2019 Professional Recognition Awards
Individual Award of Excellence: Michelle Reid
Michelle Reid has transformed the Rosson House Museum into the robust Heritage Square Foundation. When Michelle was hired in 2015,visitorship was on the decline, programming had a very limited audience, and the Rosson House was not taken seriously by other institutions. As Director, Michelle led the effort to rebrand the Rosson House as Heritage Square and expand the mission to encompass the entire Square.
Michelle questions the status quo, is unafraid to experiment with new models and actively seeks lessons learned from other institutions. A case in point, after Handcrafted, a vintage maker space, did not perform as expected she readily enhanced the space by incorporating the museum store now focused on goods made by local artists, doubling earned income and provided space for local artists to sell their work.
Most recently, Michelle has launched the “You Are Here” program which will expand the site’s stories beyond 1895 to 1915 and the privileged to include the stories of Phoenix and the Valley and people of all backgrounds, eventually filling the void left when the Phoenix History Museum closed in 2008.
Michelle has gone “above and beyond, putting the organization on a more solid fiscal foundation, and has presided over an increase in visitation, and expansion of programming and a regular schedule of exhibits and events. As a result of her work the Rosson House has moved from “One of Phoenix’ Best Kept Secrets” to “One of Phoenix’ Top 10 Destinations”.
Individual Award of Excellence: Jody Crago
Jody Crago came to the Chandler Museum in 2007 to build a new museum. The City had already determined the need and bond initiatives had been approved, providing $13 million of city money for the project. Jody spent the next two years in strategic planning and creating a conceptual design for the building.
Undeterred by a five year delay caused by the Great Recession, coupled with the need to move from the old museum to a temporary space in a historic structure, Jody persevered until enough support was generated to re-start the planning and construction process in 2016. Incorporating the historic structure, art, education space, and community and family gathering spaces, the new building open this past December.
In addition to the Herculean task of creating a new museum, over the last 12 years Jody has also
- Brought into being Chandlerpedia, a unique wiki-type website that will ultimately provide access to the archives and objects of not only the Chandler Museum, but to the collections of other East Valley repositories.
- Turned the Museum’s Tumbleweed Ranch into a rich learning environment for school groups
- Established an internationally renowned Chuck Wagon Cook-Off
- Created multiple pop-up exhibits to augment the limited space in the temporary museum building.
- Developed a series of award-winning exhibits and programs about the little discussed history of Japanese Internment in Arizona.
Institutional Award of Excellence: Vail Preservation Society
After four years of hard work, the Vail Preservation Society recently completed the 1915 Marsh Station Section Foreman House renovation.
In 2015 the visionary leader of the Vail Preservation Society, J.J. Lamb, came to the school district with a “crazy idea”, to put Vail's old railroad section foreman's house in the center of a new school. The house had been abandoned for many years and was in an advanced state of disrepair.
Once it was decided to move forward, the Vail Preservation Society worked with and the school district recruited the Construction Trades students from Cienega High School to do the rehabilitation. The students worked with their teachers Michael Keck and Wade Cross, with expert guidance from the Vail Preservation Society and preservation expert Simon Herbert to bring the home back to life.
The building will now serve as a living museum and workspace exhibiting the stories of Vail's rich heritage, displaying student artwork, and providing a space for the Heritage Garden Club to process the fruits and vegetables they harvest.
Described as the "most significant and successful historical/educational restoration project in Arizona" at its opening, the renovation of the Section Foreman House is in fact only one of the amazing accomplishments by this organization that include ongoing oral history projects, a K-12 museum club that stages its own exhibits, collaboration with multiple community organizations, the list goes on and on. Even now, they are in the midst of their next historic restoration project, the 1908 Old Vail Post Office.
Community Support Award: Catherine 'Rusty' Foley
Catherine 'Rusty' Foley has been Executive Director of Arizona Citizens for the Arts since 2011 and will be retiring this summer. A lifelong Phoenician, Rusty has spent her career as a communications and public affairs professional and a community leader. As an arts activist, she also has served on the boards of Childsplay and the Arizona Theatre Company, and on the Phoenix Art Museum Corporate Council.
Since coming to Arizona Citizens for the Arts, Rusty has proved to be a valuable partner for museum advocacy at the state legislature. She has worked with the Museum Association of Arizona to increase museum participation in state-wide advocacy including a stronger presence in the annual Arizona Arts Congress
Just a few among her museum-related accomplishments, she has ensured regular annual state funding for the arts, including key grant programs offered to museums, educators and artists by the Arizona Commission on the Arts and provided advice and assistance for the Sunset Review of the Arizona Historical Society, leading to its re-authorization and continued funding.
