Since 1983, the Missouri Arts Council and the State of Missouri have been honoring our state’s arts heroes – the people who make the arts happen. Our annual Missouri Arts Awards celebrate people, organizations, and communities that have made profound and lasting contributions to the cultural and artistic climate of the state. Including the 2023 honorees, the awards have acclaimed 242 people, organizations, and communities throughout the state. Honorees are selected by an independent panel in six categories: Arts Education, Arts Organization, Creative Community, Individual Artist, Leadership in the Arts, and Philanthropy.

Experience the 2023 Missouri Arts Awards onscreen
Meet our 2023 Missouri Arts Awards honorees! Introduced by Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe, our honorees tell their stories—their impact on their communities, their challenges and rewards, their inspirations and hopes—while scenes of their achievements unfold in  our 14-minute video showcase.

Arts Education | Stray Dog Theatre, St. Louis
Professional small theater company founded in 2003 which, in addition to producing six plays each year, concentrates on arts education with its Stray Pups Youth Theatre; Silver Stage Senior Theatre; Arts-In-Reach summer camps; and Arts-In-Mind after-school, family development, and community involvement programs
•  Stray Dog Theatre

Arts Organization | Artists First, St. Louis
Nonprofit visual arts studio dedicated to artists of all abilities, with programs especially for people who have been underserved and disenfranchised, including those with disabilities, those experiencing toxic stress, elders with memory loss and their caregivers, disconnected youth, and veterans
•  Artists First

Creative Community | City of Hermann
Picturesque Missouri River village at the heart of the state’s wine country and historic German cultural heritage, with a lively community of working artists and a year-round bevy of artistic attractions such as open-air concerts, art walks, and festivals like Oktoberfest and the Hermann Wine and Jazz Festival
•  Visit Hermann

Individual Artist | Kenneth Calvert, St. Louis
Internationally celebrated illustrator, painter, graphic designer, and muralist; storyteller of Black experiences, from panoramic historical scenes to intimate portraits of contemporary daily life; highlighted in more than 100 solo and group exhibitions since he began his artistic career in the ‘60
•  Kenneth Calvert

Leadership in the Arts | Joan Israelite, Kansas City
A tireless force since the mid-’80s for creating policy, raising funds, and growing arts organizations, including as the founding CEO of ArtsKC, a nine-year board member of both the Missouri Arts Council and the National Council on the Arts, and since 2008 a consultant with the Kauffmann Center for the Performing Arts
•  Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

Philanthropy | Mary Strauss, St. Louis
Steadfast core supporter and driver of St. Louis arts; renowned for rescuing the historic Fox Theatre; provider of enduring stability for COCA, Saint Louis Ballet, Stages St. Louis, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Saint Louis Art Museum, The Muny, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis among myriad others


An independent panel of Missourians representing the arts community throughout the state selects the honorees from among public nominations. These panelists chose the 2023 honorees:

• Kelly Downes, Cape Girardeau; director, Arts Council of Southeast Missouri
• Joel E. Anderson, Columbia; musician
• Carmen Sofía Dence, St. Louis; founder and director, Grupo Atlántico; 2022 Leadership in the Arts honoree
• Kaitlyn McConnell, Springfield; Ozarks story sharer and founder, Ozarks Alive!
• Dr. David C. Nichols, Kirksville; arts advocate and retired professor, Truman State University
• Alison Schieber, St. Joseph; president, Missouri Citizens for the Arts
• Laura Shultz, Kansas City; retired executive director, Northeast Community Center / Harmony Project KC; 2021 Leadership in the Arts honoree