Frankfort, KY – They're called the Governor's Awards in the Arts because the governor has the final say on award recipients. Lori Meadows of the Kentucky Arts Council says the awards honor individuals, businesses and organizations that make significant contributions to the commonwealth.
"It is so important to let people in Kentucky know about the talent that we have here," said Meadows. "We have it all right here in Kentucky and people need to know about that. And we need to recognize the people that make it possible.
One of those extraordinary talents is jazz pianist, composer and teacher Harry Pickens of Louisville, this year's winner of the Education Award.
"My desire, hope and prayer is that together we may remember the power of the arts to transform lives for the better," Pickens told the audience. "And that we may have the wisdom, foresight and courage to ensure that every child has the opportunity to experience the beauty, magic and power or creative artistic expression."
From acting in movies like O Brother Where Art Thou,' to his humanitarian work in Darfur, Kentucky native George Clooney is arguably one of the best-known Kentucky artists in the world. And he's this year's recipient of the National Award. Accepting the honor in his absence was his father, Nick Clooney.
"In spite of all the places that he's gone, all around the world, as an ambassador for the UN and as an artist, he has never forgotten where the sun shines bright," said Clooney.
This year's Artist Award went to 96-year old Chilton Price of Louisville, who composed what Nick Clooney calls the quintessential 1950's love song, You Belong To Me,' which has been covered by artists like Bing Crosby, Patsy Cline, Rosemary Clooney, Rod Stewart and Tori Amos. Ms. Price, who also wrote the 50's smash hit "Slow Poke," never received proper credit for her compositions - until now.
This year's recipient of the Folk Heritage Award is the Kentucky Folk Art Center in Morehead, which opened in 1997. Director Matt Collinsworth says the center features self-taught Kentucky visual artists.
"From humble beginnings, some 25 years ago, Kentucky Folk Art Center has become one of the finest small arts museums in America and one of the most important cultural institutions in east Kentucky," said Collinsworth.
The Community Arts Award went to the Janice Mason Art Museum in Cadiz, the Government Award to the City of Maysville, the Media Award to Judith Egerton of Louisville and the business award to the Liquor Barn. Jerry Baker of Bowling Green is this year's winner of the Milner Award for outstanding philanthropic contributions to the arts. Award recipients each received a figurative gourd sculpted by Indiana artist Jennifer Zingg, who now lives in Frankfort.
"Each sculpture has kind of a quilt-inspired skirt and an Appalachian instrument," said Zingg. "So, they're all inspired by Kentucky."
Gov. Beshear, who's overseas on a trade mission to Japan and China, missed the ceremony. But he appeared by video to congratulate each of this year's winners.