By Howard Pousner / email@example.com
In a recent Capitol ceremony, Gov. Nathan Deal honored 15 individuals and organizations in the second Governor’s Awards in the Arts and Humanities, recognizing contributions to the state’s cultural vitality.
The honorees are: Kay Beck, director of Georgia State University’s Digital Arts Entertainment Lab; Linda Crowe Chesnut of Athens, a volunteer and philanthropist who has aided institutions including the Georgia Museum of Art in the decorative arts; John Ferling of Carrollton, an author and retired University of West Georgia historian; Atlanta author Melissa Fay Greene; Tim Howard of Chatsworth, a Murray County educator and historian; Marianne Lambert, contemporary art advocate and Swan Coach House Gallery curator; rock ‘n’ roll keyboardist and environmentalist Chuck Leavell of Dry Branch; fiddler Frank Maloy of Tifton; Merryll Penson of Athens, a leader in developing collaborative and digital publishing initiatives to share arts and humanities information; Allan Vigil of Morrow, a volunteer and philanthropist supporting Clayton County arts; Atlanta’s Center for Puppetry Arts; Moultrie’s Colquitt County Arts Center; Atlanta’s Fox Theatre Institute, which has aided preservation of vintage movie houses across the state; Moving in the Spirit, an Atlanta dance troupe; and West Georgia’s United Shape Note Singers.
A move to publicize Georgia’s creative industries, the awards merge what used to be separate honors presented by the state’s Georgia Council for the Arts and the private nonprofit Georgia Humanities Council.
Each honoree received a print by photographer Diane Kirkland.
Here are biographical passages on each of the winners as provided by the arts and humanities councils:
Over the last 38 years, Kay Beck has been integral to establishing and
building Georgia’s film, media, and digital arts industries. Now director
of the Digital Arts Entertainment Lab at Georgia State University, a state
of the art showcase and resource center for digital film production in
the Southeast, she formerly was Executive Director of Image Film and
Video, as well as a volunteer for the Plaza Theatre, Atlanta Film Festival,
Georgia Public Broadcasting, and Women in Film and Television. Dr.
Beck has dedicated almost four decades of work and support to build
Georgia film into the thriving industry that it is today. Countless people
working in this industry consider her as a valued mentor.
Since the 1980s, Linda Chesnut has made long-lasting and significant
contributions to the preservation and documentation of Georgia’s
legacy of material culture. A citizen scholar of the decorative arts,
she has also provided volunteer leadership and philanthropy to the
DeKalb Historical Society, the Georgia Archives, the Georgia Trust for
Historic Preservation, the Atlanta Historical Society, the High Museum
of Art, and the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center. In addition, she has
helped the Georgia Museum of Art establish the Henry D. Green Center
for the Study of the Decorative Arts, and leads their Decorative Arts
Advisory Committee. She has been a driving force behind GMOA’s
biannual symposium that has attracted attendees from across Georgia
and the Southeast.
From 1971-2004, Dr. John Ferling served on the faculty of the
University of West Georgia, teaching hundreds of students and
also becoming the most published historian in the University’s past.
He has written twelve books on the era of America’s founding and
Revolutionary War, including biographies of John Adams, Alexander
Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. Among the
many accolades that his writing has garnered, his book, A Leap In
the Dark: The American Victory in the War of Independence, received
the Best Book on Early American History Award from the New York
chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution in 2004. In 2007 the
American Revolution Roundtable of New York presented him with
its Lifetime Achievement Award. Since his retirement, he continues
to be an active leader in the cultural and educational sectors of West
Georgia. A popular speaker, he builds bridges between the academic
community and the public.
Between 1991 and the present, Melissa Fay Greene has published
five award-winning books that illuminate issues and conflicts that
have shaped Georgia and the United States over the latter half of
the 20th Century. Her debut book, Praying for Sheetrock, is listed
as one of the top 100 works of American journalism of the 20th
century and named one of “The New Classics – The 100 Best Books
of the last 25 years” by Entertainment Weekly. Greene has received
the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, the Chicago Tribune Heartland
Prize, the Southern Book Critics Circle Award, the ACLU National
Civil Liberties Award, the Hadassah Myrtle Wreath Award, the Salon
Book Award, Elle Magazine’s Readers’ Prize, two National Book
Award Nominations, a National Book Critic Circle Award Nomination
and the Georgia Author Award. A gifted and effective speaker, she
has also shared her time with hundreds of students, teachers, and
Since 1976 (when he was an eighth grader), Tim Howard has been
central to preserving the history of Murray County and developing
programs to share regional traditions with the public. He has been
a volunteer and a researcher for hundreds of programs involving
local history, genealogy, and archaeology. He has helped establish
museums and sites such as the Chief Vann House and he established
a friends group (the first of such in the state) to provide private
support to assist the Georgia Department of Natural Resources with
preservation and programming. Twice selected as Murray County’s
Teacher of the Year, he continues to serve as a middle school educator.
Since the 1970s, Marianne Lambert has been a cornerstone in
Georgia’s contemporary arts scene, launching the careers of
countless Georgia artists. A consultant and adviser to private
collectors and corporations, she has served as curator of the Swan
Coach House Gallery since 2000. Perhaps the greatest testament
to Lambert’s impact on the arts in Georgia is The Lambert Fund at
the High Museum of Art created in 2004 by Atlanta art dealer and
patron Judith Alexander in Lambert’s name to fund the acquisition
of works by Georgia artists. Her career has centered on organizing
and curating countless exhibits and opportunities to showcase
innovation, beginning study groups and tours to share the work of
Georgia artists, and leadership in the art publishing arena.
