New Hampshire has an abundance of talented and enthusiastic artists and makers. Thanks to the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and the Governor’s Office, a collection of those artists are recognized each year for their outstanding dedication to the arts in the Granite State. I had the opportunity to attend this year’s Governor’s Arts Awards on October 21, and it was moving as all heck.
I first want to note the beautiful venue this event took place in. The Bank of New Hampshire Stage, which was formerly the Concord Theater, is a recent addition to downtown Concord last June. The venue space boasts seating for approximately 300 people and a small intimate lounge stage and space on the second floor.
It was on that lounge stage that we were entertained by local musicians prior to the big event. Angela Brown, R.P. Hale, José Lezcano, and Tim Sink all shared their talents as musicians and are also all appointed members of the NH State Council on the Arts.
When it was time to enter the actual theater, I was struck by the union of historic and modern design. The exposed brick walls with modern technology were captivating, and the central ceiling fixture that held the stage lights was a beautiful sculpture.
Some of the awardees I had known of prior to the event and some I was discovering for the first time, but every single one touched my heart as I learned of all they had done.
The 2019 Governor’s Arts Award winners:
- Arts Education: Theo Martey, Manchester, of Akwaaba Ensemble
- Arts in Health: Crotched Mountain School, Greenfield
- Creative Communities: Town of Mason
- Distinguished Arts Leadership: Bente Torjusen, Lebanon
- Folk Heritage: Jane McBride Orzechowski, Newport
- Individual Arts Champion (two awards): Stephen Duprey, Concord and Robert O. Wilson, Concord
- Lotte Jacobi Living Treasure: Sylvia Nicolas, Mont Vernon
Each of these folks and communities has worked hard to improve the world around them through art. Creativity is contagious, I think. Hearing about the impact these champions have had, shows why art is critical to us as humans.
I fear I do not have enough space to go into great detail of each winner, so I encourage you to follow these links and discover the exceptional work of these fine people. You can also learn more about these fantastic awardees on the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts Facebook page, where there is video footage from the awards.
Investing in the Arts
I learned an interesting fact at this event. Perhaps you’ve heard it already but even if you have, it’s worth reflecting on again because it is amazing.
This year Governor Sununu and the NH state legislature worked together to add an increase of $282,000 in the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts’ (NHSCA) General Fund State Arts Development Grants appropriation, bringing the total of general fund investments in the arts to $505,000. This is HUGE to see when often we see the opposite happening in the public education system. The Arts are often the first to be cut. But New Hampshire seems to understand it is a vital part of life.
At the Governor’s Arts Awards, Governor Sununu reflects that sentiment in his speech by saying:
“Folks like yourselves that are calling your representatives and senators and saying [art] isn’t just a throwaway item like it used to be, this is something that really drives, when we talk about the creative economy, we talk about entrepreneurship, we talk about what it is to be in New Hampshire and how we separate ourselves. You guys did a tremendous, tremendous job. So, we’ve made huge strides, but there is always more to do. The key is this, don’t take it for granted. Right? We got this huge surge of funding back in the eighties, it slid a little bit, it really did. So now we’re getting a little surge of funding here, and it isn’t just all about the funding, but when you can show the outcomes and what you’re doing with that money, the great things you’re doing at a local level, that makes all the difference in the world in terms of getting this stuff done again.”
Be a Champion Yourself
Are you feeling inspired yet after checking out all these amazing artists? Well, don’t let go of that feeling. Take it, and go out and make something or do something that helps support the arts. If you’re not sure where to start, look at the opportunities within your own community. They are out there! Be a champion!