Recipients of the Rozsa Awards



What do you do when you are thrust into the belly of a crumbling organization? You buckle up, knuckle down and get cracking on what needs to be done. This requires fearlessness in arts administration and management, and fearless is exactly what Shelley Youngblut has proven to be.


As the CEO and Creative Ringleader of Wordfest, Youngblut, having come to the organization from outside the non-profit arts world, has taken Wordfest on a resounding journey.


It is this journey that makes Youngblut this year’s celebrated recipient of the 15th Annual Rozsa Award for Excellence in Arts Management. Created in 2003 to honour the philanthropic efforts of Drs Ted and Lola Rozsa, the Rozsa Award for Excellence in Arts Management is unique in Canada, celebrating outstanding arts administrators and providing additional professional development benefits to the recipient and his or her organization.


Shelley Youngblut has worn many hats through her career, she was the founding editor of the award-winning Swerve magazine, as well as Calgary alternative music magazine VOX, and has created magazines for ESPN, Cosmopolitan, Nickelodeon, and The Globe & Mail. She also produced three sports books for Hyperion in New York. She was the 2008 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Western Magazine Awards, as well as a 2010 Lion Award for Heritage Advocacy from the City of Calgary. A fierce advocate of emerging talent, she has mentored writers, illustrators, photographers, editors and art directors.


The 20th anniversary of Wordfest marked a transformational leadership change for the organization with the appointment of Shelley Youngblut as General Director in May 2015. Since then, the last three years of her tenure have seen Wordfest radically reinvent itself and thrive against all odds. Youngblut made a pivotal bet on a company that was on the brink of closing its doors, just as it was about to celebrate twenty years as a festival.


At the time, Wordfest was grappling with a downward trend in attendance, declining community support (both financially and in terms of goodwill from partners), back-to-back years of budgetary deficits, a burnt-out staff and volunteer crew, and an organization constrained by two decades of legacy assumptions about its limited potential as a "literary arts festival."


Under Youngblut's leadership, Wordfest has survived these challenging and fast-changing times, having attracted for the first time in the organization's history A-list speakers such as comedian Mike Myers and musician Robbie Robertson in 2016. It then filled the 650-seat Bella Concert Hall in 2017, landing exclusive Calgary stops in the international book tours of YouTube sensation Lilly Singh in the spring, and spoken-word performer Rupi Kaur in the fall. Both headline artists introduced younger, diverse audiences to the company.


By the end of 2016, Youngblut diagnosed and addressed another major challenge that had severely limited Wordfest's capacity for growth over the years — its lack of a permanent home, both for hosting performances and in terms of affordable office space. Youngblut lead the organization into a mutually-supportive new partnership with the Calgary Public Library, signing a five-year agreement that would see the company move its operations to the 2nd Floor of Memorial Park Library, and begin curating and producing live arts experiences for the first time as a resident company with its own 120-seat performance space, dubbed the "Wordfest Engagement Lab."

The result of Youngblut’s calls to action and focused attention to Wordfest in 2016 led to a full year of programmatic experimentation in 2017, producing on average 4-6 staged author events per month in addition to its main October festival — expanding its artistic output to 180+ events annually and attracting audiences exceeding 20,000, while at the same time earning enough revenue to replenish the operating reserves that Wordfest had drained before Shelley had assumed leadership of the company. Shelley Youngblut has done the unthinkable, the unimaginable and today, in partnership with the Calgary Public Library, she is transforming Alberta’s oldest library into a vibrant arts and culture hub.


The Rozsa Foundation wishes Shelly Youngblut and Wordfest a mighty congratulations on being the 15th recipient of the Rozsa Award for Excellence in Arts Management.


Past Recipients of the Rozsa Award for Excellence

in Arts Management

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.

The Rozsa Innovation Award


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)


The Rozsa Human Resources Award


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



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