Marty Stuart To Emcee Governor's Awards Thursday

This appeared in the Neshoba Democrat - February 23, 2011

County Music Star Marty Stuart will emcee the Mississippi Arts Commission's 23rd annual Governor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts.

This event spotlights Mississippi's outstanding cultural resources and honors those who contribute to the state through their vision and creativity.

The 2011 recipients will be honored at a public ceremony at 1 p.m. on Thursday, February 24 in the auditorium of the Mississippi Department of Education (old Central High School) in downtown Jackson.

Stuart was born in Philadelphia on September. 30, 1958, the son of John and Hilda Stuart of Smyrna, Tennessee.

A 1999 Governor's Awards recipient, he began playing mandolin with the Sullivan Family at age 12.

A year later he moved to Nashville and joined Lester Flatt & the Nashville Grass. After Flatt's death, Stuart landed the job he had always wanted, playing in the Johnny Cash Show.

After six years with Cash, he pulled together his own band, and his first single, "Arlene," landed in the top twenty. More hits followed.

The 2011 recipients of the Governor's Awards are:

• Arts in Education: Charles A. Rhoads of Brandon.

• Arts in Community: Natchez Literary & Cinema Celebration.

• Artistic Excellence: Gwendolyn A. Magee of Jackson.

• Excellence in Music: Mac McAnally, a Belmont native who now resides in Nashville.

• Lifetime Achievement: Joe Willie "Pinetop" Perkins, a Belzoni native who now resides in Austin, Texas.

The awards are presented to individuals and organizations for outstanding work in visual, literary, and performing arts, community development through the arts, and arts patronage. (Recipients do not have to currently reside in Mississippi, but they must have significant ties to the state through some years of residency.)

Designed by acclaimed Mississippi artist, William Dunlap, this year's awards are winged-figured sculptures cast in bronze and gold leaf entitled "Fragment." Dunlap calls his art "aesthetic archaeology," noting that the winged figure appears in Western European mythology long before the Biblical representation of the angel. According to Dunlap, the image is as fresh as yesterday, yet looks as though it could have been made thousands of years ago and excavated from an archaeological site.

Each year the poster for the Governor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts honors the new award recipients and celebrates the relationship between government and the arts.

This year's poster image is the fourth in a series of photographs depicting arts facilities that have received support for the Mississippi Arts Commission's Building Fund for the Arts (BFA) Program.

The Lyric Theatre in Tupelo was built in 1912 by R. F. Goodlett. Originally named The Comus, it hosted live vaudeville shows. In the 1930s, it became a part of the Malco chain of movie houses, and the name was changed to the Lyric Theatre. Its sturdy brick walls made the Lyric one of the few buildings to escape the fury of the 1936 tornado that ravaged the city.

A popular local legend claims that Elvis "stole" his first kiss in the balcony of the Lyric. In 1984, the Lyric had outlived its usefulness as a movie theatre, and Tupelo Community Theatre purchased the historic building and restored it to be its permanent home. The poster design is by Vidal Blankenstein, and the photograph was taken by Tom Joynt, both of Jackson.

The Building Fund for the Arts program is funded through the Mississippi Legislature and state general obligation bonds to provide high quality facilities for arts and cultural activities.

The Mississippi Arts Commission is a state agency, funded by the Mississippi Legislature, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Riley Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation, the Mississippi Endowment for the Arts at the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson and other private sources.

MAC is the official grants-making and service agency for the arts in Mississippi. The agency serves as an active supporter and promoter of arts in community life and in arts education.

The Governor's Awards ceremony will be free and open to the public on Thursday, February 24 at 1 p.m. at the Mississippi Department of Education in downtown Jackson.

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