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Governor’s awards for arts, humanities celebrate state’s cultural sphere

Art at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Credit: Kelly Jordan

'Flight Paths,' at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Credit: Kelly Jordan

By David Pendered

The Governor’s Awards for the Arts and Humanities are a ray of hope in a season of social storms, reminding that arts can lift the human spirit even in the unlikely setting of the bustling Atlanta airport.

A total of 12 artists or institutions were honored Oct. 3 for their contributions to the state’s cultural sphere. The awards spotlight leadership and advocacy and education, along with artists and institutions. Just enough are household names to invite a full reading of the list of recipients.

Kenny Leon is one such name. Leon built a reputation in the vanguard during his 11 years as artistic director at the Alliance Theatre. Leon’s Governor’s Award was delivered during the final week’s presentation of Holler if You Hear Me!, performed by Leon’s True Colors Theatre Co. at Fulton County’s Southwest Art Center to the music of Tupac.

Turner Center for the Arts, in Valdosta, follows Leon in the awards program. Turner is one of those places that doesn’t draw a lot of attention in metro Atlanta.

There, in the heart of Georgia’s peanut country, Turner Center stands as a beacon offering everything from guitars and free music lessons to children who can’t afford them, to performances of dance, music and Broadway at which 100 seats are reserved for folks who otherwise couldn’t afford to attend. The center opened in 2003 with a $500,00 grant from former state Sen. Loyce Turner, who served 24 years in the Senate before stepping down in 1998 to care for his ill wife, according to a report in valdostadailytimes.com.

governor's awards, pottery

The 12 pottery awards in the 2017 Governor’s Awards for the Arts and Humanities include a piece by Rebekah Strickland (left) and Chris Kelly. Credit: gaarts.org

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport won an award for its revived arts program. The program that started in 1980 fell fallow until 1994, when it arose with a $1.3 million allocation for art in what then was the new International Concourse. An airport-wide arts program ensued to include commissioned art, rotating exhibitions and five annual music performances in the atrium.

The 12 award recipients aren’t the only ones honored. Joining them are a dozen potters whose ceramic works were selected as the physical awards given to recipients.

The ceramics were acquired from the Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation through its program, Perspectives: Georgia Pottery Invitational. The foundation’s services include support for cultural arts and artists, and arts education, in Oconee County and the northeast Georgia community.

Gov. Nathan Deal’s remarks recognize the interdependence of the arts and financing.

Long gone are the days when an entity such as the Florentine House of Medici created an epoch of funding for the arts and humanities. Now, even the iconic centers of the arts, including the Fox Theatre, regularly report their positive economic impact.

Deal observed in a statement:

  • “The First Lady and I are longtime supporters of the arts, humanities and expressions of creativity. These awards recognize outstanding individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to Georgia’s economic, civic and cultural vitality.
  • “Our state’s creative industries provide some 200,000 jobs for Georgians and generate $62.5 billion in economic impact. I congratulate the individuals and institutions being honored today and am grateful for their contributions to communities throughout Georgia.”

The Governor’s Awards for the Arts and Humanities program was created in 2012, with Deal’s support. It aims to honor those who have made outstanding contributions to the civic or cultural vitality of the state, according to a report by Georgia Humanities.

The governor’s award was built on the success of a previous program operated by Georgia Humanities. From 1986 through 2011, the state awarded the Governor’s Awards in the Humanities. The Georgia Council for the Arts joined the program and, since 2012, the state has awarded the Governor’s Awards for the Arts and Humanities.

Note to readers: Read the full 2017 awards program and browse through annual awards programs dating to 2012.

Jamil Zainaldin, a columnist with saportareport.com and president of Georgia Humanities, delivered a welcome address at the 2017 Governor’s Awards presentation.


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


1 Comment

  1. emoryhistorian October 17, 2017 10:35 am

    Hats off to you for calling attention to this splendid program. One footnote is to remind readers that while the visual and performing arts were well represented by this year’s recipients, the humanities go beyond these arts to include literature, journalism, history, philosophy, religion, and the whole gamut of ways in which we tell the stories of our shared humanity. Don’t be surprised if there are some historians or museum curators in the mix some year.Report


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