Pennsylvania First Lady Announces Honorees for 2006 Governor's Awards for the Arts

    WILKES-BARRE, Pa., May 11 /PRNewswire/ -- On behalf of Governor Edward
 G. Rendell, First Lady Marjorie O. Rendell today announced the recipients
 of the 2006 Governor's Awards for the Arts, honoring outstanding artists,
 arts organizations and patrons of the arts in Pennsylvania for their
 excellence and achievement in the arts.
     "It is often said that each generation stands on the shoulders of the
 one that came before," Judge Rendell said. "If that is so, then future
 generations of artists and those who nurture and support the arts will
 stand very tall indeed. It will be a great pleasure to recognize this
 year's remarkable recipients of the commonwealth's highest recognition for
 artistic talent and service. They ably represent the invaluable
 contributions of Pennsylvania's cultural community and inspire others to
 achieve and serve."
     The 2006 honorees are:
     -- Internationally renowned master artist Nelson Shanks of Andalusia will
        receive the first of two, 2006 Distinguished Arts Awards presented this
     -- The acclaimed The Dixie Hummingbirds of Philadelphia will be recognized
        with the 2006 Artists of the Year Award.
     -- Tony Award-winning film and theatrical designer Santo Loquasto of New
        York, NY, (originally of Wilkes-Barre) will receive the second 2006
        Distinguished Arts Award.
     -- Bradford County Regional Arts Council (BCRAC) will receive the 2006
        Outstanding Leadership and Service in Arts in Education Award.
     -- Marlene O. "Linny" Fowler of Bethlehem will receive the 2006 Patron
     -- Dr. Vernell A. Lillie of Pittsburgh will receive the 2006 Pennsylvania
        Creative Community Award.
     Governor Rendell will present the awards at 6:45 p.m. on Tuesday, June
 20, at The F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts in Wilkes-Barre,
 Luzerne County. The ceremony, which is free and open to the public, will
 include presentations and special performances. A ticketed reception will
 immediately follow the ceremony.
     An open call for nominations for the 2006 Governor's Awards for the
 Arts was issued to arts organizations, artists, arts patrons, elected
 officials and members of the public. More than 140 nominations were
 received for 88 different nominees. A panel comprised of members of the
 Arts Council and its executive director reviewed the nominations and made
 their recommendations to Governor Rendell.
     EDITOR'S NOTE: Profiles of the 2006 honorees follow:
     Working from his home and studio in Bucks County, master artist Nelson
 Shanks, the recipient of the first of two 2006 Distinguished Arts Awards,
 has created a vast body of work whose artistic value and renown enriches
 the commonwealth. An internationally celebrated painter, his work is in
 distinguished European and American collections and has been exhibited in
 many museums and galleries across the country. An exhibition of his
 paintings was held at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1996.
     His commissioned portrait of former President William Jefferson Clinton
 was recently unveiled to much acclaim by The National Portrait Gallery of
 The Smithsonian Institution. Shanks was chosen by President Clinton to
 paint the portrait and the new work joins the nation's only complete
 collection of presidential portraits outside the White House.
     Shanks' portrait of Pope John Paul II was hailed by the Director of
 Exhibitions at The National Gallery of Art as destined to be "the most
 enduring painted image of one of the pre-eminent religious and historical
 figures of [the 20th] century." Commissioned portraits of noted figures
 include: Her Royal Highness, Diana, The Princess of Wales, His Majesty King
 Gustav and Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden, Queen Julianna of the
 Netherlands, former President of the United States Ronald Reagan, Lady
 Margaret Thatcher, Luciano Pavarotti, Katharine Graham, and Surgeon General
 C. Everett Koop.
     Shanks has further demonstrated a lifelong commitment to teaching and
 has taught at the University of the Arts, George Washington University, the
 Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Academy of Design, the Art
 Students League and the Art Institute of Chicago.
