The Alan Cooper Leadership in the Arts Award was established in 2017 to celebrate individuals who create responsive and innovative opportunities for artists, arts organizations, and audiences. Five outstanding leaders in the region have been recognized to date: Joan Myers Brown (2022); Stanford Thompson (2021); Rebecca Medrano (2020); Julia Olin (2019); and Michael L. Royce (2018).
Since the Award’s creation, Mid Atlantic Arts has grown in many ways, and we believe it is important that the Leadership Award reflect that evolution. As Mid Atlantic Arts prepares to welcome a new Executive Director, the Leadership Award has been paused in order to assess the program’s goals and alignment with the organization’s guiding principles and strategic plan, and to explore how Mid Atlantic Arts can best recognize leadership in the region. More information will be available as we move through the leadership transition process
Joan Myers Brown is the founder of The Philadelphia Dance Company (PHILADANCO) / The Philadelphia School of Dance Arts. She serves as honorary chairperson for the International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD), an organization she established in 1991. She also founded the International Conference of Black Dance Companies in 1988. She is a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, which bestowed upon her an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts; is a member of the dance faculty at Howard University in Washington, DC; and has been awarded an honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Ursinus College in Collegeville, PA. Listed in Who’s Who in America and described as an “innovator and communicator,” Ms. Brown has made significant contributions to the national and international arts communities.
Regionally and nationally, Ms. Brown has served a broad range of organizations, including the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project; the United States Information Agency; Arts America; the National Endowment for the Arts; the state arts councils of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan, Nevada, and Ohio; and the National Forum for Female Executives. Locally, she has been a part of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance; the Minority Arts Resource Council, Inc.; the Philadelphia Mayor’s Cultural Advisory Council; the Philadelphia Dance Alliance; the Women’s Heritage Society; and Dance/USA. Ms. Brown was appointed to the choreographer’s panel of the Rockefeller Foundation Arts & Humanities Program and served as vice president (and co-founder) of the Coalition of African American Cultural Organizations.
In 1997, Ms. Brown was honored as one of the “Dance Women: Living Legends” during a four-day series sponsored by New York-area presenters, in tribute to five African-American pioneer women who founded distinguished modern dance companies with deep roots in black communities around the country. In 2005, the Kennedy Center honored her as a Master of African American Choreography. In 2009 she received the prestigious Philadelphia Award, and November 7, 2010 was declared Joan Myers Brown Living Legacy Day. Ms. Brown was chosen as one of the 2013 Dance/USA honorees “for her extraordinary artistic guidance, her nurturance of many dancers and choreographers, visionary leadership, and grace under fire in the dance field.”
She has also received a host of other accolades throughout her lifetime, including awards from The Philadelphia Tribune and the African American Museum in Philadelphia, and membership to the Distinguished Daughters of Pennsylvania in 2012. She was designated as one of The Ten Best Philadelphians by Philadelphia magazine in 2012, in addition to recognition as an Outstanding Alumni of West Philadelphia High School, her alma mater. Her legacy has been documented in the 2011 publication of Joan Myers Brown & the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina: A Biohistory of American Performance (Palgrave), written by dance scholar and critic Brenda Dixon Gottschild, author of several books on dance.
Joan Myers Brown’s undisputed status as a leader in the national and international arts communities was acknowledged when she was selected to receive the 2012 National Medal of the Arts, the nation’s highest civic honor for excellence in the arts. President Barack Obama presented the prestigious honor at a ceremony that took place in July 2013 at the White House. President Obama cited Ms. Brown for carving out “an artistic haven for African American dancers and choreographers to innovate, create, and share their unique visions with the national and global dance communities.”
Stanford Thompson – 2021 Award Recipient
Stanford Thompson is a musician and educator who serves as the Founder and Executive Director of Play On Philly and founding member of El Sistema USA and the National Instrumentalist Mentoring and Advancement Network. Recognized as a TED Fellow, Stanford believes that music education is a powerful tool for positive personal and community change. Mr. Thompson serves on the faculty of the Global Leaders Program and regularly presents at major universities and music conservatories about leadership, entrepreneurship and social justice. As a consultant, he has guided the development of dozens of music programs across the United States and collaborated with major orchestras, higher education institutions, and arts organizations to develop new strategies and initiatives that help provide equitable access to the arts. As a professional trumpeter, Stanford has performed as a soloist and member with major orchestras around the world and continues to perform throughout the Philadelphia region. Stanford is a native of Atlanta, GA, a graduate of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s Talent Development Program and holds degrees from The Curtis Institute of Music and the New England Conservatory’s Sistema Fellows Program.
Image: Stanford Thompson. Credit: Bret Hartman / TED.
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 of Rebecca Medrano.
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 of Julia Olin.
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.
Image: Courtesy of Michael Royce.