MAC Announces Recipients Of 2017 Governor’s Arts Awards

Governor’s Arts Award Ceremony to be held February 16, 2017

Established in 1988, Governor’s Arts Awards are given to individuals and organizations for the excellence of their work in a wide variety of art forms including visual, literary, and performing arts, and community development through the arts in Mississippi.

The 2017 recipients will be recognized at the 29th Annual Governor’s Arts Awards ceremony at the Old Capitol Museum in downtown Jackson on Thursday, Feb. 16, at 6 p.m. A public reception at 4:30 p.m. will precede the awards.

“Because these six recipients have made a significant and lasting impact on our state’s arts culture, it is fitting to recognize them during Mississippi’s Bicentennial celebration,” said Malcolm White, Executive Director of MAC. “During this milestone year, Governor’s Arts Awards will return to the Old Capitol Museum. This beautiful public building hosted the inaugural awards in 1988 and represents the founding and history of our state.” Governor’s Arts Awards were held at the Old Capitol Museum until the building was damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Lifetime Achievement Award

William R. “Bill” Ferris

Bill Ferris is a scholar, author, documentary filmmaker, and the founding director of the nationally recognized Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, the first regional studies center in the country. Ferris grew up on a farm south of Vicksburg and developed an early love of storytelling, books, art, and music. In 1997, Ferris became Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities under President Bill Clinton. Since 2002, he has served as Joel Williamson Eminent Professor of History and Associate Director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina. He continues to be one of the country’s preeminent scholars on the American South.

Award for Excellence in Visual Art

Sammy Britt

A native of Ruleville and longtime resident of Cleveland, Sammy Britt is recognized as one of Mississippi’s leading art educators and painters. He taught painting and drawing at Delta State University for more than thirty-five years, known for his studies of natural light and color in the Delta landscape. Many of his students, including Richard Kelso, George Thurmond, and Gerald Deloach, have become acclaimed artists themselves. Now retired, Britt continues to teach painting workshops to experienced students as well as newcomers.

Arts Patron Award

Lucy Janoush

Lucy Janoush is President of the Cleveland Music Foundation, which brought the GRAMMY Museum Mississippi to Cleveland. For five years, Janoush gathered the people, built the vision and coordinated millions of dollars in contributions to establish the only GRAMMY Museum outside of Los Angeles. The 27,000 square-foot museum is housed at Delta State University and is dedicated to exploring the past, present and future of music while casting a spotlight on the deep musical roots of Mississippi. Janoush has a lifelong history of philanthropy and community service in the Mississippi Delta, including leadership roles with the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce, the Cleveland Junior Auxiliary and the Cleveland-Bolivar United Way.

Artistic Excellence Award

Mississippi Opera Association

The Mississippi Opera Association was founded in Jackson in 1945 and is the state’s only professional opera company. It is a founding member of Opera America and the ninth oldest continuing opera company in the United States. For 71 years, the Association has been committed to making opera accessible for everyone; it has conducted outreach to public schools since 1946 and offers free student matinees of main stage productions. Its contributions include bringing world-class singers and directors to Mississippi and nurturing the next generation of artists through the “Voices of Mississippi” competition, which identifies and encourages young singers from across the state. The Association’s many outstanding performances over the decades have included Pagliacci, Carmen, and Madama Butterfly.

Arts Ambassador Award

Vasti Jackson

Vasti Jackson is a world-renowned guitarist, vocalist, producer, and cultural ambassador for Mississippi. Growing up in McComb, Jackson began playing in churches and juke joints and has since has brought Mississippi’s musical heritage to several continents. He was named a Mississippi Living Blues Legend in 2011, was inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame in 2012, and was appointed a Mississippi Cultural Ambassador in 2014. Over his 40-year career, the Hattiesburg native has led programming in schools to introduce children to music, opened for B.B. King, and performed for the United Nations as a member of the Playing for Change band, a music collective whose mission is to create peace through music.

Award for Excellence in Music


Jaimoe, born in Ocean Springs and raised in Gulfport (Mississippi City), is a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, widely acknowledged as one of rock music’s most talented and influential groups. Jaimoe also plays drums and tours with groups including Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band and Les Brers. The Allman Brothers Band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, the same year the band received a GRAMMY for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for “Jessica.” Their iconic live album, At Fillmore East, was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2004, the Allman Brothers Band made Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time and in 2009 the Brothers were awarded the GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2015 Jaimoe was inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame, and the Mississippi Blues Trail placed a historic marker in North Gulfport, where he started his storied musical career.

About the Governor’s Arts Awards

Schools, businesses, organizations, arts initiatives, and events are eligible to receive Governor’s Arts Awards, in addition to individual artists and supporters of the arts. Notable past recipients include B.B. King, Eudora Welty, the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, and the USA International Ballet Competition.

Recipients do not have to reside in Mississippi, but they must have significant ties to the state through some years of residency. After the general public submits nominations, a group of industry peers review the submitted information and select the recipients.

Donor contributions help MAC make Governor’s Arts Awards a special occasion for those honored. If you are interested in sponsoring February’s event, please contact