Since the 1960s, Chuck Leavell has made important contributions to
Georgia’s civic and cultural vitality through music. From the Allman
Brothers to the Rolling Stones (and as a solo act), he has entertained
millions of people around the world for the last 40 years. And even
with this success, he has readily shared his talents throughout Georgia
when called upon for civic, cultural and charitable events. In addition,
as a tree farmer, conservationist and entrepreneur, his endeavors have
highlighted Georgia traditions and sense of place. He is co-founder of the
Mother Nature Network, an on-line resource for news and information
about healthy living, the environment and green technology. More
recently, he has authored and published books for children and adults
alike about Georgia’s music and natural environment.
Throughout his life, which extends almost nine decades, Frank Maloy
has been a bearer and preserver of Georgia’s musical traditions.
He grew up in a family of talented musicians who were active in
South Georgia fiddling circles and performed throughout South and
Central Georgia from the 1940s through 2005. As an adult, Frank not
only continued to perform, but he has mentored several generations
of bluegrass, country, jazz, and swing musicians, and he has been
sought out by musicians of a variety of genres and instruments for
collaborations. He organizes the annual Old Time Fiddlers’ Reunion
at the Georgia Agrirama, as well as significant gatherings in other
communities. He has composed and published a fiddle tune for each
of Georgia’s 159 counties.
Over the past 30 years, Merryll Penson has been a leader in Georgia’s
library communities, pioneering the development of collaborative
and digital publishing initiatives that preserve and share the
humanities and arts with millions of users. Among the initiatives that
she has led are GALILEO, the Digital Library of Georgia, the New
Georgia Encyclopedia, the Civil Rights Digital Library, and the GIL
integrated library management system. These projects have all been
cost-efficient and cost-effective, while providing broad services to
students at every level, public libraries, and the public.
For over 30 years, Allan Vigil has provided volunteer leadership
and philanthropy to the arts and higher education communities of
Georgia. Mr. Vigil’s dedication to the arts in Clayton County spans
three decades beginning with his contributing one of the first
leadership donations towards the building of Spivey Hall at Clayton
State University, which has since become a recognized world-class
venue for America’s classical and jazz circuits. As one of the largest &
longest individual donors to Arts Clayton, Mr. Vigil was instrumental
in the creation of the ArtVan program serving pre-K and elementary
school children. He also lends his name and support to the Allan
Vigil Golf Classic which generates over $30,000 annually for arts
education programs. As a member of the Board of Regents, he helped
University System institutions in goal setting and strategic planning.
Since its establishment in 1978, the Center for Puppetry Arts (CPA),
the largest nonprofit organization in the United States solely devoted
to puppetry, has touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of
Georgians through performances, museum visits, and hands on
workshops. As a field trip location for more than 170 visiting schools
per year, CPA is often a young Georgian’s first live theatre experience.
CPA’s commitment to young learners grew in 1998 with the creation of
the Distance Learning Program which has provided an innovative way
to expand the reach and service area of the Center’s unique expertise
in puppetry. Over its 14-year history, the Distance Learning Program
has reached 48 states and four countries and participation has grown
to over 20,000 learners per year. CPA has also been recognized for its
effective and efficient management and creativity in programming.
CPA’s programs serve people of all ages with content that inspires
learning and innovation.
For the past 35 years, the Colquitt County Arts Center has made
quality visual, performing arts and arts education programs available
to the diverse residents of Southwest Georgia. Built through strong
partnerships with local philanthropy, businesses, and the Moultrie
Junior Service League, the Center has also become a model for
adaptive reuse, through their repurposing of a historic school into its
facility. Through classes, programs, and exhibits, and a commitment to
strong and diverse multi-discipline arts education partnerships with
schools, public sector and community based organizations the Center
serves over 100,000 people annually and those numbers continue to
grow. The Arts Center is an important contributor to the quality of life
and economic development of its community and region.
Over the past five years, the Fox Theatre Institute has shared its
expertise in historic preservation and nonprofit management with
historic theatres across Georgia. An outreach arm of Atlanta’s Fox
Theatre, the Institute provides consultations and best practice
resources to a network of organizations in small communities, as well
as an annual grant program which supports preservation projects.
The Institute also manages a roster of touring performers to assist
its colleagues in identifying talent, and it also organizes a statewide
tour of acts to draw attention to the roles that historic theatres play
in communities large and small. In addition, the Institute manages
a statewide booking consortium which encourages collaboration
among Georgia presenters. The Fox Theatre Institute has invested
over $1,000,000 in time and resources in this program.
For 25 years, Moving in the Spirit has changed the lives of hundreds
of urban, at-risk youth through its innovative dance education
program. Through classes and performances, Moving in the Spirit’s
nationally recognized programming has enabled participants from
age 3-20 to study dance as a vehicle for skill development, selfexpression,
and community building. While only 56 percent of
Georgia’s youth graduate from high school each year, 100 percent of
Moving in the Spirit seniors over the past five years have graduated
and gone on to college, vocational school or the armed services.
In addition, Moving in the Spirit has established a model business
structure that other nonprofits emulate and has been the recipient
of the U.S. President’s Coming Up Taller Award (2005) and the 2011
Managing For Excellence Award from the Community Foundation
for Metro Atlanta.
For over 30 years, the United Shape Note Singers (a group of about 30
members in West Georgia) have met to sing and fellowship together.
In doing so, they have preserved the tradition of African American
Shape Note Singing, which dates back to the 1800s. They have also
shared their tradition through performances, CDs, and oral histories,
which brings other people into this living tradition of Georgia sacred