Two Middlebury residents to receive 2019 Vermont Arts Awards

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MIDDLEBURY — The Vermont Arts Council recently announced the recipients of the 2019 Vermont Arts Awards, and two of the awardees are from Middlebury.

Governor Phil Scott announced that François Clemmons of Middlebury would receive The Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the highest honor presented to an artist by the state of Vermont.

“I am pleased to name François as the winner of this year’s Excellence in the Arts award,” Governor Scott said. “His renowned musical talent and years of service to his community made him the perfect choice.”

In addition to the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Vermont Arts Council announced Douglas Anderson, also of Middlebury, will receive the Arthur Williams Award for Meritorious Service to the Arts.

These prestigious annual awards recognize outstanding individual and organizational contributions to the arts. Awards honor educators, artists, performers, advocates, administrators, volunteers, and scholars.

Clemmons is well known for his twenty-five-year career as Officer Clemmons on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

He is also a Grammy Award-winning opera singer, founder of the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble, emeritus artist in residence at Middlebury College, composer, arranger, playwright, author, activist, and mentor.

From 1997 until his retirement in 2013, Clemmons was the Alexander Twilight Artist in Residence and director of the Martin Luther King Spiritual Choir at Middlebury College.

He received a bachelor of music degree from Oberlin College, a master of fine arts from Carnegie Mellon University, and an honorary doctor of arts degree from Middlebury College.

Douglas Anderson began his career teaching theater and playwriting at the University of Illinois, Amherst College, and Middlebury College.

He also served as a staff writer for the Children’s Television Workshop, the makers of Sesame Street, and head writer for the CBS daytime drama, The Guiding Light.
In 1997, he discovered the decaying original Middlebury Town Hall and committed himself to restoring and reviving the structure, which re-opened in 2008.

For his work on the Town Hall Theater, he was named Middlebury’s Citizen of the Year, received an award from the Preservation Trust of Vermont, and was presented with the McCardell Citizenship Award by Middlebury College.

Anderson also created the Opera Company of Middlebury, now in its sixteenth season.

Middlebury College President Laurie Patton noted that two of the 2109 awardees are from Middlebury.

“Through song and theater, François and Doug have brought to the Middlebury community much more than the beauty of art and performance—though they’ve gifted us that over many years,” said Patton. “They’ve also shown us how emotionally powerful shared experiences can be. We’re so pleased they’re receiving this recognition and look forward to hosting all Arts Awards honorees and guests on our campus in October.”

All awardees will be honored at a reception and ceremony co-sponsored by Middlebury College on Wednesday, October 23, at the Mahaney Arts Center at Middlebury College.