2001 Arts Award Recipients

The Alabama State Council on the Arts honored the 2001 Arts Award recipients at a performance and reception on Friday, May 4 at the Davis Theatre for the Performing Arts in Montgomery. Activities began with preshow performances at 7:15 followed by the award presentations at 7:30. A reception for the honorees followed in the Alabama Artists Gallery at 201 Monroe Street. Awards presented include the Jonnie Dee Little Lifetime Achievement Award, the Distinguished Artist Award, the Alabama Folk Heritage Award and the Governor's Arts Awards.

Davis Theatre for the Performing Arts, Montgomery

Distinguished Artist Award - Fannie Flagg

Fannie Flagg's show business career began when she entered a Miss Alabama pageant and won a scholarship to the Pittsburgh Playhouse. She returned from Pittsburgh to her beloved hometown of Jasper at age 19, having secured her own live 90-minute television show with ABC.

Miss Flagg moved to New York, where she wrote material for and appeared in the sophisticated comedy revue at the Upstairs at the Downstairs Club. Not only was she hailed as one of the freshest and most exciting talents in New York by critics Rex Reed and Judith Crist, she was spotted in the revue by Allen Funt and persuaded to join him on "Candid Camera." She appeared on camera, but she also wrote and directed for the popular show, and meantime began making regular appearances on the "Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson. She also had a co-starring role in "The Dick Van Dyke Show," and acted in the movies "Five Easy Pieces" and "Stay Hungry." She recorded two comedy albums, RCA's "Rally Round the Flagg," and MGM's "My Husband Doesn't Know I'm Making This Phone Call," which was based on Martha Mitchell, wife of then U. S. Attorney General John Mitchell.

While keeping a heavy schedule of television, movie, and stage commitments, Miss Flagg began her most rewarding career--that of a novelist. Her first novel, Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man (originally published as Coming Attractions) spent ten weeks on The New York Times paperback bestseller list, and her second novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, spent thirty-six weeks on the same list. It was produced by Universal Studios as the feature film, Fried Green Tomatoes. Miss Flagg's script was nominated for both the Academy Award and the Writers Guild of America award, and it won the highly respected Scripters Award. She narrated both novels on audiotape and received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Spoken Word.

Miss Flagg's third novel, Welcome to the World, Baby Girl, was published in 1998. She has also published Fannie Flagg's Original Whistle Stop Café Cookbook. All her books remain in print, some in large-print editions. She is currently at work on a fourth novel.

The Jonnie Dee Little Lifetime Achievement Award - James Nelson

The Jonnie Dee Little Lifetime Achievement Award is given to those whose achievements have had a major statewide impact and whose devotion to a lifetime of service in the arts has helped shape the cultural life in Alabama. The award is named for Dr. Jonnie Dee Little, a past Council member, who exemplified the spirit of the award.

Widely known to lovers of art throughout the state as the Arts Critic for The Birmingham News, James Nelson's remarkable abilities have secured his place as an outstanding figure in many different art-related fields. As an arts administrator, he guided the Alabama School of Fine Arts from a part-time instructional program in music, dance, theater and visual arts to a full-fledged secondary school with a complete academic program and added disciplines of creative writing, mathematics, and sciences. During his twenty-five year tenure as the first Executive Director of ASFA, Mr. Nelson oversaw the development and construction of ASFA's twenty million dollar urban campus, the only school of its kind in the United States. The school has been recently named among Newsweek magazine's ten top public high schools for its scholastic achievements. The Alabama School of Fine Arts, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, is naming the campus in his honor.

Mr. Nelson has served as a member and as vice-chairman of the Alabama State Council on the Arts, as a member and Chairman of the Federal/States Arts Partnership Panel at the National Endowment for the Arts. He is a founding member and first president of the National Network of Performing and Visual Arts Schools. A former head of the Visual and Performing Arts department at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Mr. Nelson has been the president of the Birmingham Music Club and continues to serve as a member of its executive board. He also sits on the board of the Metropolitan Arts Council of Birmingham, and he continues to lecture on art and art history at the Birmingham Museum of Art and at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

He retired from ASFA in June of 1996, but Mr. Nelson continues to serve as Visual Arts Critic for The Birmingham News. His informed and thoughtful articles and reviews have brought valuable recognition to the arts in Alabama and improved the quality of life for countless Alabamians. His writings have attracted positive attention to the visual arts in Alabama and internationally. As a critic, he has traveled to Egypt, Russia, Turkey, Italy, France, and China in preparation for articles on exhibitions.

Governor's Arts Awards

Four Alabamians have been selected to receive Governor's Arts Awards: Frederick Kimbrough, Gilbertown; Dyann Robinson, Tuskegee; Betty Huth Schonrock, Huntsville; and, Charles Stakely, Montgomery.

Frederick Kimbrough, Gilbertown, is a native of Choctaw County who has returned to Alabama following a successful thirty year professional career in New York that included Broadway productions, television and film.. In 1980, Mr. Kimbrough fulfilled a life-long dream and returned to Choctaw County to work with rural children. Along with his wife he established the Ballet and Theatre Arts School in Gilbertown. Since establishing the school and its' production company, they have produced more than 80 major productions.

Dyann Robinson, Tuskegee, returned to her birthplace following a successful Broadway dance career that included a position as assistance choreographer for the hit musical, Bubbling Brown Sugar. Her professional dance career included teaching and performing at the National Center for African-American Artists in Boston and at the Dance Theatre of Harlem in New York City. Since Ms. Robinson's return to Alabama, she has served as Director of Tuskegee's Department of Cultural Affairs and stage Bubbling Brown Sugar for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. She is now an Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre at Auburn University.

Betty Huth Schonrock, Huntsville, is known for community service, particularly in the promotion, sustenance, and advancement of the arts. She is an active supporter, board member and fund-raiser for both the Huntsville Symphony and the Huntsville Museum of Art. Mrs. Schonrock was also instrumental in raising the funds necessary to build the Wilcoxon Ice Skating Complex. She is also active with the Huntsville Botanical Gardens and Historic Huntsville Foundation.

Charles Stakely, Montgomery, is being recognized for his work in developing a free strings program in partnership with the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra and the Cleveland Avenue YMCA in Montgomery. Always active in art and cultural activities, Mr. Stakely is also Chairman of the board of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, a member of the Board of Overseers of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and actively involved with the Montgomery Museum of Fine Art.