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2021 St. Louis Arts Awards Honorees Announced

The Arts and Education Council has announced eight honorees for the 2021 St. Louis Arts Awards. Now in its 30th year, the event honors individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to the St. Louis region's arts community.

The 2021 honorees are: Amy Kaiser, Lifetime Achievement in the Arts; Kirven and Antonio Douthit-Boyd, Excellence in the Arts; Brian Owens, Excellence in the Arts; Lynne and Jim Turley, Excellence in Philanthropy; Antionette Carroll, Arts Innovator; "Such Sweet Thunder" presented by Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, Nine Network of Public Media, Jazz St. Louis and The Big Muddy Dance Company, Arts Collaboration; James McKay Jr., Jennings School District, Art Educator of the Year; and John Nickel, 30th Anniversary Chairperson's Award.

"The 30th annual St. Louis Arts Awards will be an opportunity to celebrate our region's resiliency and creativity just as we've done for the past 29 years. We are thrilled to be celebrating these honorees who keep art happening, bringing us together and uplifting us," said Cynthia A. Prost, Arts and Education Council president and CEO.

The 2021 St. Louis Arts Awards will be held Monday, January 25 at the Chase Park Plaza, Royal Sonesta Hotel. Actor and arts administrator Andréa Purnell will emcee the fundraiser. Pat Rich, founder of the St. Louis Arts Awards, serves as honorary chair. The Centene Charitable Foundation serves as the presenting sponsor.

Nominations for the awards were submitted by the public in April and honorees were selected by a volunteer committee of previous honorees, arts patrons, artists, arts administrators and community volunteers.

Proceeds benefit the Arts and Education Council, which offers programs and services that support more than 70 arts and arts education organizations impacting 1.6 million people throughout the 16-county, bi-state region.

Tickets for the 2021 St. Louis Arts Awards will go on sale in fall 2020. For more information about the honorees, sponsorship opportunities and tickets, visit

About the Honorees
Lifetime Achievement in the Arts - Amy Kaiser
Director of the St. Louis Symphony Chorus since 1995, Amy Kaiser is one of the country's leading choral directors. She has conducted the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Handel's "Messiah", Schubert's "Mass in E flat", Vivaldi's "Gloria" and sacred works by Haydn and Mozart. Guest conductor for the Berkshire Choral Festival in Massachusetts, Santa Fe and at Canterbury Cathedral and Music Director of the Dessoff Choirs in New York for 12 seasons, she led many performances of major works at Lincoln Center.

Other conducting engagements include Chicago's Grant Park Music Festival, Peter Schickele's PDQ Bach with the New Jersey Symphony, Berkshire Opera, Opera Ensemble of New York and more than fifty performances with the Metropolitan Opera Guild. Principal Conductor of the New York Chamber Symphony's School Concert Series for seven seasons, Kaiser also led Jewish Opera at the Y and many programs for the 92nd Street Y's acclaimed Schubertiade. She has prepared choruses for the New York Philharmonic, Ravinia Festival, Mostly Mozart Festival and Opera Orchestra of New York.

Kaiser is a regular pre-concert speaker for the St. Louis Symphony and has presented the Symphony Lecture Series, promoting SLSO concerts, for the past fifteen years. Her popular classes for Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Illuminating Opera, are being broadcast this season on Classic 107.3.

A former faculty member at Manhattan School of Music and The Mannes College of Music in New York, she was a Fulbright Fellow at Oxford University and holds a degree in musicology from Columbia University. A graduate of Smith College, she was awarded the Smith College Medal for outstanding professional achievement. She was honored with the St. Louis Visionary Award for Successful Working Artist in 2015.

Excellence in the Arts - Kirven and Antonio Douthit-Boyd
In 2015, Antonio Douthit-Boyd was named Co-Artistic Director of Dance of Center of Creative Arts - COCA, where he began his dance training at age 16 under the direction of Lee Nolting. Douthit-Boyd returned to COCA after 12 years with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. He also trained at the Alexandra School of Ballet the North Carolina School of the Arts, the Joffrey Ballet School, San Francisco Ballet and the Dance Theatre of Harlem School. Douthit-Boyd became a member of Dance Theatre of Harlem in 1999 and appeared in featured roles in the ballets "South African Suite", "Dougla", "Concerto in F", "Return" and Dwight Rhoden's "Twist". He was promoted to soloist in 2003. He also performed with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal. He is an ABT Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT Teacher Training Intensive in Pre-Primary-6/7 and Partnering of the ABT National Training Curriculum. He is also on faculty at Washington University in St. Louis, teaching modern dance in the collaborative M.F.A. program between the University and COCA.

Kirven Douthit-Boyd earned his M.F.A. in dance from Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. His dance training began in 1998 at the Boston Arts Academy and as a scholarship student at Boston Youth Moves, The Boston Conservatory and The Ailey School. He went on to perform with Battleworks Dance Company, Ailey II and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater from 2004-2015. In 2016, he joined Ron K. Brown/EVIDENCE, A Dance Company as a guest artist. He has choreographed works for The Ailey School, The Juilliard School, Webster University, Dallas Black Dance Theater, The Big Muddy Dance Company and Ailey II. He has also staged works by Alvin Ailey, Judith Jamison and Robert Battle on professional and pre-professional companies in Japan and St. Louis. He is an ABT Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT Teacher Training Intensive in Pre-Primary-5 of the ABT National Training Curriculum. In 2015, Kirven Douthit-Boyd relocated to St Louis to become the Co-Artistic Director of Dance at COCA.

