Living Columns & Blogs

Cultural awards honor contributions to the arts

(From left to right) Jim Crisp, Gwen and Richard Phillips, Christopher Howard and Dr. Stanley L. Roberts
(From left to right) Jim Crisp, Gwen and Richard Phillips, Christopher Howard and Dr. Stanley L. Roberts Used with permission: The Macon Arts Alliance

This column has an early deadline so five esteemed members of the arts community, that were recognized for their contributions of talent, time and treasure by Macon Arts Alliance, were left out of last week’s After Hours.

On Monday, Oct. 23, the MAA’s Cultural Awards were bestowed on Chris Howard, Stanley Roberts, Phillips Performing Arts and Jim Crisp at Theatre Macon.

Howard became a familiar figure when he worked as a recent college graduate with Macon Heritage Foundation, now named Historic Macon Foundation, on High Street, doing everything from docent duties to hauling furniture for the annual flea market, always with a smile on his face.

When Howard left HMF, he joined the Cox Communications team and we had the opportunity to see him at work behind the scenes as an activist in promoting the arts in Macon and in encouraging his employer to sponsor and, in some cases, underwrite, many artistic initiatives. On Monday night, a former co-worker and good friend, Lynn Murphey, paid tribute to Howard with the insight and affection of someone who saw him in action for many years.

Stanley Roberts, has been on the music faculty of Mercer for a quarter of a century, is the Arthur Lowndes Rich professor of choral conducting and the director of choral studies in the Townsend School of Music at Mercer. He was recognized for expanding the horizons of choral musicians with international participation with other highly-regarded musicians and for enriching the resources of Mercer and of First Baptist Church of Christ, where he serves as minister of music, with the founding of the Jubilate!, a touring choir for young people.

Gwen and Richard Phillips founded the Phillips Performing Arts Center on Main Street with an old school approach. The center caters to developing young people’s artistic talents; however, before any of the students can enter competition in their chosen field, etiquette class is a must. The philosophy works. Macon Arts recognized the founders for surmounting perceived obstacles to the success of the center and adding the element of an arts center to the east Macon neighborhood.

As founder and as artistic director of Theatre Macon for over 30 years, Crisp brought community theater back downtown and changed the culture of amateur theater to not only include young people, but to promote a season for the Youth Actors Company. Crisp was given the Rosalyn Elkan Lifetime Achievement Award, a fitting tribute to a man who has devoted most of his adult life to enhancing the Middle Georgia theater experience.

Girls night out for the grown ups

According to her friends, Amy Ovalle is the go-to girl for ideas that keep her circle of friends energized and full of anticipation for the next adventure she might have up her sleeve. So, they weren’t surprised when she told them about her plans for a girls’ night out — a night away from spouses, children, homework assignments and cooking.

Ovalle decided to plan these excursions for one evening each month, to explore something the group had never done before. On, Oct. 26, nine women gathered at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, to meet dance instructor, Paula East, for a sampling of lively ballroom steps, to see if there might be further interest in pursuing dance classes.

East had some of her seasoned students on hand, Isabel Kabani, Debra and David Leathers, Peggy Mullis and Paul Karpinecz, to give the women individual attention and several of the women decided to pursue private lessons with East.

The good friends, all women with careers, come from a diverse skill set, from physician to Ovalle who works with exchange students through (loosely translated as a year abroad in the USA). Two exchange students, to whom the concept was foreign, joined the girls’ night out, enjoying the opportunity to learn more about another American pastime — dancing.

On alternate months, Ovalle has plans for a cooking class or discussing a good book. Ovalle’s debut GNO was definitely a winner.

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