Wednesday, May 18, 2022
Alabama Shakespeare Festival
Montgomery, AL

2022 Celebration of Alabama Arts

The Celebration of Alabama Arts shines a spotlight on arts and creativity in Alabama and on individuals who make significant and impactful contributions to our state’s rich cultural landscape.

The 2022 honorees and categories follow:

  • Wes Chapman, ballet dancer/artistic director from Birmingham – Governor's Arts Award
  • Jason Max Ferdinand, conductor/composer from Huntsville – Governor's Arts Award
  • Clifton Pearson, visual artist from Huntsville – Governor's Arts Award
  • Mary Settle Cooney, arts administrator from Sheffield – Jonnie Dee Riley Little Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Patty McDonald, arts patron from Birmingham (posthumous award) – Albert B. Head Legacy Award
  • Stanley Smith, Sacred Harp singer/composer from Ozark – Alabama Folk Heritage Award
  • David Hood, musician from Muscle Shoals – Alabama Distinguished Artist Award

Click here to view the special arts awards issue of ALABAMA ARTS magazine.
You can also download a PDF version here.

Event Details

round red logo with sunburst over text Celebration of Alabama Arts

These seven special Alabamians were honored during the 2022 Celebration of Alabama Arts ceremony on Wednesday, May 18, 2022.

The contributions of these remarkable individuals were recognized with memorable performances by Innergy INC. dancers, Oakwood University's Aeolians, Alabama Ballet, Iron Horse bluegrass band, Red Mountain Theatre, Alabama shape note singers, and the Muscle Shoals Sound tribute band – including a special appearance by David Hood himself!

The production will air on Alabama Public Television on Thursday, August 4 at 8:00 pm CT.

For a detailed look at the history of the awards, click here.


Wes Chapman – Governor’s Arts Award

The Governor’s Arts Award honors individuals who have made unique contributions to the arts in Alabama.

Hailing from Union Springs, Wes Chapman graduated from Alabama School of Fine Arts in 1983. After dancing for Alabama Ballet for one season, Wes joined American Ballet Theatre (ABT) in 1984 by invitation of Mikhail Baryshnikov as a member of the corps de ballet. He was promoted to soloist in 1987 and to principal dancer in 1989. With ABT, Wes performed all the leading roles in the ballet repertoire and in works by many of the 20th century’s master choreographers, including George Balanchine, Agnes de Mille, Jiri Kylian, Fredrick Ashton, Mats Ek, Twyla Tharp, Mark Morris, Merce Cunningham, and Antony Tudor. He also created leading roles in Clark Tippet’s Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 and Twyla Tharp’s The Elements. In 1993, he joined the Bavarian National Ballet as a principal dancer before returning to ABT in 1995.

In 1996, Wes was named artistic director of Alabama Ballet, where he established the Alabama Ballet School, Alabama Ballet Summer Program, and Gorham’s Bluff Summer Residency. As artistic director, Wes restaged many full-length classical ballets for Alabama Ballet, including Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, and Coppelia. He later served as artistic director of ABT II, overseeing the ABT Summer Intensive and hosting ABT’s Works and Process at the Guggenheim Museum, Young People’s Ballet Workshop, and ABTKids.

Wes received the Distinguished Career Award from the University of Alabama in 1998, was recognized as one of Birmingham Business Journal’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2004, and in 2007 was named Alabama Arts Ambassador by Governor Bob Riley.

Wes has also served as artistic advisor for Ballet San Jose in California, artist in residence for Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, and guest teacher for London’s Royal Ballet. Additionally, he is the chairman of the Jury for Universal Ballet Competition, serves as a national spokesperson for Regional Dance America, and is a dance advisor for Angelina Ballerina©. Wes currently serves as Chair of the Department of Dance at Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham. Photo: Kelsey Justice.

Jason Max Ferdinand – Governor’s Arts Award

The Governor’s Arts Award honors individuals who have made unique contributions to the arts in Alabama.

Jason Max Ferdinand is a professor, conductor, and composer originally from Trinidad and Tobago, now living and working in Huntsville as Chair of the Music Department and Director of Choral Activities at Oakwood University. Jason received his Bachelor of Arts in Piano Performance from Oakwood University, his Master of Arts in Choral Conducting from Morgan State University, and his Doctor of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting from the University of Maryland.

