VAC Awards

Vermont Arts Council’s 2019 Vermont Arts Awards will be presented Wednesday at Middlebury College’s Mahaney Arts Center.

MIDDLEBURY – Middlebury College’s Mahaney Arts Center will host this year’s Vermont Arts Awards, presented by the Vermont Arts Council. These annual awards recognize outstanding individual and organizational contributions to the arts, honoring educators, artists, performers, advocates, administrators, volunteers, and scholars. In 2019, Vermonters will be recognized for their contributions in five categories. All awardees will be honored at a reception and ceremony co-sponsored by Middlebury College Wednesday, Oct. 23 at the Mahaney Arts Center. The ceremony is free, but attendees should RSVP through the arts council’s website.

- François Clemmons of Middlebury will receive the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.

- Douglas Anderson of Middlebury will receive the Arthur Williams Award for Meritorious Service to the Arts.

- Castle Freeman of Newfane will receive the Walter Cerf Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts.

- James Lockridge of Burlington will receive the Margaret L. (Peggy) Kannenstine Award for Arts Advocacy.

- Joan Robinson of Burlington will receive the Ellen McCulloch-Lovell Award in Arts Education.

“Each of the exceptional individuals we are honoring this year enriches our lives with remarkable talent, commitment, and creative vision,” said Vermont Arts Council Executive Director Karen Mittelman. “As artists, cultural leaders, educators, and mentors, they remind us that art can be transformative, for us as individuals and for Vermont communities.”

Middlebury College President Laurie Patton noted that two of the 2019 awardees are from Middlebury. “Through song and theater, François and Doug have brought to the Middlebury community much more than the beauty of art and performance — though they’ve gifted us that over many years,” Patton said. “They’ve also shown us how emotionally powerful shared experiences can be. We’re so pleased they’re receiving this recognition and look forward to hosting all Arts Awards honorees and guests on our campus in October.”

Clemmons is well known for his 25-year career as officer Clemmons on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” He is also a Grammy Award-winning opera singer, founder of the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble, emeritus artist in residence at Middlebury College, composer, arranger, playwright, author, activist, and mentor. From 1997 until his retirement in 2013, he was the Alexander Twilight Artist in Residence and director of the Martin Luther King Spiritual Choir at Middlebury. Clemmons received a bachelor of music degree from Oberlin College, a master of fine arts from Carnegie Mellon University, and an honorary doctor of arts degree from Middlebury College.

Anderson began his career teaching theater and playwriting at the University of Illinois, Amherst College and Middlebury College. He also served as a staff writer for the Children’s Television Workshop (the makers of “Sesame Street”) and head writer for the CBS daytime drama “The Guiding Light.” In 1997, he discovered the decaying original Middlebury Town Hall and committed himself to restoring and reviving the structure, which re-opened in 2008. For his work on the Town Hall Theater, he was named Middlebury’s Citizen of the Year, received an award from the Preservation Trust of Vermont, and was presented with Middlebury College’s McCardell Citizenship Award. He also created the Opera Company of Middlebury, now in its 16th season.

Freeman was born in Texas, then raised and educated in Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia. He came to southeastern Vermont with his wife Alice on a whim and is still here 47 years later. He is the author of seven novels, about 80 short stories, two story collections, and more than 100 essays as well as historical articles, op-ed matter, journalism, nature writing, and other nonfiction. Most of his writing is related in one way or another to the life of Vermont and its people. Freeman’s most recently published novel is “The Devil in the Valley” (Overlook Press, New York, 2016).

Lockridge has directed Big Heavy World, the Burlington-based independent, volunteer-staffed music office, for more than 20 years, generating partnerships and channeling enthusiasm that supports Vermont-made music of every kind and stage of development. Big Heavy World offers a music archive, record label, community radio station, events, and more. Through his collaborative efforts, Lockridge has brought together the resources to form a creative hub that would not otherwise exist. He has championed inclusion and respect for diversity, and built an engine of support for regional music based on these values.

Robinson has worked as a teacher, storyteller, actor, cartoonist, librarian, playwright, and — for more than 20 years — adjunct faculty in St. Michael’s Graduate Education Program. As the first education director, then school programs director at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, she initiated the organization’s year-round performing arts classes, created “Words Come Alive!” and helped found the Integrated Arts Academy (IAA). She later served as drama coach at IAA. Additional career highlights include creating Ilsley’s Haunted Library, touring Vermont as Ms. Frizzle, and co-writing the play “Bigger Than All of Us.” Robinson continues working as a Flynn teaching artist.

The 2019 Vermont Arts Awards celebration, co-sponsored by Middlebury College, will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23, with a reception for attendees and honorees at 5:30, at the Mahaney Arts Center. Admission is free and open to the public, but reservations are requested via the Vermont Arts Council’s website at The Mahaney Arts Center is located at 72 Porter Field Road, just off Route 30 South/S. Main Street.

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