     In October of 2002, Shanks opened Studio Incamminati in Center City,
 Philadelphia, to provide a place where artists can study realist painting
 and learn other skills necessary to be successful in artistic careers.
 Artists from across the country and around the globe flock to study with
 the master artist.
     The Distinguished Arts Award recognizes a Pennsylvania artist of
 international fame or renown whose creations and contributions enrich the
 commonwealth. Past recipients in the Distinguished Arts category include
 actor Jimmy Stewart; artist Andrew Wyeth; opera singers Marian Anderson,
 Paul Plishka and Marilyn Horne; authors James Michener, John Updike and
 Chaim Potok; film director M. Night Shyamalan; dancer Judith Jamison; and
 musician Paul Winter.
     Born in Wilkes-Barre, and a graduate of Kings College, Santo Loquasto
 is an award-winning designer for film, dance, drama and opera. He has
 collaborated with Woody Allen on more than 20 films and enjoys ongoing
 creative partnerships with contemporary choreographers Paul Taylor, James
 Kudelka and Twyla Tharp.
     Inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 2005, Loquasto has won Tony
 and Drama Desk Awards and his costume designs for Woody Allen's Zelig, and
 production design for Radio Days and Bullets over Broadway were nominated
 for Academy Awards.
     Twyla Tharp's Push Comes to Shove marked the beginning of his
 relationship with American Ballet Theatre. In his work with ABT he also
 collaborated with choreographers Jerome Robbins, Mikhail Baryshnikov,
 Kenneth MacMillan, Agnes de Mille, and Mark Morris. As designer for the
 Paul Taylor Dance Company, he has designed such works as Speaking in
 Tongues, Spindrift, Company B, and Funny Papers.
     Last year, his scenic design for the Broadway revival of David Mamet's
 Glengarry Glen Ross was nominated for a Tony Award and won the 2005 Drama
 Desk Award. He won both the Tony and Drama Desk awards in 1989 for his
 scenic design of the New York Shakespeare Festival's Cafe Crown, and in
 1990, he again won both the Tony and Drama Desk awards for this costume
 design for Grand Hotel. He received his first Tony in 1977 for costume
 designs for The Cherry Orchard. Other productions for which his designs
 have received Tony nominations include Long Day's Journey into Night, That
 Championship Season and Ragtime.
     Last season, he designed Faust for the Metropolitan Opera and An
 Italian Straw Hat for National Ballet of Canada.
     Most recently on Broadway, Loquasto's work has been represented in the
 productions of Three Days of Rain (with Julia Roberts) and Movin' Out
 (Billy Joel/Twyla Tharp).
     The 2006 Artists of the Year, The Dixie Hummingbirds, have passed their
 75th anniversary as a musical phenomenon and celebrated with a cut on the
 soundtrack of Bob Dylan's film Masked and Anonymous, a richly detailed book
 published by Oxford University Press that documents their legacy and an
 album, Diamond Jubilation. One of the most influential groups in gospel
 music, they began their remarkable journey in 1920s Greenville, South
 Carolina, organized by gospel great James B. Davis, then 12 years old.
     In 2000, the "Birds" were awarded a prestigious National Heritage
 Fellowship recognizing their stature as the last of an entire generation of
 artists who provided the foundation of Black music in the U.S. today. While
 they have always remained deeply rooted in the gospel tradition, their
 influence has made itself known far and wide in American popular music.
 Artists they have influenced include the Temptations, James Brown, Stevie
 Wonder, Bobby Blue Bland, Al Green and Shirley Caesar.
     The group broke into the popular consciousness in 1966 when they
 prompted a standing ovation at the Newport Folk Festival, and still greater
 fame was in store in 1973, when they backed Paul Simon on his smash hit
 "Loves Me Like a Rock." The Birds' own rendition of the tune won them a
 Grammy in 1974.
