Major Contributor to the Arts
“Thank you for giving me this Visionary Award along with a platform to voice my belief that the arts make us more compassionate human beings. Compassion is what keeps us civil and kind and able to play with others on the world’s playground. This award acknowledges all of the hours of behind-the-scenes work that it takes to make art happen, and even though I would do it anyway for art’s sake, this acknowledgment is very much appreciated.”
– Lana Pepper
Lana Pepper, grew up with an absence of art of any kind. When she was first exposed to theatre as an adult, the doors opened and there was no stopping her. She embraced all forms of arts. Since then, she has spent a lot of time trying to make sure that the arts in our community are strong and that they reach children, who like her might have been deprived of the glory of music, theatre, opera, museums, good film and literature. Working to start a Shakespeare Festival that is of high quality and free to everyone was the most exciting, challenging and fulfilling part of her life. She is thankful to be a part of so many wonderful arts organizations in our city.
Outstanding Working Artist
“It is an extreme honor to be named the 2018 Saint Louis Visionary Award recipient for Outstanding Working Artist. As a St. Louis native, and a woman dedicated to my craft, the elevation of it, and to those who seek to live a life were their art/gift makes a way for them, this recognition serves as a powerful testament.” – Cheeraz Gormon
Cheeraz Gormon is a visual storyteller, poet, author, and award-winning advertising copywriter, two-time TEDxGatewayArch speaker, 2018 Storytelling Fellow at InPower Institute a division of Emerging Wisdom, and every bit a native daughter of St. Louis, Missouri. As a poet, Gormon has opened for scholars Cornell West, Dr. Dennis Kimbrow, MacArthur Genius educator and curator Dr. Deborah Willis, Hip-Hop impresario Russell Simmons, and has performed on stages nationally, and internationally. Her poetry has been featured on Ebony Magazine online, Huffington Post, St. Louis Public Radio, and on-air in London, England and Portland, Oregon. She is a member of St. Louis-based Screwed Arts Collective, founding committee member of the St. Louis Brick City Poetry Festival, founder and co-executive director of Sonic Arts United, a S.T.E.A.M. based nonprofit, founder and executive director of Sibling Support Network, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting people who have lost siblings to violence.
Outstanding Arts Professional
"For such a time as this, we in the St. Louis community are better together, and music and opera accomplish exactly that in extraordinarily beautiful, surprising, and lasting ways. It is a privilege to work towards those ends, along with my gifted colleagues at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, via our education and community programming. Together through the arts, we discover meaningful relationships which deepen our understanding, appreciation, and, I daresay, love for one another. It is a very high honor to be recognized as a St. Louis Visionary. Thank you for putting new wind in my sails for the next leg of this important journey to build community within our community. Onward!" – Allison Felter
Allison Felter is the Director of Education and Community Engagement for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, where she supervises and implements more than a dozen year-round educational programs reaching students and teachers in more than 100 metro area schools. During her tenure, she has managed the co-commissioning of four operas for young people and has expanded programming to include summer camps for elementary and high school students. She helped create and launch two notable community engagement events--Spring Sing! and #With Normandy: A Concert for Peace and Unity featuring Christine Brewer and Denyce Graves, along with church, school, and community choirs, in response to the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.
"Being chosen to be a part of this group of visionaries whose careers and contributions reflect an astounding breadth of creative accomplishments is extremely humbling. Such an extraordinary symbol of honor and validation! The visionary awards have created a crucial platform that allows for the celebration of women of excellence, but most importantly, it has harnessed a contagious energy that truly promotes phenomenal women making significant shifts and shakes in the St. Louis area.” – Yvonne Osei
As a Ghanaian transmedial artist, Yvonne Osei describes herself as an outsider artist making insider art, referencing her West African roots while acknowledging her close to nine years of living in St. Louis, Missouri.Her work explores intersections of fashion and art to address issues of socio-political relevance. More recently, her work utilizes textiles as an artistic medium to build physical and metaphoric architectural landscapes, to create temporal coverings that alter one’s complexion and physicality, and to dissect the ‘global image’ of West African textiles in our present-day world.
Outstanding Teaching Artist
"I have been dancing (Indian classical dance) as long as I can remember, because dancing is an integral part of me. When I came to the United States, I took a chance and started teaching, never in my wildest dreams imagining that I and my husband would start a dance company--Dances of India--that would reach its 40th season in 2017. My goal has always been to make classical Indian dance accessible and enjoyable to non-Indians. Receiving the 2018 Visionary Award for Outstanding Teaching Artist is one of the most unimaginably beautiful things that could happen on this journey. I am honored to be one of the recipients and I look forward to the award ceremony and everything else that goes along with it!" – Asha Premachandra
Asha Premachandra (Prem for short), Artistic Director of Dances of India, has been teaching classical Indian dance in St. Louis since 1976. She and her husband, Dr. Prem, launched their dance company in 1977, and in 2017, it is still going strong. Asha has also taught Indian culture and dance in many schools in the city of St. Louis, through Springboard to Learning. One of her proudest achievements was to teach a class of deaf children a course in Indian dance at the Gallaudet School for the Deaf. In addition, she has been teaching at Washington University through the Performing Arts Department for the last twenty years.
Community Impact Artist
"Being named the 2018 Community Impact Artist of the Saint Louis Visionary Awards is humbling and a perpetual fire for me to continue to use art and design to develop healthier and equitable outcomes for communities of color. For an institution such as the Saint Louis Visionary Awards to see the power of art and design as more than entertainment, but more so catalysts shifting and changing society for the better is inspirational and powerful. This form of movement building has, and will continue to, shape our society to become more representative of community members from all walks of life. To join this community of change-makers is truly an honor." – Antionette Carroll
Antionette D. Carroll is the Founder and CEO of Creative Reaction Lab, a nonprofit social enterprise designing healthy and racially equitable communities for Black and Latinx populations. Throughout her career, Antionette has worked for social justice, human rights, and diversity and inclusion nonprofits - with her last position being head of communications for Diversity Awareness Partnership. Currently, Antionette is the Chair Emeritus of the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force of AIGA: The Professional Association of Design. At the local level, she is also serving as President Emerita of AIGA St. Louis and co-founder of the Design + Diversity Conference and Podcast.