Philanthropist, dancer Sage Cowles dies at 88

Minnesota has lost the other half of one of its best known philanthropic couples.

Sage Cowles, for whom the Sage Awards for Dance are named, died Thursday.

John and Sage Cowles

She and her late husband John Cowles, whose family once owned the Star Tribune, were key figures in the Twin Cities arts scene for decades as performers, collectors and philanthropists.

A dancer herself,  Sage Cowles performed on Broadway and television before marrying her husband and occupying herself with raising their kids.

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In her 50s, Sage returned to dance and helped found the Minnesota Independent Choreographers’ Alliance. She taught dance for non-dancers and served on the boards of several dance companies, including Merce Cunningham’s company.

Together, they made major gifts to the Walker Sculpture Garden, the Guthrie Theater and, of course, the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts.

Sage and John helped fund the Barbara Barker Center for Dance at the University of Minnesota. They also established the Cowles Land Grant Chair, which underwrites residencies by dancers, choreographers, critics, and other professionals in the field.

John Cowles died in 2012 of lung cancer.