Denver Mayor Mike Johnston, Denver Arts & Venues and the Denver Commission on Cultural Affairs are pleased to announce the winners of the 2023 Mayor’s Awards for Excellence in Arts & Culture.

Presented since 1986, the Mayor’s Awards for Excellence in Arts & Culture recognize individuals and organizations that make significant and lasting contributions to the arts in the City and County of Denver.

“Denver is brimming with artistic talent and is one of the most vibrant arts centers in the U.S.” said Mayor Mike Johnston. “It’s my honor and privilege to recognize our honorees, individuals who continue to build, strengthen and enhance arts and culture in Denver.”

Five award-winners were honored at a luncheon where they were presented with artwork created by FuMei Sorteberg from Access Gallery. Additionally, each award winner received a $2,500 stipend to continue their great work in Denver’s cultural sector.

Award Winner: Grace Gillette

This award is presented to an individual or an organization that has made a significant and lasting impact on arts and culture in the City and County of Denver, with at least 10 years of history in the arts in the City and County of Denver.

Grace Gillette has been a Denver resident for 52 years. She has been actively involved in the Denver Indian Community by serving on boards of directors, and as speaker, panelist, emcee, and head dancer. Grace has been the Executive Director for the Denver March Powwow (DMPW) for 33 years. Under her leadership, the DMPW has received many accolades and awards, including permanent exhibits in the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. She has been named in "Who's Who in Denver Business" and was selected as one of “Denver’s 150." The American Indian College Fund named her "Elder of the Year." She was inducted into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame, and has also been recognized by Dance/USA and the National Indian Council on Aging.

Award Winner: Megen Gilman

This award is presented to an individual or organization that has significantly impacted the lives of youth in the City and County of Denver through the arts, or a young person who has made a noteworthy difference in the community through the arts.

Megen Gilman has been a teacher in Denver Public Schools for more than 20 years and has been the Theatre Director at North High School for the past 11 years. When Megen became the Theatre Director at North High School, the program had been all but dismantled. Leveraging community and student buy-in, North Black Masque Theatre began establishing itself as a cornerstone for performing arts. Much of her work is centered around inclusivity to give a voice to marginalized students.

Award Winner: Joshua Emerson

This award is presented to an individual or organization that is breaking new ground in the arts and whose contribution to innovation in the arts has been significant in 2022 or 2023.

Joshua is a Navajo comedian based in Denver. He has worked on comedy projects with the Denver Art Museum, the Denver Museum of Contemporary Arts, the Dairy Arts Center, the Denver Zoo, Comedy Works and the Trinidad Correctional Center. He is the co-chair of the Denver American Indian Commission, a regular contributor for CityCast Denver, and a founding member of the award-winning comedy troupe and production company, DeadRoom Comedy.

Award Winner: Chloé Duplessis

This award is presented to an individual or organization that has focused on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) through their work.

Artist. Curator. Speaker. Public Historian. Chloé Duplessis creates images that illuminate the forgotten, elevate the unknown, and mindfully address the present. In doing so, she seeks to erode the social constructs that oppress people of color and those navigating disability. She is a legally blind artist and culture bearer committed to creating work that centers equity, accessibility and healing.

Award Winner: Tsogo Mijid

This award is presented to an individual or organization that has brought Denver’s arts and culture to the national or world stage. Nominees for this category have received national or international recognition.

Tsogtsaikhan “Tsogo” Mijid was born and raised in the mountains of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Tsogo is a cultural ambassador and the recipient of “Juuh'' Honorarium appointed by the Mongolian Ministry of Education Culture and Science, and founder of the Mongolian Culture and Heritage Center of Colorado. His artworks are owned by the 14th Dalai Lama and the Denver Art Museum, and are included in permanent installations at The Denver Zoo and Meow Wolf Denver. In 2009, Tsogo became the first Mongolian artist to design a public sculpture in the U.S.

For more on these and past winners, including videos highlighting their accomplishments, please visit: