Alan W. Cooper served as Executive Director of Mid Atlantic Arts for 23 years, from 1994 to 2017.  Under Cooper’s Leadership, Mid Atlantic established a reputation for excellence, integrity, and innovative programs and services that extends beyond the mid-Atlantic region to national and international communities.  Cooper fostered a true partnership among the region’s State Arts Agencies and the nation’s Regional Arts Organizations.  His belief in the importance of public-private partnerships and international cultural exchange was reflected in the programs he developed and fostered, including USArtists International, the French-American Jazz Exchange, Southern Exposure: Performing Arts of Latin America, and the Living Legacy Jazz Award.  Cooper’s commitment to diverse artistic expression and belief in the arts as an agent of change made him a champion of artists, arts organizations, and audiences throughout his career.  His impact will be felt for many years to come.

Established in 2017, the Alan Cooper Leadership in the Arts Award honors the legacy of an arts leader who has made outstanding contributions to the arts through extraordinary leadership.  The Award seeks to recognize individuals who continue Cooper’s legacy of leadership in the arts sector.

2021 Alan Cooper Leadership in the Arts Award

The deadline for nominations for the 2021 Alan Cooper Leadership in the Arts Award was May 4, 2021.

The guidelines below are for information purposes only.


View and download the sample program materials in PDF format:

View and download the sample program materials in Word document format:

2021 Award Guidelines


The Alan Cooper Leadership in the Arts Award recognizes an individual(s) who has demonstrated visionary leadership; whose work has dismantled barriers and inequities in order to expand access to the arts; whose purpose-driven service and authentic, empathetic engagement with their community has affected exceptional and meaningful impact. Though not required for eligibility, Mid Atlantic Arts is particularly interested in recognizing an arts leader who has made significant advances in the areas of public-private partnerships and international cultural exchange.


Eligible nominees’ work will have served communities in one or more of Mid Atlantic Arts’ nine partner jurisdictions of Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Virginia, and West Virginia; though impact may extend from the mid-Atlantic region to national or international communities.

  • Mid Atlantic Arts welcomes nominations for diverse arts leaders as defined by race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, appearance, religion, age, geographic location, expertise, education, socioeconomic background, and professional level.
  • We strongly encourage the nomination of leaders who identify as Black, Indigenous, Latina/Latino/Latinx, Persons of Color, LGBTQIA+, Persons with Disabilities, Persons whose primary language is not English, and/or are from rural and remote communities.
  • Nominations are encouraged for active arts leaders from all career stages (early-, mid-, and late-career) and from all areas or disciplines in the arts industry.
  • Eligible nominees must be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States.
  • Mid Atlantic Arts recognizes the value of partnership and collaboration at the leadership level and welcomes the nomination of shared leadership/co-leaders. Please note that nominations of co-leaders must be completed as a single nomination submission.
  • All nomination materials must be received no later than May 4, 2021.


  • Current MAAF board members and staff members, and their families, are not eligible for the award and are not permitted to submit nomination materials.
  • Elected officials are not eligible for the award.
  • Previous Leadership Award recipients are not eligible for nomination.
  • Self-nominations are not eligible.
  • Nominations received after the nomination deadline will be deemed ineligible.


The recipient of the 2021 Alan Cooper Leadership in the Arts Award will be recognized in fall 2021 at an event celebrating their work and achievements. Additionally, the award recipient will receive a $2,500 cash award.


Nominations will be evaluated based on the Award Criteria as described above and based on consideration of the following nomination materials. The nomination statement and letter(s) of support may be submitted as written, audio, or video formats. Letter(s) of support and supplemental material are not required for a nomination to be eligible. Please note that nominations of co-leaders must be completed as a single nomination submission and that materials should discuss the nominees’ work and histories that are relevant to the collaborative leadership for which they are nominated.

General Information Form
Complete the form for email or mail submission, or provide details as prompted in the online form for online submission.

Nomination Statement (written, up to three pages; audio/video, up to ten minutes)
Providing specific examples of their work, submit a nomination statement explaining why the nominee is an exceptional candidate. It is recommended that the nomination statement should address the following:

  • What are the nominee’s most notable accomplishments as a visionary leader? Describe the nominee’s vision to realize a better future for the arts and for their community, and how they have achieved that vision. If applicable, discuss the innovations, new models of practice, and/or risks involved in realizing that vision.
  • Describe the nominee’s purpose-driven approach to their work and the depth of their engagement with their community. How have their sense of purpose and authenticity of engagement impacted their community?
  • Discuss the nominee’s accomplishments serving communities and populations that have faced marginalization and inequitable access to resources. How has their work demonstrated equitable practices breaking down barriers to access for these under-represented, under-resourced communities and populations?
  • If applicable, describe the nominee’s work in the areas of public-private partnerships in the arts and international cultural exchange.

For nominations of co-leaders:

  • Describe the collaborative nature of the co-leaders and how their joint leadership has been impactful. (Please begin the nomination statement with the response to this prompt)
  • Respond to each of the above prompts, as applicable, as they relate to the collaborative leadership of the nominees – in other words, the responses should only discuss the nominees’ work and histories that are relevant to the collaborative leadership for which they are nominated.

