FRANKFORT — Larry Snipes took the crowd in the Capitol Rotunda on a trip south and back in time.
"Fourth grade, 51 years ago, Tuscaloosa, Alabama," Snipes said, taking the microphone. "The teacher gave me a ticket, and I walked 31/2 blocks to the Tuscaloosa Children's Theatre and saw Annie Get Your Gun. It was magical."
The magic, it seems, has come full circle. Snipes, producing director of the Lexington Children's Theatre, was in the state Capitol on Tuesday morning on behalf of the theater to receive the education award in the Governor's Awards in the Arts.
The Children's Theatre, in its 75th-anniversary season, was one of nine entities to receive Governor's Awards, the highest arts award in the commonwealth.
The honorees hailed from Berea to Owensboro and included artists, philanthropists and media.
The ceremony was more laugh-filled than many previous Governor's Awards events, including multiple references to the penny-pinching ways of Covington philanthropist Oakley B. Farris, who won the Milner Award with his wife, Eva B. Farris; folk heritage award winner Edward White of Louisville joking that he didn't end up playing basketball because coaches put him in games only when his team "was 40 points ahead or 40 points behind;" and Snipes and his wife, LCT artistic director Vivian Snipes, clarifying that they had not been at the theater all of its 75 years.
"It is a great way to celebrate," Vivian Snipes said after the ceremony. "I look at all this and say, 'Why me? We just get up every day and try to move the theater forward.'"
Also celebrating an anniversary among the winners was the state-owned Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea, which won the government award as it marks its 10th anniversary.
"This just validates that what we have been doing has been met with some success in fulfilling our original mission," executive director Victoria Faoro said. She added to the humorous morning in her acceptance speech when she mentioned that the Artisan Center also has a reputation for having the cleanest restrooms on Interstate 75. "That's great if they come in for that, and then we can introduce them to some of Kentucky's great artists."
Each winner received a piece of Kentucky art: a wood carving by Clark County artist John Keeton.
Among the other recipients were Actors Theatre of Louisville, which won the national award; Owensboro's International Bluegrass Music Museum, the community arts award; Prospect potter Laura Ross, the artist award; and Louisville-based 21c Museum Hotel, the business award. In accepting 21c's award, owner Steve Wilson said that the business is getting ready to start construction on a hotel in Lexington.
Watching the proceedings like a proud uncle was Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, who appeared in video introductions for both the Children's Theatre and Lexington's other winner, Herald-Leader columnist Tom Eblen, who won the media award.
"It all goes to show that Lexington is a special place when it comes to the arts," Gray said. "The interpersonal nature of the arts in our community is very special. Lexington Children's Theatre represents that, and Tom's writing illuminates that."
After the ceremony, Eblen said the award is an honor and is humbling.
"These are all artists," he said of his fellow winners, "and all I do is write about them.
"But it's an important recognition of how vital arts coverage is."
In his acceptance speech, Eblen had his own reminiscence, saying that his parents had always nurtured his interest in the arts, "including my role as an 8-year-old dwarf at Lexington Children's Theatre."
Milner Award: Oakley and Eva Farris, Covington
Artist Award: Laura Ross, Prospect
Business Award: 21c Museum Hotel, Louisville
Community Arts Award: International Bluegrass Music Museum, Owensboro
Education Award: Lexington Children's Theatre
Folk Heritage Award: Edward White, Louisville
Government Award: Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea
Media Award: Tom Eblen, Lexington Herald-Leader
National Award: Actors Theatre of Louisville