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BEST OF JEWISH PHOENIX 2016 13BEST OF JEWISH PHOENIX 2016 13 Since 2006 the Governors Arts Awards an annual event designed to highlight people and organizations who have made signicant contributions to the cultural community in Arizona has given a special arts advocacy award. The name of the award is the Shelley and its namesake Shelley Cohn who for 21 years was the executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts has spent more than three decades serving the community. Arizona isnt too far from New Mexico where Cohn grew up an only child in the only Jewish family in her small town. It was after she announced to her parents that she wanted to become a nun that they moved to El Paso Texas where there was a bigger Jewish community. They were very strongly connected to being Jewish and they wanted me to have that Cohn says. It was there that her Jewish identity began to crystallize leadership roles in BBG during high school led to time at the Brandeis Camp Institute in California during college and after graduating from Washington University in St. Louis she spent a year and a half in Ofakim Israel teaching English to children. Cohn sees Judaism as a way of life she says. It is a culture and it is a commitment to others and leaving the world a better place. She chose Arizona State University for graduate school and became involved there in Hillel a relationship that continues to this day she has served on the board and is currently the chair of Hillels Life and Legacy fundraising program. Hillel was important to me in college it was important to me in graduate school and I really believe in giving back she says. Hillel is far from the only organization that benets from Cohns involvement though she ocially retired in 2005 she gives her time to a number of local nonprots. Cohn is the vice chair of the Arizona Community Foundation I just believe so strongly in being a tool for BEST OF JEWISH PHOENIX 2016 13BEST OF JEWISH PHOENIX 2016 13 by jennifer goldberg photo by ken brown photography Cohn people who are interested in investing in the community she says and a board member for Childsplay. An interest in horticulture was the impetus for her involvement with the Desert Botanical Garden after she retired she enrolled in their desert landscaping school. She is the vice president of the board of the DBG but shes not averse to getting her hands dirty once a week she acts as a horticulture aide doing gardening work around the park. I think women are accustomed to getting their hands dirty she says and shes not talking about gardening. She feels that women succeed as leaders because they know all of the elements that go into making a project successful. Its not only the high-level thinking and the concepts but it is the actual relationship building communication and the implementation strategies that make something successful. Its not just having a good idea its knowing the ways to get it accomplished. Cohn who shares her life with her partner of 36 years Mollie Trivers has forged her career and community service path on the principle of pursuing ones passions. I often had either young women young professionals or people wanting to change their career path come to me when I was at the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the foundation of my advice is always follow your passions. Do the things that bring you joy and pleasure. Case in point When the namesake of the Shelley Award told her parents she wanted to work in arts administration they did not have a clue what I was talking about and they wondered if I was ever going to have a paycheck she says. But I believed in the content and I am a strong proponent that if you believe in something thats the something that you should follow. Cohn Shelley.indd 13 12116 109 PM