Thursday, February, 2, 2023
Image of Betsy Bradley, Ann Fisher-Wirth, Ed McGowin, Ralph Eubanks
"2023 Governor's Arts Awards Mississippi Arts Commission" in a circular graphic with the top half shaded in black and the bottom half shaded in blue and the word "ARTS in gold.
Images of King Edward Antoine, Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation Logo, Ke Francis

The Governor’s Arts Awards program signifies the important relationship between government and the arts. Established in 1988, the Governor’s Arts Awards recognize individuals and organizations who have made noteworthy contributions to or achieved artistic excellence in Mississippi. The awards are presented each year by the Mississippi Arts Commission in partnership with the Governor’s Office.

The 2023 Governor’s Arts Awards took place at 6 p.m. on Thursday, February 2, 2023, at the Two Mississippi Museums in Jackson, MS.

Watch the 2023 Governor’s Arts Awards on MPB Television:

Friday, February 10, at 7:30 p.m. | Sunday, February 12, at 4:30 p.m. | Thursday, February 16, at 2 p.m.

Listen to the ceremony during the Mississippi Arts Hour on MPB Think Radio, Sunday, February 19, at 5 p.m.


Ann Fisher-Wirth - Excellence in Literature & Poetry

Ann Fisher-Wirth is a poet, scholar, and environmental educator who has lived all over the world. She retired recently, after 33 years in the University of Mississippi’s English department, where she taught seminars and workshops in the MFA program in poetry and directed the Interdisciplinary Minor in Environmental Studies. Her seventh book of poems, Paradise Is Jagged, is forthcoming from Terrapin Books in 2023. Her sixth is The Bones of Winter Birds and her fifth, a poetry/photography collaboration with Maude Schuyler Clay, is entitled Mississippi. With Laura-Gray Street, Ann coedited the groundbreaking Ecopoetry Anthology. Ann is a senior fellow of the Black Earth Institute, and her award-winning work has been published widely. She has had numerous poetry residencies and received Fulbrights to Switzerland and Sweden. She has five children and six grandchildren. She lives with her husband, Peter Wirth, in Oxford.

Betsy Bradley - Leadership in Visual Arts & Community

Through decades of commitment to the arts in Mississippi, Betsy Bradley has created and nurtured effective programs, championed artists, strengthened institutions and demonstrated a passion for employing the arts to bring people together for inspiration, conversation, and community. She has done this by heading two of Mississippi’s primary arts institutions. From 1996 to 2001, Bradley served as executive director of the Mississippi Arts Commission, where she had already spent four years as its deputy director and community arts director. She oversaw the expansion of the Whole Schools program, obtaining national recognition for its effectiveness and gaining a $1 million leadership award for the program from the US Department of Education.  In addition, she convinced the legislature to create the Building Fund for the Arts. Bradley was appointed director of the Mississippi Museum of Art (MMA) in 2001.  During her tenure, she has overseen significant growth of the institution, shepherding two capital campaigns that resulted in a move to a completely renovated facility, and the creation of The Art Garden, the first new public green space in downtown Jackson since the 1970s.  Through her leadership, MMA has received prestigious federal and national foundation grant awards and recognition. Betsy Bradley is a graduate of Vanderbilt University with a master’s degree in English, and of Millsaps College with a bachelor’s degree in English. She is a native of Greenville, Mississippi and resides in Jackson.

Ed McGowin - Lifetime Achievement

Ed McGowin is an internationally recognized multi-media artist who has participated in more than ninety one-person exhibits and four hundred group exhibits across six continents. In 1969, he had his name changed legally twelve times in the Washington, DC court system, and he continues to make art for these 12 personas. His work is in the permanent collection of the Mississippi Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, among many others.  McGowin has created more than twenty public commissions, with his most recent being a commission by the Palm Beach, FL symphony to create ten paintings to be projected during the presentation of “The Shoe Bird,” a composition by Mississippi composer Samuel Jones, based on a book by Eudora Welty. McGowin, from Hattiesburg, is a Professor Emeritus at the State University of NY. He lives and works in New York City and Miami, Florida.

