Since 1985, outstanding members of the Augusta-area arts community have been recognized annually by the Greater Augusta Arts Council.
Originally the honors went to the media person of the year supporting local arts efforts, a deserving sponsor/corporate entity, which have ranged from St. Paul’s Church to the Porter Fleming Foundation, and also the president’s award saluting a group or individual.
Added to these were the arts volunteer of the year award in 1990, individual artist of the year award in 1992 and the professional artist of the year award in 2000.
This year, during the awards ceremony beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 16, at Enterprise Mill Events Center, 1450 Greene St., there will be another honor presented.
Flo Carter, already hailed by many respected area leaders as a “living legend” for her more than 70 years of performances throughout the eastern United States, will be presented a proclamation signed by Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis Jr. designating Friday, June 17, as “Flo Carter Day” in Augusta and Richmond County.
According to Kevin Grogan, the executive director of Morris Museum of Art and a fan of Carter’s, the day following the awards ceremony was selected to recognize Carter’s lifetime achievements “so that she could enjoy the whole day as hers – not just the four hours or so that would remain to her on the day of the awards ceremony itself.”
In October 1991, Carter and her family band The Sounds of Joy represented the Georgia tourism industry in performing to an estimated 1,000 people including more than 100 members of Congress under a giant tent set up on The Mall in Washington, D.C.
Sitting at a table down front of the stage was Carter’s own U.S. senator from South Carolina and longtime friend, Strom Thurmond.
The same week, she and her band performed for Georgia Day in New York City’s Central Park with Georgia Music Hall of Fame inductee pianist Freddy Cole, brother of Nat King Cole, opening for her.
When Carter last year filmed her music video This Train (Is Bound for Glory), R&B superstar Sharon Jones of the Dap Kings eagerly agreed to play the part of the train’s conductor.
Carter has been seen on local television stations, especially WJBF, since the early 1950s either with her own shows or as a regular performer on the Sunday Parade of Quartets program.
Along the way, she has performed for hundreds of arts festivals and fund raisers, sung duets with James Brown and Jim Nabors and Brenda Lee, appeared as a contestant on The Nashville Network’s You Can Be A Star program and has ended her concerts with the song Georgia.
Here are the others being honored this year:
• President’s Award: Steve Walpert. He recently retired as director of Fort Gordon Dinner Theatre and Entertainment Program. He has been cited as “a vital force not only in the Fort Gordon arts community for more than 40 years, but in the Augusta community as well.” Walpert is a past president of the Greater Augusta Arts Council’s board of directors and a co-founder of the annual Arts in the Heart of Augusta festival. His wife, Betty, is the drama instructor at John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School.
• Artist Award: Henry Wynn. The retired civilian Fort Gordon illustrator has played his guitar for more than 45 years as a solo artist and with such groups as the bluegrass-oriented Savannah River Strings and his current trio Doug & The Henrys featuring his fiddle/violin playing son, Henry Wynn III, and their friend Doug Johnson. His talent as a pen-and-ink artist is well known to Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival fans for his 2000 poster art and to widespread bluegrass music fans for his insightful portraits of Bill Monroe and Doc Watson. He created a pen-and-ink drawing of Imperial Theatre that was sold to raise funds for the theater’s capital campaign.
• Arts Professional Award: Patricia Meyers. The Augusta University professor who teaches voice, opera, music literature, history courses and humanities has been director of the GRU/Augusta University Opera Ensemble. She also has directed operatic and Broadway stage productions ranging from Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Old Maid and the Thief to Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! She also is a founding member of The Cecilia Ensemble, a regional vocal chamber group specializing in early and contemporary music. Le Chat Noir patrons know her from directing successful productions of Les Miserables and Sweeny Todd.
• Volunteer Award: Linda Scales. She is the founder and board president for Jessye Norman School of the Arts. Scales, an ordained deacon, moved to Augusta in 2000 with her husband, the Rev. Lou Scales, who became associate priest at St. Paul’s Church. She worked within the church to create a Head Start program and helped create a playground for handicapped children located on the Riverwalk beside St. Paul’s. She founded the Jessye Norman School for the Arts in 2003 with the goal to offer arts training in music, dance, drama, visual arts, creative writing and tutoring to middle school children in Augusta who could not afford these lessons.
• Sponsor Award: Beasley Media Group. Represented by local market manager and vice president Mark Haddon, the group frequently uses its seven radio stations on Bel Air Road near Interstate 20 to promote arts and music events in the greater Augusta area benefiting charities ranging from the WKXC-FM Guitar Pull to the Davidson Fine Arts School Alumni Association. The other local Beasley stations are News Talk WGAC-AM/FM or WHHD-FM, BOB FM, WDRR-FM, WCHZ-AM/FM; the southern gospel station WGUS-FM and WRDW-AM.
• Media Award: Drew Dawson. Although it only has been since August 2013 that Dawson became station manager of WACG-FM, the Georgia Public Broadcasting station located on the Augusta University campus, he has plunged into the tradition of the station supporting local arts efforts. His rich baritone voice can be heard not only on the local station but on all 18 stations in the GPB network. He has produced a ground-breaking concert series known as Jazz at the G and most recently pioneered a classical concert series through GPB-Augusta and the Augusta University department of music. He also has introduced radio production to the university curriculum by having students record “cut-ins” highlighting cultural activities throughout the community. He is a veteran of more than 30 years in radio including at stations in Boston, Mass., and Hartford, Conn.
GREAT MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR PAT FINCH: Thousands of local arts lovers benefited from Patricia (Pat) Thompson Finch even if they didn’t know her name.
Finch, who died at her North Augusta home May 23, just three days shy of her 70th birthday, among other things was executive director of the then-named Augusta Symphony, business manager of the Augusta Choral Society, the North Augusta Women’s Club Woman of the Year (1988), The Augusta Chronicle’s 25 Women Who Make a Difference (1993), the CSRA Girl Scouts Woman of Excellence (1993), Augusta Business magazine Woman of the Year (1995) and Greater Augusta Arts Council’s Arts Professional of the Year (1996).
North Augusta’s Nancy Carson Library honored her in 1989 with a commemorative brick for her volunteer work especially in the library’s construction.
There was a wonderful memorial service held at Augusta’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Resurrection on June 4.
Attendees were greeted by the beautiful sounds played by a string quartet composed of some of this area’s best known classical musicians: violinists Ryan Kho and Laura Tomlin, viola player Carl Purdy and cellist Ruth Berry.
It turned out, according to Don Finch, her husband, that Pat had put the exact foursome together after becoming the symphony’s executive director.
I first came to know Finch when I was editor of The Augusta Chronicle’s Applause section and got a call out of the blue from this woman who said she was the business manager of the Augusta Choral Society and wanted to meet with me and discuss how her group could get better publicity.
That, as most journalists will tell you, rarely happens. I admired her dedication to wanting her arts group to be better noticed. That led to an enduring friendship with Finch whose smile and personality literally lit up rooms.
Finch’s contributions to Augusta’s arts community were enormous, and she will be greatly missed.
CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF ED TURNER AND NUMBER 9: Tickets go on sale at 9 a.m. Thursday, June 9, (see a pattern here?) for Ed Turner and Number 9’s Rock and Soul Revue being presented by The Junior League of Augusta at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12, and Saturday, Aug. 13, at Imperial Theatre, 745 Broad St. Call the box office at (706) 722-8341, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, or order at imperialtheatre.com. The group has sold out the Imperial an amazing 19 times.