Fine arts faculty member up for Governor's Arts Award

Charles St. Clair

Charles St. Clair, academic professional and fine arts specialist in ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, is among the finalists for the 2013 Governor’s Arts Awards in Arizona. St. Clair was nominated in the Arts in Education, Individual category. Award recipients will be announced during a March 6 event at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix.

St. Clair is an Emmy Award-winning actor and director who has served as a faculty member on ASU’s West campus since 1990. He was the 2011 recipient of the Promoting Inclusiveness Award from the city of Glendale, Ariz. Active in the entertainment industry locally and nationally as a director and lighting designer for stage productions including “Race,” “A House with No Walls,” “The Colored Museum,” and “Topdog/Underdog,” St. Clair also has appeared in numerous films and television commercials.

At the West campus, St. Clair teaches acting, directing and technical production for the School of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies in New College. For more than 20 years he has reenacted the “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., as part of the March on West event that annually brings hundreds of local middle-school children to campus during the MLK Week celebration on the West campus.

“I have witnessed Charles give tirelessly and freely to his students his knowledge, experience and expertise,” said Christopher Haines, artistic director of iTheatre Collaborative in Phoenix. “His former students are at the top of their professions from the studios of Hollywood to the Broadway stages of New York. We are professional actors, directors, designers, stage managers, producers and agents all across the country. I continue to be inspired by Charles’ creative genius and incredible talents spanning all facets of theater and film. His contribution to the arts in Arizona over the last 20 years is immeasurable.”

After the 2005 death of the renowned African American playwright August Wilson, St. Clair created a theatrical production and a video documentary called “August in April” to celebrate Wilson’s life and legacy. The cornerstone of the work was numerous video interviews St. Clair conducted all over the country with artists and close collaborators of Wilson, including James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad, and Viola Davis.

The theatrical play “August in April” was produced by iTheatre Collaborative in 2006, directed by St. Clair. More than 1,800 local high school students were invited to attend free school performances, and all of the ticketed evening shows sold out.

St. Clair’s interest in promoting dialogue and understanding among cultures recently took him to the West African country of Ghana. He and several ASU faculty colleagues successfully applied for a Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad grant to document “Stories from the Other Side.” The “other side” refers to those persons left behind when family members were taken away as slaves. Along with ASU professors and graduate students, teachers from Phoenix-area elementary and high schools made the trip.

“Students use terms like highly accessible, enthusiastic, actively engaged, challenging, demanding and influential in describing Charles,” said Duku Anokye, a New College faculty colleague who collaborated with St. Clair in applying for the Fulbright-Hays grant to conduct the Ghana project. “Charles is viewed as a master of his craft and students have clearly benefited from all his knowledge and talents. Even those who indicate having no interest in the arts find themselves having a change of heart about the field.”

“I am thankful for the support of so many who have given me the opportunity to be recognized for doing my life’s work, representing voices that often go unheard, trying to make a difference,” St. Clair said. “It is extremely important that I continue to practice what I teach and preach. I am blessed to be consistently working at my craft whether it be acting, directing, or designing and bringing that craft into my classrooms – I strive not only to help students learn how to create art, but learn to love the ‘art’ within themselves and not what to think but how to think.”

Arizona Citizen Action for the Arts, Arizona Commission on the Arts, and the Governor’s Office are presenting this year’s Governor’s Arts Awards, a tradition dating to 1981. The awards recognize the philanthropy and outstanding efforts of individuals and organizations contributing to the diversity and excellence of Arizona’s arts and cultural community.