The Mississippi Arts Commission will honor six individuals and organizations Thursday with Governor’s Arts Awards.

The 2017 recipients are:

• Sammy Britt – Excellence in Visual Arts

• William R. Ferris – Lifetime Achievement

• Vasti Jackson – Arts Ambassador

• Lucy Richardson Janoush – Arts Patron

• Jaimoe Johnie Johnson – Excellence in Music

• Mississippi Opera – Artistic Excellence

Established in 1988, the Governor’s Arts Awards celebrate excellence in a variety of art forms including visual, literary and performing arts, and community development through the arts in Mississippi.

Britt, a native of Ruleville and longtime resident of Cleveland, is one of Mississippi’s leading art educators and painters. He taught painting and drawing at Delta State University for more than 35 years. Now retired, Britt continues to teach painting workshops.

Ferris, who grew up on a farm south of Vicksburg, served as the founding director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, the first regional studies center in the country. In 1997, Ferris became chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Since 2002, he has served as Joel Williamson Eminent Professor of History and Associate Director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina. An author and documentary filmmaker, Ferris is one of the country’s preeminent scholars on the American South.

Jackson is a world-renowned guitarist, vocalist and music producer. Growing up in McComb, Jackson began playing in churches and juke joints and has since has brought Mississippi’s musical heritage to several continents. He was named a Mississippi Living Blues Legend in 2011, was inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame in 2012 and was appointed a Mississippi Cultural Ambassador in 2014. Jackson performed for the United Nations as a member of the Playing for Change band, a music collective whose mission is to create peace through music.

Janoush is president of the Cleveland Music Foundation, which was instrumental in bringing the Grammy Museum Mississippi to Cleveland. From vision to completion, Janoush spent five years coordinating every aspect of creation of the only Grammy Museum outside of Los Angeles. The 27,000 square-foot facility, housed at Delta State University, is dedicated to exploring the past, present and future of music while spotlighting the musical roots of Mississippi.

Johnson, born in Ocean Springs and raised in Gulfport, is a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band. Jaimoe also plays drums and tours with groups including Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band and Les Brers. The Allman Brothers Band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. In 2015, Jaimoe was inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame, and the Mississippi Blues Trail placed a historic marker in North Gulfport, where he started his musical career.

The Mississippi Opera Association was founded in Jackson in 1945 and is the state’s only professional opera company. It is the ninth oldest continuing opera company in the United States. In addition to staging classic operas, the association has conducted outreach to public schools since 1946 and offers free student matinees of main stage productions. Its brings world-class singers and directors to Mississippi and nurtures the next generation of artists through the “Voices of Mississippi” competition.

The presentation ceremony begins at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson. A public reception at 4:30 p.m. will precede the awards.

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