MONTPELIER—The Vermont Art Council is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2022 Vermont Arts Awards recognizing outstanding individual and organizational contributions to the arts. Awards honor educators, artists, performers, advocates, administrators, volunteers, and scholars.
Vermonters are recognized for their contributions in five categories.
Two Vermonters will receive the state’s highest honor to an artist, the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, Larry Bissonnette and Jarvis Green.
Larry Bissonnette of Williston is a visual artist and disabilities rights activist. In selecting Bissonnette for this award, Gov. Phil Scott said, “From the creativity and emotion communicated through your paintings to your involvement with GRACE, there is no doubt your work and advocacy have touched many people around the world. Your art and story are truly inspiring, showing strength and resilience, and setting an example for all.”
GRACE (the Grass Roots Arts and Community Effort) is a program of the Vermont non-profit Rural Arts Collaborative that facilitates artmaking with seniors and people with disabilities. Bissonnette’s work is in the permanent collection there.
Jarvis Green is the founding artist director of JAG Productions, a Vermont and New York City-based Black theater company in White River Junction. In selecting Green for this award, Scott said, “Your work is most deserving of this recognition. With the creation of JAG Productions, you have helped elevate Black voices and added to Vermont's culture. I greatly appreciate your work to bring more diversity and incredible talent to the Upper Valley and our state.”
In addition to the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the other awardees are as follows:
Christal Brown of Middlebury will receive the Walter Cerf Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts for her sustained contribution to the arts and its impact on Vermont’s cultural life.
Eugene Uman of Brattleboro will receive the Ellen McCulloch-Lovell Award in Arts Education for his deep dedication to teaching Vermont’s jazz musicians of all ages through classroom instruction, summer intensives, and ensembles.
Robert Resnik of Burlington will receive the Margaret L. (Peggy) Kannenstine Award for Arts Advocacy for his decades-long commitment to Vermont's traditional musical culture and history and his longtime support of Vermont musicians.
Judy Dow of Vergennes will receive the Arthur Williams Award for Meritorious Service to the Arts for her influential guardianship of Abenaki history and culture and her selfless service and devotion to teaching artistry.
“The Vermont Arts Council is proud to honor and celebrate the creative practice and accomplishments of these six extraordinary artists,” said Arts Council Executive Director Karen Mittelman. “Together, they exemplify the rich, vibrant, and diverse artistic landscape across Vermont.”
More about the awardees follows:
Larry Bissonnette of Williston, Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts
Larry Bissonnette is a disability rights advocate and artist who has been painting, drawing, and taking photographs since he was a young child. His work has been exhibited regularly both locally and nationally. In 2015, he had a solo exhibition of his work, “Looking Out: The Self-Taught Art of Larry Bissonnette” at the Amy Tarrant Gallery in Burlington. His art also appears internationally, including in the collection of the Musée de l'Art Brut in Switzerland. At age 34, Bissonnette learned to communicate through typing and began combining words with his art to express his thoughts and ideas. Over the past 205 years, he has been a featured presenter at many national educational conferences and has written and spoken on the topics of autism, communication, and art. Bissonnette is also both the subject and writer of an award-winning film about his art and life, called “My Classic Life as an Artist: A Portrait of Larry Bissonnette” (2005), and starred in a feature length documentary directed by Gerardine Wurzburg about adults with autism called “Wretches and Jabberers” (2010). He also is a contributing author to “Communication Alternatives in Autism: Perspectives on Typing and Spelling for the Nonspeaking (2019),” a book edited by California Lutheran University professor Edlyn Pena. Read more about Bissonnette.
Jarvis Green of White River Junction, Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts
Jarvis Green is the founder of JAG Productions, a Vermont and New York City-based Black theater company established in 2016 in White River Junction. He is the recipient of the New England Theatre Conference Regional Award for Outstanding Achievement in the American Theatre for his work with JAG in its inaugural year. Every year he produces five new plays, nurturing the work of five budding playwrights at JAGfest, one of the nation's leading incubators of new works by Black playwrights. In 2020, he launched the Black Joy Project, a three-tiered project: a Black Theatre methodology, a play embodying the method, and a documentary film capturing its inception. Green was acknowledged by the advocacy and networking nonprofit Native Son as a Black queer man who impacted the world in 2020. Green sees himself playing a key role in bringing actors and stories from all over the diaspora to stages worldwide. In 2021, Green was one of only six millennials chosen worldwide, and the only representation from North America, to be featured in the Deloitte short film, “Resilience.” Green is a New England Foundation for the Arts National Theatre Project Advisor, a member of the Black Theatre Artist Council at the Roundabout Theatre Company in New York, and serves on the Board of Trustees for Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. Read more about Green.
