The Vermont Arts Council gave out five statewide awards this week, and every recipient is from Windham County.
Arts Council of Windham County president Shanta Lee Evans-Crowley says artists have been creating their work in the southeastern corner of the state for a long time.
"Windham County has had a history and a tradition of either inspiring individuals or being the birthplace, if not the home, or great artists," she says.
Eric Aho, a painter from Saxtons River, will receive the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts, the highest honor presented to an artist by the State of Vermont.
Aho is an internationally-recognized artist. Christophe Volpe, a critic for Art New England, said Aho "creates what are arguably among the best large-scale landscape paintings being painted today.”
“The beauty of [Aho's] paintings has long been known to me and countless other Vermonters," Gov. Peter Shumlin, who recently moved to Windham County, said in a press release. "We Vermonters are proud to count [him] among our own.”
The governor chooses the recipient of the award from a list of artists that the Arts Council puts together. All of the other awards are chosen by the council members or by the staff of the Vermont Arts Council.
Elsie Smith and Serenity Smith-Forchion, who founded the New England Center for Circus Arts in Brattleboro, won the Walter Cerf Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts, and Robert McBride from Bellows Falls will receive the Margaret L. (Peggy) Kannenstine Award for Arts Advocacy.
Stephen Rice teaches music at Brattleboro Union High School, and is this year's winner of the Arthur Williams Award for Meritorious Service to the Arts.
And Peter Gould, a writer and theater director, was awarded the Ellen McCulloch-Lovell Award in Arts Education.
"I think what it really says is that we celebrate a diversity in the type of artistic expression that's here," Shanta Lee Evans-Crowley, of the Arts Council of Windham County, said.
“Windham County has long been considered one of the strongest arts centers in Vermont,” Vermont Arts Council Executive Director Alex Aldrich said in a press release. “This year’s Arts Awards honorees have played a vital role in the creative culture for decades. Their passion for the arts as an integral part of community life has had a profound and rippling influence not just in Windham County, but the entire state of Vermont.”
The Vermont Arts Council was founded in 1965. It is the state's primary provider of funding, advocacy, and information for the arts, and the only designated state arts agency in the U.S. that is also an independent, nonprofit membership organization.
The Governor's Arts Awards celebration will be held Tuesday, Nov. 15 in the Michael S. Currier Center, at The Putney School.