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In the words of Carolyn Holbrook, 2010 winner of the Kay Sexton Award, “Carol’s commitment to literature spans several decades and cuts across the many invisible lines that tend to divide us: age, race, economics, political affiliation, gender and sexual orientation.” Connolly works tirelessly for the betterment of the literary community and the community at large.
In the words of Neal Cuthbert, former Vice President of Programs at the Mc Knight Foundation, Penumbra has, through its acclaimed stage productions, educational programming, and new play development efforts, “had an impact on the creative lives of generations of African American and other writers and has frankly altered the course of artistic expression and development in this community and across the country.” In addition to promoting works on stage at Penumbra, Bellamy has inspired and touched the lives of thousands of youth, cultivating the production of new dramatic literature, poetry, and spoken word.
Presented annually, the Kay Sexton Award recognizes an individual or organization for long-standing dedication and outstanding work in fostering books, reading and literary activity in Minnesota. For more than four decades, Lou Bellamy has been a champion of African American literature, bringing to light works by African American playwrights, enabling artists to find their voice, and inspiring understanding of the vital role these stories play in our community and history.
The award honors Kay Sexton, a book buyer for many years at Dayton’s and B. This annual award, presented by The Friends, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA) and the Minnesota Book Awards, recognizes a Minnesota book artist or book artist collaborative group for outstanding new work in the book arts during the last year, a demonstrated proficiency in the book arts, and significant contributions to Minnesota’s book arts community.
He advocated for support from national foundations, raising million dollars in grants to nonprofit literary presses – of which Coffee House Press, Graywolf Press, and Milkweed Press were three major beneficiaries.
He also helped to form Lit Net, a coalition of nonprofit literary organizations from throughout the United States that supports freedom of expression and promotes funding for the literary arts.
He assembled a board of highly influential arts and civic leaders, including former Governor Elmer L.
Andersen, and served as the founding executive director of MCBA until 1989.Early in his tenure, Sitter invited Allan Kornblum – then head of Toothpaste Press – to move to Minnesota and become the organization’s first press-in-residence.In addition to motivating Kornblum’s move and the creation of Coffee House Press, Sitter played a crucial role in the press’ development as a nonprofit organization and influenced the decision to begin publishing full-length trade editions.He was also responsible for persuading Scott Walker, founder and Executive Director of Graywolf Press, to relocate from Washington State, further cementing his integral role in the creation of what has become a vital literary community.Sitter’s expertise led him to New York, where he became the executive director of the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP), expanding the funding opportunities for small presses across the country.He refocused the company and turned it into a national distribution service aimed at providing more visibility to books from independent literary presses, thereby beginning the process of fostering a national audience and appreciation for Minnesota’s great presses.