2018 Arts Achievement Awards

On Wednesday, June 27 the board of the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council presented the 2018 Arts Achievement Awards. This is the tenth year of recognizing groups that are embodying the MRAC mission in their work and programming. New this year, the presentation of the Great Beginnings Award for groups with less than two years of programming history, was awarded along with two Arts Achievement Awards.

The winners for the 2018 Arts Achievement Awards are In Progress and the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop. The Great Beginnings Award was presented to Monkeybear’s Harmolodic Workshop.

In Progress’ purpose is to diversify cultural dialogue and pave the way for new voices in the field of digital art making. In Progress provides opportunities for artists of all ages to develop their skills as digital storytellers and leaders through the use of photography, video, and music. This small nonprofit has been promoting the voices of new and emerging artists since its inception in 1996, breaking down barriers of geography, class, education, and culture in the process. In Progress utilizes digital art making as a tool for public discourse, while building the skills of new makers so they may create, teach and lead. It was in 1999 that In Progress found its name, it’s identity and the purpose it seeks to fulfill to this day. In Progress seeks and maintains partnerships with communities that are urban, rural, and tribal; that are culturally diverse; economically depressed; and lacking in existing opportunities in digital artmaking. In 2016 In Progress offered workshops, residencies and mentorships to 4,438 people, with a total of 51,586 reached through community dialogues, and exhibition activities.

Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop’s mission is to foster a literary community and a devotion to art inside correctional facilities through high-quality creative writing classes and other related programming. The organization was founded in 2011 by Jennifer Bowen Hicks, who taught a single creative writing class to ten men at Lino Lakes Correctional Facility. Since then, MPWW has grown into an organization with more than 75 instructors and volunteer mentors, and have served over 1,000 students in every state prison in Minnesota. MPWW emphasizes self-reflection, clarity of thought and expression, and the importance of developing an ongoing “habit of art.” Their students learn to tell their own stories in their own voice, a practice that they tell MPWW is profoundly rehabilitative.

Monkeybear Harmolodic Workshop is run by Artistic & Executive Director Chamindika Wanduragala. Its mission is to nurture Native and POC artists in contemporary puppet theater. Their programming invokes the spirit of curiosity and play, improvisation, risk-taking, an open process, rigorous practice, and ongoing development opportunities based on the needs of participating artists. Monkeybear provides access to/development in, a medium that holds tremendous possibilities in storytelling for Native and POC artists. Puppetry is an art form practiced all around the world, yet here in the United States, the contemporary field is largely white. Monkeybear’s Harmolodic Workshop creates opportunities for Native/POC to participate fully in this medium; opening the field to a larger breadth of storytelling and the development of new puppetry aesthetics.

The MRAC Arts Achievement Award began in 2009 as a way to recognize two organizations that particularly exemplify MRAC’s mission of increasing access to the arts. The awards are intended to call attention to the outstanding contributions of arts organizations or nonprofit organizations doing arts programming in the 7-county Twin Cities metropolitan area. The MRAC board of directors vote on the organizations that they feel best exemplify this mission.

Previous recipients of the Arts Achievement Award include:

Minhua Chorus
East Side Freedom Library

Ananya Dance
Caponi Art Park

Young Dance
Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts

Saint Paul Arts Collective
Yellow Tree Theater

Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association
Rosemount Area Arts Council

Sounds of Hope
Rosetown Playhouse

Open Eye Figure Theatre
New Prague Art Center

Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company
White Bear Center for the Arts

Kulture Klub Collaborative
Center for Hmong Arts and Talent

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