Friends are often credited for helping make a person better and so it can be said about a friendship that has led to a state award for an area artistic director.
Arrow Rock Lyceum Theater Producing Artistic Director Quin Gresham will receive the Leadership in the Arts award in February from the Missouri Arts Council in Jefferson City. Gresham, who has been the director for 15 years, said by phone it was a “terrific honor” and he was “humbled” to hear of the award.
Gresham, who began his career as an actor, graduated in 1998 with a degree in theater from Webster University in St. Louis. His first job as an actor in 1999 was at the Lyceum where he eventually came under the direction of friend Philip Coffield. Coffield would forever change Gresham’s life in the performing arts.
Coffield, the new artistic director, contacted Gresham in 2004 and asked him to work as his associate director at the Lyceum.
“I agreed to that, although I had no idea what that actually meant,” Gresham said. “Philip became very ill in May of 2005. At that point, it required him to step down from the artistic director position, which is a shame because he never got to see a full season to fruition.”
Before his death in 2006, Coffield asked Gresham and the board if Gresham could become the director for the summer. Gresham took the position and spoke daily by phone to Coffield, who mentored him and offered professional advice.
“He coached me through more things than his illness should have allowed him to do,” Gresham said. “But he did it because he cared very much about the health and longevity of the Lyceum and he also wanted me to be successful.”
Gresham said when he first came to Arrow Rock he fell in love with the theatre immediately.
“In those early years, after Philip’s passing, so much of it was just trying to live up to what I thought he would have been like as an artistic director,” Gresham noted. “In the intervening years … his influence on me has helped influence how the organization runs, what it feels like to work at the Lyceum Theatre.
“He’s still very much a part of things even though he’s no longer with us,” he continued. “So, I have a great professional honor to be guiding this terrific organization — I believe the second oldest professional theatre in the state of Missouri.”
He added it’s also a personal honor to be at the helm of the Lyceum for his friend Coffield, “who was never able to do it himself.” Gresham keeps a small lapel button that belonged to Coffield that says, “This is not a dress rehearsal.”
“That (saying) honestly inspires me just about every day,” he said.
Gresham is one of six people chosen for the 2020 arts awards. The recipient in Arts Education is William Ash of St. Louis; Arts Organization, Bach Aria Soloists, of Kansas City; Creative Community, Grand Center Inc., of St. Louis; and Philanthropy Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield, of Westphalia.
Michael Donovan, Missouri Arts Council executive director, told the Democrat by phone in the last 37 years 210 recipients have received awards from MAC. Of those, Arrow Rock has stood out.
“Of that small community of Arrow Rock, this is their third Missouri Arts Award,” Donovan said. “The first year we gave the arts award was in 1983, and the Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre was one of the first six recipients.”
He added that in 2017, the City of Arrow Rock received the Creative Community Award.
“Now in 2020, Quin is receiving our Leadership in the Arts Award, as the head of the Lyceum Theatre,” Donovan noted. “I’d be comfortable saying there’s more Missouri Arts Awards per capita in the City of Arrow Rock than anywhere else in the state.”
Gresham said the credit for his award runs much deeper than many know.
“While I’m personally very touched by the honor, I really view this more as a recognition of the Lyceum at large,” he noted. “Because it is a testament to the hard work of our administrative staff, our creative team, the many performers that have been in and out of the Lyceum Theatre ... our board of directors. This award is really something for all of them.”
He added he feels the award is not his alone but is due to the “collective work” of everyone at the Lyceum over his tenure.
“As honored as I am to receive this award, I am even more honored to share it with the people who have worked so hard to make the theatre so great,” he said.