The awards recognize 2021 contributions to Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility in Greater St. Louis

January 20, 2022 — The Arts and Culture Accessibility Cooperative (ACAC) will host its second IDEA Awards ceremony via Zoom on January 26th, sponsored by Ameren Illinois. The awards recognize an individual, organization, initiative, and arts supporter who made an outstanding contribution to the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility of the Greater St. Louis cultural landscape in 2021. A special lifetime advocacy award will also be presented this year. 

The ACAC is a program of MindsEye, a Belleville-based nonprofit serving individuals who are blind or have low vision. MindsEye Arts and Culture Coordinator, Magan Harms, heads the initiative. “ACAC is proud to once again bring attention to those who lead the St. Louis region in the areas of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility,” says Harms. “We hope that by amplifying their voices we can educate and inspire others to join the cause and truly make the greater St. Louis metro area’s cultural climate accessible to all.” 


Individual – Meredith Lehman, Head of Museum Education, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum 

Lehman was nominated by Kemper Art Museum Visitor Services and Membership Coordinator Lauren Diamond. According to Diamond, in addition to Lehman’s passions for art education, since she began in 2019, she has brought “a strong desire to reach communities who had been historically under-represented in the museum space, as well as an empathy to truly engage with those communities.” In conjunction with the Museum’s upcoming Nicole Miller exhibition, Lehman is currently organizing a multi-session poetry program that will be hosted by The Griot Museum of Black History. She spearheads the advancement of increased museum accessibility through programming, including participation in the 2021 Deaf Visual Arts Festival with an ASL tour of the special exhibition, Christine Sun Kim: Stacking Traumas. Lehman has also redesigned the student educator training curriculum, which now explores the relationship between museums and structural injustice, the impacts of whiteness on art museum field trip teaching, tools for educators to address racism in the galleries, and holding conversations about race and identity in museums. 

Organization – Metro Theater Company 

The Metro Theater Company (MTC) mission statement asserts that “Inspired by the intelligence and emotional wisdom of young people, we create professional theater, foster inclusive community, and nurture meaningful learning through the arts.” Artistic Director Julia Flood and Managing Director Joe Gfaller shared, “For almost 50 years, working to ensure that every child – every person – has access to the magic of live performance has been central to how we fulfil that mission. Today, that includes ensuring that productions are available for virtual streaming to enable geographic access, that select performances are available in person and streaming with pay-what-you-wish pricing to provide economic access, and that at least one in-person performance, Audio Description is available, ASL Interpreters are present, and sensory-friendly adjustments have been made to ensure people with diverse needs or sensory sensitivities can enjoy our work. In the face of the pandemic, finding new ways to provide access has been both a challenge and an opportunity to reach new audiences. MTC is grateful to MindsEye and other partners for helping us reach those audiences.” 

Initiative – Sumner Recovery Plan 

The first high school west of the Mississippi to educate Black students, Sumner nurtured artists and activists like Chuck Berry, Tina Turner, Grace Bumbry, Dick Gregory, Arthur Ashe, and more. However, Sumner was recommended for closure in fall 2020 — a move that would further the disinvestment in one of the nation’s most historically significant Black communities. An advisory board along with St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, 4theVille, St. Louis Public Schools, and eleven other cultural institutions developed a multi-disciplinary, arts and activism residency to increase student enrollment at Sumner. The Sumner Recovery Plan offers high-quality, FREE arts and activism training for the final 90 minutes of every school day. Professional teaching artists from the city’s leading arts organizations provide daily instruction (Opera Theatre St. Louis, Contemporary Art Museum, Craft Alliance, Stages St. Louis, and St. Louis Shakespeare Festival). The pilot year began in August, and students’ first semester of work was celebrated in a Winter Showcase on Thursday, December 9th. The Sumner Recovery Plan is supported, in part, by the Regional Arts Commission, the Missouri Arts Council, and the William E. Weiss Foundation. According to Board Chairman Aaron Williams, “4theVille is very excited to receive the IDEA Award for the Sumner Recovery Plan with our partners at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis and members of the Sumner Advisory Board… The collaboration that we are nurturing through the Sumner recovery process will have a transformative impact beyond the four walls of the school and uphold Sumner as an integral anchor institution to the vitality of The Ville.” 

Supporter – Kranzberg Arts Foundation 

The Kranzberg Arts Foundation announced a 2021 focus on their “ability to invest, convene, train, and measure equity, diversity, and inclusion throughout our spaces and with our gifts.” Taking an arts-based approach to community development, the Foundation strives to align their investments with the needs and vision of the broader community. Committed to a diverse, equitable, and inclusive approach, they are furthering economic development and cultural sustainability, while helping to establish St. Louis as a premier arts and entertainment destination. The Kranzberg Arts Foundation welcomes all communities into their venues and workspaces. They strive to make their spaces accessible and inclusive and understand that they are responsible for creating spaces and programs that provide opportunities and platforms for Black, Latinx, POC, Native, artists with disabilities, and LGBTQIA+ artists. 

