School system sets arts celebration for April 29

Thu, 03/20/2008 - 3:31pm
By: The Citizen

The director of the school system’s Centre for Performing and Visual Arts announced the first Richard Brooks Visionary Awards of Artistic Achievement will be given at an April 29 event at the Centre.

Centre Director Don Nixon said that the award, named in honor of former Coweta County School Superintendent Richard Brooks, will be given this year to country music superstar Alan and Denise Jackson and the late writer Erskine Caldwell. The Brooks Awards are being inaugurated to honor people who have contributed significantly to the arts through Coweta County, said Nixon, and the awards and annual ceremony will be given each year afterward to local artists or contributors to the arts in Coweta County.

The April 29 program will be open to the public and free, although contributions to Coweta County arts scholarships will be encouraged. Information on reservations for the program will be announced shortly.

The Richard Brooks Visionary Award of Artistic Achievement “will be like our hall of fame for the arts,” said Nixon. “Intended to recognize great contributors to artistic achievement as arts patrons or as artists themselves.”

The award will also honor Brooks, who served as school superintendent from 1994 to 2002, for his stewardship over the planning and construction of the Lower Fayetteville Road Centre

The Centre will begin its 5th year of operation this April. Brooks and school board members included the Centre as one of the major projects proposed to voters in Coweta County’s first Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, which was passed in 1997 by local citizens.

Superintendent Blake Bass had discussed the idea for the annual awards program with Nixon earlier in the year. It is modeled on the annual Kennedy Centre Honors for lifetime artistic achievement, as a similar local award.

A panel of local citizens made up of Genette Barron, Winston Dowdell and Joe Crain, Sr. were assembled to consider the guidelines for the annual honor. It can go each year to artists or non-artist contributors to the arts, and can be posthumous. One recipient each year must also be a school system employee or former employee.

The committee also decided on the first year’s nominees. “It is a huge task, if you consider the number of outstanding artists who come from Coweta County,” said Nixon. “There are so many deserving figures already, and Superintendent Bass wanted a way that we could recognize them for what they have accomplished, and keep that association with these people who are from here from or who have significantly touched people in this community.”

“So it was a difficult selection on their part, and we will have to keep it ongoing for several years to begin to recognize worthy recipients,” he said.

“It is also a pleasure to have Richard Brooks be the namesake for this award,” said Nixon. “His vision for creating the Centre is why this award is called a visionary award.”

Superintendent Bass noted that many citizens were skeptical at first about the Centre, which was proposed as a central performing and visual arts facility which could serve the schools in a central location, expand county fine arts programs, and serve the public as well.

“Some people were criticizing building the Centre, saying it was out in the middle of nowhere and no one would ever come,” said Superintendent Bass. “Now it seems there’s not a night that goes by that its not in use.”

“The Centre is certainly something that has added to the education of our students and added to the growth of the arts in Coweta County,” said Bass.

“There’s no doubt, but for Richard’s efforts and foresight, that the Centre would have never been created,” said school board member Mike Sumner, who served on the board when Brooks was superintendent and was involved in the first SPLOST and the Centre’s construction.

Nixon said that the Centre has been a benefit to county arts programs overall.

“When you have three high school bands – each participating at a difficult level of performance and all three receiving superior ratings in competitions… when you have a high school theatre troop winning state one-act honors and invited to the state Thespian Conference and receiving and invitation to appear at the National Thespian conference, you know something is making a difference,” said Nixon.

Nixon added that Alan and Denise Jackson have accepted the invitation to come to the Centre on April 29 to receive the award, and that the local Caldwell museum has been notified and asked to appear, and that museum officials have also notified members of Caldwell’s family about the honor.

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