Otto Dingeldein was a silversmith and sculptor who in 1961 organized what became the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri. Born in Germany, he came from a family of silversmiths. After immigrating to the United States in 1927, Dingeldein operated studios in Chicago and St. Louis before moving to Cape Girardeau in 1959 and establishing a studio. He died in 1991 at age 84.
The arts council named its highest honor for Dingeldein and last week bestowed the 2004 Dingeldein Award to Drs. Ann and Robert Gifford. The choice of the couple, whose work has emphasized the importance of the arts in education, was in the best tradition of the silversmith's own beliefs.
Ann Gifford is a professor of early and special education on leave from Southeast Missouri State University. She co-chaired the university's children and young adult's literature festival and served on the Vision 2020 literacy committee and the Missouri State Council of the International Reading Association.
Robert Gifford retired earlier this year after 22 years at the university, during which he was director of bands, director of summer music camps, coordinator of winds and percussion and conductor of the Symphonic Wind Ensemble. He founded the Southeast Chamber Players. Another of his projects has been directing the Missouri Ambassadors of Music, a band of 300 of the state's best high school and college musicians who every other summer perform concerts across Europe. Gifford also was fond of bringing noted European band conductors and composers to Southeast.
Perhaps the Giffords' most important contribution was the Goals 2000: Fine Arts program, a grant they wrote to bring visiting artists to schools and create the Children's Arts Festival.