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Tonight’s Arts Alliance MUSE Awards party is sold out

Bill DeYoung



Lillian Dunlap and Jaye Sheldon, the founders of Your Real Stories, will receive the Literary Arts Award. All photos: St. Pertersburg Arts Alliance.

In 2014, the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance launched the MUSE Awards, a celebration of those local folks who contribute, profoundly and steadily, to the city’s steady progression and reputation as an arts center.

The seventh annual awards will be handed out tonight at the Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg; the museum’s grand lobby becomes a packed party place, with a stage smack in the middle and off to the side (that’s where the plaudits are handed out, and the speeches made, and where the night’s cocktail-hour entertainers perform).

MUSE is the Arts Alliance’s biggest fundraiser of the year, and tonight is sold out, so if you’re missing a mover or a shaker, that’s probably where they are.

All told, the arts are in good and capable hands. On to 2021!

Tonight’s honorees


Duncan McClellan, Arts Ambassador Award. Raised in Orlando, the internationally recognized 64-year-old glass artist and gallery owner is a vocal critic of the way the arts are promoted in our area. In 2019, McClellan told the Catalyst: “I can open up the Wall Street Journal, there’s a half-page ad: Houston Does the Arts. And it’s all these artists standing there, doing their discipline – and that’s all they’re talking about, not aerospace, not beaches.

“Here, it’s beaches. They might advertise the arts by putting a postage stamp of a picture of the Dali.”

Hal Freedman and Willi Rudowsky, Patron of the Arts Award. The couple relocated to St. Pete from San Francisco in 2000, and have been strong supporters of the arts ever since, actively (by serving on various boards) and philanthropically. “There are different ways to get involved – you can donate time; you can donate money,” Rudowsky said on the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay’s Inspired Giving podcast (available here). “Look at what you’re doing and see if there’s another step that you can take in an organization. Getting involved on a time basis doesn’t have to be a board.”


YaeL Kelley, Visual Arts Award. The Historic Kenwood oils artist is especially unique in a community where every artist is unique. “My work explores the Organic through an Expressionist lens,” she says in her Artist’s Statement. “After years of working in a traditional manner, I have intentionally abandoned those methods to search for what is beyond … working in oil, my method involves layer upon layer of thin glazes, incorporating powdered pigments, gold and silver leaf. I open myself to the painting allowing it to guide me, like having a conversation.”

Suzanne Pomerantzeff, Performance Arts Award. Pomerantzeff co-founded the Academy of Ballet Arts 50 years ago, helping countless young people navigate their earliest journeys into the labyrinthian world of movement-as-a-career. She developed the dance department at Gibbs High School’s Pinellas County Center for the Arts, and operates the the St. Petersburg Ballet Company and the St. Petersburg Folk Ensemble of Russian folk dance out of Dance Academy Central at 1st Avenue North and 29th Street. “Part of the philosophy of the school is that I’m teaching a whole child,” Pomerantzeff told Mitzi Gordon inDuPont Registry. “Choreography, combinations, the self-discipline of the body, the commitment, but also kindness, sharing, self-motivation — all of that is a part of being trained.”

Lillian Dunlap and Jaye Sheldon, Literary Arts Award. The co-founders of Your Real Stories have developed a striking and innovative approach to living history by turning audio interviews into theatrical performance pieces. “People always ask us where we get our stories from,” Sheldon told the Catalyst in November. “And the truth of the matter is, we really do want to tell everyone’s story. Because that’s our mission. We want to represent everyone in the whole community; we want everyone to be able to see themselves in the work that we do. And they’ll hear about their neighbors as well.”

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