The Mississippi Two Museums’ Neilsen Auditorium was the site of the 2023 Governor’s Arts Awards (GAA) on Feb. 2, possibly drawing the largest audience in its 35 year history.
The crowd was welcomed by Governor Tate Reeves via video and First Lady Elee Reeves who appeared in-person to greet the elite cadre of Mississippi’s finest artists.
David Lewis, the new executive director of the Mississippi Arts Commission, spoke passionately as he expressed his sincere appreciation to his staff.
All elected officials present were recognized with special mention of Senator John Horhn, a highly visible longtime supporter of the arts.
Former Mississippi Poet Laureate (2016-2000) Beth Ann Fennelly served as host for this year’s event. She graced the audience with her celebrated poem, “Grateful.”
This year’s GAA encompassed a vast spectrum of awardees spanning the gamut of categories that included:
• Excellence in Literature & Cultural Ambassador (Ralph Eubanks), Mount Olive, MS: “I thank Mississippi for welcoming me home and making room for me.”
• Excellence in Visual Arts (Ke Frances), Tupelo, MS: “I’ve enjoyed working and living in the South that has given me an important part of the imagery in my work.”
• Excellence in Literature & Poetry (Dr. Ann Fisher-Wirth), Oxford, MS: “I think of myself as having two homes, Mississippi and California.”
• Excellence in Music (King Edward Antoine), Lafayette, Louisiana by way of Jackson: King just gave a gritty laugh with tears streaming down his face and broke out in song…”Bring Your Pretty Self Home.”
• Leadership in Visual Arts & Community (Betsy Bradley), Greenville, MS: “I give greatest thanks to the Mississippi Commission. We are fortunate to live and work in a state that supports the arts. Art museums bring people together in love, compassion, and forgiveness.”
Lifetime Achievement Award (Ed McGowan), Hattiesburg, MS: “I owe so much to Mississippi for the imagery seen through my memories that are sometimes fun and sometimes painful. Thanks for the privilege of growing up in Mississippi.”
• Robert Hearin Support Foundation (The Stephen C. Edds Patron of the Arts Award).
Video tributes were presented to Mosaic, Inc., and Germaine Flood (MPB Think Radio, narrator). Music was provided by the Arts Award Jazz Combo Band led by Raphael Semmes (bass), Barry Leach (guitar), Bill Perry (keyboard), and special guest Rick Lewis (drums for King Edward Antoine).