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Brenau Receives 2014 Governor's Award for Arts and Humanities

ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has presented Brenau University with a prestigious Governor’s Award for the Arts and Humanities for nurturing the idea that the arts are an essential part of daily lives through arts-related community activities and experiences throughout its history.

The award was one of 13 presented by Deal and his wife, Sandra, at a ceremony in the rotunda of the state capitol on October 7. Other recipients included the Atlanta Ballet, the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies at the University of Georgia and the half-century-old Freedom Singers of Albany, founded by four college students during the heyday of the civil rights movement in the South.

“Georgia’s arts and humanities sectors propel our state forward by improving quality of life for the citizens and businesses,” says Deal. “The individuals and organizations honored here today are committed to growing and sustaining Georgia’s vibrant culture and history, and I am grateful for their significant contributions.”

Deal, who is from Brenau’s hometown, Gainesville, said that celebrating and expanding the arts in communities is an essential ingredient in any successful economic development scenario. He pointed out that in two cases of major corporate relocations in Georgia — Starbuck’s in Augusta and Caterpillar in Athens — corporate officials cited the strong arts community in each city as a major factor in the decision to establish a presence there.

The arts and humanities, he said, are part of the cultural heritage tourism industry in the state, a $29 billion industry that generates about five percent of the state’s private and public sector jobs.

“This is really a terrific honor for Brenau,” says the university’s president, Ed Schrader. “Although components of institutions have received previous awards by one or the other of the organizations in the last 26 years, the Brenau award marked the first time that any college or university had been cited for its overall work with the arts.”

The two organizations selected 13 members of Georgia’s arts and humanities communities from around the state from scores of nominations. The recipients represent a diverse group of individuals and organizations that have laid the groundwork for Georgia’s growing creative industry through innovative programs, community collaboration and long-term financial commitment.

The recipients of the 2014 Governor’s Award for the Arts and Humanities include seven individuals and six organizations. They are Syd Blackmarr of Tifton, a pioneer in development of community arts programs throughout South Georgia; Leslie Gordon of Atlanta, director of the Rialto Arts Center at Georgia State University; Fred and Dinah Gretsch of Savannah, who for three decades have run the 130-year-old company that manufactures and markets drums and guitars for musicians around the world; Paul Hudson of Clarkston, a historian, teacher and prolific author; Carl Purdy of Augusta, an instructor in performance at Georgia Regents University who both builds instruments and performs a vast repertoire; Douglas Scott of Atlanta, a dancer, choreographer and teacher; the Activities Council of Thomson of Thomson, which promulgates education and appreciation for the arts in a number of ways including the Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival; the Atlanta Ballet of Atlanta, the oldest continuously operating ballet company in the United States; Brenau University; the Center for Civil and Human Rights of Atlanta, a broad partnership of business, civic, educational and philanthropic leaders; Freedom Singers of Albany; Meridian Herald of Atlanta, which annually stages the Atlanta Music Festival at Frist Congregational Church as part of its music, literary and storytelling for contemporary audiences; Richard B. Russell Library of Political Research and Studies of Athens, which in the last 40 years has built one of the greatest collections of oral, written and audio/video recorded history on politics in the world.

Gainesville resident Abit Massey, president emeritus of the Georgia Poultry Federation, nominated Brenau for the award. His wife, Kayanne, is a Brenau alumna. They have been active supporters of the arts at Brenau in the more than six decades that they have lived in Atlanta. Their donation of a statue maquette of President Franklin Roosevelt is featured in the Manhattan Gallery of Art that is part of Brenau’s Downtown Center.

Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan, whose wife, Mary Lee, is also a Brenau alumna, seconded the nomination. He said that neither he nor any other official who supported Brenau’s re-development of the old Georgia Mountains Center convention facility were totally surprised to “step inside of a functioning art gallery” around all the classrooms, laboratories and other improvements when the building reopened.

“If you look at the criteria for the award — long-term commitment to support and sustain the arts; extensive participation in the arts; recognition for a role in the arts locally, regionally and nation ally; addressing community needs — they really define what Brenau is all about,” says Dunagan.

Georgia State Sen. Butch Miller of Gainesville also endorsed the nomination.

“For most people in the community, including me, the terms ‘Brenau University’ and ‘the arts’ are virtually synonymous,” Miller says. “When you look deeply into drivers of economic development in any area, there are a number of key factors that fuel growth. One that ranks near the top of the list of ‘must-have’ features — right along with high-quality education, recreation and great health care — is opportunities for cultural enrichment and artistic expression. For Gainesville, one of the most aggressive, passionate drivers of that factor has been Brenau University.”

In addition to a certificate, the winners received a special award handcrafted by Whelchel Meaders, a distinguished member of a famous family of Georgia folk potters. Represented in the Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia at Sautee Nacoochee, Meaders joins some 30 potters of the state who maintain a craft tradition continuous since the early 19th century. Ironically, Brenau already had some of Meaders’s work as part of its permanent collection of art objects.

About the Award Partners
The Georgia Council for the Arts is a division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development that works to cultivate the growth of vibrant, thriving Georgia communities through the arts. GCA provides grant funding and statewide programs and services that support the vital arts industry, preserve the state’s cultural heritage, increase tourism and nurture strong communities. Funding for GCA is provided by appropriations from the Georgia General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts. Visit

The Georgia Humanities Council promotes and preserves the stories and cultural legacies of the state’s people — from the past to the present and into the future — to enrich their lives and strengthen their communities. An informed and educated Georgia understands historical and cultural trends, respects the life of the mind, utilizes critical thinking in decision-making, and promotes mutual respect and civility. Funding for the Georgia Humanities Council is provided by the state of Georgia, the National Endowment for the Humanities, foundations, donors and our partners. Visit

About Brenau University
Founded in 1878, Brenau University is a private, not-for-profit nationally prominent comprehensive institution of higher education that enrolls students in graduate and undergraduate studies on campuses and online. Gainesville, GA-based Brenau includes the residential Women’s College, which represents the academic and philosophical underpinnings of the liberal arts university. Brenau also provides coeducational opportunities through the doctoral level, including on-ground programs in Gainesville and other Georgia locales: Augusta, Kings Bay, Norcross and Fairburn. Brenau University offers doctorates in nursing, occupational therapy and physical therapy, a terminal M.F.A. in interior design, specialist in education, master’s, bachelor’s and associate’s degrees as well as professional certifications. The Women’s College boasts 10 nationally competitive intercollegiate Golden Tigers sports teams, national honor societies and national sororities with dedicated residential facilities on campus. The university provides outlets for artistic expression and community service for all students. Brenau possesses an extensive and distinctive permanent collection of art and presents year-round programming that includes art exhibitions, lectures, debates and literary readings, and theatrical and musical performances. For more information, please visit the website at