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1997 Recipients

Yo-Yo Ma

Yo-Yo MaYo-Yo Ma is one of the most honored and celebrated musicians of our time. A 1978 recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Prize, Ma has performed with orchestras throughout the world - including frequent appearances with the Boston Symphony. As a Sony Classical recording artist, he has recorded more than 45 albums, including 10 Grammy Award winners.

But Ma has never rested on his considerable laurels as a performer. One of the hallmarks of his career is his continuous search for new ways to communicate with audiences, and to stretch himself as an artist.

Ma also devotes an enormous amount of energy to the development of younger audiences and musicians. He is especially committed to the work of Young Audiences, Inc., and its local chapter, Young Audiences of Massachusetts, for whom he has served as an advisor. He received the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton on the organization's behalf in 1994. He gives master classes around the world, works with students at the New England Conservatory, and serves on the faculty of the Tanglewood Music School. He often arranges special events for youngsters from local schools and encourages students to attend open rehearsals.

Semenya McCord

Semenya McCordAs a vocalist, Semenya McCord has inspired audiences of all ages with her rich, mellow tones. Equally at home in concert halls or classrooms, she has performed throughout New England, and in France and Costa Rica. She has recorded with such jazz innovators such as Archie Shepp, and recently released her first CD, "Good for Me!"

But jazz is only one of McCord's passions. She is devoted to the celebration of African-American music in all of its forms, including spirituals, the blues, and gospel. And she is passionate about the role that music can play in the lives of young people.

McCord is artistic director of Hemisphere Associates, a collaboration of New England performing artists. She teaches at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, Tufts University, the New England Conservatory, and the Longy School of Music. She was named Outstanding Jazz Vocalist in 1988 by the Boston Music Awards and received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award in Musical Excellence in 1990 from the City of Boston.

Joseph D. Thomas

Joseph D. ThomasNew England has experienced enormous changes in the culture and lifestyle of its people over the past 150 years - changes that have been captured and preserved in a series of books produced by Spinner Publications, Inc., and its founder, Joseph Thomas.

Thomas was born and raised in New Bedford. In 1980 he launched Spinner Publications, a not-for-profit press dedicated to recording the history and culture of the cities and towns of southeastern Massachusetts.

Spinner Publications' first book, Spinner: People and Culture of Southeastern Massachusetts, Volume 1, was published in 1980. Since that time, there have been four more volumes in this series, and five other books including A Window Back, a volume of vintage photographs from the New Bedford Whaling Museum, and Cranberry Harvest: A History of Cranberry Growing in Massachusetts.

The Spinner books reflect Thomas' keen eye for detail and sensitivity to atmosphere. In addition to its publications, Spinner has also developed History Spoken Here, an education program for grades 5 through 8, where students record and edit an oral history with a friend or relative, and publish it in a magazine of their own creation.

Interpretive Scientist
Charles E. Roth

Charles E. RothNationally known as "the father of environmental literacy," Charles E. Roth has devoted more than three decades to promoting environmental education in Massachusetts. A former biology teacher and nature camp counselor, an author and an illustrator, and a lifelong advocate for environmental causes, Roth believes in teaching people to explore their environment with sensitivity and understanding.

Roth directed education programs for the Massachusetts Audubon Society for 27 years. He developed exhibits and programs for Drumlin Farm, planned in-service teacher training programs and trained nature counselors for the New England region. He also helped bring to Massachusetts the three most widely used environmental curricula for schools: Project WILD (on wildlife); WET (on water resources); and Learning Tree (on the forest).

In addition to his "day job" at Mass. Audubon, Roth founded what is now known as the New England Environmental Education Alliance in 1966, and co-founded the Massachusetts Environmental Education Society. In 1972 and again in 1990, he chaired teams of educators that developed a comprehensive plan for environmental education in Massachusetts.

Organizational Leadership
Edmund Barry Gaither

Edmund Barry GaitherAs director and curator of the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists, Edmund Barry Gaither has established a vital cultural presence for the black community of Boston and beyond.

Through exhibits of African American painting, photographs, pottery, fabrics, and sculpture, Gaither's work encourages black Americans to understand and appreciate their contribution to national and international culture. He has also established a permanent collection of more than 4,000 artifacts and the country's largest slide archives of African cultural art.

An art historian, lecturer, consultant and writer, Gaither serves as special consultant and adjunct curator at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. Gaither formerly taught at Wellesley College, Harvard College and Boston University, and has served as a panel chairman for the National Endowment for the Arts and on President Bush's Advisory Board on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He also co-founded the African American Museum Association.

