The Mississippi Arts Commission has announced recipients of the 2018 Governor’s Arts Awards.

The recipient are:

  • Steve Azar – Governor’s Choice Award — Azar is the official Music and Cultural Ambassador of Mississippi, as well as a hit songwriter, recording artist, music producer, golfer and philanthropist. His single I Don’t Have To Be Me (‘Til Monday) is one of the top five most played songs of the past decade on country radio. Azar is also founder of the Mighty Mississippi Music Festival, the Delta Soul Celebrity Golf Tournament and the Steve Azar St. Cecilia Foundation, a charitable corporation.
  • David Keary – Leadership in Performing Arts — Keary was the first male dancer hired for the Jackson Ballet by Thalia Mara, founder of the USA International Ballet Competition. In 1978, Keary was invited to join the New York City Ballet, where he danced professionally. After returning to Jackson to pursue a law degree, Keary served on the board of Jackson Ballet and, in 1994, became artistic director of the organization, now Ballet Mississippi. Since then, Keary has led the growth of Ballet Mississippi from 25 to more than 300 students, staged seasonal productions such as The Nutcracker, taught classes for USA International Ballet Competition competitors and watched former students go on to dance in prestigious programs around the nation.
  • Joe Overstreet – Excellence in Visual Art — Overstreet is a painter, arts promoter and activist with an accomplished career spanning more than 60 years. Born in rural Conehatta, Miss., Overstreet has spent much of his life and career in New York and California. He is most recognized for his 1960s protest paintings, such as Strange Fruit and The New Aunt Jemima, a piece which has been referred to as a national icon of the Civil Rights Movement. His piece The Basket Makers is now on display at the Mississippi Museum of Art as part of a bicentennial exhibition, Picturing Mississippi, 1817-2017: Land of Plenty, Pain and Promise.
  • V. A. Patterson – Community Arts Leader — Patterson is a Jackson, Miss., native and was the first curator for the Manship House museum, former executive director of the Craftmen’s Guild of Mississippi and former executive director of Very Special Arts Mississippi. She worked for many years in the museum field and spent her entire career promoting the arts in Mississippi. Patterson continues to volunteer with many community and arts organizations today. As executive director for Very Special Arts Mississippi, she worked with artists with disabilities to master their skills. One of her major accomplishments was bringing artwork into schools where students would receive up to 12 hours of instruction with an artist.
  • Yoknapatawpha Arts Council – Arts in Community — YAC has enriched the Oxford and Lafayette County community with arts events and programming for more than four decades. The council offers 320 days of arts programming annually, reaching 90,000 people each year. Its signature events include monthly “art crawls,” the Art-er Limits Fringe Festival and the Fiber Festival. The council has also created a sculpture trail with 19 works as well as a program connecting artists with business professionals to help artists sustain, market and manage their craft as a business. In recognition of the effectiveness of its professional development program for artists, YAC received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2016.

The 2018 recipients will be recognized at the 30th annual Governor’s Arts Awards ceremony at the Old Capitol Museum in downtown Jackson on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, at 6 p.m. A public reception at 4:30 p.m. will precede the ceremony.

Established in 1988, Governor’s Arts Awards are given to individuals and organizations to recognize outstanding work in visual, literary and performing arts, community development through the arts and arts patronage in Mississippi.

Award winners are nominated by members of the public and selected by a jury of community arts leaders and industry peers. Recipients are not required to be Mississippi residents, but they must have significant ties to the state through some years of residency.