‘Creative Community’

Nashua honored at Governor’s Arts Awards

Staff photo by Adam Urquhart Mayor Jim Donchess accepts the Creative Communities award for the City of Nashua at the 2017 Governor's Arts Awards.

MANCHESTER – The arts were alive and well at the New Hampshire Institute of Art Wednesday evening. Lively African drumming filled the air, contemporary dancers moved across the floor and students painting canvases and writing on laptops flanked the walls at the 2017 Governor’s Arts Awards.

Six awards were presented to recipients who “promote outstanding achievement in the excellence, growth and availability of the arts in New Hampshire,” and the city of Nashua was among them, honored as the Creative Community.

Before the awards ceremony kicked off, guests milled about upstairs, sampling the food and wine available while enjoying the performances by the Akwaaba Ensemble and the Zealous Laborers dance company.

Students from NHIA were on hand, demonstrating their work and answering questions about the process.

Lily Hunt was working on a self portrait she said she had been painting for the last three or four hours. Hunt noted that her own image was more accessible than a model, but that she wanted to “dig in deeper” than just a face – make it more abstract.

“This could communicate more of me than a photograph would,” she said.

Mackenzie Dunphy was sitting next to her, although her work was significantly less visual; all she had on hand was her laptop. Dunphy is a creative writing student, and was crafting the first draft of a poem about what was going on around her.

“There’s a lot of artful energy in here and I like to get lost in it,” she said.

She took Plato’s concept of vices and wrote about what vices she imagined for the art appreciating crowd in the room.

“People are very attached to their art, and for good reason – it’s emotionally draining,” she said.

Another poet in the room was Laila Ruffin, a student at Concord High School and the New Hampshire Youth Poet Laureate.

To start the awards portion of the evening, Ruffin recited two of her original poems, which she said, might get emotional, as her mother was in the room and she had never heard them before.

“The Cosmos,” a poem about her mom, brought the audience to a thunderous applause.

Then, Gov. Chris Sununu took the stage to make his opening remarks.

“I’m very optimistic for where we’re going,” he said of the New Hampshire arts scene, and added that the best way he felt he could contribute was to “empower those who can really make a difference” and “grow the presence of art in the state.”

Awards, which were designed by sculptor Andre Belanger to reflect the State House dome eagle, were presented to Randy Armstrong for arts in education, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Creative Arts Program for arts in health, Nashua as Creative Community, Fred Dolan for Folk Heritage, Richard Witney as the Lotte Jacobi Living Treasure and a special council award in memory of the late Commissioner Van McLeod.

This year, according to Roger Brooks, chair for the N.H. State Council on the Arts, was the most competitive year since the awards began in 1980, with over 30 nominees.

The Creative Community award is only given every three years, and “recognizes a city, town or village government or community-wide organization or individual that significantly fostered the arts through funding and/or program initiatives within the past three years,” according to the event program.

Nashua was honored due to the recent efforts to revamp the local arts scene to “become on of New Hampshire’s premier destinations for the arts,” and award mentioned local organizations such as “Symphony N.H., the Riverwalk Cafe and Music Bar, Peacock Players, Great American Downtown, the ArtWalk, International Sculpture Symposium and several others.

Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess accepted the award on behalf of the city. In his remarks Donchess paid special notice to the volunteers who he said made everything the city has done possible.

“No city or town can become a ‘creative community’ on its own,” he said. “People want to live and raise their children in a city that offers a vibrant and alive culture scene.”

Donchess mentioned the strong social and economic impact the arts have on a community.

He closed his speech with a call to the audience.

“I invite you all to visit Nashua,” he said, commenting on the murals, sculptures and music in the city. “We would love to share our creative

community with you.”

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or hlaclaire@nashuatelegraph.com.