Arts & Culture

Singletary Center's Tanya Harper Awarded USITT's Wally Russell Professional Mentoring Award

photo of Tanya Harper with Singletary Center Concert Hall seats behind her
Singletary Center's Tanya Harper has been recognized by USITT.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 18, 2021) — A University of Kentucky longtime artist and designer was awarded high honors at the 2021 United States Institute for Theatre Technology Inc. (USITT) Conference and Stage Expo, held virtually March 8–12. 

Singletary Center for the Arts (SCFA) production designer Tanya Harper received the Wally Russell Professional Mentoring Award, presented by USITT in partnership with the Wally Russell Foundation to honor someone who embodies the guiding hand that Wally Russell provided to many young professionals. 

“I have been following the journey of the Wally Russell Professional Mentoring Award since it came into the USITT management tent,” said College of Fine Arts Dean Mark Shanda, longtime member of USITT (though he was not involved in Harper’s nomination). “Each year I have been greatly impressed by the selected winner and thought deeply about their lasting impact on the industry given the many individuals that they had worked with in their career. I couldn't think of anyone more deserving than Tanya. Since my arrival on the UK campus as the dean of the College of Fine Arts, I have been consistently impressed with her passion for live performance, her solid mentoring of so many student employees, her own artistry as a lighting designer, and her steadfast demand for professional excellence of one and all. Tanya has impacted many by the example that she sets each day and the care that she shows in developing the next generation of production artists and technicians.” 

“It is a great honor to be recognized by USITT and to be nominated by a few current and former student employees," Harper said. "I love working with our students and try to create the most professional, yet fun, environment I can for both the employees and our clients. I'm so proud of all they are accomplishing as young professionals, from New York to California and points between. I'm also proud that even those who chose not to go into the arts learned valuable life skills from working at SCFA. Here's hoping we get to return to live performances soon so we can continue our work!” 

The United States Institute for Theatre Technology Inc. connects performing arts design and technology communities to ensure a vibrant dialog among practitioners, educators and students. 

Many of Harper's past student employees reached out via social media to celebrate the honor. 

“Anytime I have worked with you has been a wonderful experience. You are a wonderfully steady, knowledgeable creative force and it is a joy to work on a show with you. Hopefully we get to work together again one of these days,” Megan de Araujo said.

"You taught me that it is okay to take care of yourself, especially when things are really hard. You were a supportive listening ear when I had one of the harder years of my life as an undergrad. Your concern for my well-being, even as I was leaving Singletary, has stuck with me to this day. Thank you for being you,” said Mel An Collie. 

“You taught me the importance of communication between departments. It's crazy how many venues don't have conversations between FOH (front of house) and BOH (back of house) and how detrimental that is,” Amy Connell said. 

“I can't think of someone more deserving! You taught me so much about just hard work and how to take great pride in what you do without being prideful. You run a tight ship, and I think that is the reason why Singletary is able to crank out and turn over amazing shows back to back,” said Shelby Marie.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.