Each year, the Greater Augusta Arts Council recognizes outstanding members of the Augusta community for their support and contributions to the arts.
The Morris Museum of Art
Museum pioneer John Cotton Dana once wrote, “A good museum attracts, entertains, arouses curiosity, leads to questioning, and thus promotes learning.”
By and large, founder of the Morris Museum of Art William S. Morris III has met Dana’s standards of establishing a good museum.
Since first opening its doors to the public in 1992, the Morris Museum of Art has been an important contributor to the community’s cultural resources and economic vitality.
Morris, chairman of Morris Communications Co. and publisher of The Augusta Chronicle, accepted the Greater Augusta Arts Council’s President’s Award on behalf of the Morris Museum of Art. Morris took the occasion to reminisce of the arts council and how he has seen the arts bring together different segments of the community.
“It’s really made a lot of difference in this community…there was nobody really focusing on the art of the South,” Morris says.
Born out of Morris’ love for the arts, Morris Museum of Art was established in memory of his parents William Shivers Morris Jr. and Florence Hill Morris. Morris’ mother had a degree in interior design; she lived in New York and appreciated beautiful decor that could be created with fabrics and with art.
In 2002, Kevin Grogan, a museum professional with more than 30 years experience, began working alongside Morris and became executive director of Morris Museum of Art. Since 2008, Grogan has served also as its chief curator. He has authored, edited and contributed to dozens of publications, lectured widely and has served the museum field through his work on behalf of many art-related organizations.
Grogan says, “Billy [Morris] will no doubt tell you that he remembered that, as a child, his mother, who was a great influence on his taste and interests, took him to Columbia and Atlanta to visit a museum. Augusta didn’t have an art museum, that is until 1992 and the opening of the Morris Museum of Art. She grew up in different circumstances in Columbus, Ga., where there was a local museum. Billy and Sissie have traveled widely throughout their 57 plus years of marriage. They love Augusta, and they love the South. Billy takes great pride in the fact that the Morris family has been in Augusta for seven generations.”
The Morris Museum of Art is the first museum dedicated to the art and artists of the American South. Morris and Grogan are especially honored to promote the culture of the community as well as the region.
“I am fascinated by the meeting of cultures that often results in new and different modes of expression,” Grogan says. “The American South is practically a laboratory for inter-cultural interaction, some of it based in race, some of it based in national identity or ethnicity. Was there ever a more cosmopolitan place than New Orleans? The South is the place where the Irish jig bumps into something else—in New Orleans—and becomes tap dancing, where many musical forms coalesce to become jazz, where African American string band music and Scotch-Irish folk song combine to become bluegrass. This list of combinations-that-equal-new-things goes on and on.
Exploring this, whether in the visual arts, music or literature is very rewarding. The idea that those who experience what museums have to offer them are improved, morally and intellectually by it. After all, the main purpose of art is edification.”
Arts Professional Award
For more than 30 years, Trey Maxwell, owner of Tracer Audio, has been the go-to-guy in Augusta.
He has served as the technical director for the Imperial Theatre, where he continues to run sound for practically every presentation, and has served as the audio director for most of the major concerts presented in Augusta.
In addition to being the audio director for Westobou Festival, the Blind Willie McTell Festival, Arts in the Heart, and other festivals, Maxwell also serves as production manager and technical director for those events. Staging, lighting, power and sound are all part of Maxwell’s abilities. He is also the production director for the SOA POPS! Series and sound designer for the Augusta Players.
With all these demands on his time, Maxwell still finds a place in his schedule to volunteer in his own way. As tech director for the fifth grade musical at Episcopal Day School, Maxwell provides equipment and his services way below market value, “Quite frankly, we need the Arts…I was lucky enough to get out of Augusta for a while and there are many larger cities in this country with no symphony orchestras, ballet companies or opera companies. People often ask me if my company is a not-for-profit. My response is, ‘not on purpose.’ We need the arts because they enrich our lives, help bring people together, and usually in a wonderfully satisfying way. And, if I provide services below market value and ‘donate’ time to help keep them open, then hopefully we all win.”
Maxwell adds that the best part of his job is getting to work with a diverse and talented group of people who enjoy creating moments that make people happy.
Mary Frances Hendrix
In the field of journalism, editing is a complicated art form. It is the ability to conjure occasional magic in the space between writer and page.
