MAC Announces 2020 Governor’s Arts Awards Recipients

JACKSON, MISS. – October 31, 2019 – The Mississippi Arts Commission is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2020 Governor’s Arts Awards. Established in 1988, Governor’s Arts Awards are given to individuals and organizations to recognize outstanding work in the artistic disciplines as well as arts-based community development and arts patronage in Mississippi. The awards are presented in partnership with the Governor’s Office and signify the important relationship between government and the arts.

The 2020 recipients and awards are as follows:

Henry Danton – Lifetime Achievement in Dance

Steve Forbert – Excellence in Music

Jackson Southernaires – Lifetime Achievement in Music

Richard Kelso – Excellence in Visual Art

Tougaloo College Art Collections – Preservation of the Arts

The 2020 recipients will be recognized at the 32nd Governor’s Arts Awards ceremony at the Old Capitol Museum in downtown Jackson on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, at 6 p.m. A public reception at 4:30 p.m. will precede the ceremony.

“We are proud to honor this extraordinary group of recipients at the 32nd Governor’s Arts Awards,” said Malcolm White, executive director of the Mississippi Arts Commission. “These five recipients are leaders in their fields, and all have made lasting contributions to the arts in our state, adding to Mississippi’s enviable artistic legacy. We look forward to recognizing them in an artful and entertaining way on February 6, 2020.”

About the Recipients

Henry Danton is a 100 year-old world-renowned ballet dancer and teacher. Based in Petal, Miss., Danton continues to teach in South Mississippi as well as at Belhaven University. A native of England, he began his dance career at the age of 21 during the latter years of WWII, performing with international dance companies, including the founding Sadlers Wells Ballet which later became The Royal Ballet in England. Through teaching and dancing stints in South America, he founded the company that would become The Venezuelan National Ballet. He has taught at Carnegie Hall’s Ballet Arts, the Martha Graham Dance Company and Juilliard. During his 23-year residency in the state, Danton has taught and shared his extensive knowledge with hundreds of Mississippi students, making a profound impact on the state’s dance community.

Steve Forbert is an American troubadour, singer-songwriter, whose career in folk rock spans nearly four decades. The Meridian native officially began his career in New York City, performing on street corners and working his way up to high-profile gigs at Greenwich Village clubs, which earned him a major record label deal. Between 1978 and 1982, Forbert released four acclaimed albums, including Jackrabbit Slim with the #11 charting hit “Romeo’s Tune,” before moving to Nashville, where he continued to record and tour. His Any Old Time, a tribute to Jimmie Rodgers, received a Grammy nomination in 2003 for Best Traditional Folk Album. In 2006, Forbert was inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame. His 2018 memoir, Big City Cat: My Life In Folk-Rock, documents 60 years and focuses on his adventures in New York City during the punk rock and new wave explosion. Forbert’s 20th studio album will be released in 2020. He continues to tour internationally.  

The Jackson Southernaires are a nearly 80 year-old gospel group and the first group in Mississippi to employ keyboards, guitar, drums and bass instruments in gospel, establishing a practice that continues today. Formed in 1940, the group began recording in 1969, with the release of Too Late on Song Bird Records. The group has released 28 albums, 11 of which have charted on the Billboard Gospel Albums chart. The Gospel Music Workshop of America named the Jackson Southernaires its “Traditional Male Group of the Year” in 1987, 1988 and 1989. They won a Stellar Award in 1989 and were nominated for a Grammy in 1992 for Best Traditional Gospel Album for Thank You Mama for Praying for Me.

Richard Kelso is a Cleveland, Miss., native and well-known Mississippi painter whose work focuses on capturing the beauty, time and place of Mississippi’s land. Kelso is influenced by and studied under Sammy Britt at Delta State University and master colorist Henry Hensche at the Cape School of Art in Provincetown, Mass. A full-time artist for more than 30 years, Kelso’s work is found in corporate and private collections across the Southeast as well as the permanent collections of The Mississippi Museum of Art and the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art.

Tougaloo College Art Collections is a fine art collection on the campus of Tougaloo College in Jackson. The collection was started in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement when a group of activists, curators and critics formed the New York Art Committee for Tougaloo College. The committee envisioned the collection serving the teaching needs of Tougaloo College and the cultural needs of the broader community. Ronald Schnell, art professor and the first curator of the collection, is credited with acquiring the majority of its works while artist and scholar David Driskell championed its importance nationally. Today the collection has 1,500 works, including works on paper, sculpture, paintings, decorative arts and textiles.      

About the Governor’s Arts Awards

The Governor’s Arts Awards is an annual ceremony that recognizes individuals and organizations that have made noteworthy contributions to the arts in the state of Mississippi. 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 John Grisham, B.B. King, Thalia Mara, the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi and Malaco Records.

Award winners are nominated by members of the public and selected by a jury of community arts leaders and industry peers. Recipients are not required to be Mississippi residents, but they must have significant ties to the state through some years of residency.

Contributions from individuals and local companies help make the Governor’s Arts Awards a special occasion for those honored. If you or your company is interested in sponsoring February’s event, please contact

Contact:  Anna Ehrgott | Communications Director | | (601) 359-6546