Vermont Arts Council

2015 Governor’s Arts Awards

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 2015 the Council will be recognizing the contributions of Vermonters in five different awards categories, as well as installing a new Poet Laureate.

The awards will be presented at a celebration held at 7 p.m. Monday, November 2  in Alumni Hall at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier. Seating is free, but limited. Reserve a ticket here.

Presented by Governor Peter Shumlin

Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts | Grace Potter, Waitsfield


Grace Potter grew up in Waitsfield, where she learned piano from her mother and attended Harwood Union High School. She sang in school choirs and performed at regional theater festivals, starring in major productions including “The Pirates of Penzance” and “Cabaret.” She took part in the Governor’s Institute on the Arts in 2002, then attended St. Lawrence University. It was at SLU that Potter formed her first band, and in 2004 they released “Original Soul” on the band’s own label, Ragged Company. Shortly thereafter, the band took on the Nocturnals name in honor of the late hour at which the musicians practiced. GPN toured extensively, playing festivals and clubs throughout North America. A second self-produced album, “Nothing But The Water,” was released before signing with Hollywood Records in 2006. Three full-length studio albums followed: 2007’s “This is Somewhere,” 2010’s self-titled album and 2012’s “The Lion The Beast The Beat,” with the latter two both debuting Top 20 in the U.S. In 2010, Potter duetted on the Grammy-nominated, platinum-selling hit, “You and Tequila,” with country singer Kenny Chesney. That same year, with the Nocturnals, Grace established Grand Point North, a Vermont-based two-day music festival. Started as a showcase for local bands, it has evolved to including nationally known acts from The Avett Brothers to The Flaming Lips among others. Earlier in 2015 Potter received the ASCAP Harry Chapin Vanguard Award by WhyHunger honoring her for her work with several charitable organizations.  Potter released her critically acclaimed solo album, “Midnight,” this past August.

Vermont Poet Laureate | Chard deNiord, Putney

Chard deNiord

Chard deNiord grew up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Bedford County, Virginia and attended Lynchburg College, majoring in religious studies. Before attending the Iowa Writers Workshop in 1983, he attended Yale Divinity School, and graduated with a master’s degree. After teaching philosophy and comparative religions at the Putney School, he began teaching at Providence College in 1998, where he continues to teach today as a professor of English and creative writing. He won the Accinno Teacher of the Year Award at Providence College in 2012. deNiord is the author of five books of poetry, “Asleep in the Fire” (University of Alabama Press, 1990), “Sharp Golden Thorn” (Marsh Hawk Press, 2003), “Night Mowing” (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005), “The Double Truth” (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011), and “Interstate” (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015). He has won several prizes, including the Pushcart Prize XXII, 1998 for “What the Animals Teach Us” and the Poetry Society of America’s Gustav Davidson Sonnet Prize for “Fairy Tale.” He has also written a book of essays and interviews with seven senior American poets titled “Sad Friends, Drowned Lovers, Stapled Songs: Conversations and Reflections on 20th Century Poetry.” His poems and essays have appeared in (among many others) The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, Salmagundi, The Antioch Review, Best American Poetry, The American Scholar, Harvard Review, and The New England Review. He co-directed The Spirit and the Letter summer writing conference in Patzcuaro, Mexico in 1997 and 1998, and, in 2002, co-founded the New England College MFA in Poetry. deNiord lives on a dirt road in Putney.

deNiord photo: Rachel Portesi

Presented by the Vermont Arts Council

Walter Cerf Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts

Bill-and-Liz-Metcalfe-blogWilliam and Elizabeth Metcalfe, Burlington, met in a French class at the University of Toronto and married in 1958. From 1965 to the present—with Elizabeth most often playing piano or harpsichord, William most often conducting—they are responsible for the founding and success of four remarkable musical organizations. They founded the University of Vermont Baroque Ensemble, the Gilbert and Sullivan Singers of Vermont, and the Oriana Singers of Vermont. Oriana is now in its 34th year. William is also the co-founder of the Vermont Mozart Festival.

Elizabeth was a founding member of the Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble and performed for 30 years with the New York Chamber Soloists. At the University of Vermont, William chaired the Music, History, and Canadian Studies departments, won the Donner Medal for Canadian Studies in the U.S., and edited the American Review of Canadian Studies for 16 years.

Ellen McCulloch-Lovell Award in Arts Education


Karen Amirault, Burlington, is a dancer, singer, choreographer, director, and educator who teaches high-energy master classes throughout New England and New York. She is well known for her work spanning more than thirty years with children and communities as a touring artist and artist in residence. Performing as the Karen Amirault Dance Company and KIDZ, her groups have danced in every corner of the state, from Newfane to Derby Line.