     The group moved to Philadelphia in the early 1940s, where easy access
 to a range of venues allowed them to make a name for themselves on a larger
 scale after 10 years of 'wildcatting' - taking their act on the road to
 build a reputation - in the South. By 1942, they were wowing audiences at
 Cafe Society, New York's first integrated nightclub, backed by legendary
 saxophonist Lester Young. In the 1950s, they routinely brought down the
 house at the Apollo Theater.
     Jerry Zolten of The Pennsylvania State University describes their
 journey in a highly acclaimed history Great God A'Mighty! The Dixie
     The Artist of the Year Award, which is known as the Hazlett Memorial
 Award (named for the first chairman of the Pennsylvania Council on the
 Arts), recognizes an artist for his or her contributions to the excellence
 of the arts in Pennsylvania. Past recipients of the award have been pianist
 Lang Lang, conductor and composer Andre Previn, dancer LaVaughn Robinson,
 poet Gerald Stern, architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown,
 sculptor Thaddeus Mosely, ceramist Rudolph Staffel, and photographer Mark
     The 2006 Patron Award will be presented to Marlene O. "Linny" Fowler of
 Bethlehem, PA. During the last 17 years, Fowler has become the Lehigh
 Valley's leading arts philanthropist, providing not only monetary support
 but also her time, talent and wisdom to countless arts and cultural
 organizations. Her philanthropy and hands-on advocacy is credited with
 having made a greater impact on the accessibility of the full range of
 artistic and cultural opportunities to children than anyone else in the
     Much of her energy is devoted to introducing children at-risk to the
 arts, supporting educational programs for youth and improving the quality
 of life through art for all people. A longtime advocate for arts in
 education, she recognizes the importance of the arts in the development and
 education of all children. An artist herself, she provides art supplies and
 lends a hand in art lessons to the poorest of elementary schools and Head
 Start Centers. She supports art therapy at Valley Youth House for runaways.
 Through "Linny's Kids," a scholarship program at the Baum School of Art,
 she provides support for children to attend art classes at the school. Her
 sponsorship of Free Sundays at the Allentown Art Museum has increased
 attendance by those who might not otherwise be able to enjoy the Museum's
 treasures and this single act of generosity has benefited 30,000 visitors.
     She has served on the boards of directors of Lehigh Valley cultural
 organizations for more than 30 years and supports many more. Without her
 leadership and vision, the Banana Factory, a community arts center and
 gallery in Bethlehem, would never have been established. She was involved
 in the project from the beginning, serving on a committee to find the right
 abandoned building to develop so artists could have individual studios and
 children could learn art. Her initial contributions spearheaded a
 successful capital campaign of which she was co-chair.
     Most recently, she was the major donor for the Fowler Family South Side
 Campus of Northampton Community College, which will be the hub for 16 arts
 organizations and the Cops n' Kids literacy program.
     Past recipients of the Patron Award have included Marguerite and Gerry
 Lenfest, The Heinz Endowments, Regina Gouger Miller & Marlin Miller, Jr.,
 Francois Bitz, Lois Lehrman Grass, PNC Bank Foundation, Meyer P. and Vivian
 O. Potamkin, and Binney & Smith Inc.
     The Rendell administration initiated two award categories for its Arts
 Awards - the Outstanding Leadership and Service in the Arts for Youth
 and/or Arts in Education Award and the Pennsylvania Creative Community
 Award. These categories reflect the administration's recognition of the
 significant benefits of involvement in the arts for Pennsylvania's youth
 and the potential for positive community impact through utilizing the arts
 to address important local issues.
     The Pennsylvania Creative Community Award was created to celebrate and
 recognize those who have used arts and culture to address issues of
 importance at the community level. The recipient of this year's award will
 be Dr. Vernell A. Lillie of Pittsburgh whose role as a mentor, leader,
 catalyst and tireless advocate for African American theatre and culture has
 fostered the cultural unity of African Americans in Pittsburgh.