Rusty has also been an eloquent speaker about the value of arts advocacy on the state level, participating in regional and national conferences on behalf of Arizona museums, including the Western Museum Association and the American Alliance of Museums.
Community Support Award: Robert Sutz
Robert Sutz uses his art to tell the stories of Holocaust eye witnesses, including survivors, U.S. veterans and camp liberators, and righteous gentile, based on interviews that he has personally gathered,.
In 2017 the Arizona Jewish Historical Society mounted an original exhibition of his art work, We Remember: Extraordinary Stories of the Holocaust, which included, five life-masks, two pastel portraits, four paintings, and contextual narrative. The exhibition was visited by more than 3,000 people.
Bob’s work has also been exhibited as part of Scottsdale Community College’s Genocide Awareness Week, Luke Airforce Base Remembrance Day, at the Tempe History Museum, as well as at countless schools and educational institutions across the country.
As part of its plan to establish a Holocaust Education Center in Downtown Phoenix, the Arizona Jewish Historical Society will include a permanent exhibit of We Remember: The Holocaust Art of Robert Sutz. Displayed masks and portraits will show many survivors with a connection to Arizona, either as a resident or with descendants as residents.
Rather than try to tell the immense story of the Holocaust, its chronology, scope and correlations to other human catastrophes, the Sutz Gallery will personalize the Holocaust through the eyes of its survivors. Testimonies and recollections from those who lived through the Holocaust will provide direct windows into the bigger story.
In this way, the work of Robert Sutz will continue to provide a unique and powerful experience for learning, encouraging respect and mutual understanding among people of all backgrounds.
Community Support Award: Sheila Kollasch
Sheila Kollasch has tended to stay in the background, except for her appearances in costume at the Museum Association of Arizona Live Auctions, appearing variously as a pirate, fairy queen, purveyor of her “melons”, and of course, our favorite, Super Sheila.
Sheila first made her appearance in MAA history as a 1994 awardee, when she worked at Desert Caballeros Western Museum. She quickly became a fixture on the Conference Committee, now called the Professional Development Committee. For more than 10 years, Sheila has the been the prime organizer of the Silent Auctions held annually at our Conference. Soliciting auction items, setting up the tables, filling out bid sheets, cashing out at the end of the day, all incredibly important work, all carried out with a quiet attention to detail that is the hallmark of everything she does. In all Sheila has raised more than $100,000 for MAA through our Live and Silent Auctions.
Typically, when asked to participate in Conference sessions, she has taken the role of organizer, creating panels on two important, but until then not much discussed issues of small museum archives and artist-in-residence programs.
She is always ready to help, providing meeting and storage space at her museum’s facilities. And, as the consummate professional that she is, Sheila has not only left her museum with Sheila’s Library, a repository of her collections management knowledge, but recruited and is mentoring a new MAA Silent Auction organizer.
Roger Lidman Distinguished Service Award: Jo Falls
Jo Falls has been with Tohono Chul for the past 33 years. Beginning as the Office Manager, Jo was an original staff member around the time of Tohono Chul’s founding in 1985. Since that time, Jo has worn many hats; she worked in the Exhibits Department (she now oversees it), Volunteer Services (she now oversees it), and since 1991 she has served as the Director of Education and Visitor Services while simultaneously directing Educational Travel and Public Programs.
She has taught and written the curriculum for the Docent Program (she now oversees it), a rigorous 15 week course on the Sonoran Desert that turns people with prior lives in finance, politics, education, advertising, engineering, etc. into “Desert Rats.” Jo has worked with, conceived, and tailored programs to grades K-12 and a variety of community outreach projects. She researches and contributes interpretive and didactic text for all Tohono Chul signage and publications; and has helped other institutions all over the region as a guest speaker and grant reviewer. She has worked with hundreds of docents and volunteers through the years (currently almost 400 active volunteers and docents), she knows them all and makes herself available to each and every one of them.
In this day and age of people jumping from job to job Jo Falls is a rare breed. Jo has worked as an Education Department of “one” overseeing the Exhibits Department of “two” since 1991 – in that time there have been only three curatorial teams – testament to her abilities as a nurturing, productive, and dedicated administrator. For almost 34 years Jo Falls, has been part of Tohono Chul, continually shaping it and moving it forward, into the welcoming and wonderful place it is. In the words of her nominator, “simply put – Tohono Chul in Tucson, AZ would not be what it is without Jo Falls.”