Mississippi Governor's Awards For Excellence Streamlined, Buffed Up With House Band

This appeared in the Jackson Clarion Ledger - February 20, 2013

The Mississippi Arts Commission revamps its Governor’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts ceremony this year, marking its 25th anniversary and streamlining it for radio and TV.

The hour-long ceremony, 1 p.m. Thursday at the Belhaven University Center for the Arts, is free and open to the public, as is a reception following at the neighboring Junior League of Jackson. The ceremony will be carried live on Mississippi Public Broadcasting Think Radio and taped to air at 8:30 that night on MPB.

Country music star, multiple Grammy winner and 1999 Governor’s Award recipient Marty Stuart will host the event and his Fabulous Superlatives will serve as its house band.

The five 2013 award recipients are: blues entertainer Bobby Rush, for lifetime achievement; Eddie “Chank” Willis, one of the main architects of the Motown sound, for excellence in music; playwright Beth Henley, for excellence in literature; Bay St. Louis Little Theatre for arts in community; and theater educator and Telling Trees Project founder Kathryn Lewis.

“Honestly, this show is really about the recipients, and that’s what we wanted to focus it more on,” said Susan Liles, Mississippi Arts Commission public relations director. Presenting the awards at a more performance-oriented venue, the 800-seat Belhaven University Center for the Arts, is also part of that move. In previous years, programs stretched from two to two-and-a-half hours long.

Liles said the Fabulous Superlatives will perform opening tributes to each recipient, and a couple of special performances are planned, too, including from Bobby Rush. Poetry Out Loud national champion and two-time state champ Kristen Dupard, now a freshman at the University of Southern Mississippi, will also be part of the ceremony.

Doors open at noon Thursday for the event. Because the event is broadcast live and taped for TV, arrivals at 1 p.m. or after will be seated in the balcony.

By Sherry Lucas

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