     Named a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania in 1998, Lillie
 co-founded Pittsburgh's Kuntu Repertory Theatre with the late playwrights
 Rob Penny and August Wilson in 1974. An associate professor of Africana
 Studies at the University of Pittsburgh since 1972, Lillie, who is retiring
 from the university at the end of this academic year, has been acknowledged
 as a "living legend" by the National Black Theatre Festival.
     In her capacity as artistic director of Kuntu Repertory Theatre and as
 a professor, teaching artist and role model, Lillie has written and
 directed over 250 plays and has launched the careers of numerous artists.
 Kuntu Repertory Theatre produces works that capture the essence of culture
 from the African continuum. The theatre strives for excellence; promoting
 the West African Bantu philosophy that art is functional and is a way of
 preserving the positive dimensions of one's own culture. The name, Kuntu,
 comes from a Bantu word meaning the "way" of a community - the essence, the
 cultural unity of a people.
     The recipient of numerous honors and awards, Lillie received the Career
 Theatre Award in Education from the Association for Theatre in Higher
 Education in 2003. Previous recipients of this award include Athol Fugard
 and Edward Albee.
     The past recipients of the Pennsylvania Creative Community Awards have
 been Donna N. Brown & Alfred Brown and the Point Breeze Performing Arts
 Center; and Art Sanctuary and Asian Arts Initiative.
     The award for Outstanding Leadership and Service in Arts in Education
 will be presented to Bradford County Regional Arts Council (BCRAC). Since
 1995, BCRAC has developed an exemplary program for arts education in 27
 rural school districts in Bradford, Columbia, Lycoming, Sullivan, Tioga and
 Wyoming counties. When it began its arts in education work, BCRAC had only
 one artist on its regional directory and only three days of residency work.
 Since then, it has grown to promote and support 25 high-quality artists
 working in 27 school districts. In 2004-05, the total number of students
 served was 15,532 for a total of 312 artist residency days in 23
     Selected through a rigorous application and review process to partner
 with the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts to provide arts in education
 services in the northern central part of the state, BCRAC assembled and led
 the Northern Tier Alliance for Arts in Education. It identified a
 doubly-underserved population - both rural and pre-school (0-6 years of
 age) - for in-depth service and formed the Learning Early Network with
 other early childhood programs in the region. In 1999, this work was
 recognized as a "Best Practice" in the arts by the Pennsylvania Department
 of Education and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
     In 1998, when the local community sought to respond to the tragic
 suicide of a young child, it sought out BCRAC and the Learning Early
 Network to employ their work with the arts and communication skills, which
 in turn led to the development and implementation of the program Learning
 Communication Skills through the Arts.
     Working with 16 Head Start Centers in the Northern Tier region, BCRAC
 provides the services of specially trained artists whose arts activities
 are designed to improve communication skills in children. In the first year
 of the project, it brought music, storytelling, dramatic play and visual
 arts activities to approximately 300 children in the Bradford-Tioga Head
 Start program. Each of the Centers receives 16 visits from one or more
 artists and attends at least one live performance in a historic theatre.
     Learning Communication Skills through the Arts attracted the attention
 of an education consultant for the Arts Council of England, who traveled to
 Bradford County for a week in August of 2004. She subsequently initiated an
 international exchange program with Northern Tier artists and artists from
 England. The Learning Communication Skills program will be featured as one
 of three international models for work with early childhood and the arts.
     Past recipients of the Outstanding Leadership and Service to Youth/Arts
 in Education Awards are Carole Haas Gravagno, Dr. Sarah Tambucci, and a
 Lifetime Award was presented to children's author Lloyd Alexander.
     The Rendell Administration is committed to creating a first-rate public
 education system, protecting our most vulnerable citizens and continuing
 economic investment to support our communities and businesses. To find out
 more about Governor Rendell's initiatives and to sign up for his weekly
 newsletter, visit his Web site at:
     Kristianna Smith
     Heather Doughty (Arts Council)
     717-787-6883 ext. 3039

SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor

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