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Assistant Professor Michael Sommers Wins Prestigious Enduring Vision Award

Michael Sommers, assistant professor in the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance, has been awarded a 2009 Enduring Vision Award from the Bush Foundation. The $100,000 prize is intended to propel the artistic investigations of mature artists.

The Enduring Vision Award is the only award of this size and intent in the country. Up to three awards are given annually to artists in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota who have at least 25 years of experience as working artists. For the 2009 awards, nominations were received for artists working in the performing and literary arts.

A regional panel of five performing and literary artists and arts professionals from Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota reviewed and selected 10 finalists for this year's Enduring Vision Awards. A national panel (including one panelist from the regional panel) then selected the three recipients, considering the breadth and depth of the finalists' work, their promise of continued future artistic excellence, the importance of their influence on their communities, and their interest in pursuing deeper investigations and/or new explorations to inform and enrich their work.

Professor Sommers has practiced the theater arts as a designer, director, composer, performer, playwright, and technician, both locally and nationally, for 30 years. In 2000 he and his partner Susan Haas co-founded Open Eye Figure Theatre, and in 2007 the company opened an intimate venue in South Minneapolis. Sommers's work has been seen in venues ranging from major cultural institutions to backyards and the street. Through these experiences, and drawing from traditional theatrical forms, classical text, populist entertainment, folk art and the comedy and "tragedy of our daily lives," Sommers says he "creates original work that speaks in a contemporary voice directly to the audience." His work has been presented at the Walker Art Center and in New York, Chicago, Washington DC, Canada, and Mexico.

Professor Sommers has also recently won a $25,000 McKnight Fellowship and a $50,000 United States Artists Grant. In an interview with the Star Tribune newspaper, Sommers said, "It's a crazy thing. This one feels different, quieter. I have a chance to shift gears, pause and think in a new way, not to sound too corny."

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