Many artists' core are enveloped in a kind of humility that's so strong, it can often be mistaken for lack of concern. Some are not given this gratitude gene much at all, and instead feel a sense of entitlement to recognition for their work.
And then there's Sandy Spieler. Whose grace, benevolence, and inherent humility are in a category completely on it's own.
The McKnight Foundation is an organization not unbeknownst to many people, nor is the award that accompanies it's notoriety. Every year, one artist of any medium, is chosen to win this acclaimed honor. Their art is outstanding, their contributions knowing no bounds, and though they could share their talents anywhere else geographically, they chose to remain in Minnesota and grow where they've been planted.
A generous $50,000 joins the highly respected title as a McKnight Foundation Award winner, though this capital did not seem to phase Sandy much. In fact, at one moment over coffee when shooting in her home, I remember her saying something along the lines of how "the theatre can use this money the most", without batting an eye. (Always thinking about her craft first.) That theatre, of course, is one of Minneapolis' greatest movements. In the Heart of The Beast Theatre is a landmark, dream, and pioneer of a (much needed) social shift. Also the founder and producer of the annual and beloved May Day Parade, Sandy opened the theater with a vision that has remained steadfast and true since the doors first busted open with love and vigor in the late 70's. Acclimating to the social changes and a strong finger on the pulse of everything currently relevant, each show manages to tug the heart strings (pun intended) of all walks of life, as the puppets and characters are intentionally made to tell a story we're often too afraid to hear. "Sandy Spieler understands the power of art in context" , said the President of the McKnight Foundation, Kate Wolford.
In conjunction with this award, a beautifully, unique-to-them and impeccably designed book is created by Velvet Peel, and fine tuned over a long period of timeby the best editors in the city, who also happen to be a part of the McKnight Foundation themselves (because it takes a village, folks). I had the deep honor of doing the photography for this labor of love, as I followed Sandy for a day and a half in her home, her studio amidst art of the last four decades, and in simple, ordinary moments that proved to be anything but.
There is so much more that could be said about the effervescent Sandy Spieler's contributions to this city, the arts, and beyond, and truth be told I could go on for much, much longer. Instead, I will let you read more about just why she was 2014's Distinguished Artist here. Or here.
The McKnight Foundation and In the Heart of The Beast Theatre both continue to raise a bar to a much more impressive, yet still attainable height as the years progress. They are creating a breading ground for artists and humans of all varieties to be recognized, and a platform to share their voices.
Again, a strong element of the Distinguished Artist Award's chosing is that commitment to reside in Minnesota after all is said in done, regardless of talent or status. But with the opportunities that they and Spieler continue to birth, why on earth would anyone look anywhere else?
//An additional warm thank you to Megan Donnellan + Carly Jo Hougen for all of your help and assistance in the documenting process!//