For the past 43 years, Kathryn Lewis’ passion for the arts as the “great connector” has been strongly demonstrated through her career, community service, and her dedication to the citizens of Stone County.
As Theatre Director at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Lewis was a driving force for 32 years. She founded the Perk Players Children’s Theatre Touring Company, now celebrating its 43rd touring season. Under her direction, the Perk Players performed over 1,200 shows to audiences of over 500,000 children at 800 schools free of charge in south Mississippi; subjects ranged from child sexual abuse awareness, deaf education, AIDS, and the environment. After retirement, Lewis was presented with even greater opportunities. She is co-founder and director of the Telling Trees Project – a project to research, document, and present our past by gathering oral histories and their performance through the arts. Over 50 interviews were conducted, and stories from these oral histories were performed over 300 times to various tour groups, school groups, festival goers, and community organizations. This project expanded to include 23 historical murals in the county, resulting in Stone County’s designation by the Mississippi Legislature as the Mural County of Mississippi in April 2012. She is a true Mississippi treasure whose work has touched many lives leaving an indelible fingerprint on her community.
Nominated by Jay Paul Gumm, 601/928-5418 or email@example.com
The Bay Saint Louis Little Theatre was founded in 1946. The original building was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, but in 2008, with the assistance of a Building Fund for the Arts grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission, the theatre’s Board of Directors purchased the historic building that served as the location of the iconic film, This Property is Condemned.
The theatre has always served as a pillar of live entertainment in the community. Anyone is allowed the opportunity to audition to cultivate their own artistic style and presence. The theatre serves as a gathering place for experiencing the diverse heritage and culture of the quaint community of Bay Saint Louis. In addition to theatrical plays, the theatre offers an array of interactive events, including children’s day camps, dinner theatres, backyard movie nights, Juke Joint Jam Dance Sessions in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, and the annual “Stella Blues and BBQ Festival.” Through the performing arts, the Bay Saint Louis Little Theatre provides a template for cultural enrichment to the citizens of Bay Saint Louis, Hancock County, and the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast. The theatre played a major role in the healing process after the storm and helped Bay Saint Louis to become a better, more vibrant community.
Nominated by Bay Saint Louis Mayor, Les Fillingame, 228/466-5442 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Say the word Motown and the music starts playing in your head. There were many Motown recording artists; Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder….the list is endless. Ask any of them why their recordings were so great and they would all say, “The Funk Brothers.”
The Funk Brothers were a group of thirteen musicians who laid the tracks that the world knows and loves today as the “Motown Sound,” and one of the main architects of that sound was Eddie “Chank” Willis.
Born in Grenada, Mississippi in 1936, Willis brought the South to Motown. While most of The Funk Brothers were jazz or classically trained musicians, Willis came from a country and blues background. He was one of three guitar players in the Motown band; Robert White played the leads and distinctive melodies, Joe Messina played the clock-like backbeats, and Willis played the rhythmic and melodic riffs that were so vital to the sound.
Willis joined the Motown family in 1959, the very year it was founded by Berry Gordy, and worked daily until the company moved to Los Angeles in 1972. The Funk Brothers did at least two three-hour recording sessions every day, completing four or five tracks each time. Willis played on major hits for Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops, Martha and the Vandellas, and The Temptations; the list goes on and on. The Funk Brothers received two GRAMMY awards for their outstanding work.
Nominated by Charles Abraham, 662/846-4579 or email@example.com
Playwright, screenwriter, and actress, Beth Henley, first entered the critical spotlight in 1978 with her play about three maladjusted sisters set in Hazelhurst, Mississippi. Crimes of the Heart went on to win many awards, including the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for best new American play and the Pulitzer Prize for drama, both in 1981.
Henley also received a Tony Award nomination for best play, and five years later, an Academy Award nomination for best adapted screenplay. The play and subsequent film version showcased Henley as one of a new breed of American dramatists dedicated to preserving regional voices on the stage.
She followed the success of Crimes of the Heart with The Miss Firecracker Contest, first produced on stage in Los Angeles in 1980 and later adapted for the big screen by Henley.
In addition to playwriting, she has written several television and movie screenplays, including “Survival Guides” with Budge Threlkeld for PBS and the films Nobody’s Fool and True Stories.
Photo by Michael Childers
Nominated by Jim Dollarhide – 601/946-8407 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Rush was only six years old when he fashioned his first guitar out of old broom wire and began listening to the artists who would have the greatest influence on him….Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, B.B. King, to name a few. Rush spent over 20 years on the music scene in Chicago before moving to Jackson, Mississippi in the late 1970s. He was named by Living Blues Magazine as “Best Live Performer of the Year” in 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000. He has crafted a unique musical style that incorporates blues, funk, soul, and folk, which prompts fans to proclaim, “there is only one Bobby Rush!”
For over five decades, Bobby Rush has been thrilling audiences around the world with his bawdy, entertaining, flamboyant, and stellar showmanship. He continues to be one of the most exciting and creative artists in the world. Rush’s live shows are without parallel, replete with comedic sketches acted out with the assistance of members of his group. In recent years he has re-established himself as an outstanding soloist and acoustic performer.
He has played an important role in Mississippi’s music scene for years, initially as a performer on the Southern-based chitlin circuit and then as a recording artist for the LaJam label. Over the last decades many of his peers on the circuit, such as Little Milton, Johnnie Taylor and Tyrone Davis, have passed away, and his role as the elder statesman has risen accordingly.
Photo by James Patterson
Nominated by Senator John Horhn - 601/359-3237 or email@example.com
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