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Valley arts leaders honored with Living History Award

March 16, 2010

Three ASU arts leaders were honored recently with the 2010 Living History Award presented by the Phoenix Chapter of The Links, Inc., the Phoenix Chapter of Jack & Jill of America, Inc. and the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Gamma Mu Boule of Phoenix

Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, Jewell Parker Rhodes and Charles St. Clair were recognized during the fifth annual Living History Awards ceremony and reception that took place Feb. 27 at the historic George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center in downtown Phoenix.

The Living History Awards Program is the result of a community collaborative organized to honor many of the community’s most distinguished citizens engaged in the arts and to expose Phoenix-area youth to these individuals and their extraordinary contributions to the arts in Arizona and beyond.

Colleen Jennings-Roggensack has been an active member of the performing arts community for more than 32 years. As executive director of Public Events and assistant vice president for Cultural Affairs, Jennings-Roggensack has artistic, fiscal and administrative responsibility for ASU Gammage and ASU Kerr Cultural Center, with additional responsibility for non-athletic activities at Sun Devil Stadium, Wells Fargo Arena and other ASU venues.

A former dancer and choreographer, she accepted a presidential appointment to serve on the National Council on the Arts for six years. Having held positions at Dartmouth College, Colorado State University and the Western States Arts Federation, Jennings-Roggensack also has acted as an adviser to the National Dance Project, Africa Exchange Advisory Council, The Japan Foundation and its performing arts program, and the U.S./Netherlands Project, a contemporary theatre partnership.

Jewell Parker Rhodes is the founding director of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at ASU. Her current position as Piper Endowed Chair and artistic director of Piper Global Engagement includes advancing creative writing relationships between ASU MFA students and universities in Canada, England, Australia, the Czech Republic, Singapore and China.

She is the author of five novels: "Voodoo Dreams," "Magic City," "Douglass’ Women," "Voodoo Season," "Yellow Moon," and a memoir, "Porch Stories: A Grandmother’s Guide to Happiness." "Hurricane Levee Blues," a sixth novel, is forthcoming, as well as the young adult novel, "Ninth Ward." She has written two writing texts: "Free Within Ourselves: Fiction Lessons for Black Authors" and "The African American Guide to Writing and Publishing Non-Fiction." Her fiction appears in several anthologies, most recently in "Best African American Fiction 2010," edited by Nikki Giovanni. Her literary honors include: a Pulitzer Prize nomination, the American Book Award, and the National Endowment of the Arts Award, to name just a few.

Charles St. Clair has more than 300 major productions to his credit in theatre and film, including three Emmy Awards for the PBS production of “Beauty and the Beast” and another for NBC’s “With These Hands. He now is sharing his talent and experiences gained from his distinguished career in the arts as a faculty member in the Interdisciplinary Arts and Performance program at ASU's West campus. Since 1991, St. Clair’s stirring re-enactment of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech has been among the many highlights of ASU's annual MLK celebration. The accomplished actor and director also is co-founder of both the Fairmount Theater of the Deaf and Phoenix’s Black Theatre Troupe.

Also honored with 2010 Living History Awards were Rod Ambrose, a leading community activist poet, playwright and accomplished actor and director; Fatimah Halim, an acclaimed storyteller and community leader; and David Hemphill, executive director of the nationally regarded Black Theatre Troupe.

“The Phoenix Chapter of The Links, Inc. and its partners are committed to casting a bright light on African-American venues and individuals who are engaged in the arts, to supporting their endeavors and to exposing our youth to their good works and contributions to our community and the world,” said Kay Lovelace Taylor, chapter president.

“The Living History project accomplishes this by providing programming, hands-on learning experiences and mentoring in the arts for youth of color and by annually celebrating the achievements of Valley leaders in the performing and visual arts, film, literature and theatre,” Taylor said.

Since the program’s inception in 2006, the Living History venture has paired local "masters" of the arts with young people from the Greater Phoenix community “in an effort to create a phenomenal learning and teaching experience,” said Marie Boykin Scott, president of the Phoenix Chapter of Jack & Jill of America, Inc.  

This year’s program engaged 24 youth, including the 2010 Links Debutantes and members of the Jack & Jill Teen Group in a comprehensive arts education and enrichment experience. The program included an interviewing techniques workshop designed to help the participants learn and master the essential skills for planning and conducting a productive interview. Using the knowledge and skills gained through the workshop, the Debutantes and Jack & Jill Teens joined in small teams to conduct formal interviews with the featured artists. 

The youth used the information collected through their interviews with 2010 award recipients to prepare formal introductions of the six Valley arts icons at the annual awards program.

Joan M. Sherwood
Mary Lou Fulton Institute and Graduate School of Education