(CHEYENNE) Fannie Mae Duncan

Fannie Mae Duncan sits in the Cotton Club with musicians playing in the background in this 1955 photograph. Duncan graduated from the integrated Colorado Springs High School (now Palmer High) in 1938, the first in her family to get a diploma. Duncan bought the building that would become Duncan’s Cafe and later the Cotton Club at 25 W. Colorado Ave., at 28.

File photo

Fannie Mae Duncan might not be around to put on her famous Cotton Club jazz shows, but the Colorado Springs legend can still bring a room to its feet.

The woman famous for welcoming all races to her nightclub at a time when Colorado Springs was a segregated city was honored as the posthumous recipient of the inaugural Cultural Heritage Art Award at Tuesday’s Arts Business Education Luncheon, held at The Antlers, A Wyndham Hotel.

“To move forward, sometimes we have to move backwards and recognize contributions from the past,” said presenter Jim Ciletti, co-owner of used bookstore Hooked on Books.

The awards event brings hundreds of arts advocates together to recognize educators, businesses and community supporters from around the Pikes Peak region who contribute significantly to the arts in education.

Andy Vick, executive director of the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, presented Tara Thomas, director of Bemis School of Art at Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, with the Community Support for Arts Education Award for her Art of Accessibility Project. Thomas has helped more than 60 artists with disabilities share their stories, vision and creations. She’s also added better accessibility to art classes, including a pottery wheel for students in wheelchairs.

“Her work enables artists to turn their creativity into advocacy, plus creates an economic benefit,” Vick said. “Tara has made accessibility for people with disabilities a priority now and in Bemis’ long-term strategic plan.”

Troy Gedack, assistant principal at Eagleview Middle School, was recognized as this year’s distinguished administrator.

“Who do you go to when you need an administrator to support and help your academic arts academy to grow and thrive?” said Ciletti about Gedack. “Who do you go to for that extra push when your performing arts department holds a large fundraiser gala?”

Sixteen junior high and middle school students won Mary Lou Anderson scholarships for dance, theater and other arts. Students were nominated by their art teachers and principals.

Thirteen students were recognized as El Paso Council PTA Reflections State Finalists.

Other awards included:

• Business Support of the Arts: The Antlers, a Wyndham Hotel

• Youth Recognition: Ramona Lapsley, Students Mountainside Literacy Program

• Arts Opportunities: Lynn Hamilton, Academy of Children’s Theatre

• Arts Advocacy: Shell Acker

• Distinguished Administrator: Troy Gedack, assistant principal, Eagleview Middle School

• Distinguished Performing Arts Teacher: Dawn Wisdom, Cheyenne Mountain High School

• Distinguished Visual/Literary Arts Teacher: Katherine Wheatley, Widefield Elementary

• Ongoing Support for the Arts: Jaima Salagovic, math teacher, Eagleview Middle School

• Unique Project: John Leaf, “On Sight” program, Mitchell High School

• Community Support for Arts Education: Tara Thomas, Art of Accessibility Project

• Joyce Robinson Arts Teacher Micro Grants: David Koller, visual arts teacher, Queen Palmer Elementary School; Jodi Papproth, theater teacher, Cheyenne Mountain High School; Erin Ambroz, theater teacher, Coronado High School; Lindsey Mitchell, visual arts teacher, Pine Creek High School

• Cultural Heritage Art: Fannie Mae Duncan and Fannie Mae Duncan Projects

Contact the writer: 636-0270

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