Six North Carolina artists, each representing a unique discipline, have been chosen to receive Raleigh’s highest arts honor for their contributions to the Triangle.
The City of Raleigh Arts Commission announced the winners of its 2010 Medal of Arts on Thursday: costume designer William Ivey Long, arts administrator Banks C. Talley Jr., art retailer Ruth Green, bookstore owner Nancy Olson, composer J. Mark Scearce and cartoonist Dwane Powell.
“The focus is on artistic excellence,” said June Guralnick, executive director of the Arts Commission.
“It is for a lifetime achievement in the arts.”
Although the recipients’ far-reaching and diverse abilities are praised for their local impact, for many, the area itself is what first nurtured their artistic callings.
Long, now a five-time Tony Award winner, literally grew up backstage at the Raleigh Little Theatre.
“We went straight from the hospital to the stage-left dressing room,” Long said.
“That was my home for the first three and a half years of my life.”
For both Long and Talley, UNC played a part in their career development.
Before completing the final stages for his Ph.D. in art history, Long departed for Yale and a future on Broadway.
And it was former UNC-system President Bill Friday who suggested that Talley take a job at N.C. State University that led to an illustrious career, during which he helped form the theater program at N.C. State in the 1960s, and served as executive director of the N.C. Symphony from 1985 to 1995.
Such accomplishments garnered Talley a second award — an induction into the Raleigh Hall of Fame.
“I was surprised and am grateful, but it’s too much,” Talley said of receiving both awards.
“My first reaction was, there must have been a mistake.”
But there was no mistake, nor was there an oversight in recognizing local proprietors and fellow recipients Green and Olson.
“I am very happy that after 41 years, The Little Art Gallery is being recognized for presenting art in a shopping area and not in a gallery,” Green said.
Through their shops, Green and Olson have been highly influential forces in many local artists’ first big breaks.
Olson — owner of Quail Ridge Books & Music — recalled that after reading Angela Davis-Gardner’s third novel “Plum Wine,” Olson sent the book to a New York agent, thus helping the North Carolina writer land a publication deal.
Also to be honored are Scearce, a nationally renowned composer who has worked with Talley, and Powell, former cartoonist for The (Raleigh) News & Observer.
While he admits that at times his cartoons have jived at local art, Powell maintains respect for it.
“It really adds to the cultural element of our community,” he said.
The six artists will receive their medals in a ceremony Oct. 6 at ?7 p.m.
“All the candidates selected this year have done so much for the area and for North Carolina,” Guralinick said.
Contact the Arts Editor at email@example.com.
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