Like most years, the 2020 Nappie Award winners in the Arts section have some customary winners, familiar names and then a few surprises. One surprise is bigger than the rest.
If you’ve perused the preceding portion of the newspaper before landing here, you’ve already seen the profile of 2020’s Best Local Painter, Ginger Woechan. A finalist in 2019, she cinched this year’s contest with a public project that captured a lot of attention and identities. But that’s all in the prior section.
Ardith Goodwin repeated her 2018 win for Best Mixed Media Artist.
Sophiella Gallery on Bienville Square won for Best Art Gallery. Open just months before the previous round of Nappie Awards, they finally grabbed top honors after their first full year in business.
Maybe the biggest upset in this year’s Nappie Awards was Frank Ledbetter snagging the Best Sculptor award. Bruce Larsen had won all prior years since the award’s 2015 inception.
Ledbetter spent years in the metal fabrication business then took an artistic bent in 2005.
“I dragged a trailer to art shows all over the country. That led to private commissions and then doing big public pieces. That took me off the road,” Ledbetter said.
His public pieces often feature nautical themes and Gulf Coast wildlife is common, like the porpoises at the Gulf Shores Welcome Center or the marlin at The Wharf in Orange Beach. He’s also done restoration, like with an Ida Kohlmeyer piece that once sat near the New Orleans Superdome and now resides in Metairie, Louisiana.
His self-taught status made him initially unsure. That’s changed.
“I make a decent living doing art and never would have dreamed it. I just stay head down and work. I love it. It’s the best gig I’ve ever had,” Ledbetter said.
Best Local Graphic Artist is Courtney Crowe, who shifted gears when the pandemic’s economic crunch cut her loose from a previous job. The Mobile native fired up her freelance business again in addition to minding her suddenly housebound kids.
A graphic design major at the University of South Alabama, Crowe’s creativity has several outlets. She started dance at Sheffield School of Dance at age 10, then turned that into a professional gig at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. One standout memory from then was a particularly surreal day.
“I was working there when 9/11 happened. I remember that day so well. Everybody knew about it and we had to go on with our day like nothing was wrong,” Crowe said.
She returned to Mobile and flipped roles at Sheffield, becoming an instructor for 19 years. Crowe hoofed her way onto the local stage a few times, last appearing in Mobile Theatre Guild’s 2009 production of “Cabaret.”
“I am so appreciative of all the love and support from my family, friends and the wonderful Mobile community. I truly love what I do and have a passion for helping others achieve their personal and professional goals,” Crowe said in gratitude for the Nappie Award.
Speaking of the stage, Playhouse in the Park won Best Children’s Theatre Group after their finalist status in the 2018 Nappies. With direction now assumed by Danny and Pam Mollise, this Langan Park institution has infused a love of theater into generations of Mobile youth for the last half-century.
Best Local Actor was Eastern Shore teen Kensey LaCroix. This was her first win.
Best Play or Performance of the Year, Children’s was snagged by The PACT Theatre Company’s production of “Frozen.” They won 2019’s Best Theatre Group.
Best Play or Performance of the Year went to the Mystic Society of Rocky Horror’s “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
Best Dancer went to Destinee Richardson, another new name on the awards list.
Best Theatrical Singer is Brandon M. Caten. The multi-talented instructor and performer place second for Best Actor in 2013 and won Best Actor in 2014 and 2015.
Kelly Teague repeated his 2019 win for Best Local Comedian. He is co-founder and director of the Chickasaw Civic Comedy Players, Chickasaw Civic Theatre’s house improv team, and aims to bring touring professional improv groups to the Azalea City.
Joe Jefferson Players seized back their crown to win Best Theatre Group for the seventh time. They previously placed second in 2010 and ’12, were finalists in 2019, and won in 2008, ’11, ’13, ’14, ’15 and ’16.
Best Arts Event is LoDa Artwalk, their sixth win in a row.
The History Museum of Mobile won for Best Museum. They placed second in 2008 and ’14 and won in 2016 and ’19.
Congratulations to all on these well-deserved awards.
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