Sustaining Georgia Culture

Over three decades, two Georgia organizations – the state government agency, the Georgia Council for the Arts, and the private, nonprofit Georgia Humanities Council – have publicly honored individuals and organizations for their contributions to the arts and humanities in the state. During that time, parts of colleges and universities, including the University of Georgia Press for its publishing activities and the folk museum at Reinhardt University’s Funk Heritage Center for studies of early Appalachia natives and settlers, have been recognized. However, no full university ever received a prestigious Governor’s Award for the Arts and Humanities – none, that is, until 2014 when Gov. Nathan Deal presented one to Brenau.

The university throughout its history, the governor’s award citation noted, has continuously nurtured the idea that the arts are an essential part of daily lives through its arts-related community activities and educational experiences.

The Atlanta Ballet Company performed before the Governor’s Awards for the Arts and Humanities ceremony at the Georgia Capitol.
The Atlanta Ballet Company performed before the Governor’s Awards for the Arts and Humanities ceremony at the Georgia Capitol.

Former Brenau trustee Abit Massey, whose wife is Kayanne Shoeffner Massey, WC ’63, nominated Brenau for the award. He cited Brenau’s ongoing educational programs in arts and humanities, its partnership with the High Museum in Atlanta, and its theatrical, musical, dance and fine arts. He particularly singled out Brenau gallery programs, especially its concept for using pieces of its impressive permanent collection of artworks to create “living galleries,” in the public spaces around the university. That includes art showcases at Brenau East campus in Gainesville and the North Atlanta/Norcross campus. The most extensive of these, however, is the new “Manhattan Gallery” at Brenau Downtown center in Gainesville for which the Masseys donated a piece of sculpture.

Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan, married to Mary Lee Smith Dunagan, WC ’70, seconded the nomination, as did Georgia State Sen. Butch Miller of Gainesville.

“For most people in the community, including me,” said Miller, “the terms ‘Brenau University’ and ‘the arts’ are virtually synonymous.”

Brenau shared the stage at the awards presentation in the Georgia Capitol rotunda with the likes of the Atlanta Ballet, the Center Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta and the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies at the University of Georgia. All the honorees represent a commitment to “to growing and sustaining Georgia’s vibrant culture and history,” said Deal, because they recognize that the arts and humanities, in addition to enriching lives, “propel our state forward by improving quality of life for the citizens and businesses.”

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