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ArtsPartners of Central Illinois, Inc. presented Sharon Samuels Reed with the 2020 ArtsPartners of the Year Award at their Annual Meeting which was held via Zoom on Wednesday, October 21. Presenting this year’s award was the ArtsPartners current board president, Mary Jo Papich.

The ArtsPartner of the Year Award recognizes exemplary support of and service to the arts in central Illinois. Each year, ArtsPartners invites the public to nominate individuals or organizations who have demonstrated outstanding efforts in the areas of advocacy, education, professional service, volunteers service, or funding of the arts.

Noted Mary Jo Papich, “Sharon’s many years of service as an arts educator, advocate, and leader have had a transformative impact on our community. She has impacted literally thousands of people through her passionate, dedicated, long-standing and quality work in the performing arts and social justice. We are honored to recognize her as the 2020 ArtsPartner of the Year!”

Sharon Samuels Reed began her professional career as a music educator with Peoria Public Schools in 1972. After teaching for 22 years, mostly at Woodruff High School, she continued her professional service as Chairperson of Cultural Studies at Pekin Community High School. After retiring in 2008, Reed served Peoria Public Schools for several years as the Director of Fine Arts. Additionally, she served as Administrator of Peoria Public School’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program. While working as an arts educator and administrator, she founded The Heritage Ensemble, which exists to celebrate the culture and history of African Americans through music. For over 20 years the ensemble has worked to tear down walls and build bridges between all people by exposing people of all cultures to the diversity, beauty, richness, and complexity of musical literature born out of the African American experience. In the past three years, she has led a collaboration with the Peoria Chapter of the NAACP in the nationally based Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological, and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) program.

“Sharon Samuels Reed has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to the arts” stated Francesa Armmer, President of the Heritage Ensemble, “She is a unique ‘Arts Partner’ who has fostered the inclusion of individuals of all ages and ethnic backgrounds. Her love for the arts and desire for all to benefit from the arts is exemplary!”

Upon receiving the award, Reed said, “We are better when all of us are working together. In the words of one of the Negro Spirituals, ‘I am going to work until my work is done’ and it is not over yet. So, I am still going to continue my work in this community. Thank you so much for this award.”

ArtsPartners of Central Illinois promotes the arts as a vital component of central Illinois’ cultural and economic development. Founded in 1999, ArtsPartners of Central Illinois, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, not-for-profit organization whose mission is to build awareness and strengthen the arts for the economic and cultural enrichment of central Illinois.

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