2017 Ruth Holmberg Arts Leadership Award

Sonia Young, locally known as “The Purple Lady,” was honored during the 2017 Ruth Holmberg Arts Leadership Award presentation on Tuesday, March 7. ArtsBuild hosted the event at the Hunter Museum of American Art from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm.

A Chattanooga native, Sonia Young cultivated a life-long love of the arts at a young age. After graduating from Chattanooga High School, she received a B.A. from Tulane University and a Masters degree in Psychology from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga.

A true arts advocate, Mrs. Young currently serves on the boards of Chattanooga Theatre Centre and Chattanooga Ballet. In the early 1980s, Mrs. Young wrote and directed the youth theatre production, Purple Princess, for the Chattanooga Theatre Centre. This show, along with her leadership, became the impetus to establish the CTC’s Youth Theatre, which she considers her most meaningful accomplishment.

Mrs. Young has also served on the boards of Chattanooga Symphony and Opera, Allied Arts (ArtsBuild), Chattanooga Opera Association, Tennessee River Gorge Trust, Chattanooga Zoo, McKamey Animal Care Trust, Girls Inc., Children’s Hospital Foundation, and Kids on the Block. She has led numerous fundraising campaigns for these organizations and more. She was named a Tennessee Women of Distinction by the American Lung Association in 2007.

Mrs. Young continues to teach public speaking at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, a position she has held for 29 years. As a journalist, she has written for the Chattanooga Times, Chattanooga Life and Leisure Magazine and, for the past 23 years, for the Lookout and Signal Mountain Mirrors.

Bob Willie, Executive Director of Chattanooga Ballet, nominated Mrs. Young for the award. “There are very few arts organizations that have not been enhanced in some way by Sonia Young’s passion and dedication to the arts in our community,” said Willie. “She has been a consummate arts advocate and fundraiser for the arts throughout her life. Sonia’s passion for the arts has been dedicated to providing quality professional arts education and performance opportunities for the children of Chattanooga. Through her efforts, tens of thousands of children have been able to experience and appreciate the beauty and inspiration that are provided through arts. Sonia is an incredible role model for the next generation of arts leaders who follow in her footsteps.”

“Sonia’s extraordinary volunteer efforts on behalf of the Chattanooga arts community is almost beyond compare,” said ArtsBuild President Dan Bowers. “She continues to be a tireless advocate for the arts and is passionate in her advocacy for many other nonprofit organizations. ArtsBuild is thrilled to be able to honor Sonia with this award.”

ArtsBuild established this annual award in 2014 to recognize an individual who has made significant contributions to the arts in Chattanooga and is actively engaged in the cultural life of our community. The first award recognized Ruth Holmberg for her extraordinary support of the arts and cultural community in Chattanooga over the past 70 years.

The 2017 Ruth Holmberg Arts Leadership Award is sponsored by First Tennessee Bank and EMJ Corporation.

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2017 Ruth Holmberg Arts Leadership Award Presenting Sponsor