Top art honors go to Amy Stearns

"The arts are our gift to the next generation." This quote from Robert Bluestone is printed on a note attached to the computer in Amy Stoller Stearns' office at the Historic Holmes Theatre -- but it might just as easily have come from Stearns' ow...

Amy Stoller Stearns
AMY STOLLER STEARNS and the Historic Holmes Theatre were the first to win a new Ordway Center for the Performing Arts award for Arts Access.
File photo / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"The arts are our gift to the next generation."

This quote from Robert Bluestone is printed on a note attached to the computer in Amy Stoller Stearns' office at the Historic Holmes Theatre -- but it might just as easily have come from Stearns' own lips.

As the theater's executive director, Stearns has become a driving force in bringing the arts, in all their many forms, to residents of the lakes area.

And on Monday, Stearns and the theater's staff were honored for their efforts in a big way.

Stearns and the Historic Holmes Theatre were the recipients of the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts' first-ever Sally Ordway Irvine Award for Arts Access.


The new Arts Access Award was added this year to the traditional "Sally Awards" categories for arts initiative, commitment, education and vision.

"This award was inspired by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment, one of the most significant acts of public support for the arts in Minnesota's history," said Ordway President and CEO Patricia Mitchell in introducing the new award category.

Stearns said that Mitchell had contacted her personally back in January to inform her that she would be the award's first recipient -- "but she swore me to secrecy," Stearns added.

"There are so many people in Minnesota doing really neat things with the arts, so when she (Mitchell) called me, I was just speechless," she said of her initial reaction to the news. "It was very touching, and very humbling ... and to be the first is really cool."

But as Stearns was quick to point out, both in her acceptance speech Monday night and in a subsequent interview back in Detroit Lakes, she did not earn this award on her own.

"It really goes to all of Detroit Lakes," she said. "This award is about the people who, long before we moved to Detroit Lakes, had the vision to save that old Holmes School and to make it something ... they saved it from being demolished."

She also thanked all the businesses and individuals who had donated both their time and financial support to the theater since its inception.

"I'm so touched by the incredible generosity," she said in her acceptance speech (which local residents can view online at , along with those of the other four 2010 Sally Award recipients).


Stearns also thanked her coworkers, who "go beyond and above each and every day ... they make it so much fun to come to work."

She became a bit emotional when she talked about how she "never would have imagined I would be here and receiving an award for a job that I love doing, absolutely every day."

Since it first opened in 2002 (one year before Stearns took the reins as executive director) the theater has played host to over 175,000 audience members, and more than 300 shows, ranging from Ladysmith Black Mombazo to the Moscow Ballet.

Many of the artists who have performed at the theater have also gone out into the community during their stay, working with area school students, visiting nursing homes and making presentations to local service organizations.

During Stearns' tenure, the theater has also initiated several arts outreach projects in the community, such as Mosaic Mania and the brand-new "Tell Me A Story" series of live radio shows on KDLM -- featuring scripts created by Detroit Lakes and Lake Park-Audubon students and broadcast live from the stage of the Holmes Theatre on Monday nights at 5:30 p.m.

What makes all these achievements so remarkable, Stearns noted, is that "this theater has only been open for nine years."

And what makes it exciting, she added, is not only looking back at past accomplishments, but also looking forward into the future.

"I feel like we're just getting started," she said.


Stearns would like to see everyone living in the lakes area come to at least one show or event at the Holmes Theatre, to experience the wide range of arts and cultural opportunities it has to offer.

Some upcoming opportunities to do so include a Tuesday, March 29 presentation by Fargo native Roxana Saberi -- the journalist who was imprisoned for espionage in Iran, spurring an international media frenzy -- who will discuss her 2010 book, Between Two Worlds; and next Friday, April 1, when the Commonweal Theater of Lanesboro, Minn., presents its traveling production of the classic Henrik Ibsen drama, "An Enemy of the People."

Saberi's presentation, hosted by the Lake Agassiz Regional Library System, begins at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 29, while the Commonweal Theatre production, underwritten by Detroit Lakes Newspapers, begins Friday, April 1 at 7:30 p.m.

For more information, stop by the box office at 806 Summit Ave., visit the website at , or call 218-844-SHOW (7469).

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at
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