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Macon Arts recognizes cultural contributions

Six cultural awards were given out by Macon Arts Alliance this year to, in no particular order, Jeff Bruce, Joe Cullison, Betsy Fitzgerald, Karla Redding-Andrews, Tony Long Jr. and Nutcracker of Middle Georgia, represented by Jean Weaver.
Six cultural awards were given out by Macon Arts Alliance this year to, in no particular order, Jeff Bruce, Joe Cullison, Betsy Fitzgerald, Karla Redding-Andrews, Tony Long Jr. and Nutcracker of Middle Georgia, represented by Jean Weaver.

Under the umbrella of the Macon Arts Alliance, there are about 60 organizations that contribute to the robust health of Middle Georgia’s cultural and artistic community.

On Oct. 25, representatives from many of those organizations gathered at the Douglass Theatre to honor the volunteers and the unsung heroes who work to promote and maintain the mission of making the arts an integral part of living in a progressive city.

Jan Beeland, Macon Arts executive director, announced that MAA was the 2016 recipient of the Georgia governor’s Arts and Humanities award, given to individuals and organizations that significantly contribute to “culture and vitality” in their communities, before Steven Fulbright, MAA president, took over as emcee for the ceremony, recognizing this year’s six cultural award recipients.

Jeff Bruce, the Tubman Museum’s director of exhibitions, was recognized by the museum’s executive director Andy Ambrose for raising the profile of the museum and for other contributions to his community, including founding the One City Art Festival, serving on the artistic advisory committee for the East Macon Arts Village at Mill Hill and being a member of the Macon Film Festival board of directors since 2013.

Joe Cullison, another award recipient, is credited with adding a new dimension to the musical landscape with his long tradition of bringing the Celtic Christmas Concert to Macon, featuring Steve Baughman and Robin Bullock on guitars. Cullison, who has brought acoustic artists to the Douglass and to the Juliette Opera House, has cultivated an appreciation for the intimacy of house concerts.

It did not take long for harpist Betsy Fitzgerald to become a familiar face in the arts community after graduating from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, and moving to Macon. The MAA cultural award recognized her involvement in musical initiatives, as a founding member of the Friends of the Macon Symphony, as a board member of the Morning Music Club and as a recently tapped board member of the Dream Academy.

Son Justin Andrews paid tribute to his mother, MAA award recipient Karla Redding-Andrews, for her dedication to keeping alive the legacy of her father, the late Otis Redding. The mission of all of the endeavors she has pursued is her father’s vision, “Progress Through Education and Enlightenment Through Music.” She is executive director of the Otis Redding Foundation, which sponsors the Otis Music Camp, the Otis Redding Center for Creative Arts and is now the driving force behind a new charter school, Dream Academy, which Redding-Andrews plans to have open for the 2017-18 school year.

Jean Weaver, artistic director and founder of the Nutcracker of Middle Georgia, is a past recipient of a MAA cultural award. However, the ballet company was the honoree this year for entertaining Middle Georgians with fine choreography and excellent dancers under Weaver’s guidance.

Coincidentally, one of the staunchest supporters since the first performance of the “Nutcracker,” 31 years ago, Tony Long Jr., was tapped for the Rosalyn Elkan Lifetime Achievement award, named for a transplant to Macon who devoted her life to the support of music and the arts in her adopted community. Long and the other honorees were treated to a reception after the ceremony where the Phillips Performing Arts Jazzy Jazz and Concert Band performed.

A NEW ARENA FOR THE MACON POPS

In its second performance of the season, the Macon Pops brought “Dancing through the Decades 3” to Hawkins Arena on Mercer University’s campus on Oct. 28. The crowd was not shy about getting on the dance floor with the first beat of Duke Ellington’s “Take the A Train,” and packed the floor the rest of the night for the musical journey from the last half of the 20th century through more recent chart toppers.

Matt Catingub, co-founder and conductor of the orchestra, handled the vocals for several pop favorites, including Van Morrison’s “Brown-eyed Girl” and David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” However, it was a treat to hear Steve Moretti’s gritty rendition of the Eagles’ “Witchy Woman,” in the first set, and the Spin Doctors’ “Two Princes,” in the second, when he is best known as the drummer who dominates the stage for every performance — and has so much fun with those sticks!

Anita Hall, who was embraced by Macon during the Pops’ first season, returned for this concert for a little Latin — “Under the Boardwalk” by the Drifters and “Last Dance” by Donna Summer — and, some traditional rock favorites such as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love,” before ending the concert with the conga line and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.”

Kay and Paul Beliveau, at the table with Margaret Snow, took advantage of the convenient set up for food and beverages at the arena, where the Pops will complete this season’s performances.

Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or kwaldenint@aol.com.

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