Speaker: Jeanne Gleason, vice chair of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts; front row: Robert Qualters, Myron Hay Tomb, Jennifer Higdon, Governor Tom Corbett, First Lady Susan Corbett; back row: Eric Shiner, Michele Fabrizi, Mark Pasquerilla. See more photos.
“When a song, painting, play, or poem touches your heart, you’re the most important part of an artist’s work—you’re the recipient of the gift of art,” First Lady Susan Corbett said at the 31st Pennsylvania Governor’s Awards for the Arts at Fisher Auditorium, IUP Performing Arts Center, on Sunday, September 28.
Art as a transformational force, from cave-painting days to the digital era, and the urgent need to sustain it were prevailing themes as Governor Tom Corbett, the First Lady, and Jeanne Gleason, vice chair of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA), recognized the 2014 recipients of the state’s highest arts honors.
The event was the work of a partnership led by Hank Knerr, director of IUP Lively Arts, that included the Jimmy Stewart Museum--Jimmy Stewart was the first ever Pennsylvania Governor's Arts Award recipient, in 1980; the Indiana County Tourist Bureau; the Indiana Arts Council; the Artists Hand Gallery; and other area organizations.
About 10 musical groups from IUP and the Indiana area performed, downtown cultural venues and campus museums welcomed visitors, and works by the most accomplished k-12 art students in the Indiana area were shown in a special exhibit. Best in Show went to Kelsey Cunningham, Indiana Area Senior High School, for her painting "Family Tree."
“What a great day for Indiana,” said Tomb, an Indiana native and IUP alumnus who received the Arts Leadership and Service Award. “It would’ve never happened were it not for the immediate “yes” from IUP president Michael Driscoll when he was asked over a year ago about hosting the event. Driscoll emphasized that IUP's long history of excellence in the arts makes it particularly well suited as a host location.
Tomb is founder of the PCA's nationally recognized Arts in Education network, which every year provides thousands of Pennsylvania’s k-12 students hands-on art learning experiences through artist residencies in their schools.
“Anyone who knows me knows I believe in the power of art,” said Tomb, “Teaching the idea that you can create something is powerful,” he said, emphasizing that this applies in all areas of learning.
“I’ll use every ounce of my energy to keep fighting for arts education in schools,” Tomb said.
India Scott, a student at Blacklick Valley High School, spoke movingly of the impact the PCA artist in residency program has had on her life.
“When I started in the arts program, the first thing I tried was the clay wheel, and the clay was flying everywhere," said Scott, who is blind.
"It seemed like a mess," she recalled with humor. “But I learned how to make something of it. It seems like a metaphor for life.” Through the arts program, she said, "I’ve learned to make my disability a capability.”
Qualters, in accepting the Artist of the Year Award, noted the many colleges he's taught at, including IUP in the 1970s, and said he was the first PCA artist in residence at the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts High School.
Qualters has had a banner year, with a new book, Autobiographical Mythologies by Vicky Clark; a retrospective at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, and a documentary film, Bob Qualters: The Artist in Action. The Governor's Arts Award "is the capstone,” he said.
“If I hadn't been in Pennsylvania, I wouldn’t have had the career I have,” said composer Jennifer Higdon in accepting the Distinguished Arts Award. The Philadelphia resident cited four turning points.
These include a grant from the PCA; a Pew Fellowship that gave her the “time to study writing long-form music”; a commission by Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music that allowed her to write blue cathedral—now the most performed contemporary work in America; and the Philadelphia Orchestra’s “taking a chance on a young composer” in 2002 by commissioning her Concerto for Orchestra for the League of American Orchestras. This “changed my life overnight,” said the Grammy- and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer.
In accepting the Arts Innovation Award for the Andy Warhol Museum, Eric Shiner, museum director, and Michele Fabrizi, chair of the museum board, emphasized Warhol’s energy and vision for new art forms, including pioneering computer art in the ‘80s on an Amiga.
“Art organizations must stay relevant and engaging if they’re to compete successfully with the many other entertainment options,” stressed Fabrizi.
In celebration of winning the Governor's Arts Award, they announced a free month of downloads of the Warhol DIY POP app, inviting everyone to “Warholize your photos.”
Great perspective was provided by Johnstown native Mark Pasquerilla, who received the Arts Patron Award for his support for many cultural organizations in western Pennsylvania, includng the Johnstown Area Heritage Association, the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, the Pittsburgh Opera, Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, and others.
He spoke about the 32,000-year-old cave paintings of Chauvet, France. Despite the immense struggle of living, he noted, “the Chauvet cave painters had a fierce human drive to express themselves and educate their offspring about their world and their dreams.
“Living in a small town, fighting to preserve our region’s arts and heritage, there are endless struggles--to maintain an audience, find funding, recruit committed and visionary management.
“But we can’t give up. We have a story to tell, our heritage to preserve. I’m a cave painter. We all are. We have to tell future generations our dreams, our story.”
--by Deborah Klenotic, photo by Keith Boyer, IUP Communications and Marketing