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2019 Vermont Arts Awards, October 23 at the MAC

October 3, 2019

Recipients Include Douglas Anderson and François Clemmons of Middlebury

Middlebury, VT—The Mahaney Arts Center is pleased to host this year’s Vermont Arts Awards, presented by the Vermont Arts Council. These prestigious annual awards recognize outstanding individual and organizational contributions to the arts, honoring educators, artists, performers, advocates, administrators, volunteers, and scholars. In 2019, Vermonters will be recognized for their contributions in five categories. All awardees will be honored at a reception and ceremony co-sponsored by Middlebury College on Wednesday, October 23 at the Mahaney Arts Center. The ceremony is free, but attendees should RSVP through the arts council’s website.

Douglas Anderson of Middlebury will receive the Arthur Williams Award for Meritorious Service to the Arts.

Castle Freeman of Newfane will receive the Walter Cerf Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts.

James Lockridge of Burlington will receive the Margaret L. (Peggy) Kannenstine Award for Arts Advocacy.

Joan Robinson of Burlington will receive the Ellen McCulloch-Lovell Award in Arts Education.

François Clemmons of Middlebury will receive the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.

“Each of the exceptional individuals we are honoring this year enriches our lives with remarkable talent, commitment, and creative vision. As artists, cultural leaders, educators, and mentors, they remind us that art can be transformative, for us as individuals and for Vermont communities.” said Vermont Arts Council Executive Director Karen Mittelman.

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.”

About the Awardees

François Clemmons, Middlebury

François is well known for his 25-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, François was the Alexander Twilight Artist in Residence and director of the Martin Luther King Spiritual Choir at Middlebury. François 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.

Castle Freeman, Newfane

Castle was born in Texas, then raised and educated in Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia. He came to southeastern Vermont with his wife, Alice, on a whim and is still here 47 years later. He is the author of seven novels, about 80 short stories, two story collections, and more than 100 essays as well as historical articles, op-ed matter, journalism, nature writing, and other nonfiction. Most of his writing is related in one way or another to the life of our state and its people. Castle’s most recently published novel is The Devil in the Valley (Overlook Press, NY, 2016).

Joan Robinson, Burlington

Joan has worked as a teacher, storyteller, actor, cartoonist, librarian, playwright, and—for more than 20 years—adjunct faculty in St. Michael’s Graduate Education Program. As the first education director, then school programs director at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, she initiated the organization’s year-round performing arts classes, created “Words Come Alive!” and helped found the Integrated Arts Academy (IAA). She later served as drama coach at IAA. Additional career highlights include creating Ilsley’s Haunted Library, touring Vermont as Ms. Frizzle, and co-writing the play Bigger Than All of Us. Joan continues working happily as a Flynn teaching artist.

James Lockridge, Burlington

James has directed Big Heavy World, Vermont’s Burlington-based, independent, volunteer-staffed music office, for more than 20 years, generating partnerships and channeling enthusiasm that supports Vermont-made music of every kind and stage of development. Big Heavy World offers a music archive, record label, community radio station, events, and more. Through his collaborative efforts, James has brought together the resources to form a creative hub that would not otherwise exist. He has championed inclusion and respect for diversity, and built an engine of support for regional music based on these values.

Douglas Anderson, Middlebury

Douglas 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 Middlebury College’s McCardell Citizenship Award. Douglas also created the Opera Company of Middlebury, now in its 16th season.

The Vermont Arts Council envisions a state where all people have access to the arts and creativity in their lives, education, and communities. Engagement with the arts transforms individuals, connects us more deeply to each other, energizes the economy, and sustains the vibrant cultural landscape that makes Vermont a great place to live. Since 1965, the Council has been the state’s primary provider of funding, advocacy, and information for the arts in Vermont.


Event Details

The 2019 Vermont Arts Awards celebration, co-sponsored by Middlebury College, will be held on Wednesday, October 23 at 7:00 P.M., with a reception for attendees and honorees at 5:30 P.M., at the Mahaney Arts Center. Visitors are also encouraged to stop by the Middlebury College Museum of Art, which will stay open through the reception. Admission is free.

The Vermont Arts Awards celebration is free and open to the public, but reservations are requested via the Vermont Arts Council’s website at

The Mahaney Arts Center is located on the campus of Middlebury College, at 72 Porter Field Road in Middlebury, just off Route 30 South/S. Main Street. Free parking is available curbside on Route 30 or in the Center for the Arts parking lot, in rows marked faculty/staff/visitors.



Mahaney Arts Center
Middlebury College
South Main St./Route 30 South
72 Porter Field Rd.
Middlebury, VT 05753
(802) 443-3168 phone
(802) 443-2834 fax