Named The Augusta Chronicle’s Applause editor in 2010 and a member of The Chronicle copy desk – editing, writing headlines and designing pages, from 2002 to 2016, Mary Frances Hendrix has become a great editor.
Hendrix graduated from Winthrop University with a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and has spent 24 years in journalism as copy editor, page designer, day news editor, assistant news editor and news editor/copy desk chief at The Augusta Chronicle, The Daily Press (Newport News, Va.) and The Herald (Rock Hill, S.C.).
Hendrix chose to study journalism because she loved to write and landed her first professional job at The Herald through her work on the college newspaper. “I was in a meeting one day on campus with Herald Editor Terry Plumb. It was just a few months from graduation and I asked him if he had any lazy people he wanted to replace,” Hendrix recalls. “Pretty bold move, but it worked out because I started on The Herald copy desk two weeks after graduation. What’s funny is that I didn’t end up writing, but have worked as a copy editor, editor and page designer all 24 years of my career.
In these roles, I develop content ideas, polish the wording, write headlines and design pages. I’m a detail person, so I enjoy trying to make things better, clearer and inviting for readers.”
According to Hendrix the best part of being editor of Applause is getting to keep readers abreast of all of the arts happenings in Augusta. Plus, she is at the helm of a team of columnists who are just stoked as she is about the music, art, dance and theater that illumniate our community events calendar.
Out of this shared energy among herself, writers, and local arts promoters, Hendrix created the Applaud the Artist cover design contest, now in its sixth year. The contest invites amateur and professional artists, who have ranged from age 14 to 79, to design the cover for the September arts preview issue.
Like most great editors, Hendrix accepts the role of an unsung hero, located firmly in the background, without even a mention in the acknowledgements.
“She’s the face no one ever sees, but without her, a majority of the arts information would never make it into the paper,” says Charmain Zimmerman Brackett with The Augusta Chronicle. “She takes the stories we write, the submissions to the calendar and puts it all together for readers to see…She adds colorful artwork and makes a beautiful package. She’s the brain behind the whole operation.”
Founded in Augusta in 1977, Gold Mech employs a workforce of over 200 employees and stands for a history of hard work and excellence in the community.
Under the ownership of Tommy Dozier, Gold Mech has been continuous in the support of the arts and has provided services to many of the non-profit organizations in Augusta.
Sacred Heart Cultural Center has been the recipient of much of Gold Mech’s support and generosity for many years. Dozier has served on the board of directors of Sacred Heart since 2001 and for every cultural event held at Sacred Heart, Gold Mech has been the first to step up and sponsor events. And what a gift it has been for the community, as Dozier demonstrates real corporate leadership and provides significant support for the arts.
In a recent interview, Dozier explains his ties to the arts, thoughts of being a good corporate citizen and why it’s important to give back to the community.
Augusta Magazine: What are your particular interests or ties to the arts?
Dozier: We are not particularly tied to the arts other than the appreciation and respect we feel for them as a whole. The arts are instrumental to how our community looks and feels. A thriving arts scene drives tourism and strengthens the economy.
Augusta Magazine: As a good corporate citizen, what do you hope to model for other businesses in your support of the local arts community?
Dozier: I would love for other businesses to understand how much our community needs and relies on local arts. A healthy arts scene is good for local merchants. It can also bring our community together.
Augusta Magazine: Why do you feel it’s important to give back to the art community?
Dozier: My father taught me to always give back to the church and community. We all need both to be successful. I honestly believe that local arts can help a community both economically and socially.
Leonard “Porkchop” Zimmerman is an accomplished artist, graphic designer and TEDx speaker just trying to make the world a happier place.
After attending Davidson Fine Arts, Zimmerman graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design and in 1996, he began working with corporate clients like Smirnoff Vodka and Jose Cuervo. In 2000, Zimmerman’s graphics experience brought in a number of high-end clients such as Home Depot, Six Flags, Playboy, BellSouth and Crowne Plaza Hotels.
Locally, Zimmerman is better known as the creator of “The HAPPY Campaign” and you may have seen the image of a smiling robot with the word “HAPPY” beneath it on posters and stickers throughout the CSRA.
Ironically, Zimmerman says “The HAPPY Campaign” grew organically from an extremely unhappy period in his life and tells the story not only of his HAPPY Robots, but more importantly the story of how he found the antidote to grief by spreading happiness.
