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Kentucky Arts Council announces recipients of the 2020 Governor’s Awards in the Arts


Two musicians, an author, a nightclub, a quilt expert, and a theater are among the 2020 recipients of the Governor’s Awards in the Arts, announced by the Kentucky Arts Council.

The annual award honors Kentuckians, businesses and arts organizations for outstanding contribution to, achievement in and support of the arts. The 2020 recipients of the Commonwealth’s most distinguished awards in the arts are:

Tom T. Hall (National Award)

Tom T. Hall is an acclaimed singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, novelist and short story writer. A native of Olive Hill, Kentucky, he is perhaps best known for writing the song “Harper Valley PTA,” which was made famous by singer Jeannie C. Riley, and his own hit song “I Love” in the 1970s. He is ranked among 100 Greatest Songwriters by Rolling Stone.

Michael Johnathon, host of Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour, is among recipients of the 2020 Governors Award for the Arts

Michael Johnathon (Milner Award)

Michael Johnathon is a folksinger and songwriter, as well as the creator and host of the acclaimed internationally syndicated television and radio program WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. The program, which originates each week in Lexington, features a wide array of musical artists and airs on RFD-TV, public television stations and hundreds of radio stations.

Silas House (Artist Award)

Silas House is a novelist, playwright, music journalist and environmental activist. A native of Laurel County, he now resides in Berea, where he serves on the fiction faculty at the Spalding School of Creative Writing and as the NEH Chair at Berea College. His work includes the critically acclaimed novels Clay’s Quilt, 2001; A Parchment of Leaves, 2003; The Coal Tattoo, 2005; Eli the Good, 2009; and Same Sun Here (co-authored with Neela Vaswani) 2012, and Southernmost (June 2018)–as well as a book of creative nonfiction–Something’s Rising, co-authored with Jason Howard, 2009; and three plays:  The Hurting Part (2005), This Is My Heart for You (2012), and In These Fields, with Sam Gleaves, 2016.

Tidball’s (Business Award)

Founded in 2001, Tidball’s is the Bowling Green music venue that is known nationwide as one of the best rock clubs in the South. The venue helped launch the career of the Grammy-winning rock band Cage the Elephant. The club’s owners are also known for their community support, having raised thousands of dollars for many charities in the area by hosting fundraising events.

Artists Collaborative Theatre (Community Arts Award)

Based in Elkhorn City, Pike County, the Artists Collaborative Theatre is the most awarded community theatre in Kentucky, having won state, regional, and national awards. It is known for its outstanding theatrical productions as well as free music and art classes.

Paducah Symphony Orchestra (Education Award)

For over 40 years, the Paducah Symphony Orchestra has been known as the premier musical organization in Paducah and the surrounding region. Founded in 1979, the PSO is home to several ensembles, including a professional symphony orchestra, an adult chorus, a youth and children’s chorus and other music education programs and services.

Shelly Zegart (Folk Heritage Award)

Shelly Zegart is considered one of America’s leading experts on quilts. The Louisville resident is a quilt collector, lecturer, curator and author who writes about quilt aesthetics and history. She is also one of the founding directors of The Kentucky Quilt Project, the first statewide quilt documentation project in the United States. She is the author of the book American Quilt Collections: Antique Quilt Masterpieces. She also executive produced and hosted the public television documentary Why Quilts Matter: History, Art & Politics.

City of Somerset (Government Award)

The city of Somerset has attracted attention recently for its downtown revitalization programs aimed at enhancing cultural attractions and boosting tourism. Since 2019, the city has created four new festivals, opened a new indoor-outdoor farmer’s market and invited local artists to create murals that tell Somerset’s heritage and culture.

Al Día en América (Media Award)

Al Día en América is Louisville’s Spanish-language newspaper, serving the area’s second-largest and fastest-growing minority population.

“Of all the honors and awards any artist can receive, it is the ones from the home community that mean the most,” Michael Johnathon said. “It is the acceptance and encouragement of friends and neighbors that are the fuel for any artist, especially now. Because so much of what I do is community and volunteer-run, the award helps validate the heart and spirit of so many that make artistic efforts become reality.

The Governor’s Awards will be presented at a future date. For more information, visit artscouncil.ky.gov.


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