Ke Francis - Excellence in Visual Arts

Ke Francis is a narrative artist that has been actively producing artwork for more than fifty years. His book works, paintings, prints, photographs and sculptures are in numerous public and private collections, including the Vanderbilt Special Collections, The Getty Museum, The National Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, the High Museum, New Orleans Museum of Fine Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Yale / Sterling Memorial Library, Van-Pelt Dietrich Collection, The Rose Museum, The Montgomery Museum of Art, The Mississippi Museum of Art, and The Polaroid Collection, among many others. He is Faculty Emeritus at the University of Central Florida, where he served as Professor of Sculpture, Chair of the Art Department, and Dean of Research in the College of Arts and Humanities. He currently maintains an active studio practice in Tupelo, Mississippi where he and his wife, Mary, own HOOPSNAKE PRESS.

King Edward Antoine – Excellence in Music

King Edward, age 85, has been playing for over 67 years.  To make a living with his music, he learned several genres of music including Zydeco, Jazz, Country, Rock, R&B, and Blues. His talent has been influenced by the legends he played alongside, including Clifton Chenier, Magic Slim, Sam Myers, Hound Dog Taylor, Junior Wells, Tyrone Davis, Buddy Guy, Otis Clay, McKinley Mitchell, and many more.  After 15 years in Chicago, he became a ten-year staple at the Legendary Subway Lounge in Jackson, then played for over eleven years at Blue Monday, produced by the Central Mississippi Blues Society. King’s esteem is evident in the articles written about him in national and international publications, and by Robert Mugge featuring him in the historical documentary The Last of the Mississippi Jukes. He has performed at countless local and national festivals/venues and is honored on three blues trail markers on the Mississippi Blues Trail. He was presented a 2010 Peavey Award for his contribution to Mississippi Music.

Ralph Eubanks - Excellence in Literature & Cultural Ambassador

W. Ralph Eubanks is faculty fellow and writer-in-residence at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. He is the author of A Place Like Mississippi: A Journey Through A Real and Imagined Literary Landscape as well as two other works of nonfiction, Ever Is a Long Time and The House at the End of the Road. A writer and essayist whose work focuses on race, identity, and the American South, his writings have appeared in Vanity Fair, The American Scholar, The Georgia Review, and The New Yorker. He is a 2007 Guggenheim fellow and a 2021-2022 Harvard Radcliffe Institute fellow.

Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation – The Stephen C. Edds Patron of the Arts Award

In 1965, Mr. Robert M. Hearin and his wife, Annie Laurie Swaim Hearin, formed the Robert M. Hearin Foundation.  In 1995, the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation was established. The principal goal of both Foundations is to contribute to the overall economic advancement of the State of Mississippi by making funds available to four-year colleges and universities and graduate professional schools, along with three named arts organizations within the State. Through the Annie Laurie Swaim Hearin Memorial Exhibition Series, the Foundations have supported numerous exhibits at the Mississippi Museum of Art, including Paris Moderne (2004), Old Masters to Monet: French Paintings from the Wadsworth Atheneum (2013), Van Gogh, Monet, and Degas: the Mellon Collection of French Art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (2020), and most recently, A Movement in Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration (2022).  Although Mr. Hearin passed away in 1990, his commitment to the State—and to seeing the arts flourish—continues through his namesake Foundations.


MAC depends on the support and generosity of private donors to celebrate Mississippi’s greatest talents.

Sponsorship information for the 2024 Governor’s Arts Awards will be available at a later date. For questions, contact 601-359-6030.


Each year, members of the public are invited to nominate outstanding individuals and organizations to receive a Governor’s Arts Award.

Nominations will open in April. Check back for more information.

Who is eligible?
Artists or organizations that have made significant contributions to the arts will be considered to receive this award. Nominated artists do not have to reside in the state currently but must have significant ties to the state through some years of residency. Awards are given once; previous recipients are ineligible. Also, no posthumous nominations will be accepted. If selected, the nominee must agree to receive the award at the ceremony to be held in February 2024 in Jackson, Mississippi.

Nomination and Selection Process
Details for when nominations will open and close will be provided at a later date. The public is encouraged to submit nominations for the Governor’s Arts Awards once the nominations are open. Once the nominations are submitted, a panel of judges, many of whom possess a deep knowledge of Mississippi’s visual and performing arts, select several of those nominated to receive a Governor’s Arts Award. 


