The Mississippi Arts Commission Announces 2023 Governor’s Arts Awards Recipients

JACKSON, MS – The Mississippi Arts Commission is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2023 Governor’s Arts Awards. Now in its 35th year, Governor’s Arts Awards are given to individuals and organizations to recognize outstanding work in the artistic disciplines, arts-based community development, and/or arts patronage in Mississippi. The awards, which underscore the important relationship between government and the arts, will be presented in partnership with the Office of Governor Tate Reeves.

The 2023 recipients and awards are as follows:

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

The 2023 recipients will be recognized at the 35th Governor’s Arts Awards ceremony at the Two Mississippi Museums in downtown Jackson on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, at 6 p.m. A public reception at 4:30 p.m. will precede the ceremony.

“We are very excited to honor this excellent group of artists from our state,” said Marie Sanderson, board chair of Mississippi Arts Commission. “These recipients have made lasting impacts in their fields and Mississippi. We look forward to honoring them at the Two Mississippi Museums in February.”

About the Recipients

Ann Fisher-Wirth – 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 – 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 graduated from Vanderbilt University with a master’s degree in English, and Millsaps College with a bachelor’s degree in English. She is a native of Greenville, Mississippi, and resides in Jackson.

Ed McGowin – 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 – 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 – 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 – W. Ralph Eubanks is a 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 – 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.

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 recipients 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.

The Stephen C. Edds Patron of the Arts Award

To honor the memory of its late chair, MAC will this year inaugurate the first Stephen C. Edds Patron of the Arts Award.  Throughout his life, Steve was a staunch supporter of the arts, having served on the boards of the Southern Arts Federation, the Arts Alliance of Jackson and Hinds County, the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters, and the Mississippi Museum of Art.  He was first appointed to the Mississippi Arts Commission by Governor William Winter in 1983 and first served as Chair from 1985 to 1988. In 2014, Governor Phil Bryant reappointed Steve to the Commission, where he worked tirelessly to strengthen the agency’s ability to nurture the arts in all parts of Mississippi.

Contributions from individuals and 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, or visit


The Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC) is a state agency serving more than two million people through grants and special initiatives that enhance communities, assist artists and arts organizations, promote arts education and celebrate Mississippi’s cultural heritage. MAC is funded by the Mississippi Legislature, the National Endowment for the Arts, and other private sources. For more information, visit