The African-American contributions to the arts in Kentucky is no small story and the Governor’s Awards in the Arts attest to this fact. The 2004 awards to be presented by Governor Ernie Fletcher at 10:00 a.m. EST, February 8, 2005, in the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort will honor Nana Yaa Asantewaa with the Community Arts Award for her extraordinary efforts in the founding of the Louisville Arts Council. With her vision to touch, teach and reach through the arts and her commitment to link the arts to the community she has been instrumental in shaping the mission of the Louisville Arts Council, which assists community arts and artists by nurturing relationships, fosters multi-cultural diversity and advocates for growth and economic development of the community through the arts.
The Governor's Awards in the Arts, the Commonwealth's most prestigious arts awards, have honored Kentucky individuals, businesses and organizations over the last 27 years, that have made significant and outstanding contributions to the arts in the state. African-Americans have consistently led the way in achieving national acclaim, demonstrating excellence in artistry and providing access to participation and education in the arts for all Kentuckians.
Consider past Governor’s Awards in the Arts National Award winners. George Wolf, with humble roots in Frankfort, has formed a brilliant theatre career in New York. Wolfe won a Tony Award for best direction of his Dance Musical, "Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk" in 1996. His plays often deal with weighty subjects such as racism, American assimilation, aging and AIDS. In 1986, Wolfe’s "The Colored Museum," a satire on African-American culture, won the CBS/Foundation of the Dramatists Guild Playwriting Award and was shown on PBS. Abstract painter Sam Gilliam, educated at the University of Louisville and continuing strong ties with Kentucky is a member of the Washington Color School and has paintings In the National Gallery of Arts in Washington D.C. as well as Reagan National Airport and in federal buildings in Atlanta, Detroit and Philadelphia. Photographers Marvin and Morgan Smith made their mark in New York City during the 1930s Harlem Renaissance. The Lexington raised twin brothers established their studio next to the famed Apollo Theatre and recorded black life in Harlem during its Golden Age.
In 1997, when Marvin and Morgan Smith received the National Award, sculptor Ed Hamilton received the Artist Award for lifetime achievement in the arts. Still in the forefront of the sculpture world, Hamilton, with a studio in Louisville has produced major public sculptures that can found in Kentucky and around the nation. He was commissioned to produce the African-American Civil War Monument in Washington D.C. and has most recently completed a memorial to honor York, the slave of William Clark as part of Louisville’s Bicentennial Celebration of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
A dedication to building community through the arts is not a new concept for African Americans. We can look back to the first recipient of the Community Arts Award, Elmer Lucille Allen to find inspiration and dedication that still runs strong today. After thirty-one years as an industrial chemist with Brown-Forman, she took up clay making in the 1980s and continued working as an artist beyond her retirement in 1997. Over the course of the years Allen has been a mentor, an organizer and an inspiration for the arts community in Kentucky. Dhana Bradley-Donaldson (Donna Bradley-Morton when awarded), during her years in Kentucky was a pivotal figure in the Commonwealth’s arts arena as a teacher, performance artist and community leader. During her tenure at the Kentucky Arts Council she developed many programs specifically to reach black artists. Arts consultant Ken Clay is a pillar of the Louisville arts community and has dedicated his career to showcasing minority artist talent in venues throughout the state. Now retired from the Kentucky Center, his mark has been left with the multi-cultural programming that continues to this day. History would be remiss if it forgot about the contributions of the late G. Caliman Coxe. In 1955 Coxe, was the first African-American fine arts graduate of the University of Louisville, and went on to teach and later work as a graphic artist. He was instrumental in the creation of Louisville’s Bourgard College of Music & Art.
Anna L. Huddleston, a good friend and colleague of G. Caliman Coxe, was the first black recipient of the Milner Award and at that time it was the only Governor’s Award in the Arts. Huddleston’s education career began as an art teacher at DuVall Middle School in Louisville and she continued as Resource Art Teacher the local Board of Education. She was one of the founders along with G. Caliman Coxe of the Water Tower Association and the Louisville Art Workshop. Also receiving the Milner Award for outstanding individual commitment to the arts was Dr. Roy Peterson, who served as Secretary of the Kentucky Education, Arts and Humanities Cabinet from 1995 until his death in 1998. During his tenure he was instrumental in securing funds for the arts and especially programs like the Governor’s School for the Arts and the Hindman/Knott County Community Development Initiative, which is being honored as the 2004 recipient of the Governor’s Awards in the Arts Government Award.
The Kentucky Arts Council administers the Governor's Awards in the Arts selection process. Nominations are annually solicited from the public, reviewed by a selection committee, and presented to the Governor for final approval. For more information about the Governor’s Awards in the Arts, go to www.artscouncil.ky.gov.
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The Kentucky Arts Council is a state agency in the Commerce Cabinet. Working in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the Arts Council invests in programs that develop vibrant communities, provide lifelong education in the arts and support arts participation. Every $1 in grant funds awarded by the Kentucky Arts Council helps grantees secure $15 in earned income and matching funds from individuals, philanthropic sources and other levels of government.