Arts Achievement Awards

The Arts Achievement Awards originated in 1975 and has been a long standing Presidential level ceremony to celebrate the outstanding career achievements of Wayne State University alumni and former students from the programs that comprise the College of Fine Performing and Communication Arts. Exceptional career achievement appropriate for recognition includes research, creative work, performance, publication, advocacy, composition, exhibition, education, discovery, management and /or leadership in their profession or artistic practice.

We are very fortunate to have distinguished alumni who through their accomplishments bring great distinction and honor to the College and to Wayne State. We believe it is important to acknowledge these achievements and hold them up as models for our current and prospective students. Actor Ernie Hudson, grammy award winner Mark Nilan Jr., artist John Egner, art historian and curator Allison Glenn, renowned tenor George Shirley, Detroit jazz legends Yusef Lateef and Kenny Burrell, Pulitzer Prize winner and Poet Laureate Philip Levine, and television producer and businessman David Salzman, among many other distinguished artists and professionals have been past recipients of the Arts Achievement Award.

Join us as we celebrate 44 years of history and this year's 2023 Arts Achievement Award winners.

Career Achievement Award in Communication

  • Rana Elmir

    As a former journalist — and proud graduate of Wayne State University’s Journalism Institute for Media Diversity — Rana Elmir is first and foremost a storyteller who deeply believes in the power of personal narrative as a driver of authentic, ethical and servant community leadership. Her experiences and identity as a Muslim immigrant who fled the Lebanese civil war with her family have shaped her activism, and vision for philanthropy. 

    Elmir shifted from journalism to work at the Proteus Fund as the Program Director for the RISE Together Fund in 2022, having devoted her career to storytelling and activism. With the RTF team, Elmir works alongside Black, African, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian (BAMEMSA) movements to build a just, inclusive and multiracial democracy through grantmaking, capacity building, funder education and mobilization.

    Prior to RTF, Elmir was a member of the ACLU of Michigan’s senior leadership team for nearly 16 years as Communications Director, then Deputy Director and finally Interim Executive Director. Working with a 35-member team, she led various equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging efforts, and guided legal, advocacy and media strategies supporting BAMEMSA and immigrant communities, LGBTQ equality, criminal legal reform, reproductive freedom, and racial justice.

    Elmir writes and lectures often on issues related to anti-Muslim bias, the importance of free speech and the intersection of race, faith, gender and LGBTQ rights. Her biting critiques of Muslim life in America post 9/11 have been printed in the Washington Post (Stop asking me to condemn terrorists just because I’m Muslim), and (How Muslim women bear the brunt of Islamophobia); and the Detroit Free Press (Michigan Muslims live in travel ban's shadow), (What Japanese incarceration camps in WWII and Trump's Muslim ban have in common), and (WSU professor sent me home on 9/11 — and everything changed for Muslims like me).

    While her serious side is frequently displayed, she’s also a self-described indefatigable nerd who enjoys spending her time birding, watching Jeopardy, and telling painfully corny jokes.

Career Achievement Award in Art and Art History

  • Juana Williams

    Juana Williams is a modern and contemporary art curator and writer whose research centers on intersections of cross-border intellectual history and identity formation. She is interested in exploring the impacts of colonial modernity through art from Africa and its diasporas. Williams’s curatorial practice predominantly focuses on deconstructing cultural and social issues, transgressing traditional boundaries of art criticism and curation, and countering anti-blackness within the arts. She is passionate about engaging communities, elevating diverse voices, and providing a platform for artists’ innovative expressions.

    Williams holds a BA in Art and an MA in Art History — both from Wayne State University — and previously held positions as the Associate Curator of African American Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Director of Exhibitions at Library Street Collective, and Exhibitions Curator at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art.

    She has guest-curated at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art and the Grand Rapids Art Museum, as well as art institutions in other cities across the country, including Chicago, New York, and Pittsburgh. She has presented lectures at several venues such as Kendall College of Art and Design, Crooked Tree Art Center, and Central Michigan University, and moderated artist talks and panels at organizations such as the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, the University of Michigan, and Playground Detroit.