Resume or Bio (resume, up to two pages; bio, up to 500 words)
Submit a copy of the nominee’s current resume or submit a bio summarizing their resume. For nominations of co-leaders, submit a resume or bio for each leader.

Optional Letter(s) of Support (written, up to two pages, each; audio/video, up to five minutes, each)
Provide up to three letters of support providing testimony to the nominee’s impact. It is encouraged that letters of support come from the perspective of someone with direct knowledge of the nominee’s work and that they focus on how they or their communities were impacted by the nominee’s work (see the prompts provided under Nomination Statement above).

Optional Supplemental Material
In addition to the nomination statement, letter(s) of support, and résumé/bio, nominators may provide a web link for supplemental material or work samples supporting the nomination and demonstrating the impact of the nominee’s work. This material may take the form of additional text documentation of no more than five pages, audio or video file of no more than five minutes length, or an image gallery of no more than ten images.

The web link for supplemental material may be provided on the General Information Form.

Note: submission of supplemental material is not required in order to be considered eligible for the award.

Optional Demographic Data Survey
As part of our broader goals to promote equity in the field, Mid Atlantic Arts seeks program participants that reflect the diversity of the mid-Atlantic region. To measure our effectiveness to reach arts leaders from across the region and across all backgrounds, all nominators and nominees are invited to participate in a brief anonymous survey. This information will help us address inequities in the award process, understand who we are reaching, and understand how we can serve all communities in the region more effectively. Please know that participation in this survey is optional and will in no way impact or affect nominations in the award process.

A link to the demographic data survey is provided in the program materials as well as in the online submission form.

Please contact Adam “Bo” Plantz, Executive Assistant, with any questions at or 410-539-6656 x 102.

Deadline for 2021 Award nomination: May 4, 2021.

Past Awardees

Photo of Rebecca Medrano.

Rebecca Medrano – 2020 Award Recipient

For more than four decades, Rebecca Medrano has worked to promote and share the wealth of Latino art and culture. Ms. Medrano is Co-founder of GALA Hispanic Theatre and has been its Executive Director and principal fundraiser since 1976. She has led the organization as it developed from its grassroots origins to a community cultural staple in Washington, DC and, in 2003, Ms. Medrano launched GALA’s $4.3 million capital campaign to build out its permanent facility in the historic Tivoli Theatre. Today, GALA stands as a National Center for Latino Performing Arts. GALA has produced nearly 300 bilingual productions of classical, contemporary, and experimental plays and has commissioned work by emerging and established Latino and multicultural performing artists. Under Ms. Medrano’s leadership, GALA created programming designed to engage Washington, DC’s youth, including Paso Nuevo and GALita Children’s Theatre. Deeply rooted in the community, she has cultivated partnerships with other arts organizations and social service agencies throughout the city, including Washington Performing Arts, InSeries, Carlos Rosario Adult Education Center, Mary’s Center, VIDA senior center, and Latin American Youth Center, among others. In addition, she has established international exchanges with theaters in Spain, Mexico, Venezuela, and Argentina. Ms. Medrano is a recipient of the 2006 Mayor’s Arts Award, a 2010 Washingtonian of the Year, 2014 Immigrant Achievement Award from the American Immigration Council, and was recognized by Mayor Muriel Bowser with the Washington Women of Excellence Award. Ms. Medrano, and her husband Hugo, were awarded the Order of Queen Isabella, bestowed by King Carlos I of Spain, for their dedication to preserving and promoting Spanish culture in the United States. She serves on the Latino Advisory Council of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Image courtesy Rebecca Medrano.

Photo of Julia Olin.

Julia Olin – 2019 Award Recipient

Julia Olin has been involved with the research, documentation, and public presentation of traditional music and culture for 47 years. Ms. Olin served the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA) for 28 years –15 years as Associate Director and 13 years as Executive Director – where she worked tirelessly of behalf of folk and traditional arts and artists. In October of 2018, she retired from her full-time position as the Executive Director. She has been involved in the planning, artistic direction, and production of 88 national festivals, including the NCTA’s flagship program, the National Folk Festival. Other projects include: 29 national tours highlighting African American, Hispanic, Caribbean, and Appalachian music and dance traditions, among others; large-scale cultural events on the National Mall; co-curation of the Roots of American Music Museum at the Blue Ridge Music Center; 23 traditional music recordings; and countless programs for public media. For nearly three decades, Ms. Olin has worked with federal, state, and regional agencies, producing the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowships; assisting the National Park Service with cultural planning; and working with the Maryland State Arts Council to produce annual events and manage special projects. She has overseen the completion of a 17-year project to digitize and preserve the NCTA’s priceless archive of endangered field recordings, which are now housed at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Image courtesy Julia Olin.

Head shot of Michael Royce.

Michael L. Royce – 2018 Award Recipient

Mr. Royce has served as the Executive Director of The New York Foundation for the Arts for the past 12 years. His leadership has led to an exponential growth of support programs for artists in New York, nationally, and internationally. Mr. Royce’s work in the creation of programs serving artists in all stages of their careers and his understanding of the importance of partnerships has led to robust training opportunities. His efforts in recognizing immigrant artist populations, the importance of international exchange, and artist mentorship made him an exemplary choice for the inaugural Award round.