Excellence in the Arts - Brian Owens
Music and love define the artistry of singer, songwriter and dedicated community activist Brian Owens. These qualities radiate from all of his work, including his duet with five time Grammy-winning and legendary vocalist Michael McDonald on "Soul of Ferguson" and the heartfelt interpretation of Sam Cooke's A Change Is Gonna Come, which Owens filmed and recorded with his father, Thomas Owens. Their powerful performance ignited the internet and has received more than 100 million views on Facebook and Owens' YouTube channel. Owens is the founder and Executive Director of L.I.F.E. Arts Inc (Leadership, Innovation, Faith and Entrepreneurship), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides artistic resources, opportunities, mentoring and positive experiences to help students in underserved communities throughout Ferguson and the St. Louis metropolitan area to access consistent and localized programs, experiences and infrastructure. Additionally, Owens serves as the Community Music Artist in Residence with the E. Desmond Lee Fine Arts Collaborative at the University of Missouri St. Louis.

Jim and Lynne Turley
Jim and Lynne Turley have been long-time supporters of a wide variety of organizations -both with their time and with financial resources. Lynne is a native St. Louisan who loves theatre, particularly musical theatre. A graduate of Drake University, Lynne taught high school English and drama before retiring to be a fulltime homemaker, mom and community volunteer. Jim, also born and raised in St. Louis, traces his love of musical theatre to his early memories of being in his grandfather's seats at The Muny. Jim is the retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Ernst & Young (EY), a global professional services firm comprised of approximately 270,000 people in over 150 countries. He led the firm from 2001 until his retirement in June 2013.

For the last 30 years, Jim and Lynne have been enthusiastic supporters of STAGES St. Louis, doing everything from housing visiting actors in their home in the early days to co-chairing its annual fundraiser Applause. Jim has supported many arts organizations including board service at The Muny where he leads the board's $100 million Second Century Campaign and is the Vice Chair. When they are not supporting theatre, their focus is on youth, character and education with organizations including the Assistance League of St. Louis and Boy Scouts of America. Lynne and Jim are also doting grandparents.

Arts Innovator - Antionette Carroll
Antionette 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, Carroll 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, Carroll 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. She is a TED Fellow.

Arts Collaboration - Such Sweet Thunder
In October 2019, four major St. Louis cultural institutions came together for three nights to present an unprecedented outdoor stage production of Duke Ellington's jazz suite, "Such Sweet Thunder". The collaboration between Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, The Big Muddy Dance Company, Jazz St. Louis and the Nine Network of Public Media brought to life the twelve-part composition in a multidisciplinary performance charting a tempestuous love story set in the 1950s.

Dexandro Montalvo created original choreography and Bruce Longworth, acclaimed director of Shakespeare in the Park ("Winter's Tale", "Henry V"), adapted the script and directed the company of two actors, 16 dancers and a 15-piece band playing Ellington's timeless score. The production starred Founder and Producing Director of the Black Rep, Ron Himes, and Webster Conservatory professor, Rayme Cornell. Free performances took place in the Public Media Commons in Grand Center attracting 1,000 audience members in total.

Art Educator of the Year - James McKay Jr.
The University of Rochester, Eastman School of Music graduate, can attest to the transformative impact music maintains in his life. As the youngest of two children born to a modest working-class family in Normandy, Missouri, McKay is a 2017 Teacher of the Year Honoree for Jennings School District where he is the Director of Orchestras. As an African American, orchestral educator and musician, James is committed to exposing diverse audiences to classical music. By providing budding young musicians in under-served communities with access to affordable quality music instruction and opportunities to attend performances and receive master classes with prominent artists.

McKay has dedicated his life to creating doors of opportunities for youth through the founding of Gateway Music Outreach and his occupation as a certified K-12 Instrumental Music Educator for over two decades in various school districts in the St. Louis metropolitan area. James has served as Director of Cameron Youth Chamber Orchestra, string camp facilitator New City School and double bass teacher at Community Music School of Webster University. Additionally, he is a classical and gospel music composer and arranger. McKay is a champion for collaboration; he is a member of the following organizations St. Louis Youth Symphony Task Force, American String Teachers Association and the Missouri Music Educators Association.

John Nickel
Throughout his career Nickel has appreciated and supported the arts. He is a 1975 graduate of Webster University's Conservatory of Theatre Arts with a major in lighting design. Live theater and live event production are his passion. In 2002, he became an owner of what is today known as Switch (formerly Busch Creative Services), a brand engagement and events agency. As Co-President and Co-Owner, Nickel oversees business development, project management and all in-house production services. In 2002, Nickel and Switch started working with the Arts and Education Council, with Nickel as the Technical Producer of the St. Louis Arts Awards. 2021 is the 20-year anniversary of his and Switch's involvement and support of the annual awards program.

Nickel has served on the boards of several arts organizations including Young Audiences/Springboard for Learning, The Sheldon and St. Louis Shakespeare Festival. Switch has made significant in-kind contributions to the arts organizations in St. Louis. Switch has supported the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival for the last 19 years, by providing lighting, audio and scenery. Switch has supported several productions and events at Webster University's Peter E. Sargent Conservatory of Theater Arts, for several years supported the Variety Club's theatrical events and numerous others, including the St. Louis High School Musical Awards.

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