Art Cole Award | AACT

Art Cole Award

Art Cole Lifetime of Leadership
Honors a lifetime of leadership in community theatre by members of AACT who have provided leadership at the national level, in addition to local and/or regional levels

2022 Honoree

Photograph of Michael SpicerMichael Spicer (Salina, Kansas) has served 43 years as a theatre professional. After graduating in 1978 from the University of Virginia with an M.F.A. in Theatre Directing, he held leadership positions as Artistic Director at Sioux Falls Playhouse, Artistic Director and Associate Director at the Delray Beach Playhouse, Theatre Midland, Sunset Playhouse, and Palo Alto Players. He became the Executive Director of Salina Community Theatre (SCT) in 1998 and remains so today. Under Michael’s leadership, SCT has received two National AACTFest awards and the Governor’s Arts Award, doubled its staff, increased its programming, and successfully completed a multi-million-dollar capital campaign to expand its facility. Michael has served on the boards of AACT, the Association of Community Arts Agencies of Kansas, the Texas Non-Profit Theatre Association, and the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce. Michael has stated that he believes that “community theatre is the foundational theatre of this country.”

Previous Recipients

2021 Dennis Gilmore* (Indio, California)
2020 Kathy Pingel (North Port, Florida)
2019 Tim Jebsen (Midland, TX)
2018 Kay Armstrong (Dallas, TX)
2017 Julie Crawford (Fort Worth, Texas)
         Linda M. Lee (Fort Worth, Texas)
2016 Ginger Heath (Monroe, NC)
2014 Murray Chase (Venice, FL)
2014 Norman Small (Winter Haven, FL)
2013 Mary Britt* (Ocala, FL)
2012  Bill Muchow (Minneapolis, MN)
2011  Jim Sohre (Army Europe Command Entertainment
          Sherman C. Ward* (Alexandria Bay, NY)
2010  Tom Cowley (Ponca City, OK)
2009  Frank Peot (Sun Prairie, WI)
2008  Joanne Berry (Bay City, MI)
          Stephen Peithman (Davis, CA
2005  Jack Phillips (Downers Grove, IL)
2004  John Viars (Des Moines, IA)

2003  Shirley Harbin* (Detroit, MI)
2002  Twink Lynch* (Topeka, KS)
2001  Rod McCullough* (Lancaster, PA)
2000  Rusty Clauss (Alexandria, VA)
1999  Bea Miller* (Memphis, TN)
1998  L. Ross Rowland* (Muncie, IN)
1996  Betty Tomlinson* (Spokane, WA)
1995  Enid Holm* (Odessa, TX)
1993  Norman McPhee (Racine, WI)
1994  Jim Carver (Kalamazoo, MI)
1992  Harv Thompson (Madison, WI)
1991  Sherwood Lohrey (Memphis, TN)
1989  Mort Clark* (North White Plains, NY)
1988  Sydney Spayde* (Iowa City, IA)
          John Wray Young* (Shreveport, LA)
1987   Art Cole* (Midland, TX)

          * Deceased

Art Cole

Photo of Art ColeThis award is named in honor of Art Cole, who founded the Midland Community Theater in 1946. He served as president of the Southwest Theater Conference, chairman of the Theater Panel for Gov. John Connally’s Texas Conference on the Arts, and vice president of the National Theater Conference. He was one of the small band of community theatre directors and visionaries to meet in Chicago in 1958, under the aegis of the American Educational Theatre Association (which latter became the American Theatre Association), to found the American Community Theatre Association as a provisional program of AETA.  ACTA became a full-fledged division of AETA in 1963, and Art served as President from 1968-70.

He organized the first national community theatre festival and was elected to the Governing Council of the International Amateur Theater Association. He was the first recipient of the American Community Theater Association’s David Bryant Award and was named best director at the International Drama Festival in Dundalk, Ireland, with the production of Butterflies are Free.  He also was an AACT Fellow, and chairman of the Theater Advisory Panel to the Texas Commission on the Arts and president of the International Amateur Theater Association. He died in 2013 at the age of 92.



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