Christal Brown of Middlebury, Walter Cerf Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts
Christal Brown is the founder of the dance company INSPIRIT, the nonprofit Project: BECOMING, and the creator of the Liquid Strength training module for dance. She also serves as an Associate Professor of Dance, Posse Mentor, Twilight Artist in Residence and Director of the Anti-Racist Task Force at Middlebury College while also serving the public sphere as the Chief Visioning Officer of Steps and Stages Coaching, LLC. Brown is a native of Kinston, NC, where she remembers accompanying her mother to NAACP meetings and performing at Black Caucus rallies. This early exposure to social responsibility innately produced a strong desire in Brown to tell the stories of the oppressed and develop physical narratives that inspired power. Most recently, Brown created "Same but Different" in collaboration with Lida Winfield, a dance theater work that explores race, age, and gender through the lens of curiosity and friendship. Her new work for INSPIRIT, “What We Ask of Flesh,” supported by Jacobs Pillow and The Kennedy Center is scheduled to premiere in the Spring of 2023. Read more about Brown.
Eugene Uman of Brattleboro, Ellen McCulloch-Lovell Award in Arts Education
Jazz pianist, composer, and educator, Eugene Uman has been director of the Vermont Jazz Center (VJC) since 1997. During his tenure, the VJC has grown into an esteemed concert venue where performances by internationally recognized jazz artists are complemented by community outreach and educational programs including a renowned summer jazz workshop that attracts students from around the world. Uman has produced over 320 concerts for the VJC including annual emerging artist and solo jazz piano festivals that feature educational programming. He has written and arranged over 150 jazz compositions for various musical ensembles, including a recent commission from the Juno Orchestra. Three of Uman’s original compositions were recorded by Latin Jazz star Sammy Figueroa on his 2005 Grammy-nominated CD, “In Walked Sammy.” Uman has taught a variety of classes and workshops to students of all age ranges, including teacher-training workshops. He currently teaches at the VJC and is adjunct professor of piano jazz at Amherst College. He taught for more than a decade at the Governor’s Institute of the Arts and is affiliated with the Universidad de EAFIT in Medellín, Columbia where he initiated their jazz studies program. Uman is a MacDowell Fellow. Read more about Uman.
Robert Resnik of Burlington, Peggy Kannenstine Award for Arts Advocacy
Robert Resnik has hosted the folk and world music show, "All the Traditions," on Vermont Public Radio for 26 years. Despite a recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, Resnik delivers the same encyclopedic knowledge of musical culture and history from Vermont and across the globe, with humor and delight that he has always shared. For 28 years, Resnik was a librarian at Fletcher Free Library in Burlington, where he performed live weekly musical programs in the children's library. Resnik plays a stunning variety of stringed and wind instruments and performed with various Vermont artists. A respected critic and scholar, Resnik writes music reviews for local publications, serves as a program consultant for a variety of area concert venues, and is well-known in northern Vermont as a wild mushroom hunter and chef. In 2013, he wrote the book, “Legendary Locals of Burlington, Vermont,” and in 2019, he was awarded the Herb Lockwood Prize in the Arts for his inspirational leadership. Read more about Resnik.
Judy Dow of Essex, Arthur Williams Award for Meritorious Service to the Arts
Judy Dow is a nationally known activist, basket weaver and teacher of traditional Abenaki culture and native practices for over 35 years. She is the executive director of Gedakina, a multigenerational organization that supports Indigenous youth, women, and families across New England. She has been widely recognized as an expert on Indigenous education and an influential guardian of Abenaki history and culture. Her baskets have been exhibited in museums around the world, including a recent international exhibit in England, Poland, and Romania, traveling to other places worldwide as the tour continues. Dow’s art is helping to inform the anti-eugenics movement, as one of her tapestries, “The Witness Tree,” was recently featured in the article, “From small beginnings: to build an anti-eugenic future,” published in one of the world’s best known medical journals, The Lancet. In 2004, Dow was a recipient of the Governor’s Heritage Award for Outstanding Educator. Of Winooski Abenaki and French-Canadian descent, Dow brings a Native American lens to reading the land, to teaching science and history, and to giving visibility to lost voices and hidden histories. Read more about Dow.
More information about the Vermont Arts Awards can be found at https://www.vermontartscouncil.org/programs/arts-awards/2022-recipients
The 2022 awardees will be honored with short video tributes later this year.
About the Vermont Arts Council
The Vermont Arts Council envisions a Vermont where all people have access to the arts and creativity in their lives, education, and communities. Engagement with the arts transforms individuals, connects us more deeply to each other, energizes the economy, and sustains the vibrant cultural landscape that makes Vermont a great place to live. Since 1965, the Council has been the state's primary provider of funding, advocacy, and information for the arts in Vermont. Learn more at www.vermontartscouncil.org