Patricia Mitchell says one of the best parts of her job is when she serves as a "one person prize patrol."
As President of the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts she gets to drive around Minnesota to quietly tell the winners of the annual Sally Awards that they should turn up to the gala celebration in March. Then she has to swear them to secrecy.
To complicate matters, she also has to ask them if there are any friends who should get invitations to the gala, although again there can only be a hint as to why.
"We have a little slip that goes into the invitation that says 'This invitation is sent to you at the request of one of this year's honorees.' And Wendy Lehr, who was honored the year before last, said 'The women in my bridge club kept saying they'd got this invitation, and they just couldn't figure out why,'" Mitchell laughed.
Mitchell is out beating the bushes for a couple of reasons this year. First of all there is a new Sally, the Legacy award.
"There have been until now four category of awards: for vision, committment, initiative and education. And this year inspired by the Legacy Amendment, we have decided to add an award specifically to reward individuals or programs that increase the access to the arts for people in Minnesota."
So what does that mean?
"Well, the interesting thing is you get other people's ideas as to what access means," she responds." When I think of it, it's ways to connect people and arts experience, either by giving them direct experience of practicing art, or witnessing it, or listening to it or participating in it. Anything that brings people and art together is increasing access in our book."
Mitchell is also getting the word out that she's looking for nominations from all over the state of Minnesota. The Sallys have always had a healthy metro representation, but she knows there is great art going on all over the state.
Nominations are open now through November 15th. Mitchell stresses anyone can make a nomination, and you can nominate yourself, (as people have already done.) The awards ceremony is March 22nd, but Mitchell will have been on the road on her secret trip before that.
"So if you get a mysterious invitation, come," she laughs again.