Download a complete listing of previous Governor’s Arts Award recipients by name (Excel spreadsheet)


  • Dr. Ann Fisher-Wirth – Excellence in Literature & Poetry
  • Betsy Bradley – Leadership in Visual Arts & Community
  • Ed McGowin – Lifetime Achievement
  • Ke Francis – Excellence in Visual Arts
  • King Edward Antoine – Excellence in Music
  • Ralph Eubanks – Excellence in Literature & Cultural Ambassador
  • Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation – The Stephen C. Edds Patron of the Arts Award


  • Alcorn State University Jazz Festival – Arts in Community
  • Myrna Colley-Lee – Excellence in Costume Design & Arts Patron
  • Larry Gordon – Lifetime Achievement in Motion Pictures & Television
  • Holly Lange – Governor’s Choice Award
  • Mary Lovelace O’Neal – Excellence in Visual Art
  • The Williams Brothers – Lifetime Achievement in Music


  • Arthur Jafa – Excellence in Media Arts
  • Nellie McInnis – Excellence in Music
  • Raphael Semmes – Cultural Ambassador
  • Tutwiler Quilters – Arts in Community
  • Jesmyn Ward – Excellence in Literature
  • Benjamin Wright – Lifetime Achievement


  • 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


  • London Branch – Excellence in Music and Education
  • The Canton Spirituals – Lifetime Achievement
  • Ruth Miller – Excellence in Visual Arts
  • New Stage Theatre – Excellence in Theatre
  • Hartley and Mary Peavey – Governor’s Choice Award
  • James Patterson – Excellence in Photography and Community Support
  • Julia Reed – Cultural Ambassador


  • Steve Azar – Governor’s Choice Award
  •  David Keary – Leadership in Performing Arts
  •  Joe Overstreet – Excellence in Visual Art
  •  V. A. Patterson – Community Arts Leader
  •  Yoknapatawpha Arts Council – Arts in Community


  • William R. Ferris – Lifetime Achievement
  • Sammy Britt – Excellence in Visual Art
  • Vasti Jackson – Arts Ambassador
  • Lucy Richardson Janoush – Arts Patron
  • Jaimoe Johnie Johnson – Excellence in Music
  • Mississippi Opera – Artistic Excellence


  • Tom ‘Bones’ Malone
  • Scott Barretta
  • Claudia Cartee
  • Tig Notaro
  • Dr. Tommie ‘Tonea’ Stewart


  • Lane Chapel Quintet
  • Chesney Blankenstein Doyle
  • Maude Schuyler Clay
  • MSU Riley Center
  • Craig Wiseman


  • Lesley Silver
  • John Maxwell
  • William Baggett
  • Jim Weatherly
  • James Cotton


  • Kathryn Lewis
  • Bay St. Louis Little Theatre
  • Beth Henley
  • Eddie “Chank” Willis
  • Bobby Rush


  • Althea Jerome
  • Howard Bahr
  • WellsFest
  • Carl Jackson
  • McCarty Pottery
  • Mose Allison


  • Charles A. Rhoads
  • Natchez Literary & Cinema Celebration
  • Gwendolyn Magee
  • Mac McAnally
  • Joe Willie “Pinetop” Perkins


  • Lenagene Waldrup
  • Bessie Johnson
  • Grassroots Radio Show
  • Wyatt Waters
  • David “Honeyboy” Edwards


  • University of Southern Mississippi Symphony Orchestra
  • WINGS Performing Arts Program of the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center
  • Wolfe Studio
  • Cassandra Wilson
  • John Grisham
  • Andrew Bucci


  • Mississippi Museum of Art
  • Emma McCain
  • Lallah Miles Perry
  • Natasha Trethewey
  • Charley Pride


  • Nora Davis Magnet School
  • Viking Range Corporation
  • Sam Gilliam
  • Sam Carr
  • Bo Diddley


  • Sam Myers
  • Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi
  • Bruce Levingston
  • Fletcher Cox
  • Casey Elementary School
  • Trustmark National Bank
  • Elizabeth Spencer


  • Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science
  • Pearl Public School District
  • Thacker Mountain Radio
  • Gladys Kemp Lisanby
  • Sela Ward
  • Will D. Campbell


  • Greenville Arts Council
  • James “Super Chikan” Johnson
  • Rankin County School District
  • Malcolm White
  • Mary Katherine Loyacono McCravey


