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15 receive Governor’s Awards in the Arts and Humanities

By Howard Pousner / hpousner@ajc.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:

  • Kay Beck, Atlanta

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.

  • Linda Crowe Chesnut, Athens

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.

  • John Ferling, Carrollton

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.

  • Melissa Fay Greene, Atlanta

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

community groups.

  • Tim Howard, Chatsworth

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.

  • Marianne Lambert, Atlanta

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.

  • Chuck Leavell, Dry Branch

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.

  • Frank Maloy, Tifton

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.

  • Merryll Penson, Athens

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.

  • Allan Vigil, Morrow

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.

  • The Center for Puppetry Arts, Atlanta

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.

  • Colquitt County Arts Center, Moultrie

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.

  • Fox Theatre Institute, Atlanta

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.

  • Moving in the Spirit, Atlanta

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.

  • United Shape Note Singers, West Georgia

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

music.

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