Institutions loom large among the recipients of the 2014 Greater Mobile Art Awards and perhaps none larger than the University of South Alabama, which in 50 years of reshaping Mobile, is influential both in this 11th slate of award winners and ultimately our cultural landscape.
This year’s recipients include:
Artist – Jason Guynes
After earning his MFA at Tulane in 1991, Guynes taught at Oklahoma Panhandle State University and the University of West Alabama before moving to the University of South Alabama in 2005, where he chairs the Visual Arts Department. When USA erected its Moulton Tower in 2010, Guynes was charged with painting the mural on the inside of the landmark. The depiction of student life and university achievements will carry Guynes’ work into generations yet to enroll.
Educator – Ben Harper
The son of a University of South Alabama instructor, Harper is also an alum, earning his B.A. in music education in 1987. Though his presence has been a constant in the Mobile cultural scene as a musician in a globe’s worth of genres, nearly 20 years as an announcer at fine arts radio station WHIL, and as stage manager and media specialist for Mobile Symphony Orchestra, it’s his work in MSO’s Preludes program that cemented this honor. In the last 10 years, Harper estimates he’s taught roughly 3,000 first and second graders through MSO.
Business – PNC Bank
This financial institution might not be as homegrown as the University of South Alabama, but they’ve wasted no time in making their presence felt. The bank has donated generously to the Mobile Opera, the Mobile Museum of Art and given enough to Mobile Symphony Orchestra to underwrite several concerts. In addition, Mobile Arts Council Executive Director Bob Burnett estimates they’ve sunk $56,000 into MAC’s ChARTing New Directions program which reaches children at area Boys & Girls Clubs.
Organization – Mobile Ballet
For 26 years, Mobile Ballet has been a stalwart presence in highlighting art through movement. They’ve provided educational opportunities, performances and promoted ballet to keep dance a vital presence in the Mobile area.
Patron – Harold and Carlos Parkman
Granted, Carlos was the first CEO of the Centre for the Living Arts and oversaw not just the Saenger’s extensive renovations, but also construction of the CLA’s impressive facilities on Conti Street. Yet previously, she was known in Mobile cultural circles for her impressive abilities as a fundraiser. Even now, she’s still hard at work assisting the Mobile Museum of Art in the midst of their 50th anniversary celebrations.
Her husband Harold has been a volunteer as well, committing himself to Mobile Symphony Orchestra since the time they were merely a presenting organization, in addition to his previous service to the Mobile Museum of Art.
Volunteer – Mike Box
Box built a name for himself as a lawyer and politician, serving 16 years in the state legislature, but his latest honor is a result of diving into community theater over a quarter century ago, when the McGill Institute and USA alum auditioned for a Chickasaw Civic Theatre production and was hooked.
Since then he has thrown himself into their productions, not only as a performer but as a director, and was instrumental in their transition from a smaller facility into the Lola Phillips Playhouse. It’s been under his leadership they’ve staged their notably ambitious shows, with offerings such as “Cats” and “Les Miserables” that would normally prove too daunting for a company of their modest size.
Emerging Artist – Lucy Gafford
Gafford, another USA alum, was highlighted in Lagniappe in May mainly for her booming pet portraiture business. Her work with the Mobile Arts Council’s ChARTing New Directions program was no doubt instrumental in earning her this honor.
Lifetime Achievement – John and Mickey Cleverdon
A Mobile native, John Cleverdon earned his MA in visual arts in 1957 and spent decades teaching two-dimensional design and printmaking at USA, where he served as department chair for five years before retiring. He has had three one-person shows and appeared in juried and invitational exhibitions including shows in Birmingham, New Orleans, Chattanooga, Tenn. and Madison, Wis.
Mary (Mickey) Brobston Cleverdon holds an MA in English from the University of Alabama and taught at Jacksonville University, Bishop State College, USA and Spring Hill College. Her poetry has appeared in a number of publications including “Whatever Remembers Us: An Anthology of Alabama Poetry,” edited by Sue Walker.
In 1999, Ian Robertson’s Slow Loris Press of Fairhope published “Questions of Form,” a book of poems by Mickey Cleverdon with woodcuts by John Cleverdon. The Cleverdons also participated in the show “2X2” at the Mobile Museum of Art, with poems and portraits based on her collection of poems, “Women of Character.”
The Lifetime Achievement Award acknowledges individuals who display an extraordinary commitment to the overall health and vitality of the Metropolitan Mobile Area through creative means during the course of their lifetime.
As in years past, a local artist was commissioned to make the physical awards for presentation. This year, the awards will be produced by painter and printmaker Kate Seawell, a 2008 Greater Mobile Art Awards recipient.
The awards will be presented in a ceremony Aug. 28, at 7 p.m. in the 1927 Room at the Saenger Theater with a reception honoring the recipients immediately following. The event is free and open to the public.