September 30, 2023

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Oct. 17, 2016) — The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts announced Monday the recipients of the 24th annual Sally Ordway Irvine Awards.

The prestigious Sally Awards recognize and honor individuals and institutions that strengthen and enrich the state through their commitment to the arts and arts education.

The 24th annual Sally Award winners are:


COMMITMENT: Steven Schmidt

EDUCATION: Reverend Carl Walker and Grant West


VISION: Rebecca Moran Cusick & Los Alegres Bailadores

The Sally Awards are a living tribute to the vision of Sally Ordway Irvine, who mobilized the community to support her dream of building a new performing arts center in downtown Saint Paul. In 1986, a year after the Ordway opened, Sally was honored with a “First Trust Award” for her vision, innovation and commitment to the arts and the community. In 1992, the award was reinstated and renamed the Sally Ordway Irvine Award.

The awards are presented annually to honor individuals and organizations that strengthen and enrich Minnesota with their commitment to the arts, arts education and arts access. Throughout the past two decades, the Ordway has honored more than 80 outstanding artists, administrators, volunteers and organizations through these awards.

“When I came to the Twin Cities earlier this year, I was so impressed by the abundance of support this community has for the arts. I’m thrilled that the Ordway is able to recognize and honor leading advocates and organizations that have made a difference in their communities through the arts,” said Ordway president and CEO Jamie Grant.

The 24th annual Sally Award recipients were selected by a committee consisting of Ordway representatives, past Sally Award recipients, Minnesota State Arts Board representatives, media representatives and other leaders from the Minnesota arts and cultural community. The 24th annual Sally Awards program is supported by the Minnesota State Arts Board.

Arts Access Award – May Lee-Yang

May Lee-Yang

May Lee-Yang is a playwright, poet, prose writer and performance artist. Her plays include Hmong-Lao Friendship Play or Lao-Hmong Friendship Play, Confessions of a Lazy Hmong Woman and Ten Reasons Why I’d Be a Bad Porn Star, and have been presented in the Twin Cities as well as nationally. In 2012, her company produced a Hmong-language version ofConfessions of a Lazy Hmong Woman to create accessibility for people who spoke little or no English or had never seen theater before. Committed to engaging new voices and artists, she also teaches creative writing and theater to teens and elders.

Commitment Award – Steven Schmidt

Steen Schmidt

For more than 27 years, Steven Schmidt has contributed to the musical landscape of Rochester through his work as general manager of The City of Rochester Music Department/Riverside Concerts (also known as Rochester Civic Music). He conceived and continues to be responsible for managing and curating the Down by the Riverside, Riverside Live! and World Music concert series, the Thursdays on First & Third Summer Market & Music Festival and various educational/outreach, community music and services-to-the-field functions. Through his programming and curation work, Schmidt serves more than 250,000 citizens throughout the year.

Education Award – Reverend Carl Walker and Grant West

Reverend Carl Walker, seated, and Grant West.

The Walker West Music Academy is a Saint Paul-based school that offers music lessons and concerts rooted in the African-American cultural experience. Founded in 1988 by two renowned musicians, Rev. Carl Walker and Grant West, the school is rooted in a commitment to music education for people of all ages and a strong conviction that lives are enriched by music. The Academy’s founders have built an enduring community institution that serves nearly 200 students, both children and adults, each week.

Initiative Award – Kyu-Young Kim


Kyu-Young Kim, artistic director and principal violin of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO), is one of the most versatile and accomplished musicians of his generation. His appointment as the SPCO’s artistic director in 2016 marked the first time a playing member has been tapped to take the artistic helm of a major American orchestra. In his new role, Kim has developed creative musical programming, brought in new guest artists and made the SPCO more accessible to a wider audience.

Vision Award – Rebecca Moran Cusick & Los Alegres Bailadores

Rebecca Moran Cusick

Founded in 1977, Los Alegres Bailadores is a Mexican folkloric dance group based on the West side of Saint Paul. Under the leadership of founder, director and instructor Rebecca Moran Cusick, the group is one of the most established folkloric dance groups in Minnesota that never fails to delight and inspire audiences of all ages. Cusick’s vision to preserve and promote this beautiful art form, as well as use it to address social issues and bridge cultural gaps, has benefited many.

To submit a nomination for the 25th annual Sally Awards, visit

The Ordway is widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading nonprofit performing arts centers and Saint Paul’s most elegant and inviting performance space. The Ordway’s Music Theater and Concert Hall attract diverse audiences with an array of productions showcasing the finest in American musical theater, world music, dance and vocal performance. Education and community engagement are integral to the Ordway’s mission, with major initiatives including the annual Flint Hills International Children’s Festival and Ordway Education programs that serve more than 50,000 students annually. Together with Minnesota Opera, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and The Schubert Club, the Ordway is a member of the Arts Partnership and serves as the principal venue for their performances. For more information, visit