During his undergraduate experience at Oakwood University, he studied piano with Dr. Wayne Bucknor. While obtaining his Master of Arts in Choral Conducting at Morgan State University, Jason served as a graduate assistant to the late Dr. Nathan Carter. As a doctoral student at the University of Maryland, Jason studied under Dr. Edward Maclary.

In 2008, Jason began his tenure at Oakwood University as director of choral activities and director of the Aeolians of Oakwood University. Under Jason’s baton, the Aeolians of Oakwood University have graced stages the world over. Their repertoire of choral music, which ranges from the baroque era to the twenty-first century, has been sought after and performed at venues throughout the United States, Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Canada, Poland, Romania, Great Britain, Russia, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, and Hungary.

Jason is the founding artistic director of The Jason Max Ferdinand Singers: An Ensemble of Exceptional Talents. He has published the book Teaching with Heart: Tools for Addressing Societal Challenges Through Music and composed a choral series bearing his name. Jason serves on the National Collegiate Choral Organization board and is a former board member of the Alabama American Choral Directors Association. He maintains an active schedule as a presenter, adjudicator, and guest conductor in America, Asia, Europe, and the Caribbean. His greatest passion is teaching, which has resulted in great joy seeing former students become successful conductors/composers. Photo: Contributed.

Clifton Pearson – Governor’s Arts Award

The Governor’s Arts Award honors individuals who have made unique contributions to the arts in Alabama.

Born in Birmingham, Clifton Pearson now lives near Huntsville and is an accomplished artist known nationally for his ceramic sculptures. With an Ed.D. in studio ceramics, glass, metalwork, and art education, Clifton thinks of himself as primarily, as “a vessel maker, in that [he] work[s] to contain space.”

As one of Alabama’s finest contemporary artists whose long and notable career in art and education has had a meaningful impact throughout the state, Clifton is readily associated with the university art departments and is celebrated for his unique style of figurative sculpture. Throughout his career, Clifton has championed student artists, African American artists, arts educators, and working professional artists across Alabama.

Clifton has over fifty years of experience as a sculptor, engaging works that occupy the zone between imagination and reality. His extensive, impressive portfolio has garnered tremendous respect among his peers in the arts. His figural sculpture is formally conceived and highly stylized, yet through gesture and attitude, Clifton conveys the sense of a real human presence. His Celebrated Figures series features attenuated, emotionally expressive personages up to three feet in height.

Clifton set a standard of excellence in his own artistic practice and in his work as an administrator, advocate, educator, and mentor for generations of artists. After receiving his doctorate from Illinois State University, Clifton returned to Alabama and began his career as an art educator – a role he relished until his retirement. He is credited for growing and fully developing the Alabama A&M art program and mentoring generations of students while simultaneously nurturing his own unique ceramic style. Throughout his career, Clifton has been recognized for his remarkable contributions to the arts and arts education. Early on, Clifton received a Ford Foundation Fellowship grant, and he continued to create and exhibit while remaining fully dedicated as an educator and mentor.

While Clifton remained committed to Alabama A&M and continued to mentor his students and faculty, he moved on to faculty positions at Alabama’s Stillman College and, later, the University of Montevallo. His leadership in instructing future artists and art teachers has immensely impacted Alabama. Photo: University of Montevallo.

Mary Settle Cooney – Jonnie Dee Riley Little Lifetime Achievement Award

The Jonnie Dee Riley Little Lifetime Achievement award recognizes individuals who have devoted a lifetime of energy, service, and contributions to the arts in Alabama. The award’s namesake served on the Council on the Arts from 1974 to 1986 and exemplified the spirit of this award through her consistent support of the arts and civic engagement.

Over the course of 39 years, Mary Settle Cooney crafted a beautiful, living legacy at the Tennessee Valley Art Association (TVAA) in Tuscumbia. Mary Settle started her career with the TVAA in 1980 and became the executive director in 1989 – a position she held until her retirement in 2019. Under her direction, the Tennessee Valley Museum of Art and the Ritz Theatre transformed into sustainable community art offerings.

In 1985, Mary Settle directed the renovation of the abandoned historic Ritz Theatre in the heart of downtown Sheffield. The performing arts campus is now home to a lively performing arts school that provides performing arts training for high school students without access to such programs.

