Tennessee’s highest honor in the arts will be awarded Tuesday, April 23, to nine recipients that represent the state’s finest cultural traditions. Established in 1971, the Governor’s Arts Awards will be presented by Gov. Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam in a special ceremony produced by the Tennessee Arts Commission.
“We congratulate each recipient of the 2013 Governor’s Arts Awards,” said Anne Pope, executive director of the Tennessee Arts Commission. “These exceptional individuals represent excellence in the arts, and illustrate the rich diversity of our state’s cultural heritage. It’s gratifying to see their many accomplishments recognized in such a special way.”
Recipients were selected from a field of nominees in three different categories – Folklife Heritage, Arts Leadership, and Distinguished Artist.
The Folklife Heritage Award recognizes folk artists or organizations that have made outstanding contributions to artistic tradition. The award is intended to honor long-term achievements within art forms that are rooted in the traditional culture of Tennessee.
Receiving Folklife Heritage Awards are: Polly Page of Pleasant Hill, and independent radio station WDVX in Knoxville.
Ms. Page, now 94, is a woodcarver/dollmaker from the Pleasant Hill community in Cumberland County. Page has been a noted figure in traditional Tennessee crafts since World War II. Trained in the craft program at the Appalachian social mission school of Pleasant Hill Academy, she is known for a variety of animal and human figures, including her signature Aunt Jenny and Uncle Pink dolls. Her dolls have been exhibited at the Smithsonian and other folk museums around the world. Actress Jane Fonda gained inspiration from Ms. Page in preparing for her role in the movie, “The Dollmaker.”
WDVX in Knoxville is an independent, nonprofit radio station specializing in traditional music. WDVX had an unlikely start, broadcasting from a recreational vehicle parked in an East Tennessee campground in 1997. Through the Internet, the station has gained wide acclaim and international listenership with its eclectic programming in bluegrass, old-time, blues, gospel, and other roots music. It’s one of the few radio stations in America to provide almost daily live music. The station’s Blue Plate special series provides performance opportunities for regional musicians. The Oxford American magazine has called WDVX, “probably the best radio station in the world.”
Arts Leadership Awards will be presented Donald Fann of Woodbury, and James C. “Jim” Martin of Johnson City, along with Knox Phillips and David Porter of Memphis. Recipients in this category may come from arts organizations, business, educators, patrons, arts administrators, corporations, or volunteers who have demonstrated significant support or participation in activities which foster excellence in, appreciation of, or access to the arts throughout the state.
Mr. Fann has been the executive director of the Arts Center of Cannon County since 1995. Under his leadership, the Arts Center of Cannon County and the town of Woodbury have received national recognition as a model for rural arts community development. Accomplishments include Woodbury being named one of the 100 Best Small Arts Towns in America; founding a Grammy-winning record label; managing a community theater, averaging 80 percent capacity; and developing a school matinee series where every student in Cannon County (10,000 students annually) sees four productions a year. Mr. Fann also serves as a mentor to other Tennessee rural communities through a peer network he helped create.
As a Johnson City resident and a remarkable patron of the arts, Mr. Martin has made a tremendous impact on the arts in Northeast Tennessee. Over the past several years, he has made extraordinary gifts to regional arts organizations in memory of his late wife, Mary B. Martin. While he has contributed to many arts organizations throughout Northeast Tennessee, his largest gift since 2008 has led to the creation of East Tennessee State University’s Mary B. Martin School of the Arts. The school brings all the arts at ETSU together under one umbrella, and provides support and advocacy for the visual and performing arts to the faculty, students, and general public. However, the primary mission of the school is to provide a wide range of arts activities including high-caliber performing arts events, exhibitions, and workshops.
In the fall of 2012, Mr. Martin provided another donation to the university, a gift that will serve as a catalyst for ETSU’s proposed arts classroom building and performing arts center, a much-needed facility to be located in Johnson City.
As Mr. Martin has said, “I have been slowly trying to weave a tapestry of local art-oriented institutions that can cooperate and begin to form an influential presence in our area.”
Recognized for their leadership in the Memphis music and film communities, Knox Phillips and David Porter have played major roles in establishing Memphis as a national and worldwide center of creative influence and impact. Both are considered goodwill ambassadors for the city and the unique Memphis sound. Mr. Phillips and Mr. Porter have served on the national level as trustees for the Grammy’s National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), and both have served as board members of the Tennessee Film, Entertainment, and Music Commission.
