A Night of Stars: BYU faculty awarded for contribution to the arts

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The Oscars wasn’t the only awards show this last weekend.

Local stars shined bright last Saturday, Feb. 23 at the SCERA Center for the Arts in Orem as the center hosted its 8th annual Star Awards, “An Evening of Stars.”  

The annual award ceremony recognizes individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to the arts in Utah County and beyond. Among this year’s honorees were ex-BYU faculty members Mary Bee Jensen, founder of the BYU International Folk Dancers and BYU professor emerita Janet L. Swenson, associate chair of theater and media arts.

Adam J. Robertson, SCERA president and CEO, explained the importance of the Star Awards in recognizing talent and contribution to the arts in the community.

“We hold the Star Awards to honor and thank people for the good that they’re doing,” Robertson said. “People that are involved in the arts are so busy working on the next production and going on the next show, we felt like the Star Awards was just a way to take a second and say thank you. We honor people in different categories and the beauty of living in this area is that we’ll never run out of people to honor, there are so many talented people.”

The evening recognized outstanding individuals and organizations in the community with a dinner and a show, conducted by James Arrington, a local playwright, actor and director who portrayed different characters from his one-man comedy with “The Farley Family.”

At the awards show, two BYU faculty members were honored.

Professor Janet L. Swenson has taught at BYU since 1971 and has designed more than 250 productions, with her most recent work being BYU’s sold-out show “The Phantom of the Opera.” She has also served as the associate chair of theater and media arts, chair of design and technology and resident costume designer at BYU. 

When asked about her reaction when receiving the news of her award, Swenson expressed her love and appreciation with what her career has allowed her to achieve.

“I’m just someone who was allowed to do what she loved with great friends and at special places throughout her career,” Swenson said. “I have always loved my work and  the interaction with such talented, inspirational and fun-loving colleagues.” 

Mary Bee Jensen was born and raised in Provo and received a Master of Arts in Recreation Education from BYU. In 1952, she joined the BYU faculty at the College of Psychical Education, where she taught for 33 years. As a dance educator and artistic director at BYU, Jensen helped solidify BYU’s presence in the world dance by organizing the BYU International Folk Dancers in 1956.

When talking about folk dancing, Jensen expressed the great opportunities it has brought her.

“Folk dancing brings the world to our campus,” Jensen said. “It brings reality to our students and a better understanding of world culture and the world today. Its an exciting dance that has opened world venues for me.”

Since the International Folk Dancers’s first European tour in 1964, Jensen has directed 27 tours to Europe and two tours to the Far East. Today, Jensen is still involved with the International Folk Dancers.

“I really love the people and anyone who comes in the folk dance program becomes part of a very close knit family,” Jensen said. “Its just the most rewarding result of a career that you can ask for.”

The SCERA also honored 9 other individuals and organizations based on their contribution to the arts and achievements in various categories. Among them were Grammy-nominated violinist Jenny Oaks Baker,2013 Star Award, author Dean Hughes, lifetime achievement, BYU alumni Neal Barth, theater, Frank Magleby, visual arts, songwriter Janice Kapp Perry, music, Daynes Music, friend of the arts, Thanksgiving Point, advocate of the arts, and Debi Richan, volunteerism.

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