Organizational Leadership
Frederick C. Tillis

Frederick C. TillisAs Director of the Fine Arts Center at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst since 1978, Dr. Frederick C. Tillis has worked to ensure that the arts in all their diverse forms flourish and are part of the lives of residents of the Pioneer Valley.

Today the Center is the only multidisciplinary cultural center of its scope and quality in western Massachusetts. Its performing and visual arts programs include the Center Series featuring nationally acclaimed artists; Concerts for Young People, for audiences of school children; Hampden Theater, offering avant-garde performances; and the University Gallery, which has a national reputation in contemporary art and a large permanent collection.

A composer, performer, poet and educator, he embodies the richness the arts can bring to one's existence. He is the author of six books of poetry. He has composed more than 120 music works in both European Classical and Jazz traditions. And he is an accomplished saxophonist, with 17 recordings to his credit.

Cultural Organization
Newton Television Foundation

Newton Television FoundationWithout a lot of fanfare, Massachusetts has established a remarkable community of independent documentary filmmakers, whose work is earning a growing national reputation. But the production and distribution of documentary films is an expensive and complicated undertaking. This is why an organization such as the Newton Television Foundation is so invaluable.

Since 1981, the Newton Television Foundation has collaborated in the production of more than 100 works that have been seen throughout the United States and elsewhere via television, theatrical release and the educational market. Susi Walsh and her co-director, Fred Simon, also an award-winning filmmaker, make a special effort to look for subjects that are not usually addressed in the mainstream media.

In addition to its collaborations with independent producers, the Newton Television Foundation is currently establishing a comprehensive information center for documentary filmmakers on the World Wide Web.

Very Special Arts Massachusetts

Very Special Arts MassachusettsFor more than 20 years, Very Special Arts Massachusetts has promoted arts and humanities by, with and for people with disabilities. VSAM is dedicated to improving both the quality and accessibility of cultural opportunities for people with disabilities through school programs, information services, festivals and professional development.

In addition to classroom residencies, VSAM provides professional development opportunities for classroom teachers, special educators, arts specialists, and parents. In 1991, VSAM published the Multi-Arts Resource Guide and Companion Videos, currently being used by hundreds of teachers throughout Massachusetts and other parts of the United States.

VSAM works closely with many cultural organizations as they seek to do a better job of making both facilities and programs more accessible. VSAM training sessions for cultural organizations include Marketing to People with Disabilities, Americans with Disabilities Act Compliance for Cultural Organizations, and Program Development to Creatively Involve People with Disabilities. In partnership with the Mass Cultural Council, VSAM administers the ADA Mini-Grant Program, which offers incentive grants to cultural organizations to make their programs more accessible.

Hudson Area Arts Alliance

Hudson Area Arts AllianceA model of grassroots community collaboration, the Hudson Area Arts Alliance has been outstanding in fostering cultural activities and arts education programs that have broadened the quality of life for local residents. The Arts Alliance presents programs for adults and children, provides services for artists and cultural organizations and leads efforts to ensure that the arts have a permanent place in the local community and schools.

Incorporated as a not-for-profit in 1991, the Arts Alliance, with its small staff and dedicated corps of volunteers effectively brings artists into the community while developing the artistic potential of those who live here.

The Community Arts Series annually sponsors artists; Hudson Drama Workshop provides youth with summer theater arts programs; Arts Afterschool offers children a variety of arts experiences; Spring & Fall Exhibits and Youth Art Too! display visual artists' work in the community; the Storytelling and Mayan studies projects have helped to integrate arts into the curriculum in the Hudson Public Schools: An arts calendar and area arts meetings inform and bring people together.

Marge Champion

Marge ChampionMarge Champion captivated audiences as the live action model for Walt Disney's "Snow White," and later as she danced with her husband Gower in numerous film, television and Broadway hits such as "Show Boat," "The Marge and Gower Champion Show," and "Three for Tonight" with Harry Belafonte. Her extensive talents include directing and award-winning choreographing.

Now a Berkshires resident, Champion continues to be a star as a true patron of the arts. She generously gives not only financial support, but equally important, lends her national reputation, time and vision to both cultural organizations in the Berkshires and to young artists at the beginning of their careers.

An active member of the board of Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, Champion donated an 18th century barn from her property to the Pillow in 1996. She also teaches and gives master classes at the Pillow's renowned education program for emerging dancers, helping them to develop and refine their art.

Champion also serves on the Advisory Board of the Berkshire Theatre Festival and is a member of the Executive Committee for the Williamstown Theatre Festival, where she helps to select nominees for the Boris Sagal Fellowship for Directors, which she endowed.

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