Arts News

Grammy Award-winning opera singer François Clemmons was named winner of the 2019 Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.

MONTPELIER – Vermont Gov. Phil Scott announced that François Clemmons of Middlebury would receive The 2019 Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the highest honor presented to an artist by the state of Vermont. In selecting Clemmons for this award, Scott said, “I am pleased to name François as the winner of this year’s Excellence in the Arts award. His renowned musical talent and years of service to his community made him the perfect choice. Congratulations, François, and thank you for making Vermont proud.”

Clemmons is well known for his 25-year career as Officer Clemmons on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” He is also a Grammy Award-winning opera singer, founder of the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble, emeritus artist in residence at Middlebury College, composer, arranger, playwright, author, activist and mentor.

The Vermont Arts Council’s Vermont Arts Awards recognize outstanding individual and organizational contributions to the arts. Awards honor educators, artists, performers, advocates, administrators, volunteers and scholars. In 2019, Vermonters will be recognized for their contributions in five categories. All awardees will be honored at a reception and ceremony co-sponsored by Middlebury College at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23, at the Mahaney Arts Center at Middlebury College.

In addition to the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Vermont Arts Council announced award recipients in four categories:

- Douglas Anderson, Middlebury, will receive the Arthur Williams Award for Meritorious Service to the Arts.

- Castle Freeman, Newfane, will receive the Walter Cerf Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts.

- James Lockridge, Burlington, will receive the Margaret L. (Peggy) Kannenstine Award for Arts Advocacy.

- Joan Robinson, Burlington, will receive the Ellen McCulloch-Lovell Award in Arts Education.

“Each of the exceptional individuals we are honoring this year enriches our lives with remarkable talent, commitment, and creative vision,” said Vermont Arts Council Executive Director Karen Mittelman. “As artists, cultural leaders, educators and mentors, they remind us that art can be transformative, for us as individuals and for Vermont communities.”

Middlebury College President Laurie Patton noted that two of the 2109 awardees are from Middlebury.

“Through song and theater, François and Doug have brought to the Middlebury community much more than the beauty of art and performance — though they’ve gifted us that over many years” Patton said. “They’ve also shown us how emotionally powerful shared experiences can be.

The Vermont Arts Awards celebration is free and open to the public, but reservations are requested. For reservations or information, go online to

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