Gov. Polis Announces 2024 Governor’s Creative Leadership Awards, to be Presented at the Colorado Creative Industries Summit

Americans for the Arts will also present the Governor with the Public Leadership in the Arts Award

DENVER — Today, the Polis Administration and the Colorado Creative Industries (CCI) division of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) announced the 2024 recipients of the Governor’s Creative Leadership Awards to recognize Coloradans who have demonstrated a significant commitment to the state’s creative landscape through civic leadership and volunteerism. Gov. Polis will present the awards on Friday, May 10, at the Colorado Creative Industries Summit in Pueblo at the Pueblo Convention Center.  Additionally at the CCI Summit, Americans for the Arts will present Governor Jared Polis with the Public Leadership in the Arts Award, which honors elected officials who advance the arts and arts education within their communities and whose vision and leadership provide heightened visibility to the value of the arts.

“Colorado artists and creative communities bring people together in celebrating our state’s heritage. This year’s Creative Leadership Award winners have demonstrated a commitment to their craft while expanding the arts for all Coloradans,” said Gov. Polis. “The arts are an important part of who we are and our state’s culture, and as a state we deeply appreciate all the talented individuals and supporters who elevate culture and arts in Colorado,” said Governor Jared Polis.

The Creative Leadership Awards are presented to community members that have demonstrated a significant commitment to Colorado’s creative landscape through advocacy, vision, collaboration, or innovation. The awards ceremony will feature Colorado State Poet Laureate, Andrea Gibson,Colorado State University Pueblo Ballet Folklórico, and Pikes Peak Region Poet Laureate, Ashley Cornelius. Pueblo born and raised woodworker and artist, Joe Kronwitter, designed this year’s awards.

“These remarkable artists and art advocates inspire all of us,” said CCI Director, Josh Blanchard. “They use their talents in the arts to catalyze change in their communities, grow the important contributions of the arts and the creative industries to our economy, and reinvigorate our public spaces and communities.”

The 2024 Creative Leadership Award recipients include:

Grace Gillette - Arts and Advocacy

Honors individuals who work to advance economically vibrant, healthy, and equitable communities by ensuring that arts, culture and the creative industries and its workforce are valued and supported through policy, research, civic engagement, professional services and access.

A Denver resident for 52 years, Ms. Gillette has been actively involved in the Denver Indian Community by serving on boards of directors and as speaker, panelist, emcee, and head dancer. She has been the Executive Director for the Denver March Powwow (DMPW) for 33 years. Under her leadership, the DMPW has received many accolades and awards. Ms. Gillette is most proud of the DMPW permanent exhibits in the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. She has been named in "Who's Who in Denver Business," bestowed a traditional blessing upon Mayor Hancock at his first inauguration, named “Elder of the Year” by The American Indian College Fund, and inducted into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame, among many other accomplishments.

Cynthia Ramu - Arts and Creative Placemaking Award

Honors individuals who use the arts to envision new futures through activities such as activating a public space, animating a community or sparking redevelopment.

Cynthia Ramu, a passionate artist and community leader, currently leads the Pueblo Levee Mural Project as coordinator. With a diverse educational background and extensive experience in art education and mural creation, Cynthia has significantly impacted Pueblo, Colorado's cultural scene and beyond. Her achievements include securing Guinness World Records and organizing community events, reflecting her belief in the arts' power to unite and inspire. Cynthia's dedication shines through her mentorship of youth and commitment to community engagement, making her a cornerstone of Pueblo's artistic landscape.

Tom Shepard - Arts and Community Action Award

Presented to individuals that have demonstrated selfless service, inspired others to take action or catalyze change in their community using the arts.

Tom has been directing and producing documentary films for nearly 25 years. His film catalog includes Scout’s Honor, Knocking, Whiz Kids, The Grove, and Unsettled. In 2014, Tom returned to his hometown of Colorado Springs and founded the Youth Documentary Academy (YDA), a film arts organization that teaches youth from under-represented communities how to make films and tell their stories. YDA has leveled the playing field among elite video arts academies that exist mostly on the coasts. In 2020, Tom created a new television series exclusively featuring the films made in YDA. Currently, Season one and two of Our Time are broadcasting nationally via American Public Television. His proudest work in YDA is Youth Media Matters, a curricular program that brings YDA films into high schools around the country, opening the door to courageous conversations. 

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