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2016 Governor’s Arts Awards

2016 Governor’s Arts Awards

October 6, 2016

Each year, the Vermont Arts Council, in association with the Governor’s office, recognizes outstanding individual and organizational contributions to the arts. Awards and citations are given to educators, artists, performers, advocates, administrators, volunteers, and scholars. In 2016 the Council will be recognizing the contributions of Vermonters in five different categories.

The awards will be presented at a celebration held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, November 15  at The Putney School in Putney. Seating is free, but limited. Reserve a ticket here.

Presented by Governor Peter Shumlin

Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts

Eric Aho

Eric Aho is a painter known for his abstract paintings that evoke the natural landscape while offering a fresh, contemporary perspective. His paintings have been exhibited widely and are represented in the collections of major institutions both domestically and internationally, including the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College. Eric’s paintings have also been shown internationally, including Ireland, South Africa, Cuba, Norway, and Finland. Recent solo exhibitions include the New Britain Museum of American Art, CT; Hood Museum of Art, NH; DC Moore Gallery, NY; Federal Reserve Board, Washington, DC; and the Currier Museum of Art, NH. Eric was elected Academician by National Academy, and received the John Koch Award for Painting, and the Julius Hallgarten Prize. Eric earned a B.F.A. from the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. He also studied at Central School of Art and Design in London and Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana, Cuba.  He completed his graduate studies in Finland at the Lahti Art Institute, where he was supported by a Fulbright Fellowship in 1991 and 1992 and an American-Scandinavian Foundation grant in 1993. He is represented by DC Moore Gallery in New York City.

Aho photo by Rachel Portesi


Presented by the Vermont Arts Council

Walter Cerf Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts

Elsie Smith and Serenity Smith Forchion

Elsie Smith and Serenity Smith Forchion are identical twins specializing in aerial acrobatics as both performers and teachers. They have performed with Cirque du Soleil, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the New Pickle Circus, Cirque Productions, and Cirque Le Masque. Elsie and Serenity’s duo trapeze act was given a Special Prize at the Wuqiao International Circus Festival in China, and received a Bronze Medal at the First International Festival of Circus in Albacete, Spain. From their early careers, Elsie and Serenity have brought a technical circus training approach to aerial dance festivals in the United States, England, and Ireland. In 2003, the sisters settled in Vermont and founded Nimble Arts to offer performances and aerial teacher training around the world. Later, Nimble Arts added a professional training program for aspiring circus artists. In 2007, Elsie and Serenity spun off the school portion of their company, forming the New England Center for Circus Arts (NECCA). NECCA has since grown to be the most comprehensive circus arts training school in the United States, offering classes to recreational and professional students of all ages. Elsie and Serenity continue to serve as directors of the school while maintaining performing and teaching careers that take them all over the world as consultants, teachers, and entertainers.


Ellen McCulloch-Lovell Award in Arts Education

Peter Gould, Brattleboro

Peter Gould has been involved in Vermont arts as a performer, director, teacher, and author for more than 45 years. He is the founder of “Get Thee to the Funnery,” a youth Shakespeare program, which celebrated its 19th season in 2016. He is also on the faculty of the New England Youth Theatre, and has directed more than 80 theater productions. As half of Gould & Stearns — a touring youth theater company — Peter traveled throughout the country and internationally performing more than 3,000 performances, including their original play, “A Peasant of El Salvador.” Gould & Stearns have performed physical comedy, story theater, and residencies with young students from 1980 to the present. Peter received a B.A. and Ph.D from Brandeis University, where he taught undergraduate and graduate classes in physical comedy and clown theory. He is currently an adjunct professor at Brandeis, teaching mindfulness and problem solving. Peter has published four books, including “Write Naked,” which received the 2009 Green Earth Book Award, given to the writer of young adult fiction that most inspires environmental consciousness and stewardship in its readers.


Margaret L. (Peggy) Kannenstine Award for Arts Advocacy

Robert McBride, Bellows Falls

Robert McBride is the director of Rockingham Arts and Museum Project (RAMP), which he founded in 1995. Through RAMP, Robert has worked diligently in Bellows Falls to demonstrate that artists play a significant role in the sustainability of rural communities culturally and economically. RAMP has spearheaded a number of successful projects including creating affordable live/work spaces for artists, public art projects, and artist town meetings that directly engage artists in the community. Robert’s advocacy efforts extend to a number of organizations throughout Vermont. He currently serves on the boards of the Vermont Performance Lab, Friends of the Vermont State House, and the Preservation Trust of Vermont. He is also advisor, emeritus to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Previously, Robert was a board member of the Southern Vermont Regional Marketing Program, Main Street Arts, the Bellows Falls Downtown Development Alliance, and the Windham Regional Planning Commission. Robert has been honored with a Director’s Award from the New England Foundation for the Arts, and a Bernice R.Murray Award presented by the Vermont Community Development Association. Robert received a B.A. in painting from the University of California at Berkeley and an M.F.A. from Hunter College.

McBride photo by Ken Russell


Arthur Williams Award for Meritorious Service to the Arts

Stephen Rice, Brattleboro

Stephen Rice has been a leader in music education since 1987 when he began as instrumental music teacher at Brattleboro Union High School. He became head of the music department in 2004. Stephen also directed middle school bands at Brattleboro Area Middle School from 1994 to 2000. As a leader in the Vermont Music Educators Association (VMEA), Stephen has served on the VMEA Benchmarking Project, managed the All-State Band, and led Ensembles for VMEA District VI. He has also actively participated in the Vermont Alliance for Arts Education (VAAE), and was cited by VAAE for leadership in arts education in 2003. The Connecticut Valley District Music Festival Association named him Teacher of the Year in 2009, and he was awarded Teacher of the Year by the Vermont Music Educators Association in 2014. Stephen has served as guest conductor, adjudicator, and clinician for many regional music festivals. In addition to his role as a music educator, Stephen is a freelance percussionist performing in professional and community ensembles throughout the region. Stephen earned a B.A. and M.Ed. in music from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Tags: Elsie Smith, Eric Aho, Get Thee to the Funnery, Gould and Stearns, New England Center for Circus Arts, Peter Gould, RAMP, Robert McBride, Serenity Smith Forchion, Stephen Rice


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