When Gov. Steve Beshear was growing up in Dawson Springs, he picked up his parents' love of music and participated in school band and orchestra.
Wednesday morning, Beshear demonstrated his arts appreciation in a different way, presenting the first round of Governor's Awards in the Arts of his term.
"He seemed to relate to what the arts are and what they do for a community," Lori Meadows, executive director of the Kentucky Arts Council, said of the Beshear's remarks at the mid-morning ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda. "They were not just comments someone had written for him and he read back."
In his remarks, Beshear talked about the arts having been important to cultures since the first drawings by cave men 30,000 years ago.
"Human beings have always felt compelled to create and express themselves," Beshear told the crowd, which packed the Rotunda. "Art is as important to our society as it was to those cave men and cave women."
Beshear went on to talk about the importance of art in the economy, education and expression of Kentucky's cultural heritage before handing out the honors.
The Governor presented nine awards to artists, organizations and arts supporters which were nominated by the public, selected by the Kentucky Arts Council and then approved by Beshear.
As in most years, several of the award winners are in Central Kentucky or have ties to the Bluegrass.
Danville-based trumpeter Vince DiMartino, a ubiquitous presence in local jazz and band circles, won the artist award.
"Thanks to all of you for enabling me to receive this award," DiMartino said, after naming numerous collaborators and supporters. "You're all a part of this. You don't play the trumpet alone."
Kentucky Repertory Theatre, based in Horse Cave, won the community arts award. Accepting the honor was Henry Clay High School and University of Kentucky graduate Robert Brock, who was once active in the Lexington Theatre scene before he moved to Horse Cave and became the theater's artistic director.
"This award is not just based on the work of the last few years," Brock said. "This is for the hundreds and hundreds of people who have worked over the last 32 years."
Kentucky Rep is an unlikely success story, launching and maintaining a professional theater in a town of 2,000 people.
Nicholasville Publisher Charlie Hughes was tapped for the media award for his twice-monthly Kentucky Literary Newsletter, which he distributes to more than 2,000 people via e-mail. The newsletter covers literary events and news throughout the state. Hughes is also a writer and the owner of Wind Publications.
"This type of ceremony is counter to my nature," said Hughes, who operates the newsletter and Wind out of the basement of his Nicholasville home. "When they said it would be on TV later this month, I said, I'll just catch it on TV," Hughes added, to a huge laugh.
The winner of the national award, which goes to a Kentucky artist with a national impact, actually could not make it.
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks is currently in the Arctic, working on a project to raise awareness of climate change. But she sent a video acceptance saying, "Thank you for this awesome award," and promising to be back in February when the winners will be presented before the state legislature.
Rounding out the list of winners were:
■ Louisville record shop ear X-tacy and its owner John Timmons, which received the business award.
■ The City of Covington, which got the government award for utilizing the arts to revitalize its downtown.
■ Owensboro's Julie Ann White, who received the education award for her work in Owensboro Public Schools, where she is a fine arts specialist.
■ The Cowan Community Action Group, which won the folk heritage award for making traditional arts a centerpiece of its educational outreach.
■ Retired Brown-Forman chairman and CEO Owsley Brown II won the Milner Award, given for individual commitment to the arts. Brown is active with numerous Louisville organizations, including Actors Theatre of Louisville and the Kentucky Opera.
The awards used to be presented in February, but were moved to October to coincide with National Arts and Humanities Month.