Alan W. Cooper served as Executive Director of MAAF for 23 years, from 1994 to 2017.  Under Cooper’s Leadership, MAAF 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.

2020 Alan Cooper Leadership in the Arts Honoree - Rebecca Medrano

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.

Award Guidelines


MAAF believes that leadership takes many forms and is practiced at all career levels: from emerging leaders to executives. It is the ability to conceive, articulate, and execute a vision and purpose while fostering others’ talents and the exchange of ideas. Leadership is not measured in years, budget, or scale; but is expressed by an individual’s impact on their community, be it local, national, or beyond.

The Alan Cooper Leadership in the Arts Award honors an active arts leader who has exhibited outstanding leadership in the arts sector within the mid-Atlantic region. Exceptional candidates will have demonstrated impactful leadership through the development of innovative models while exemplifying a consistent dedication to the value of diverse creative expression. Though not required for eligibility, MAAF is particularly interested in recognizing an arts leader who has made significant advances in the areas of public-private partnerships and international cultural exchange.

MAAF recognizes that diversity is a strength and encourages nominations for all diverse leaders as defined by race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, appearance, religion, age, geographic location, expertise, socioeconomic background, and professional level.


  • Eligible nominees will have demonstrated impactful leadership in the arts in one or more of MAAF’s 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.
  • Nominations are encouraged for active arts leaders from all career stages (early-, mid-, and late-career).
  • Nominations are encouraged for arts leaders from all areas in the arts industry.
  • Eligible nominees must be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States.
  • Though MAAF recognizes the value of collaborative leadership/co-leadership, only nominations for individuals are eligible for the award.


  • 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 awardees are not eligible for nomination.
  • Self-nominations are not eligible.

Guidelines for the 2021 Alan Cooper Leadership in the Arts Award will be available in early fall 2020.

Questions? Please contact Adam Plantz at

Past Awardees

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.