    Williams has written essays for numerous exhibition catalogs and her exhibits have featured the artwork of a roster of artists at various stages of their careers, including Wangechi Mutu, Charles Alston, Firelei Báez, Devan Shimoyama, Mavis Pusey, McArthur Binion, and Elizabeth Catlett, among others. Williams has also served on the boards of TILA Studios in Atlanta, GA; Good Hart Artist Residency in Good Hart, MI; and Detroit Artists Market.

    Her recent work includes the curation of the 2023 Palm Beach Biennial, which exhibited the work of 40 Florida-based artists. She was also a Spring 2022 Black Embodiments Studio Arts Writing Intensive Fellow and the 2021 Art Mile and Independent Curators International Inaugural Curatorial Fellow.

Career Achievement Award in Theatre and Dance

  • Terainer Brown

    Terainer Brown, Ph.D., is a seasoned, innovative and visionary educational thought leader who has committed her life to improving the lives of first-generation and low-income students. She is an Air Force spouse, mother, educator, author, motivational speaker, educational consultant, and advocate for educational equity and student success.

    Brown currently serves as the U.S. Department of the Air Force’s Higher Education Policy Advisor and advocates on behalf of Service members to ensure that they can achieve their dreams of pursuing higher education. She is the author of the "Malani Rose and Company" book series and the founder of Cultured for College, an organization that provides college and career readiness curriculum, professional development, and consulting to schools that serve families in need of support with the college and career transition process. She is also a McNair Scholar alumnae and  believes in the importance of lifting as she climbs. She quotes: “… education is true social justice work, and I am committed to leaving my mark on this earth by helping others reach their full potential.”

    With more than 20 years in education, Brown began her journey of teaching and mentoring students with Artistry in Motion dance studio under the tutelage of Gwendolyn Smith, Alicia Kirk-Smith, and Rosalind Leath, who were instrumental in her life as a dancer and dance educator. Brown served as the inaugural dance teacher at Mt Clemens Middle and High School in Michigan. She led the program to success, offering many dance-centered opportunities to her students, including performances in New York, Chicago, Ohio, Toronto, and on several college campuses throughout Michigan. 

    A true trailblazer for educational equity, she has served as a college advisor with several student success and college preparation efforts, such as the Michigan GEAR/UP Program at Wayne State University, the School of Education’s Secondary Math Lab and Algebra Project at the University of Michigan, and the Southern Colorado Reach Program with the University of Colorado system. She has also served as a lead community outreach specialist for the US Department of Education’s FIPSE Grant, geared toward improving students’ chances of enrolling in college.

    She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in K-12 Dance Education with a minor concentration in Sociology from Wayne State University, a Master of Arts in Leadership with an emphasis in Higher Education Student Affairs, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Education Leadership, Research, and Policy, both from the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs.

Career Achievement Award in Music

  • Christopher L. Harrington

    Christopher L. Harrington, Ordway President and CEO, has a passion for connecting people from all walks of life through arts and culture and has a successful track record in audience development, revenue generation strategy, innovative programming, and leadership.

    Harrington joined the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in Saint Paul, Minnesota as its 12th President and CEO and provides strategic and community leadership that leverages the expertise of the board and staff in advancing and championing the Ordway's mission, vision, and values for the benefit of the community. He oversees the organization’s wide variety of performing arts, community engagement, and education programming which take place in state of the industry campus featuring a 1,900-seat Music Theater and the 1,093-seat Concert Hall.

    Before joining the Ordway, Harrington served as the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Senior Director of Jazz and @ The Max, where he was responsible for marketing, programming local, national, and international talent, and ensuring a sustainable business model. Harrington also worked in various capacities for the Detroit Jazz Festival and WDET-FM, Detroit’s NPR station.

    He holds a Master of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Music from Wayne State University. He completed National Arts Strategies' eight-month Executive Program in Arts & Culture Strategy, a partnership with the University of Pennsylvania, and a ten-month intensive leadership program with the League of American Orchestras.

    Harrington served as a proud mentor in Wayne State University's Mike Ilitch School of Business Corporate Mentor Program, and has served on grant review committees, on the executive team for Detroit Young Professionals, and as a panelist at national conferences.

