Governor and First Lady Haslam announce the recipients of the 2015 Governor’s Arts Awards


Distinguished artists honored include Mary Costa, Dr. Bobby Jones, BB King, Loretta Lynn and Cormac McCarthy

Governor and First Lady Haslam will award Tennessee’s highest honor in the arts to 10 recipients who represent the best in arts and culture in Tennessee on March 17, 2015.

“We want to congratulate the recipients for their incredible work adding to the rich cultural heritage of Tennessee,” Governor Haslam said. “Their dedication, leadership and contributions to the arts have enhanced our way of life and will continue to influence Tennesseans for many years to come.”

More information, full bios and photos of the recipients

The 2015 recipients are:

Folklife Heritage Award: Bill Henry, Whittler & Woodworker, Oak Ridge
A self-identified “itinerant whittler,” folk craftsman Bill Henry has mastered over 200 forms and carved an estimated 20,000 pieces, many of which are on display in private and public collections, including the Smithsonian. His wood carvings include miniature tools, birdhouses and more of what he describes as “Miniature Americana.” He has won numerous awards and honors, including The Southern Arts Craft Guild’s Heritage Preservation Award in 2012. See full bio

Folklife Heritage Award: Jack Martin, Hockaday Handmade Brooms, Selmer
Artisan, educator and devoted tradition bearer, Jack Martin of Selmer, Tennessee is a fourth generation broom maker continuing the craft he learned from his grandfather. Owner of Hockaday Handmade Brooms, Martin still operates his family’s nearly 100-year-old equipment, creating every broom by hand. His brooms are found in prestigious museum and archival collections, including the Smithsonian.
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Arts Leadership Award: Bill May, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Gatlinburg
Throughout its 100-year history, the Arrowmont School has been known as a source of education and enrichment. Located in the heart of Gatlinburg, this internationally recognized institution offers classes and creative experiences year-round in art forms such as crafting, painting, pottery and glassmaking. Thanks to the leadership of Executive Director Bill May, this pinnacle of history can welcome another 100 years of learning and craft-making after May coordinated efforts to raise eight million dollars in seven months to save the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts from dissolution.
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Arts Leadership Award: Scott Niswonger, Philanthropist, Greeneville
Greeneville businessman and philanthropist, Scott Niswonger has been instrumental in bringing positive change to Northeast Tennessee. Leveraging his success in business to fuel his commitment to philanthropy, Niswonger has made a tremendous impact on the arts and education in the region through the Niswonger Foundation and the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. See full bio

Arts Leadership Award: Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Memphis
Started in 2003, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music has again brought soul music and the Memphis Sound to the forefront of American culture, and restored the legacy of legendary recording studio Stax Records. During its remarkable 15 year run, the label scored countless hits and launched the careers of many iconic singers, including Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Sam & Dave, Albert King and the Staple Singers.
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Distinguished Artist Award: Mary Costa, Opera Singer, Knoxville
As the beloved Princess Aurora, Mary Costa brought both her voice and personality to the 1959 Disney classic Sleeping Beauty, and emerged as an international artist who has graced the stages of opera, concert, theatre, television and movies. In a stellar career that has included performances in 38 operatic roles, she has performed in the world’s top opera houses, including The Metropolitan Opera and The Royal Opera House. She was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve on the National Council on the Arts from 2003-2007. 
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Distinguished Artist Award: Dr. Bobby Jones, Gospel Musician, Nashville
Dr. Bobby Jones is a torchbearer for gospel music in Tennessee and the world. He is an acclaimed singer who has released 14 albums, toured internationally and won many honors, including Stellar Awards, Dove Awards and a Grammy Award for his single with Barbara Mandrell, “I’m So Glad I’m Standing.” He also wrote and produced the first black gospel opera, Make a Joyful Noise. He founded and continues to lead the premier gospel group, the Nashville Super Choir. 
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Distinguished Artist Award: B.B. King, Blues Singer-Songwriter, Memphis
B.B. King continues to reign as the unchallenged “King of the Blues.” King’s legacy and influence far exceeds the blues and qualifies him as one of a handful of the most influential American musicians of the past century. His name is synonymous with Memphis and Beale Street. In 1948, King got his first big break performing on Memphis radio that led to his own show on the legendary WDIA. Over the past seventy years, he has released over 50 albums, received 15 Grammy awards and was named one of the top ten guitarists of all time by Rolling Stone magazine. He is an inductee in the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
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Distinguished Artist Award: Loretta Lynn, Country Music Singer-Songwriter, Hurricane Mills
For 50 years Loretta Lynn has fashioned a body of work as artfully and commercially successful and culturally significant as any female performer you’d care to name. Her music has confronted many of the major social issues of her time and her rags-to-riches story from the poverty of the Kentucky Hills to Nashville superstardom all have led to her current status as an American icon. With over 160 songs and 60 albums to her credit and 40 million records sold worldwide, Lynn is the most awarded woman in Country music. Loretta Lynn’s Ranch located at Hurricane Mills in Humphreys County is one of Tennessee’s top tourist attractions. See full bio

Distinguished Artist Award: Cormac McCarthy, Novelist, Knoxville
One of the country’s most important living authors, Cormac McCarthy moved to Knoxville at the age of four, attended the University of Tennessee as a young man and spent several decades of his adult life in East Tennessee. The region inspired and served as the setting of many of his best known works, including Suttree and Child of God. Other novels include the Orchard Keeper, Blood Meridian and The Road, which he won a Pulitzer Prize in 2006. 
See full bio

About the Governor’s Arts Awards
Established in 1971, the Governor’s Arts Awards is produced by the Tennessee Arts Commission and recognizes individuals and organizations whose contributions to the cultural life of Tennessee are outstanding. The Tennessee Arts Commission is the state arts agency whose mission is to cultivate the arts for Tennesseans and their communities.