The four people who will receive Winthrop University's highest award for the arts next week represent a diverse group. They include a longtime guitarist, a Pulitzer poetry nominee, a prolific blacksmith and a prominent arts advocate.
They will be honored at a special ceremony Oct. 24 sponsored by the Winthrop's College of Visual and Performing Arts. Each will receive a hand-crafted medal made by former arts professor Alf Ward, and the ceremony will feature performances by faculty and students.
Each year, we marvel at the wide spectrum of talent among the honorees and how each, in his or her own way, has helped foster the arts not only in this community but also nationwide.
This year's recipients are:
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• Vivian Ayers, who received a Pulitzer nomination in 1952 for her poetry. Her poem "Hawk" was, for 20 years, the only poetry celebrated by NASA. Ayers also served on the faculty of Rice University in Texas, the first black to do so, and, among a variety of intellectual pursuits, she established the Adept New American Museum, a museum of art and history of the America Southwest.
She also reared a family with three gifted children who would pursue the performing arts. They are jazz musician Tex Allen, Tony-Award winning actress Phylicia Rashad and famed dancer Debbie Allen.
• Johnny "Boggie" King took a serious interest in the guitar in high school, and never looked back. A musician for 50 years, King has played his music all over the world.
After moving to New York in the late 1960s, he joined the Bill Doggett Band and later helped form the Fatback Band. That funk and disco group recorded numerous albums, including one that went gold.
King, now living in Rock Hill, helped form the Rock Hill Musicians Club and continues to perform at area events with a group of Winthrop faculty members.
• Michael Marsicano is a tireless supporter of the arts. Earlier this year, he received the innovator of the year award for the city of Charlotte.
He has served as president and CEO of the Foundation of the Carolinas since 1999, overseeing a 50-person staff and a $5.8 million annual budget. The foundation administers more than 1,700 funds, including many that support the arts. For the past two years, he has attended the Sundance Preserve with about 30 other public and private sector leaders to explore national arts policy issues.
• Philip Simmons was inspired as a young boy by the intricate ironwork found on homes throughout Charleston. He visited blacksmith shops, pipefitters, shipwrights, coppers and other craftsmen who serviced waterfront businesses.
He eventually mastered the art himself and now is the most celebrated of Charleston's ironworkers. He has fashioned more than 500 decorative pieces of ornamental wrought iron that now decorate downtown Charleston.
All these talented people have been inspired by art, but also are exemplary because the have helped instill the love of art in others. We join Winthrop in saluting them and their diverse accomplishments, and hope their recognition and events such as this help swell the numbers of art lovers in the state.
Winthrop's College of Visual and Performing Arts has honored a diverse group