Community leaders

For more than 20 years, The Depot Foundation has honored local artists, historians and community leaders through an annual Arts & Culture Awards event in October at the Historic Union Depot. The 2021 award recipients represent a diverse array of fields, including dance, art, historical preservation and community development. This year’s celebration will be held in person on Oct. 21.

Artist Award: Leah Yellowbird

Lifetime Artist Award: Ann Aiko Bergeron

Community Enrichment Award: Lee Stuart & CHUM

Historic Preservation Award: Milissa Brooks-Ojibway

Community Initiative Award: Zeitgeist

Artist Award: Leah Yellowbird

Leah Yellowbird identifies strongly with her First Nations Algonquin-Metis and Anishinaabe heritage. At a young age, Yellowbird learned from her aunt how to follow traditional beading patterns and has been working in this medium her entire life. This knowledge, combined with her creative eye and exploration of color, has spilled over into the realm of painting, and she is now well-regarded for her work in all mediums. Yellowbird had the first solo exhibit at the American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO) in 2013 and has since had her work on display at a variety of prominent spaces, including the Macrosite Art Center, Plains Museum of Art and the Tweed Museum of Art. Yellowbird’s work can be seen at Indigenous First Art & Gift Shop in the AICHO Building on Second Street in Duluth.

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Lifetime Artist Award: Ann Aiko Bergeron

Ann Aiko Bergeron is a Morse-Alumni Distinguished Professor of Theatre at UMD. She teaches courses in jazz and tap dance as well as movement for actors and acting, and directing courses. Bergeron is a two-time Fulbright-Hays Seminar awardee, representing American dance and theater educators in China and India. Aiko Bergeron has choreographed more than 35 concert dance works and directed or choreographed more than 60 plays and musicals.

Community Enrichment Award: Lee Stuart & CHUM

CHUM provides emergency shelter for families and individuals, food shelves in three Duluth neighborhoods, the CHUM Center, permanent supportive housing, a clinic, and outreach and support to people in Duluth who are experiencing homelessness, hunger and social isolation. The food shelf provides more than 300,000 pounds of food for thousands of people per year, and the shelter houses guests who are homeless, many of whom struggle with disability, mental illness or substance abuse. Lee Stuart has been leading the organization since 2013, and has announced her retirement. She will leave CHUM in the strongest financial shape in the organization’s 47-year history.

Historic Preservation Award: Milissa Brooks-Ojibway

Milissa Brooks-Ojibway has been involved in historic organizations in Duluth for more than 18 years, first as collections manager for the St. Louis County Historical Society and currently as collections manager at Glensheen, the historic Congdon estate, since 2016. Statewide, she also serves on the Historic Resources Advisory Committee. She also serves as the secretary of the Friends of the Duluth Public Library Board and is a member of the American Association of University Women.

Community Initiative Award: Zeitgeist

Zeitgeist’s commitment to social change and its collaborative approach to community enhancement deserves to be recognized and celebrated. Led by Executive Director Tony Cuneo, the organization includes a theater, restaurant, movie theater and art gallery. Through their diverse and inclusive programming, the organization strives to make positive changes in our Duluth community. Recent initiatives include Healthy Hillside, a program that works to address health disparities and resource needs, which was developed to help Hillside residents and stakeholders get through the pandemic as successfully as possible.