ST. LOUIS, MO – The Missouri Arts Council has chosen the recipients of the 2023 Missouri Arts Awards, the state’s highest honor in the arts. Since 1983, the Missouri Arts Awards have recognized 242 individuals, organizations, and communities throughout the state for their significant contributions to Missouri’s artistic and cultural legacy. The 2023 honorees will be recognized in a ceremony at the Missouri State Capitol on February 8, 2023.  

“The Arts have a profound impact on the cultural, educational, and economic vitality of our state and each of these honorees exemplify the diversity of talent and creativity we have across Missouri,” Lieutenant Governor Kehoe said. “Congratulations to the honorees of the 2023 Missouri Arts Awards.”

The 2023 Missouri Arts Awards honorees include:

Arts Education | Stray Dog Theatre, St. Louis

Stray Dog Theatre, St. Louis, is a professional small theater company that concentrates on arts education in addition to producing six plays each year. Education activities include Stray Pups Youth Theatre, Silver Stage Senior Theatre, Arts-In-Reach summer camps, and Arts-In-Mind programs for after-school enrichment, family development, and community involvement.

Arts Organization | Artists First, St. Louis

Artists First, St. Louis, is a visual arts studio dedicated to artists of all abilities. It produces programs especially for people who have been underserved and disenfranchised, including those with disabilities, those experiencing extreme stress, elders with memory loss and their caregivers, disconnected youth, and veterans.

Creative Community | City of Hermann

The picturesque City of Hermann on the banks of the Missouri River is at the heart of the state’s wine country and historic German cultural heritage. It boasts a lively community of working artists, as well as year-round offerings of artistic attractions such as open-air concerts, art walks, and festivals like Oktoberfest and the Hermann Wine and Jazz Festival.

Individual Artist | Kenneth Calvert, St. Louis

Kenneth Calvert, St. Louis, is an internationally celebrated illustrator, painter, graphic designer, and muralist. His art as a storyteller of Black experiences ranges from panoramic historical scenes to intimate portraits of contemporary daily life. His work has been highlighted in more than 100 solo and group exhibitions since he began his artistic career in the ‘60s.

Leadership in the Arts | Joan Israelite, Kansas City

Joan Israelite, Kansas City, has been a tireless force since the mid-‘80s for creating policy, raising funds, and growing arts organizations. She was the founding CEO of ArtsKC and a nine-year board member of both the Missouri Arts Council and the National Council on the Arts. Since 2008, she has been a consultant with the Kauffmann Center for the Performing Arts.

Philanthropy | Mary Strauss, St. Louis

Mary Strauss, St. Louis, is a steadfast core supporter of her community’s arts. She provides 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. She is especially renowned for rescuing the historic Fox Theatre in 1982 together with her late husband, Leon.

An independent panel of Missourians representing the statewide arts community selected the honorees from public nominations.

About the Missouri Arts Council

The Missouri Arts Council provides support to nonprofit organizations through grants that meet its strategic goals: 1) engage people in meaningful arts experiences, 2) grow Missouri’s economy using the arts, and 3) strengthen Missouri education through the arts. Missouri Arts Council funding makes quality arts programming possible in communities statewide. The Council also provides expertise in community development, fundraising, marketing, grant writing, arts education, and artistic disciplines (visual arts, music, literature, theater, dance, festivals, and film/media).

Established as a state agency in 1965, the Missouri Arts Council is a division of the Office of the Lieutenant Governor. The Council is funded through the Missouri General Assembly, Missouri Cultural Trust, and National Endowment for the Arts.

For more information on the Missouri Arts Council, contactBarbara MacRobie, public information coordinator,, 314-340-6852,