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Spokane arts champion Sherry Knott dies

Sherry Knott, pictured center, with singer Thomas Hampson, left, and Frank Knott, right, in 2007. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman Review)
Sherry Knott, pictured center, with singer Thomas Hampson, left, and Frank Knott, right, in 2007. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman Review)

Sherry Knott’s life was art.

She liked to paint, established a scholarship for college opera singers, surrounded herself with musicians, generously donated to Interplayers and Civic theaters, and devoted countless hours to the Spokane Symphony and Fox Theater.

“She was a very strong person and she had a sense of quality. She wanted to make sure that Spokane had quality arts organizations, and she was willing to roll up her sleeves and do the work,” said Brenda Nienhouse, Spokane Symphony’s executive director. “Sherry Knott was one of our champions and a beloved friend. We are all terribly saddened.”

Peter Moye, past president of the Spokane Symphony’s board of trustees, knew Knott had been in hospice care, so news of her death on Monday didn’t come as a terrible shock. Knott died with her second husband, Frank Knott, by her side.

“That’s the passing of a great one,” he said. “Sherry has been a wonderful supporter of the arts in this town for as long as we’ve been around.”

The accolades speak for themselves: A “Heart of the City” award from the symphony brought a Fox Theater audience to its feet. The audience “obviously understood the impact that she has had at the Symphony and in the arts community of Spokane,” said Audrey Overstreet, Spokane Symphony’s spokeswoman.

Knott was also awarded the YWCA Woman of Achievement in arts and culture in 2002 and named Executive Women International’s Woman of the Year and president, and the International Wine and Food Society presented her with a Society Diploma.

So inspired by all of Knott’s efforts, the Spokane Symphony Associates, the volunteer organization for the symphony, created a new “traveling” award in her name – the Sherry Knott Patron of the Arts Award – which goes to someone who has contributed to all of the arts throughout the community.

The dedication and determination Knott showed for the arts community is a reflection of how she lived most of her life.

“An advocate for women’s rights, she broke through the glass ceiling at Merrill Lynch, becoming one of the first brokers at the local office, opening the doors for others,” Overstreet said.

Knott and her first husband, Alan Kimball, also pulled off a near-impossible renovation to create an elegant home – a work of art on its own, the 11,000-square-foot Frequency Changing Station on the bluff just above Liberty Park. She had a bachelor’s degree in design and served as her own architect. She designed four 16-foot-wide townhouses that went up three levels, a caretaker unit and living quarters for her and her husband. She created the stained glass window panels above the front doors.

Her grand home became the backdrop for many elegant fundraisers as well as a home to many Symphony musicians.

“She enjoyed the company of artists, providing housing and a haven for various musicians, conductors and various friends of the Symphony at the converted powerhouse over the years,” Overstreet said. “She also took pride in the number of musicians who became engaged while living at the powerhouse. At least three couples who were engaged there are married now, probably more.”


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