Mr. Phillips is a music producer, an engineer, and has added to the legacy of his father Sam Phillips, the founder of Sun Studio where Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis first recorded. The Commercial Appeal has called Mr. Phillips, “the goodwill ambassador and lobbyist for Memphis music.” While serving as a national trustee for Nashville’s NARAS chapter, Mr. Phillips pitched the idea of Memphis having its own chapter. Ultimately, Memphis was selected against such heavy competition as London, Toronto, and Chicago – one of only 12 chapters in the world. In 2007, Phillips received a NARAS Lifetime Achievement Award.
Receiving the award, along with Mr. Phillips is legendary songwriter David Porter. His songs include such hits as Soul Man,” “Hold On I’m Coming,” and “Knock On Wood.” Mr. Porter’s songs – many co-written with Isaac Hayes – have sold more than 300 million units, and have been featured in countless film soundtracks and network television shows. In his hometown of Memphis, Mr. Porter has achieved many civic milestones, including serving as the first chairman of the Memphis and Shelby County Film, Tape and Music Commission.
In 2012, The Commercial Appeal recognized Mr. Porter as one of their “12 Who Made A Difference.” Mr. Porter was specifically selected for his October 2012 launch of the nonprofit CONSORTIUM MMT (Memphis Music Town), a professional music development partnership that seeks to foster, rejuvenate and capitalize on the historic musical underpinnings of Memphis.
Receiving the Distinguished Artist Award are Bobby “Blue” Bland of Germantown, Ann Patchett of Nashville, and Jim Sherraden of Nashville. The Distinguished Artist Award recognizes artists of exceptional talent and creativity in any discipline, who over the course of a career, have contributed to the arts and have helped guide and influence directions, trends, and aesthetic practices on a state or national level.
Bobby “Blue” Bland is one of the most influential singers in blues history, and is often referred to as the “Lion of the Blues.” In fact, he is acknowledged by many as the greatest male blues singer in history. A Shelby County native, he began his career on Beale Street in the 1950s, and came to prominence with the rise of urban, electric blues and the R&B market. With an extremely successful recording and touring career, he has earned many honors, including recognition in being inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1981, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.
Mr. Bland has several critically-acclaimed albums to his credit, including the 1961 classic “Two Steps From The Blues,” one of the most powerful R&B albums ever recorded. Rolling Stone magazine gave the album five stars, its highest rating. At age 83, Mr. Bland is still loved by his fans, and is only slightly less active as a performer and ambassador of soul, blues, and his native state. He still plays more than 80 dates a year.
As a long-time Nashville resident, Ann Patchett brings global renown to Tennessee through her work as a novelist and essayist. She is the only Tennessee writer ever to win Great Britain’s Orange Prize, long acknowledged as one of the most important in the world. She has also won the Kafka Prize, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her books have been translated into 30 languages, and at least two of her books have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. Her bestselling and critically-acclaimed novels include The Magician’s Assistant, Bel Canto, Run, and State of Wonder.
Ms. Patchett also serves as an honorary chair of World Book Night 2013, a program that distributes 500,000 free books across the globe in one night of community activities. Ms. Patchett is also on the Board of the Nashville Public Library and helped create Salon@615 which presents appearances by bestselling authors which are free to the public.
Everywhere she goes – on book tours, interviews on national television and radio – she is an ambassador for the literary arts in Tennessee. With the opening of her independent bookstore in Nashville, Parnassus Books, in 2011, she instantly became a visible advocate for independent bookstores.
Under the visionary leadership of Jim Sherraden, Hatch Show Print has been transformed into a world-renowned force in contemporary art and handmade design. Today, the names Hatch and Sherraden are synonymous in the art and design communities, driving the company to become an in-demand design firm, and not just an historical attraction. Since 1879, the Nashville letterpress company has been using a hands-on process, and has produced work for Elvis, Johnny Cash, B.B. King, Willie Nelson, Pearl Jam, and Coldplay.
As a division of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Hatch continues to heighten its national and international recognition. Mr. Sherraden has collaborated with his colleagues on several projects. With Elek Horvath and Paul Kingsbury, he wrote Hatch Show Print: The History of a Great American Poster Shop, published by Chronicle Books in 2001. Lavishly illustrated with Hatch posters, the book won two prestigious Communication Arts awards, as well as an American Institute of Graphic Arts Certificate of Excellence. Sherraden also creates one-of-a-kind monoprints.
This year’s recipients of the Governor’s Arts Awards will join individuals who have been recognized over the past 43 years.