Congratulations to our 2020 Community Arts Award recipients! We are pleased to announce that our 2020 CAA celebration has been rescheduled for Wednesday, April 14 at 7 pm. Return to this page to join us for a virtual celebration of our 2020 CAA recipients. The program will be live-streamed from the Jolliffe Theatre to your home.

Since 1985, the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo has honored local artists, arts organizations, and supporters through the Community Arts Awards. For a list of previous CAA winners, please click here (PDF).

Gilmore Foundation Dorothy U Dalton Foundation


2020 Community Arts Award Recipients

Community Medal of Arts 


Andrew Koehler

Andrew Koehler is currently the music director of the Kalamazoo Philharmonia, which he leads as part of his position as an associate professor of music at Kalamazoo College. He also holds concurrent posts as music director of the Kalamazoo Junior Symphony Orchestra, and as the cover conductor and frequent guest conductor of the West Michigan Symphony Orchestra. He is active as a guest conductor close to home and throughout the world.

In recent seasons, he has appeared with the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra musicians; the Lyatoshynsky Chamber Orchestra in Kyiv, Ukraine; the Ruse Philharmonic in Bulgaria; the St. Cloud Symphony in Minnesota; the Festival South Chamber Orchestra in Mississippi; and the Moldovan National Youth Orchestra, a professional group of recent conservatory graduates.


Sandra Bremer

Sandra Bremer has a career that has spanned over 40 years as an accomplished actress, choreographer, and director. A native of Portage, Mich., Sandra got her start in community theatre in Kalamazoo before going on four different national tours – Bob Fosse’s Sweet Charity, The Pajama Game, The Pirates of Penzance, and Tintypes. She later spent almost 15 years as a resident company member of the renowned Derby Dinner Playhouse in Louisville, Ky. Sandra returned to Kalamazoo in 2010 has continued to direct and choreograph for the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre and Farmers Alley Theatre and has also been involved with the Civic Youth Theatre and their summer theatre program. Sandra also coaches and teaches for the Academy of Theatre Arts.


Dr. Thomas G. Evans

Dr. Thomas G. Evans is the Director of Bands and Professor of Music at Kalamazoo College where he conducts and oversees all aspects of the band program including the Symphonic Band, Jazz Band, and Pep Band. In addition to conducting, he teaches courses in Music History, Music Education, Jazz, Trombone and Euphonium. Dr. Evans is known for his innovative programming as well as his collaborations with numerous local and international artists.

Tom joined the faculty of Kalamazoo College in 1995 having held a similar position for eight years at Alfred University in Alfred, New York. His jazz bands have toured internationally (Russia, Estonia, Finland, and Tunisia) as well as nationally (Chicago, Washington, D.C., Cincinnati, and Detroit). In 2004 and 2013, Tom took a 7-piece jazz combo from Kalamazoo College to Numazu, Japan. This week-long concert tour celebrated the 40th anniversary of the sister city relationship between Kalamazoo and Numazu. Prior to teaching in higher education, Tom taught for six years in the New York State public schools where his high school bands and orchestras achieved the highest ratings at state festivals.

Adam F. Carter Young Artist Award

Shelby Alexander

Shelby Alexander has been an active member of the Kalamazoo Civic Youth theatre for several years as both an actor and technician including having stage managed several shows. She was the first youth playwright for the 10th annual TK New Playfest and was a semifinalist for the Young Playwright’s Festival hosted by Blank Space Theatre. An avid writer, Shelby has participated in a variety of workshops and lessons at Michigan State, Harvard, Carnegie Melon, and Crawlspace Eviction Improv Comedy group.


Business Arts Award

Fortitude Graphics Design

Fortitude Graphics Design From imagination to reality–that is the motivation behind Fortitude Graphic Design & Printing founder Sean Hollins. This theme has been the focus of his creative contributions to the arts for more than 25 years. His work with local printers has allowed him to use his skills as an artist to bring unique graphic design services to their companies. Sean has designed award-winning logos and websites for credit unions, small businesses, churches, athletes, and politicians. Sean’s true passion is working with wordsmiths, helping dozens of local authors create books and covers that are the culmination of the author’s hard work.


Epic Award

Crescendo Academy of Music

Crescendo Academy of Music, now over 30 years old, has evolved from a violin program to an educational and musical mainstay of our community. The academy provides opportunities for performances in a variety of local venues, lessons in music theory and composition, chamber ensembles, Mando for Kids, and Music Together®, a nationally recognized early childhood music program.

Gayle Hoogstraten Arts Leadership Award

Educator – Michelle Stempien

Michelle Stempien – The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts’ (KIA) director of museum education, Stempien has built a docent corps for the KIA that has reached groups from preschool to senior citizens and is responsible for bringing in thousands of children and adults to enjoy the exhibits at the KIA.

Michelle also expanded the High School Area Show that has awarded a half million dollars in scholarships over the past few years, as well as the Young Artists show for K-8 grade students which would have an opening day of up to 3,000 attendees. Michelle has developed a variety of programming and workshops, including Unreeled, “Art Break,” and “Art Detective,” and has worked with groups such as Kalamazoo Public Schools, law enforcement agencies, the Homer Stryker Medical School, and individuals with memory and vision loss.


Educator – Sonya Bernard-Hollins

Sonya Bernard-Hollins took her love of travel and writing to create a unique learning experience for girls through the Merze Tate Travel Club in 2008. Today, the organization is an official nonprofit, the Merze Tate Explorers, providing girls the experiences of travel and career exploration.

Over the years, the group has visited Canada, Paris, France, Versailles, Venice, Florence, Rome, and Hawaii. Individually, students have traveled the world through study abroad and with families. The name of the program pays homage to Merze Tate (1905-96) a teacher and world explorer who learned five languages and worked as a writer and photographer for the U.S. State Department. She was the first African-American to graduate from Oxford University in England in 1935 and was a 1927 graduate of Western Michigan University.


Administrator – Kama Mitchell

Kama Mitchell – is a healer, mama, yogi, doula and dancer. As a birth doula and postpartum doula she has spent most of her life claiming and sharing body awareness. She co-founded and is co-executive director of the nonprofit Rootead, which supports women of color, especially mothers.

Rootead Enrichment Center offers healing arts and birthwork programs that are diverse, inclusive, anti-racist, and trauma informed. In order to be equitable, all services offered through the Enrichment Center are available at low-to-no cost. Rootead takes a whole person approach to programming and weaves aspects such as social, emotional, and psychological wellness into each program. This creative process empowers the individual and enhances relationships between participants that promote healing, coping and personal change.

Thank you for your generous support of the Arts Council.

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