The Tennessee Valley Art Center was transformed under her leadership, growing from a multipurpose space to a dynamic museum with four galleries. Along with the expanded facilities, the Tennessee Valley Museum of Art developed collections and exhibitions, including the permanent installation of one of the oldest works of Alabama art, the Martin Petroglyph.

The education gallery at the Museum, which houses local and traveling exhibitions as well as workshops and lectures, was recently named the Mary Settle Cooney Gallery. This lively, energetic space is indicative of the character of Mary Settle, always brimming with ideas and productive but also contemplative.

Mary Settle has never lost momentum or her passion for the arts. She has touched the lives of thousands of artists, art administrators, volunteers, board members, staff, students, educators, and citizens. Her vision and coaching have breathed energy into a dynamic, cooperative community arts culture in North Alabama. Photo: Contributed.

Patty McDonald – Albert B. Head Legacy Award

(Posthumous award) The Albert B. Head Legacy award recognizes individuals who make unique contributions to the public arena that will have lasting importance for future generations in Alabama and beyond.

Performer, philanthropist, community leader, arts advocate, and supportive mentor Patty McDonald was a champion for arts organizations and communities across greater Birmingham.

Patty was born in Denver, Colorado, attended Colorado State University, and graduated from the University of Denver. She lived all over the world with her late husband Robert “Pat” McDonald and chose Birmingham as their home base in the 1970s. Patty was passionate about creating opportunities for all citizens of Central Alabama to be introduced to the wonder and excitement of the arts.

As a performer, Patty appeared in many memorable productions, including Virginia Samford Theater’s Love Letters and Red Mountain Theater’s The Wizard of Oz. As a leader, Patty served on the advisory boards of UAB’s Alys Stephens Center for the Performing Arts, the Alabama Ballet, Opera Birmingham, Red Mountain Theatre, Virginia Samford Theatre, Birmingham Music Club, Samford University Arts Executive Council, VSA Arts of Alabama, Oasis Counseling for Women and Children, Steel City Men’s Chorus, and served as Honorary Chair for Birmingham AIDS Outreach Arty Party. In addition, Patty supported arts education and established several scholarships in the belief that a strong commitment to education through the arts provided opportunities for youth, “for their spirit, for their development, for their enjoyment, and for their participation in all aspects of their lives.”

In recognition of her contributions to the Birmingham and Alabama arts communities, Patty was honored by the Alys Stephens Center with the “Volunteer in Philanthropy” award and received Red Mountain Theatre’s first “Star Award.” She was also named a “Star” by Opera Birmingham and received the “Outstanding Service to the Community” award from the Birmingham Area Theatre Alliance. In 2020, Patty was selected by the Council on the Arts to receive the Albert B. Head Legacy Award, the highest arts honor given by the State of Alabama. Unfortunately, Patty passed away in November of 2021. Still, the Council looks forward to honoring her legacy and celebrating her contributions to the arts in Alabama at the 2022 Celebration of Alabama Arts. The vision, service, leadership, and generosity of Patty and others like her have led Alabama to a new and brighter future where the arts are accessible, valued, experienced, and celebrated. Photo: Opera Birmingham.

Stanley Smith – Alabama Folk Heritage Award

The Alabama Folk Heritage award was established to recognize master folk artists who have made outstanding contributions to their artistic tradition. The award honors long-term achievement within art forms that are rooted in the traditional or ethnic culture of Alabama.

Sacred Harp singer and composer Stanley Smith has promoted and championed the art form locally and supported the growth of the tradition into a global community. Sacred Harp is named for the shape note hymnal published in 1844 by B.F White, which has since been revised several times. This beautiful form of a capella singing became a cornerstone of rural communities, with people coming together for retreat-like singing schools and social events simply called “singings.”

He grew up in Ozark, attending white singings and singings in African American communities, including those led by Dewey Williams, who would later be named a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow. Williams became a mentor and included Stanley as one of two white singers in a monthly television program featuring his Wiregrass Singers.

Understanding the importance of Black and white Sacred Harp histories, Stanley has worked to build an inclusive community, linking the two traditions. As a member of the committee revising White’s The Sacred Harp in 1992, Stanley proposed the inclusion of songs by Judge Jackson, an African American composer and one of Dewey Williams’ teachers. A previous attempt to include the works had been rejected, which resulted in Jackson authoring and editing the Colored Sacred Harp in 1931, the only African American Sacred Harp hymnal ever published. Stanley’s efforts were successful, and “My Mother’s Gone” was included.