  • Dr. David Stuart Blackburn
  • Thallis Lewis
  • Charles Burnett
  • Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education
  • USA International Ballet Competition
  • William Eggleston
  • Rust College A’Cappella Choir
  • Little Milton (Campbell)


  • B.B. King
  • John Paul
  • Bologna Performing Arts Center
  • Sally W. Carmichael
  • The Village of Taylor
  • Andrew Cary Young
  • William Carey College Theatre
  • Dr. Russell Thomas, Jr.
  • Stephen E. Ambrose


  • Abie “Boogaloo” Ames
  • George Berry
  • Roger D. Malkin
  • Samuel Mockbee
  • Pierce Street Elementary School
  • Ronald Otto Schnell
  • Lester Senter
  • Martha Layton Richardson Tatum


  • Larry Brown
  • Senator Thad Cochran
  • Crossroads Quilters
  • Sarah Gillespie
  • Hattiesburg Arts Council
  • Andrew Lark, Jr.
  • Charlie Musselwhite
  • John Palmer
  • Stewart Family Pottery


  • Johnnie Billington
  • Ellen Douglas (Josephine Haxton)
  • P. Sanders McNeal
  • Mississippi State Hospital—Community Services Homeless Program
  • Museum of Southern Jewish Experience
  • Colman Pearce
  • Kenneth Quinn
  • Roebuck “Pops” Staples
  • Marty Stuart


  • Beechwood Elementary School
  • Vicksburg Warren School District—For Project ABC (Arts in the Basic Curriculum)
  • The Cotton Blossom Singers of the Piney Woods School
  • Dr. David Daigeneault
  • Eastman Memorial Foundation for support of the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art
  • Milt Hinton
  • Natchez Opera Festival, Inc.


  • Dr. Paul E. Ballard
  • Marshall Bouldin
  • Dr. Samuel Marshall Gore
  • International Paper
  • The Knight Foundation through The Sun Herald
  • The City of Biloxi
  • The George E. Ohr Arts and Cultural Center
  • The Library of Hattiesburg, Petal and Forrest County
  • Malaco Records
  • Dr. Jean Simmons


  • Entergy/MP&L Company
  • Morgan Freeman
  • Sid Graves
  • Lisa N. Howorth
  • Dorothy Moore
  • Dan Overly
  • University Press of Mississippi
  • Theo Inman Vaughey


  • Thomas Jones Biggs
  • Shelby Foote
  • Gum Tree Festival
  • Bill Mitchell
  • William D. Mounger
  • New Stage Theatre Education Program
  • Lida Rogers
  • Billie Jean Young


  • Robert Parker Adams
  • B & P Interiors, Hinds County Public Schools, and Hinds County Department of Human Services
  • Nelle DeLoach Elam
  • Keith Dockery McLean
  • Mississippi Action for Community Education/Delta Arts Project
  • Willie Morris
  • Jim Timms


  • Patti Carr Black
  • Vicki Bodenhamer
  • Eleanor Ferris
  • Richard Ford
  • Thomas Somerville Howorth
  • Mississippi Educational Television Network, Mtel, USA International Ballet Competition
  • Othar Turner


  • Dr. Margaret Walker Alexander
  • Walter Anderson Museum of Art, City of Ocean Springs, and Jackson County Board of Supervisors
  • Crosby Arboretum
  • Jane Reid-Petty
  • South Central Bell
  • West Tallahatchie High School
  • Mary Jayne Whittington


  • Center for the Study of Southern Culture
  • Chevron USA
  • Corinth Area Arts Council
  • William Dunlap
  • Jackson Public Schools and Mississippi Symphony Orchestra
  • Ethel Wright Mohamed
  • Malcolm C. Norwood


  • Stuart C. Irby, Jr.
  • Thalia Mara
  • Mississippi Cultural Crossroads and Claiborne County Board of Supervisors
  • Mississippi Mass Choir
  • Noxubee County Library
  • Starkville High School
  • Eudora Welty


No award ceremony took place this year.


  • The Arts Alliance of Jackson & Hinds County
  • Deposit Guaranty National Bank
  • Barry Hannah
  • City of Jackson
  • Jackson Public Schools/Academic and Performing Arts Complex Performing Arts Division
  • Jean Chisolm Lindsey
  • Leontyne Price