Recipients of the Rozsa Awards




As Executive Director of the Folk Festival Society of Calgary (FFSC)  Sara Leishman has transformed the organization’s Calgary Folk Music Festival from a four-day summer festival into a major multi-million operation with year-round mentorship and community-building programs. She has led these significant changes while ensuring that artistic innovation and programming remain within the parameters of the FFSC’s artistic direction and budgetary constraints. Notably, through the development of sound governance practices, Ms. Leishman has been instrumental in paying down the organization’s debt and protecting FFSC investments by hedging against currency loss on US-based artist fees and contracts.

Ms. Leishman also set out to transform the workplace culture at the organization.  She has developed a team of staff administrators who are committed to a positive long-term vision for the FFSC as well as for their own careers in the arts. Her innovative approach focuses on empowering staff members through intentional strategies that encourage open communication and shared responsibility.


Accordingly, the FFSC has developed longer timelines,  documented administrative processes and built strong inter-staff communication capabilities. As Ms. Leishman explains, “from partnerships to e-newsletters… we only say yes to activities that align with our strategic pillars”.  


Staff members now work manageable hours and acquire know-how and experience across the administrative spectrum.  This transparent environment at FFSC empowers arts administrators to hold themselves and one another accountable, not only to ensure the work is done well but also to accommodate each other “to refill their tanks” and participate in professional development training.


Ms. Leishman is dedicated to the process of artistic development and mentorship.  In addition to offering such opportunities at the annual summer Calgary Folk Music Festival, she has also successfully spearheaded annual initiatives including Block Heater and Boot Camp to inspire and showcase diverse, local talent and engage wider public audiences.


For such initiatives, Ms. Leishman has created effective presentation partnerships with the National Music Centre and the Calgary Central Library. Through her commitment to FFSC’s community outreach, Ms. Leishman is encouraged by her leadership of and work with the Indigenous Advisory Committee, which has led to a strengthened relationship with First Nations communities.

The Rozsa Foundation wishes Sara Leishman and the Calgary Folk Festival Society a mighty congratulations on being the 16th recipient of the Rozsa Award for Excellence in Arts Management.





Since graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the Alberta University of the Arts in the jewellery and metals program, Tara quickly distinguished herself as a skilled metal artist creating art jewellery, wearable art and small sculpture from her Calgary studio.


In addition, Tara has a reputation as a valued arts leader having served continuously on the board of the Alberta Craft Council for 18 years and chair for the past 8 years.


The Alberta Craft Council is the provincial arts service organization open to all those working in the craft sector to develop, promote, and advocate for fine craft in Alberta and has a dual role:

  • To support contemporary and heritage crafts as significant art forms 

  • To develop a sustainable craft sector and businesses in Alberta including the operation of galleries and shops


Driven by a solid governance and strategic plan, Tara’s commitment to the arts in Alberta was really put to the test over the past few years.


The first accomplishment was to realize the decade's long dream to open a permanent Alberta Craft Council Gallery and Shop in Calgary. As additional proof of her leadership, in the midst of the Craft Council becoming an anchor tenant in the exciting cultural hub at cSPACE King Edward, Tara led the organization to replace the Executive Director position twice- all while successfully addressing financial challenges.


By achieving a long-held goal while leading the organization through two senior leadership transitions, we agree with the words of her nominators:


“Over the past few years, Tara’s leadership and skills have seen the Craft Council through two historic challenges- what Tara would describe as opportunities!”

The Rozsa Foundation wishes Tara Owen and the Alberta Craft Council a mighty congratulations on being the inaugural recipient of the Rozsa Award for Excellence in Board Leadership.



Kathi Sundstrom, 2005 Rozsa Award for Excellence in Arts Management

"Decidedly Jazz used the Rozsa Award funds towards our Customer Relations Management program. We were successful in refining our strategic marketing plan; making considerable and valuable investment in developing and building the capacity and core competency of our Marketing/Development staff and gained immense insight through the research we conducted. On the consulting side, the expert legal opinion rendered has enabled us to deal with the changes to the Canada Revenue act which directly effected our HR practises. I thank you personally and on behalf of Decidedly Jazz for what the Award has helped us to achieve."

"The Rozsa Award for Excellence in Arts Management has had an immediate and lasting positive effect on the Art Gallery of Alberta and on my own approach to leadership within that organization."

"Receiving the Rozsa Award for Excellence in Arts Administration is quite unlike any other such recognition. For the past year I have been immersed in the Rozsa Award. Not only does one receive the accolades this honor implies but one lives the award for the entire year. The benefits of the award have touched every corner of my organization providing immediate and long-term payback and have also enhanced my capacity as an effective member of the cultural sector."

Tony Luppino, 2007 Rozsa Award for Excellence in Arts Management

Marilyn Smith, 2011 Rozsa Award for Excellence in Arts Management

The Rozsa Foundation has also presented the following awards, which have since been discontinued.



2014 - Jo Steffens - Wordfest
2013 - Annemarie Petrov - Edmonton Symphony Orchestra & Francis Winspear Centre for Music
2012 - David Chereos - Litfest: Edmonton's Non-Fiction Festival
2011 - Eva Cairns - Catalyst Theatre
2010 - Penny Ritco - Citadel Theatre
2009 - Gerard Gibbs- Empress Theatre
2008 - Bob Davis – Rosebud Theatre
2007 - Xstine Cook – Calgary Animated Objects Society (CAOS)




2013 - Linda Wedman - The Works Visual Arts Society
2012  - Terry Wickham - Edmonton Folk Music Festival
2010 - Rose Brow - Quest Theatre
2008 - Murray Kilgour – School of Alberta Ballet


Shelley Youngblut, 2018
2018, Wordfest, CEO and Creative Ringleader
David Chantler, 2017
2017, Producing Director, Trickster Theatre
Eva Cairns, 2016
Rose Brow, 2014
2014, Executive Director, Vertigo Theatre
Former Managing Director, Quest Theatre (Calgary)
Erin O'Connor, 2013
2013, General Manager, Calgary Film Centre
Former Executive Director, One Yellow Rabbit and Managing Producer, High Performance Rodeo (Calgary)
Stephen McHolms, 2012
2012, Director, Verbier Festival Academy
Former President and Artistic director, Honens International Piano Competition (Calgary)
Marilyn Smith, 2011
2011, Former Executive Director, Southern Alberta Art Gallery (Lethbridge)
Suzanne Mott, 2010
2010, Business Manager, Dancer's Studio West
Former General Manager, Vertigo Theatre (Calgary)
Tom McFall, 2009
2009, Executive Director and Curator, Alberta Craft Council (Edmonton)
Les Siemieniuk, 2008
2008, Former General Manager, Calgary Folk Music Festival (Calgary)
Tony Luppino, 2007
2007, Former Executive Director, Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton)
Steve Schroeder, 2006
2006, Executive Director, Calgary International Film Festival
Former Producing Manager, One Yellow Rabbit Performance Theatre (Calgary)
Kathi Sundstrom, 2005
2005, Executive Director, Decidedly Jazz Danceworks (Calgary)
Anne Green, 2004
2004, Founding Director, Producer, Wordfest International Banff-Calgary Writers Festival (Banff/Calgary)
Bob McPhee, 2003
2003, Former General Director and CEO, Calgary Opera (Calgary)
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