To preserve and continue the tradition, Stanley has organized singings and singing schools. Singing schools led by Stanley in 1990 and 1995 were part of the Alabama State Council on the Arts Folk Arts Apprenticeship program and others held across the country. The Midwest Sacred Harp Singers that were taught in Chicago are honored in a dedication of a hymn composed by Stanley. The piece, aptly titled “Chicago,” is included in the 2006 revision of The Sacred Harp, which again included Stanley on the music committee.

Stanley's gracious, unassuming manner belies his influence on the community of Sacred Harp singers and the degree to which he has strengthened the tradition. As a singer, he exemplifies the pride and pleasure that Sacred Harp singers take in the music and the tradition. As a composer, he writes songs that add to the repertoire while adhering to the stylistic forms of Sacred Harp music. As a leader, he welcomes and helps first-time singers, who often become regular participants. Photo: Mark Gooch. Courtesy of Alabama Center for Traditional Culture.

David Hood – Alabama Distinguished Artist Award

The Alabama Distinguished Artist award recognizes artists with deep connections to Alabama who have earned significant national acclaim for their art over an extended period.

World-renowned bass player and studio musician David Hood has taken us there – and all over the world – as part of the original Muscle Shoals ‘Swampers.’ Starting his musical journey with trombone in his Sheffield, Alabama, high school band, and picking up guitar and bass guitar by age 17, Hood “fell into the music business unintentionally” as he became a success.

By 1967, David had played bass or trombone on several early Muscle Shoals hits, including James and Bobby Purify’s “I’m Your Puppet,” Percy Sledge’s “Warm and Tender Love,” and Etta James’ “Tell Mama.” During this time, he connected with Roger Hawkins, Jimmy Johnson, and Barry Beckett to form the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. The rhythm section continued to rack up a string of hits at FAME Studios until 1969 when they felt it was time to go out on their own.

David, Roger, Jimmy, and Barry purchased a studio in Sheffield at 3614 Jackson Highway, which they remodeled and renamed Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. David’s defining bass lick in the Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There” was the first in a series of hit songs the Rhythm Section recorded. The group notably worked with R.B. Greaves, Aretha Franklin, Lulu, Wilson Pickett, Bobby Womack, Mel and Tim, Paul Simon, Traffic, Millie Jackson, Bob Seger, Willie Nelson, Delbert McClinton, Rod Stewart, Jimmy Buffett, Joe Cocker, Dr. Hook, the Oak Ridge Boys, John Prine, and Glen Frey, and appeared on more than 500 recordings and over 75 gold and platinum hits. The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section was immortalized in the 1974 Lynyrd Skynyrd hit “Sweet Home Alabama” under their nickname ‘the Swampers.’

David and his fellow Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section members were honored by induction to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1995, and in 2008, they were inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame. In 2020, David was rated as one of the top 50 bass players in the world by Rolling Stone, coming in at #27. He has also been a part of the stage band for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame tribute shows.

David continues to be a full-time working musician playing all over the world. In addition to his studio work, Hood has appeared live with artists such as Art Garfunkel, Ronnie Blakely, and toured for two years with the English group Traffic. During the past few years, he has recorded or played live with Alicia Keys, the late Levon Helm, Drive-By Truckers, Betty Lavette, Steve Winwood, Percy Sledge, the Amazing Rhythm Aces, the Memphis Boys, and numerous others.

David remains very active in the Shoals community and is a true ambassador for the state and local areas and an inspiration to young people hoping to make the performing arts part of their future. Photo: Courtesy of Alabama Tourism Department.

About Us

The mission of the Alabama State Council on the Arts is to enhance the quality of life and economic vitality for all Alabamians by providing support for the state’s diverse and rich artistic resources.

Agency goals:

  • Support excellence and professionalism in the arts.
  • Provide opportunities for high-quality arts education for every Alabama student and lifelong learner.
  • Provide opportunities for all Alabamians to experience the arts.
  • Identify, preserve, and present folk art traditions.
  • Promote diverse cultural artistic expressions.
  • Recognize and support the arts as a driver of economic vitality.
  • Increase public recognition and appreciation for the arts, arts organizations, and individual artists.

Our Supporters

The Alabama State Council on the Arts is funded by state legislative appropriations, a partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency), Support the Arts license plate sales, and tax refund donations.
Thank you for your support!

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