    A trusted advocate for the arts and local community, Harrington currently serves on the boards of the Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP), Live Arts Centers of North American (LACNA) Foundation, the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance, and the Arts Partnership, a unique collaboration comprising Minnesota Opera, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Schubert Club, and the Ordway. Harrington is the recipient of the inaugural Marlowe Stoudamire Award for Innovation and Community Collaboration, presented by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

CFPCA Dean's Art Advocacy Award

  • Sanford (Sandy) Koltonow

    A lifelong resident of southeast Michigan, Sanford (Sandy) Koltonow, is currently practicing psychotherapy and psychoanalysis in Beverly Hills. Sandy grew up in northwest Detroit, attended Cass Tech HS and earned his degree in Physical Sciences from MSU, his MD from WSU and his PsyS from The Center for Humanistic Studies.

    For 34 years Dr. Koltonow was an academic emergency physician at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak and subsequently, an Associate Professor at The OU/WB School of Medicine. He has served as instructor at all four major medical schools in Michigan, as well as supervising consultant at Henry Ford Hospital and the Detroit Medical Center.

    In 2008 he created the position of Corporate Director of the Physician Health and Wellness Programs at Beaumont Hospitals, providing both educational and clinical services to the 3400 attending and house staff physicians at Beaumont, while maintaining part-time practices in Emergency Medicine and psychotherapy.  He has also served in multiple roles as liaisons for mental health initiatives in Wayne and Oakland County.

    Sandy's recent interests have focused on exploring both the physical and psychological healing effects of arts and culture, particularly music. His psychoanalytic work has confirmed his beliefs that it is the qualities of relationships -- to people, institutions and processes -- that are paramount to personal growth and a sense of fulfillment and equanimity. This importantly includes our relationship to our creative processes, both those conscious and unconscious.  Recent advocacy work has been to strategize with local institutions to encourage cross-disciplinary collaborations, i.e., encourage deepening relationships.

    Sandy adds his expertise to several non-profit boards and actively serves and supports many music, education, art and cultural initiatives in the Detroit area, including the Jazz programs at WSU and MSU, the Detroit Jazz Festival, the DSO, WDET, DPTV, The Carr Center, The Wright Museum, The Concert of Colors, The Detroit Justice Center, The Wayne County Health Authority, The Michigan School of Psychology and The Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute.

Arts Educator Award

  • Maurice Draughn

    Maurice Draughn, a native of Detroit, is an avid educator with over 20 years of experience in various artistic capacities and educational communities. Inspired by the tutelage of arts educators from his formal musical training in the Detroit Public Schools system, Draughn sought to have the same impact in his work as an arts educator. Sharing the gift of music while contributing to the artistic and personal development of his students has provided Maurice with a gratifying career as an arts educator.

    Draughn began his journey in the field of arts education through his work in the Detroit Public Schools system during his undergraduate studies at Wayne State University. From volunteering as an accompanist for choral programs to establishing a harp program at a middle school, Maurice continued to seek out mentors who would contribute to his development as an effective educator. His work as a teaching artist for the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit would lead to more than a decade of service to the training of talented young artists from across the Metropolitan Detroit area through summer camps and the Main State programs.

    As an arts educator, Draughn has worked in various educational settings. His experience in the classroom includes several years of teaching in both public and charter school settings for urban and suburban districts alike. He is currently a music teacher in the Detroit Public Schools Community District serving as the director of choral activities at Cass Technical High School. In addition to teaching choir, Maurice provides instruction in music theory and piano. He is also a certified International Baccalaureate (IB) instructor at Cass Tech instructing and advising students pursuing the full diploma in the IB program.

    Prior to his current teaching post at Cass Tech, Draughn taught as a member of the adjunct faculty and served as academic advisor for the Department of Music at Wayne State. As a member of the adjunct faculty, he directed the WSU Men’s Glee Club for five years in addition to teaching courses in ear training and piano skills. Draughn would later become the inaugural academic advisor for the department, a position he held for seven years.

    In addition to his teaching career, Draughn is a professional harpist, prize-winning organist, pianist, composer and singer performing locally and nationally as a freelance artist and recitalist. He has toured extensively in the United States and abroad with various ensembles. He performs regularly with professional orchestras and ensembles throughout Southeastern Michigan and Western Ontario including the Detroit Symphony and Detroit Opera Orchestras.