Brattleboro artist among state arts award recipients
Brattleboro artist Shanta Lee Gander is one of six recipients of the 2020 Vermont Arts Awards, presented each year by the Vermont Arts Council.

Brattleboro artist among state arts award recipients

Local writer Shanta Lee Gander is among the recipients of the 2020 Vermont Arts Awards recognizing outstanding individual and organizational contributions to the arts.

Awards, presented by the Vermont Arts Council, honor educators, artists, performers, advocates, administrators, volunteers, and scholars and recognize Vermonters for their contributions in five categories. Gander will receive the Arthur Williams Award for Meritorious Service to the Arts.

In its award announcement, the Arts Council called Gander “a multidisciplinary artist who transformed a challenging childhood into a creative career as a photographer, poet, investigative journalist, public intellectual, and writer who leverages her voice on a range of topics.”

Her work has been featured in magazines, including Blavity, The Crisis, and Rebelle Society; on websites, including, and in the pages of The Commons.

Gander is the director of publicity and outreach at Mount Island, the literary magazine dedicated to rural LGBTQ+ and POC voices.

As a member of the Vermont Humanities Council Speakers Bureau, she gives lectures on the life of the earliest known African American poet in North America, Lucy Terry Prince.

She served on the Selectboard from 2018 to 2019 and as president of the Arts Council of Windham County.

Other artists, other honors

John Fusco of Morristown will receive the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts, the highest honor presented to an artist by the state.

Fusco is an award-winning screenwriter, film producer, novelist, singer-songwriter, and musician, with more than 15 major movies and television shows to his credit. He has written two critically acclaimed novels and an award-winning children's book.

In selecting Fusco for this award, Gov. Phil Scott said, “John's talent and the dedication shown throughout his career - from his award-winning screenwriting and musical talent to his service to his community - make him the absolute right choice” for the award.

• Hannah Dennison of Chelsea, the founding director of the nonprofit Cradle to Grave Arts, which has been developing community-focused dance works for Vermont stages and specific sites for nearly 40 years, will receive the Walter Cerf Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts.

• Ray Vega of South Burlington will receive the Ellen McCulloch-Lovell Award in Arts Education. Vega is a three-time Grammy-award-winning jazz musician, bandleader, and a senior lecturer in jazz history and trumpet at the University of Vermont. He is perhaps best-known to Vermonters as the host of Vermont Public Radio's Friday Night Jazz program.

• Jody Fried, the recipient of the Margaret L. Kannenstine Award for Arts Advocacy, has served as the executive director of Catamount Arts since 2008, working to promote the arts for people of all ages and socio-economic levels in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.

The Arts Council is unable to host its annual reception and ceremony this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. This year's awardees will be celebrated in a professionally produced video later this fall.

For more information about the awards is available, visit

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