Vermont Arts Awards 2019

Vermont Arts Awards 2019

September 5, 2019

The Vermont Arts Council, in association with the Governor’s office, recognizes outstanding individual and organizational contributions to the arts each year. Awards are given to educators, artists, performers, advocates, administrators, volunteers, and scholars. The Council will be celebrating the contributions of five Vermonters this year during an event held at 7 p.m. (reception at 5:30), Wednesday, October 23, at the Mahaney Arts Center at Middlebury College. Admission is free, but we do ask that you reserve your seats.

RSVP here.

Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts

François Clemmons, Middlebury

Well-known for his twenty-five-year career as Officer Clemmons on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, François 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, François was the Alexander Twilight Artist in Residence and director of the Martin Luther King Spiritual Choir at Middlebury College. François 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.

Read more about the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.

Walter Cerf Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts

Castle Freeman, Newfane

Castle 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 forty-seven years later. He is the author of seven novels, about eighty short stories, two story collections, and more than one hundred essays as well as historical articles, op-ed matter, journalism, nature writing, and other nonfiction. Most of his writing brings to life the rural nature of our state and its people. Castle’s most recently published novel is The Devil in the Valley (Overlook Press, NY, 2016).

Read more about the Walter Cerf Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts.

Ellen McCulloch-Lovell Award in Arts Education

Joan Robinson, Burlington

Joan has worked as a teacher, storyteller, actor, cartoonist, librarian, playwright, and—for more than twenty 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. Joan continues working happily as a Flynn teaching artist.

Read more about the Ellen McCulloch-Lovell Award in Arts Education.

Margaret L. (Peggy) Kannenstine Award for Arts Advocacy

James Lockridge, Burlington

James has directed Big Heavy World—Vermont’s Burlington-based, independent, volunteer-staffed music office—for more than twenty 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, James 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.

Read more about the Margaret L. (Peggy) Kannenstine Award for Arts Advocacy.

Arthur Williams Award for Meritorious Service to the Arts

Douglas Anderson, Middlebury

Douglas 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 the McCardell Citizenship Award by Middlebury College. Douglas also created the Opera Company of Middlebury, now in its sixteenth season.

Read more about the Arthur Williams Award for Meritorious Service to the Arts.

—Castle Freeman photo by Jane Lindholm; Douglas Anderson by James Blair.
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Tags: Castle Freeman, Douglas Anderson, Francois Clemmons, James Lockridge, Joan Robinson, Vermont Artists


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Walter Deverell Jr. says:

Congratulations Doug:
I can not think of anyone more deserving of this award. From just an idea to a completed project, it took more than 10 years, a multitude of volunteers, and thousands of donors to turn Town Hall Theater from just an idea to a completed gem in the heart of Middlebury. The initial dreamer and leader of this project was Doug Anderson. The motto for THT in the beginning could have been..."Never imagine that the unimaginable cannot become real."

The story of the decision to buy the THT building is the stuff of legends. Doug will have to tell the story.

Again...congratulations! And may THT continue to bring a joie de vivre to many many generations still to come.

Sally D Curtis says:

Only one woman?? Some of these award winner have already won many other awards, perhaps we could focus on up and coming celebrities who need the recognition.

Susan McDowell says:


Thanks for the input. Nominations are always welcome at Criteria for the awards can be found beginning on this page: