Running between rehearsals, overseeing costume fittings and set designs, and preparing to dazzle crowds at the annual Port Townsend Christmas tree lighting is a pretty average December day for Denise Winter, the artistic director of Key City Public Theater.
But it’s that energy and creative focus that the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found so special about Winter, the winner of the AAUW 2018 Woman of Excellence Award.
“Denise Winter is a worthy recipient of this award,” AAUW member Michael Kubek said at the Port Townsend chapter’s annual Christmas luncheon Dec. 1. “She has inspired the Port Townsend community with her artistic talents, her organizational skills and her dynamic approach to community theater.”
Under Winter’s leadership, Key City Public Theater has received multiple awards for artistic merit, including honors from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Washington State Arts Commission, and Humanities Washington.
Winter also participates on the city’s Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, is the emcee of the Jefferson County Wearable Art Show, was the 2018 keynote speaker for the Jefferson County Chamber’s leadership awards ceremony, and accepted the Port Townsend Main Street Program’s 2017 Collaborator of the Year award.
In addition, Winter works to help young artists showcase their talents in the theater, such as in this month’s performances of “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some)” and the Port Townsend holiday classic, “Spirit of the Yule,” which Winter co-wrote.
“I see how much stuff she does on a day-to-day basis that is just an extraordinary amount of work and that I never anticipated could get done, but she can do it so well,” said Christa Holbrook, production manager at KCPT. “It’s just a pleasure to work under her because I get to learn a little bit of everything.”
Holbrook was one of several people who nominated Winter for the award.
The Woman of Excellence award is presented each year by AAUW to an East Jefferson County woman who has contributed significantly to the community through paid or volunteer work.
The award honors women who are role models, change agents, teachers, mentors and community activists.
“I think it’s important to see role models who are women, who are doing things that some women may have never done before,” Holbrook said. “They’re paving the way.”
In 2017, former City Council member Jean Camfield was honored with the Woman of Excellence Award. In 2016, the recipient was Jefferson County Democratic Party chairwoman Teri Nomura.
“It’s such an honor to be on that list (of awardees) with so many women, many of whom I know and have been inspired by their work and their passion for the community,” Winter said as she accepted the award on Saturday.
The Port Townsend chapter of the AAUW is the largest branch in Washington State with more than 200 members. The group is committed to advancing gender equity for women and girls through research, education and advocacy, and last year gave over $80,000 in educational scholarships to women in Jefferson County.