Karen starred in Lyric Theatre’s productions of “42nd Street” and “Me and My Girl” and choreographed “Singin’ in the Rain,”  “Guys and Dolls,” “Hello Dolly,” and “The Full Monty” for the company. She holds a bachelor of arts degree from Middlebury College, teaches at Community College of Vermont, and choreographs and directs for the Very Merry Theatre, various elementary, middle, and high schools, the White River Valley Players, Lyric Theatre, and the Stowe Theater Guild.

Amirault photo: Todd Lockwood

Jon Gailmor

Jon Gailmor, Elmore, was born in New York State, raised in suburbs of Philadelphia, and sang his way through the University of Pennsylvania while majoring in sociology. He came to Vermont in 1977 and, within a short period of time, shifted his focus from performance in bars and restaurants to songwriting residencies in schools. Informed by decades of experience performing and working as an artist in residence at schools, he says the most fulfilling moments for him are the ones spent helping children discover themselves and what amazing musical composers and artists they are.

Jon has toured with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra and released six solo albums. He was honored as an Extraordinary Vermonter by the governor, received the Mayor’s Peace Prize in Burlington and has been awarded a Silver Citation from the Vermont Arts Council. He lives with his family in Elmore.

Geof Hewitt

Geof Hewitt, Calais, has offered residencies in schools since 1970. He once served as an Arts Council staff member and worked as a writing consultant for the Vermont Department of Education, retiring in 2009. Since then he has continued to write, publish poems, and perform his work. He is Vermont’s reigning poetry slam champion, and has published three books for teachers, including “Today You Are My Favorite Poet: Writing Poems with Teenagers” (Heinemann/Boynton Cook, 1998), and four collections of poetry, including “The Perfect Heart: Selected and New Poems” (Mayapple Press, 2010).

Geof is an active collaborator on many improvisation projects and has taught at the Vermont Governor’s Institute on the Arts as well as Champlain College’s and Middlebury’s Bread Loaf Young Writers Conferences. Two Council grants have supported Geof’s work and in 2010 he received the New England Reading Association Award of Merit.

Hewitt photo: Kurt Budliger

Verandah Porche

Verandah Porche, Guilford, has been based in rural Vermont since 1968. She pursues an alternative literary career, creating collaborative writing projects in nontraditional settings and designing innovative residencies for students and communities around New England. Verandah initiated—and for almost 30 years taught—the poetry program at Vermont’s Governor’s Institute on the Arts. Her work has been published in several collections and she often performs with the group Dysfunctional Family Jazz Band. She has read on NPR stations and in the Vermont State House. Verandah was featured in “Freedom and Unity: The Vermont Movie.”

The Vermont Arts Council presented her with its Award of Merit in 1998. Marlboro College awarded her an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in 2012. Her poetry is a part of “Shedding Light on the Working Forest,” a collaboration with visual artist Kathleen Kolb and installation artist Mark O’Maley that will be shown at several venues in Vermont beginning in October, 2015.

Margaret L. (Peggy) Kannenstine Award for Arts Advocacy

John Killacky

John Killacky, Burlington, has been the executive director of the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington since 2010. He previously worked for The San Francisco Foundation, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Walker Art Center, Pew Charitable Trusts, PepsiCo Summerfare, Trisha Brown Dance Company, and Laura Dean Dancers and Musicians.

John serves as a panelist, lecturer, and consultant for a broad range of arts and funding organizations. He is widely published and has written and directed several award-winning short films and videos. He is a regular commentator for Vermont Public Radio and VTDigger. He has been recognized for artistic vision, programming excellence, and exemplary service to the field of professional presenting.

During his time in Vermont, John has exercised thoughtful and decisive leadership in shaping the arts sector’s response to challenges presented by legislative changes to tax policy, especially in the areas of a tax on ticket sales to cultural events and, more significantly, the pending statewide cap on charitable deductions.

Killacky photo: Alison Redlick

Arthur Williams Award for Meritorious Service to the Arts


Gary Eckhart, Warren, serves as president of the Valley Arts Foundation. He has been a member of that board since shortly after moving to Vermont from western New York. Previously, he was head of the design/technical production program for the Department of Theatre at the State University College at Fredonia. In 2012 he created the Annual Green Mountain Watercolor Exhibition held in the Mad River Valley, bringing outstanding watercolors to Vermont from across the United States and Mexico.

Gary graduated with an MFA from Yale University’s School of Drama and has designed more than 200 productions for the stage including designs for Idaho Repertory Theatre, Buffalo’s Studio Arena Theatre, Kentucky Children’s Theatre, Baltimore Opera, Opera Delaware, and the National Opera of Costa Rica.

He is a signature member of three watercolor societies and his award-winning watercolors are seen annually in national exhibitions. His paintings are held in private and corporate collections in Europe and North and South America.