Each year the Arts Council recognizes outstanding individual and organizational contributions to the arts in Vermont. In 2020, we were unable to present the Vermont Arts Awards in person. We are delighted to introduce our five awardees through these brief videos, which will give you a glimpse of their work and their creative visions.
This award is the most distinguished recognition bestowed by the State of Vermont. Accordingly, it is reserved for Vermont artists who have had a profound impact on their field within the state of Vermont and beyond. The Governor selects the recipient from a list of nominations compiled from across the state and vetted by the Arts Council.
John Fusco, Morristown
Fusco is an award-winning screenwriter, film producer, novelist, singer-songwriter, and musician, with more than 15 major movies and television shows to his credit. Fusco “possesses an impressively diverse talent as a musician, writer and filmmaker,” said one review panelist.
The Walter Cerf Medal is presented to individuals who have made a sustained contribution to the arts and had an impact on Vermont's cultural life.
Hannah Dennison, Chelsea
Dennison is the founding director of the nonprofit Cradle to Grave Arts, which has been developing community-focused dance works for Vermont stages and specific sites for nearly 40 years. “There’s a tremendous sense of caring and unity in her projects, a great integrity and thought in her work—for the space and place and for the hundreds of dancers and non-dancers involved in her productions. She has had a profound impact on artists in Vermont,” said one review panelist.
The Ellen McCulloch-Lovell Award in Arts Education is presented to individuals who have made a sustained contribution to learning in and through the arts and/or had a positive impact on the quality of education in Vermont.
Ray Vega, South Burlington
Ray Vega is a three-time Grammy award winning jazz musician and a senior lecturer at the University of Vermont in jazz history and trumpet. Vega “is a well-respected musician who is frequently invited to perform in concerts with visiting musicians and who is generous with his time in encouraging folks to love jazz. His educational reach is massive and not limited to typical schoolroom formats,” said one review panelist.
The Peggy Kannenstine Award for Arts Advocacy is presented to an individual who has an established and well-deserved reputation in Vermont as an advocate for the arts and their impact on Vermont.
Jody Fried, Kirby
The executive director of Catamount Arts since 2008, Fried has worked to integrate the arts for people of all ages and socio-economic levels in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom communities and has also advocated for the creative sector at the state level providing testimony at the State Legislature. Fried “embodies this award. He is a giant in the state and in the field, and has truly changed the conversation about the creative economy in a real way,” said one review panelist.
Selected by the staff of the Vermont Arts Council, this award is given to a person or organization for meritorious service to the arts in Vermont.
Shanta Lee Gander, Brattleboro
Gander is a multidisciplinary artist who transformed a challenging childhood into a creative career as a photographer, poet, investigative journalist, public intellectual, and writer who leverages her voice on a range of topics. “As former Brattleboro select board member and past president of the Arts Council of Windham County, among many other endeavors, Gander typifies the selfless devotion to public service and artistic excellence that this award recognizes,” said one staff member.