Governor's Arts Award honors MSU Riley Center

The MSU Riley Center in downtown Meridian is the recipient of a 2015 Governor's Arts Award.

Mississippi State's Riley Center for Education and Performing Arts is receiving a 2015 Governor's Arts Award given annually by the Mississippi Arts Commission.

Recognized in the "Arts in Community" category, the downtown Meridian cultural, artistic and educational facility will be recognized formally with other winners Feb. 19.

MAC's 27th annual awards ceremony will be held at Belhaven University's Center for the Arts.

Commission awards recognize individuals and organizations for excellence of work in a wide variety of forms, including visual arts, performing arts and community development through the arts. Nominations are made by the general public and judging is completed by a group of industry peers.

MSU Riley Center Executive Director Dennis Sankovich said of the statewide honor, "Of all the possible award categories, this one means the most to us because it's about the community. Everything we do at the MSU Riley Center is really a collaboration with the wonderful community of Meridian, Lauderdale County, and the surrounding area."

Since opening in 2006, the MSU Riley Center has served as a varied showcase of American musical heritage. The theatre, a fully restored 1889 grand opera house, has featured such legendary artists as B.B. King, Trisha Yearwood, Bo Diddley, Soweto Gospel Choir, Lyle Lovett, Wynton Marsalis and Lincoln Center Jazz.

In addition to musical performances, the multifaceted facility annually attracts more than 70,000 visitors to Meridian for conferences and meetings as well. Along with the historic theatre, the center has 30,000 square feet of meeting space, including a large exhibit hall and studio theatre.

The more than $4 million generated annually by events held there has made a substantial economic impact on Meridian. That amount doesn't include, however, the $25 million spent on renovation, a portion of which was provided by the local Riley Foundation.

"The Riley Center for the Performing Arts is such a treasure in Meridian and the east central Mississippi/west Alabama region," said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. "As we grow MSU-Meridian's vital Riley Campus, winning the Governor's Award ranks as a tremendous honor for both the Riley Foundation and our university. This prestigious award underscores the great value of MSU's partnership with the foundation."

Sankovich said, "We're profoundly grateful to the Riley Foundation. We wouldn't be here without the foundation's vision and continuing support. We also thank Meridian Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Alvin Taylor for nominating us, the judges who selected us for this great honor, and our own staff members for their hard work and dedication."

Other 2015 Governor's Arts Awards winners include the Lane Chapel Quintet of Tupelo, Excellence in Music; Maude Schuyler Clay of Sumner, Excellence in Visual Arts; Chesney Doyle of Natchez, Excellence in Media Arts; and Hattiesburg native and Nashville, Tennessee, resident Craig Wiseman, Excellence in Music.

"The Mississippi Arts Commission is honored to celebrate the 27th Governor's Arts Awards with this outstanding list of deserving recipients," said Tom Pearson, MAC executive director. "The panel of judges worked diligently to narrow it down to a group that represents what our artistic heritage is all about; exemplary talent and dedication to the arts.

"We look forward to showcasing their contributions during the awards ceremony in February," Pearson added.

The commission is a state agency funded by the Mississippi Legislature that also receives support from the National and Mississippi endowment for the arts, Community Foundation of Greater Jackson and other private sources. As an official grants-making and service agency, MAC works to support and promote arts in community life and arts education throughout the Magnolia State.

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Harriet Laird | Public Affairs

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