The arts have a cohesive effect on the community, bringing together different races and creeds for a common goal, and on Thursday, the Greater Augusta Arts Council celebrated the arts and those who make it happen at its annual meeting at Enterprise Mill.
William S. Morris III, who accepted the President’s Award on behalf of the Morris Museum of Art, reminisced on the founding of both the arts council and the museum and how he’s seen the arts bring together different segments of the community.
“It’s really made a lot of difference in this community,” said Morris of the arts council.
Morris was part of a group of people who traveled to Louisville, Ky., 35 years ago to see how its arts council worked and to see if that would be something good for Augusta. That two-day journey led to the founding of the council.
“We had a lot of things going for us. We had Fort Gordon; we had the nuclear plants over in South Carolina. We had the good textile base, and some other good industries here, but the one thing we really needed was to bring the arts together in a way that allowed us to grow, to work together, to do a good job and to do a variety of different things. The performing arts, the static arts, all of that is very, very important,” he said.
The journey to the Morris Museum of Art was born out of Morris’ love for the arts. His mother had a degree in interior design and had lived in New York, and she appreciated beautiful decor in fabrics and in art.
Morris, publisher of The Augusta Chronicle and chairman of its parent company Morris Communications Co., also spoke about how the museum came to be and the luck he encountered along the way including meeting Dr. Robert P. Coggins, who had a substantial collection of Southern art. Morris purchased close to 300 pieces of artwork from the doctor about six months before Coggins’ death, but the executor of the estate donated another 1,000 pieces to the museum.
This collection gave the museum its focus.
“There was nobody really concentrating on the art of the South,” he said.
Arts council President Mary G. Jones also read a proclamation from Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis Jr. declaring June 22 Morris Museum of Art Day.
Also honored at the event was Leonard “Porkchop” Zimmerman as artist of the year. Zimmerman, an award-winning graphic designer for Wier/Stewart, is a painter and the creator of the Happy campaign, which has been part of a documentary called Happy: A Small Film With a Big Smile. The documentary has won several awards on the film-festival circuit.
Zimmerman said he was amazed that the happy little robot he’s created has left the nest and traveled all over the globe through the happy stickers he’s mailed and ones that others have taken to various places.
Trey Maxwell, the owner of Tracer Audio, was named the arts professional of the year. Without him, the technical aspects of producing any show in Augusta from performances at the Imperial Theatre to events such as Arts in the Heart of Augusta, wouldn’t happen, according to Kevin Grogan, executive director of the Morris Museum of Art, who presented the award.
Mary Frances Hendrix, who is the editor of the Applause section of The Chronicle was honored as the media professional. She implemented the Applaud the Artist Cover Design Contest, now in its sixth year, which welcomes professional and amateur artists to illustrate the arts in the community for the annual Arts Preview edition cover.
Sue Alexanderson was named the volunteer of the year. Alexanderson is one of the behind-the-scenes people who makes Symphony Orchestra Augusta events run smoothly. She has been in charge of the Friends of the Symphony and has worked with its children’s camps and musical petting zoos for many years. And she makes lots of baked goodies to keep the performers happy during the shows.
The arts council also honored Gold Mech because of its sponsorship to the arts and other community organizations in Augusta. Sandra Fenstermacher, executive director of Sacred Heart Cultural Center, said Gold Mech does a great job because it’s no small feat to keep Sacred Heart cool in the summer and warm in the winter. She noted that there are few arts events in the community where patrons will not see Gold Mech as a sponsor.
And in a surprise award, the arts council honored Brenda Durant on her 20th anniversary as executive director of the arts council.