BY SARAH SMITH
JACKSON, MISS. — Six Mississippi artists and arts patrons, including a folklorist whose work focuses on Southern culture, are receiving the Governor's Arts Awards.The 29th annual awards, presented by the Mississippi Arts Commission and the governor's office, honor members of the art community with deep ties to the state. This year's ceremony will be hosted at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson on Thursday evening.
William Ferris won the lifetime achievement award. Ferris served as founding director for the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi and went on to chair the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1997 through 2001. Ferris, raised on a farm outside Vicksburg, grew up listening to gospel music. He's now a professor at the University of North Carolina.
"No other state has produced the legacy of art that Mississippi has," Ferris said. "Some would say it's in the water, but I think really it's rooted in a powerful sense of place that has a kind of spiritual presence."
Sammy Britt, who will be honored for excellence in visual arts, taught at Delta State University for nearly 40 years. The Ruleville native was inspired to teach by an art teacher he had in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Blues musician Vasti Jackson was selected for the arts ambassador honor. Jackson just won a Grammy for his work with Bobby Rush and had another project nominated. His 44-year career includes a place in the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame, traveling the world as a cultural ambassador for the state and opening for a past Governor's Arts Awards winner: blues legend B.B. King.
Lucy Richard Janoush will be honored as an arts patron. Janoush serves as president of the Cleveland Music Foundation and helped bring the Grammy Museum Mississippi to Cleveland.
"Music history shows that Mississippi is the birthplace of all American music," Janoush said. "It all started with gospel and blues and from that, you get rock and roll. You name it, it all came from here."
The Mississippi Opera will be recognized for artistic excellence. Mississippi native Jaimoe Johnie Johanson, a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, will be honored for excellence in music.