote by a landslide. Her writing has poignancy, perspective, an entirely fresh voice, and it's absolutely stunning theatrical work.
Community Impact Artist
Cecilia Nadal has spent most of her life building cross-cultural bridges in St. Louis, Missouri. After 23 years as president of an employment firm that specialized in training employers and low-income job seekers how to transcend class divisions, she founded Gitana Productions, Inc., the first arts organization (1996) with the central mission of cross-cultural engagement through drama, dance, and music performances. In 2007, she was asked to use her expertise in the area of Roma culture to speak to a group of Roma youth about a subject she studied for over 20 years – their culture. So moved by this experience, she started Global Education through the Arts, a program that brings African-American and immigrant youth together to nurture cultural acceptance. These youth conduct an annual nonviolence tour that has reached over 6,500 St. Louisans. Cecilia’s community work ranges from sponsoring Peace Festivals in North St. Louis to address violence to developing joint theatrical and music programming between the African-American and international communities of our region.
Freida L. Wheaton, Arts Activist
Community Impact Artist
Freida has had two distinct careers, as an educator in the college classroom and as a corporate lawyer. She has now dedicated herself to using her extensive work experience in the non- profit arts and culture arena. She participates extensively in the community through her work with nonprofit organizations. She established her Salon 53, a private residential art gallery in 2006, and has collaborated with other art institutions in several art initiatives. In addition to curating the collection exhibited at Salon 53, she has had experience with the June 2008, Contemporary Art Gallery, Forest Park Community College; and the 2007 Black Fine Arts Show of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis. Recently, she curated a 14-venue exhibition "Hands Up, Don't Shoot: Artists Respond" that included over 100 artists; exhibited by the Alliance of Black Art Galleries. She also curated "Now! Vibrant Traditions With An Unexpected Twist" for Philip Slein Gallery, St. Louis, December 19, 2014 - January 24, 2015.She is a member of the Lambert International Airport Art Advisory Committee. She has served in board leadership roles at the St. Louis Art Museum over 14 years.