In 2006, life dealt Zimmerman a heavy blow when his partner Brian died from meningitis. “I spent a year in a fog of grief and depression and lost the drive and ability to do simple chores,” Zimmerman says in a recent Tedx talk. “Until one day, I realized that I could be miserable in hell and I was miserable…and I was really good at it at this point, or I could do something about it.
Nobody was going to help me out. If I wanted to be happy, I had to do it for myself.”
Determined, Zimmerman found redemption through his art. “I had been dabbling with painting as therapy and decided to get a sketch book to deal with the abstract feelings of grief, loss, depression and make it something literal-something you could see,” he says. “I was prolific and the early work captured my loss and a connection…Often I would see people smile at something I did. They were connecting and getting something from it. Mother Teresa once said, “Every time you smile at someone, it’s an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing…”
Zimmerman took his message and the wise words of Mother Teresa to a broader audience and eventually landed international success. Zimmerman says, “I’ve noticed people want to pay the happy forward…now these stickers are all over the world just sharing the smile…”
Zimmerman and filmmaker Michael McKinley also experienced international success with Happy: A Small Film With a Big Smile as the film has been featured at festivals in Aiken, London, U.K.; Milwaukee, Wis.; and Manchester, England.
Zimmerman also works at Weir/Stewart and has been part of the re-branding of Augusta University and developing its logo. He has been involved in numerous public art projects, including murals on the water works wall, the main branch of the Augusta library, and at the Children’s Medical Center.
Zimmerman’s recent work includes the Art Box program with the Greater AugustaArts Council, “SEEDS” at Westobou Gallery, “FaceValue” at Wolf and Finch and advises artists to, “Work hard. Make mistakes. Smile at strangers. Trust your gut. Be nice.”
Connect with Zimmerman at www.makemyporkchop.com and at happydocmovie.com.
Sue Alexanderson has gone above and beyond the call of duty to support Friends of the Symphony Orchestra Augusta.
“My parents and grandparents set the example for volunteer-ism in my life and I was inspired to continue the tradition in order to enrich the lives of our daughter and grandchildren. I can volunteer a lot because Walt, my husband of 48 years, also a volunteer- keeps the home fires burning,” she says.
Alexanderson is the current president of Friends of the SOA and has 36 years of service with the organization. She oversees all volunteer activity for SOA concerts and simultaneously runs the Symphony Arts Camp in which one third to one half of the children are able to participate in a scholarship program for reduced or free tuition. “The Friends of the Symphony’s activities focus on children and families, as well as serving SOA as a whole. We want as many people of all backgrounds to be included in symphony events now and in the future,” she says.
Alexanderson has been an educator for 48 years, working at Episcopal Day School for 46 of those years as a second grade teacher, substitute and tutor. She says, “My happy place is helping children with learning differences succeed.” Alexanderson is known among peers as the “epitome of the uncompensated giver.”
As leader of the Friends support group, Alexanderson oversees volunteers who usher, label seats, run the annual silent art auction, provide refreshments for musicians and complete other duties with the Symphony Series, Pops, Runouts, Discovery, you name it!
She holds the annual Friends Collage: Creative Art Camp for three weeks in the summer and this endeavor has brought the arts to children grades K-5th to thousands of children in the 36 years it has been operating. She adds, “The campers try out various orchestra instruments and take part in drawing, creative writing, drama, chorus, puppetry and storytelling.” She also manages a mini-version art camp of collage in an area underserved in the community.
Additionally, Alexanderson oversees volunteers at the Friends of SOA’s Musical Instrument Petting Zoo, which will be held October 1 at Morris Museum of Art. “The main purpose is for children to have the opportunity to get their hands on an instrument,” she explains. “The expressions on the faces of children creating music for the first time are priceless. I go around snapping pictures…they have big eyes and wide smiles. They get such joy out of it. It makes music more accessible.”
Alexanderson also manages to volunteer at Trinity-on-the- Hill United Methodist Church and Summerville Neighborhood Association. She acknowledges the committed volunteers that make this award and recognition possible and says, “This award represents the thousands of volunteers in the CSRA who give hundreds of thousands of hours of service, not only to the arts but to the many non-profits in all areas of the community.”
Article appears in the August/September 2017 issue of Augusta Magazine.