Lifetime Advocate Award – Ginny Sanders 

Missouri Arts Council Executive Director Michael Donovan offers these sentiments— “We are extremely proud that Ginny is being recognized for what she has long demonstrated: dedication and commitment to making the arts accessible to all. She understands deeply the value of accessibility and how it enriches individuals and communities. Her continued work is a testament to her lifelong public service.” Ginny Sanders officially retired from the Missouri Arts Council (MAC) in August 2021 and is currently working part-time for the organization as the Special Initiatives Coordinator. In 2013 she was appointed to lead the plan development for the Statewide Communities of Practice in Arts, Health, and Aging Initiative. In 2015 Sanders co-presented the intergenerational program of Poetry Out Loud/Poetry for Life with Gary Glazner, noted expert on Alzheimer and memory loss, at a Congressional Briefing in Washington, DC. In the past few years Sanders developed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) program at the Missouri Arts Council and has played a key role in “IDEA” promotion and training. Previous recognition includes the 2009 Award of Excellence from the Department of VSA and Accessibility at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  


The Arts and Culture Accessibility Cooperative brings together cultural practitioners, people with disabilities, and disability advocates to share knowledge and experiences through bi-monthly forums that include panels and discussions. The goal is to empower local institutions to become more accessible to people with disabilities as visitors, patrons, artists, employees, and volunteers. Over 50 organizations have participated in forums to date. Sponsors include United Way of Greater St. Louis, Ameren Illinois, Emerson, Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis, and the Arts and Education Council Arts and Healing Initiative. The ACAC is a program of MindsEye, a local nonprofit organization that connects people who are blind or have low vision to the St. Louis region through information, rewarding recreation, and artistic and cultural experiences. To register for the IDEA Awards or request to join ACAC, contact Magan Harms at mharms@mindseyeradio.org

The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, part of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, is among the nation’s leading university art museums. As a teaching museum within a major research university, it serves as a center of cultural and intellectual life on campus and in St. Louis. Its mission is to build and preserve its art collection for current and future generations; collect significant modern and contemporary art; provide excellence in art historical research, exhibition, and object-based learning; and engage the campus population, its visitors and alumni, the St. Louis region, and the global art community. 

Metro Theater Company is St. Louis’ premier professional theater for youth and families and St. Louis’ third-oldest theater company. Since 1973, Metro Theater Company has been creating productions that respect young people’s intelligence, tell compelling stories, stimulate curiosity and provoke thoughtful reflection. The Company has reached a total audience of more than two million and has a national reputation for excellence in the field of professional theater for young audiences. Metro Theater Company has received major honors and awards, both locally and nationally. The Company is not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization, and is a proud member of the Theatre Communications Group (the national service organization for non-profit professional theaters), Theatre for Young Audiences/USA (the U.S. chapter of the international association of theaters for young people), and Missouri Citizens for the Arts. Metro Theater Company is led by Artistic Director Julia Flood and Managing Director Joe Gfaller. For more information, visit http://metroplays.org

4 the Ville is a community-based tourism and arts organization created by multi-generational Ville residents and volunteers to restore pride in the legacy of The Ville, a historic African American community in the heart of St. Louis, Missouri, and inspire reinvigorated community ownership. The organization is committed to protecting The Ville’s legacy through the arts, tourism, advocacy, and innovative partnerships. 

The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival strives to foster community and joy across the St. Louis region through the Shakespearean tradition of art for all. Since 2001, the Festival has grown from producing a single production of Shakespeare in the Park to a year-round season of impactful programming in exciting and accessible venues throughout the bi-state area. Artistic and education programs reach over 50,000 patrons and students each season and have served over one million since 2001. In 2020, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg News featured the Festival’s stand-out virtual and in-person programs. 

Since 2006 the Kranzberg Arts Foundation and founders Ken and Nancy Kranzberg have made lasting contributions that have changed the landscape of the arts community in the St. Louis region. The Kranzberg Arts Foundation developed and currently operates venues, galleries, and office space for nonprofits, including The Kranzberg, .ZACK, The Marcelle, The Grandel Theatre, The Dark Room, The Big Top, and High Low. In addition to these venues, the Foundation has been instrumental in the formation of the Music at the Intersection Festival, the Wednesday Night Jazz Crawl, and the St. Louis Art Place Initiative. Through the foundation’s tireless efforts and generous contributions, necessary infrastructure has been put in place for the arts to thrive in St. Louis for generations to come. 

The Missouri Arts Council is the second oldest, state-funded arts agency in the country, providing technical and financial assistance for art programs to communities, schools and nonprofit organizations. The Council was established in 1965 to encourage and stimulate the growth, development and appreciation of the arts in Missouri. It is a division of the Missouri Department of Economic Development. The Council’s board consists of 15 citizens from across the state, appointed by the Governor to set policy and programmatic direction for the Missouri Arts Council. 

MindsEye strives to build a more inclusive community by translating vision into audio for individuals who are blind or have low vision through four primary programs. The Broadcast Information Program provides listeners access to long-form journalism and local news and materials like grocery store ads, which allow people to stay informed and maintain independence. The Audio Description Program enables every person who attends a theatre production or museum exhibit the chance to enjoy a rewarding experience. The Beepball Program raises awareness and support for athletes who are blind or visually impaired. The Arts and Culture Accessibility Cooperative provides a forum for local cultural institutions to learn about and discuss accessibility. For more information, visit MindsEyeRadio.org. Follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @mindseyeradio. MindsEye is supported in large part by Lighthouse for the Blind – St. Louis, Ameren Illinois, Emerson, and the Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis. MindsEye is a proud United Way of Greater St. Louis Safety Net Member Agency. 

For more information contact:

Laura Foughty headshot

Laura Foughty

MindsEye Development and Communications CoordinatorLFoughty@MindsEyeRadio.org618-394-6221
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