Carolyn Holbrook, a community leader, teacher, advocate, mentor and innovator, was honored with the Kay Sexton Award at the 22nd annual Minnesota Book Awards gala in 2010. Since the early 1980s, Holbrook’s vision has been to promote the inclusion of disparate voices in the global community. She remains committed to writers, readers, and spoken word artists – reaching out to individuals and communities whose access to opportunities for exploration of writing is limited or nonexistent.
Holbrook’s work reaches across and connects arts organizations, schools, individual artists, and neighborhoods.
Andrea Gilats, Director of LearningLife at the University of Minnesota, spoke of Holbrook’s impact on Minnesota’s literary community as she presented the award: “Carolyn believes that if we see a need, we can work to meet it. She is an inspirational example of what it means to have an indomitable spirit. Her instinctive, respectful practice of cultural entrepreneurism, her remarkable persistence, and her sheer joy in seeing others grow and thrive are lessons in living for us all. By consistently choosing affirmation, optimism, and progress over anger, complacency, and exclusion, Carolyn has created models for people and communities everywhere.”
Holbrook was the founder and director of The Whittier Writers’ Workshop from 1979 to 1986 where she developed the first mentorship program for African American writers in the Twin Cities. From 1989 to 1993 she served as the Program Director at The Loft Literary Center, and from 2005 to 2007 she was Education Coordinator at the Givens Foundation for African American Literature where she developed and managed a writers-in-the-schools program. In 1993, she founded SASE: The Write Place, an organization dedicated to making the literary arts accessible to a diverse community. Holbrook served as SASE’s Executive Director until 2006 when she spearheaded the organization’s successful merger with Intermedia Arts.
Other organizations benefiting from Holbrook’s involvement include the Minnesota Book Awards, Minnesota State Arts Board, Rain Taxi Review, Everyday Sidewalks on City Streets, Minnesota Literature Network, Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, and Blacklock Nature Sanctuary. She teaches in the English departments at Hamline University and Minneapolis Community and Technical College.