Sonia Young, known as “The Purple Lady,” will be honored during the 2017 Ruth Holmberg Arts Leadership Award presentation March 7.

ArtsBuild will host the event at the Hunter Museum of American Art from 6 to 8 p.m.

The award was established in 2014 to recognize an individual who has made significant contributions to the arts in Chattanooga and is actively engaged in the cultural life of the community.

Young has been serving the Chattanooga arts community for decades. After graduating from Chattanooga High School, she received a Bachelor of Arts from Tulane University before returning to Chattanooga to get a master’s degree from UTC.


In the 1980s, Young wrote and directed the youth theater production “Purple Princess” for the Chattanooga Theatre Centre. That was a driving force behind the creation of the CTC’s Youth Theatre, which Young considers her most meaningful accomplishment.

Bob Willie, executive director of the Chattanooga Ballet, nominated Young for the award.

“There are very few art organizations that have not been enhanced in some way by Sonia Young’s passion and dedication to the arts in our community,” Willie said. “Sonia’s passion for the arts has been dedicated to providing quality professional arts education and performance opportunities for the children of Chattanooga. Through her efforts, tens of thousands of children have been able to experience and appreciate the beauty and inspiration that are provided through arts.”

Young has also served on the boards of Chattanooga Symphony and Opera, Allied Arts (ArtsBuild), Chattanooga Opera Association, Tennessee River Gorge Trust, Chattanooga Zoo, McKamey Animal Care Trust, Girls Inc., Children’s Hospital Foundation and Kids on the Block.

The American Lung Association gave her the Tennessee Women of Distinction Award in 2007.

Young continues to teach public speaking at UTC, as she has for the past 29 years. She has also written for The Lookout and The Signal Mountain Mirror for the past 23 years.

“Sonia’s extraordinary volunteer efforts on behalf of the Chattanooga arts community is almost beyond compare,” ArtsBuild President Dan Bowers said. “She continues to be a tireless advocate for the arts and is passionate in her advocacy for many other nonprofit organizations.”