Vermont Arts Council

2023 Governor’s Arts Awards Recipients

Leslie Fry with sunglasses in hair spilling over her shoulders.Leslie Fry, Winooski

Born in Montréal and raised in Stowe, Leslie Fry has long been making and showcasing her art at her home in Winooski where she has turned her secluded yard into a semi-public sculpture garden melding flora and fauna with concrete and bronze castings. Over the course of a 46-year career, through mediums from intimate drawings to public sculptures to street performances, Fry’s art explores representations of the female body throughout history and makes connections between the natural world and constructed realities.

Fry aspires to make sculpture that is accessible to all, and her public sculptures have been commissioned in New York, South Korea, Montreal, Florida, Wisconsin, and Vermont. Public collections include Tufts University, Songchu International Sculpture Park, Freehand New York, Kohler Arts Center, Tampa Museum of Art, Fleming Museum of Art, Musée d’art de Joliette, and St. Petersburg, Florida’s Museum of Fine Arts. Of her public art commissions in the Burlington area, the best known is the circle of concrete sphinxes in Pomerleau Park on Shelburne Road. In addition, Fry has won numerous residencies and fellowships in the US, Europe, and South Korea. Fry was a Vermont Arts Council Creation Grantee in FY23.

Artist website

2023 Walter Cerf Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts

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. It may be awarded to artists of renown or to those in a closely related field, such as philanthropy, administration, production, education, advocacy, or mentoring. Read more about the Walter Cerf Medal.

Orly Yadin behind a microphone she holds in one hand.Orly Yadin, Burlington

Orly Yadin is an award-winning filmmaker and producer of documentaries and animation films and since 2012 was executive director of the Vermont International Film Festival (VTIFF) until stepping down in June 2023 to pursue other projects. Under her leadership, VTIFF has grown to include year-round programming, monthly screenings, and three film festivals. In 2021, Yadin initiated VTIFF’s launch of the Made Here Film Festival, the only film festival dedicated exclusively to films and filmmakers from Northern New England and Quebec. In 2013, Yadin began VTIFF’s Global Roots Film Festival, a four-day event with speakers and educational activities focusing on bringing great films from the countries of many of the New American communities in Vermont. In service of Vermont’s film culture, Yadin with support from archivists, film historians, and filmmakers created Vermont Archive Movie Project whose mission is to locate, digitize, catalog, and exhibit Vermont films. Yadin has led collaborations with media and film organizations around the state, including the Brattleboro Film Festival, WRIF, the Savoy Theater, and the Green Mountain Film Festival in Montpelier.

VTIFF website

Anchor2023 Ellen McCulloch-Lovell Award in Arts Education

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. Read more about the Ellen McCulloch-Lovell Award.

Sidiki Sylla in bright costume dancing with other dancers and drums in background.Sidiki Sylla, Burlington

Sidiki Sylla is a master dancer and choreographer and the artistic director of Jeh Kulu Dance and Drum Theater, which invites the greater Vermont community to join together in celebration through traditional West African music and dance. Originally from Guinea, Sylla has been a resident of Vermont since 1997. Before arriving in Vermont, Sylla was a member of the premier dance troupe of Guinea, the Djoliba National Ballet. Jeh Kulu performers studied with Sylla in Guinea and were able to bring him on an artist visa to Burlington where he has since settled. For 25 years, Sylla and the Jeh Kulu team have held performances, taught weekly dance and drum classes, conducted artist residencies and workshops for schools and other organizations throughout Vermont, and have hosted the annual Jeh Kulu Dance and Drum Festival. Sylla teaches the complex West African dances with much creativity, doing variations and choreography, singing, and drumming. Jeh Kulu’s educational programs have been a memorable learning experience for students of all ages and have enriched the lives of all who have participated in them.

Artist website

2023 Margaret L. (Peggy) Kannenstine Award for Arts Advocacy

The Margaret L. (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. Read more about the Peggy Kannenstine Award.

Photo: Matt Thorsen

Eva Sollberger, Burlington

Eva Sollberger is the senior multimedia producer at Seven Days, who for 16 years, has been creating the award-winning “Stuck in Vermont” series, which focuses heavily on Vermont arts and culture. In each of her almost 700 episodes, Sollberger interviews an individual or group of people on camera, then spends 30-40 laborious hours editing her footage into a cohesive, entertaining, and often touching video. Most of the time, she does this work entirely alone. On more than one occasion, the series has earned first place in multiple video categories at the annual New England Newspaper and Press Association awards. Sollberger has an eye for compelling visuals and an incisive knack for storytelling. Her technical and professional skills are matched by an outgoing personality and infectious enthusiasm. “Stuck in Vermont” is a celebration of something quirky and uniquely Vermont-y. Sollberger relishes collaborating with artists and sharing their work with a wider audience. Artists like Alison Bechdel, Matthew Thorsen and Stephen Huneck, have all been “Stuck in Vermont.” She puts a lot of time and love into every video and is grateful to be part of this vibrant artistic community.

 Stuck in Vermont

Anchor2023 Arthur Williams Award for Meritorious Service to the Arts

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. Read more about the Arthur Williams Award.

Matthew Perry from the shoulders up in a news cap and checkered shirt.
Photo: Andrew Walker

Matthew Perry, North Bennington

Matthew Perry is the co-founder and executive director of the Vermont Arts Exchange (VAE) in North Bennington, whose mission since its founding in 1994 is to engage communities and neighborhoods through the arts by bringing art education, exhibition, and performance opportunities to people of all ages, abilities, and income. VAE has a strong community presence through its Art Bus, which travels throughout Vermont and in towns at various pop ups and processions organized by Perry. A working artist, Perry has taken part in numerous school and community art residences throughout the Northeast and in England working with youth-at-risk, older adults, local schools, veterans, and the general community. Perry also oversees teaching artists in a variety of community and school settings, including Head Start programs. He has facilitated several mentoring and training programs for artists and presented at many conferences on community arts and integrating arts into health care settings. With his art and programming throughout the Bennington area and the state over many years, Perry is a master at community engagement, partnering, and in reaching underserved and underrepresented populations.

VAE website

Read the press release.

Desmond Peeples August 17, 2023