The 2017 Governor’s Awards for the Arts and Humanities honor 12 individuals and organizations for supporting the growth of Georgia’s creative industry through community involvement, pioneering programs and long-term financial commitment.

Karen Berman (from left), Valerie Boyd, William Eiland and Virginia Hepner.

They honorees, who receive a handcrafted piece of pottery, are:

KAREN BERMAN. A Milledgeville-based arts advocate, scholar, author and proponent of theater for social change.

VALERIE BOYD. The Athens-based educator teaches literature and journalism as the Charlayne Hunter Gault Distinguished Writer in Residence at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. Boyd co-directs the low-residency M.F.A. in narrative media writing.

WILLIAM EILAND. Under his stewardship, the Georgia Museum of Art has grown its programming, staff and permanent collection, and has established a decorative arts program. Eiland has been diretor of the official state art museum since 1992

GILMER ARTS AND HERITAGE ASSOCIATION. Elijay. The visual, literary and performing arts association in Elijay has promoted passionate interest and active participation in the arts sector for 40 years. It provides more than 300 classes for adults and children in art, music and dance, and brings cultural events to Gilmer County and North Georgia.

HARTSFIELD-JACKSON ATLANTA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT. The airport introcues art to huge numbers of people from all over the world. Since 1997, the Airport Art Program has showcased  eight exhibits per year, mostly of Georgia artists, in its Atrium Gallery, and has purchased more than 150 pieces for the airport’s permanent collection.

VIRGINIA HEPNER. The Atlanta-based arts administrator has been an integral part of Georgia’s arts and business communities for more than 10 years. She has emphasized the economic impact of the arts, highlighting the role the arts play in helping Georgia recruit new businesses and recognizing the importance of public funding support. After 25 years in banking, she became president and CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center, increasing its endowments to $439 million, reducing its debt by $25 million and leading a $100 million fundraising initiative that surpassed its goal two years ahead of schedule.

Kenny Leon (from left), Pearl McHaney, Janisse Ray and Lois Reitzes.

KENNY LEON. The Clark Atlanta University graduate is an actor, director and adminstrator. He led Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre for 11 years, then co-founded the Atlanta-based True Colors Theatre Company. While at the Alliance, he diversified the staff, productions and artists, growing the company’s African-American audience from less than 5 percent to 25 percent. He has directed 11 Broadway shows, winning a Tony Award for best director for the 2014 revival of A Raisin in the Sun.

ANNETTE HOWELL TURNER CENTER FOR THE ARTS. The admission-free center in Valdosta is a hub for the arts, arts education and the humanities in south-central Georgia. Its 20-plus exhibitions each year increase foot traffic and promote community outreach. Gallery-based and studio-based children’s art classes are available, and school-group tours and art-talk events are supplemented by educational support materials, developed by the center’s arts education administrators.

PEARL McHANEY. The Decatur-based educator is the Kenneth M. England Professor of Southern Literature at Georgia State University and the former director of GSU’s Center for Collaborative and International Arts. Her legacy can be seen in the support and encouragement she’s given to many artists, writers, actors, educators, colleagues and students. She is one of America’s most distinguished scholars of the works of Mississippi literary giant Eudora Welty.

NATIONAL INFANTRY MUSEUM FOUNDATION. The Columbus foundation chronicles the history of U.S. Army infantryman from the American Revolution to Afghanistan, exhibiting artifacts from all eras of American history and contains interactive multimedia exhibits. The $110 million, admission-free facility is  located just outside the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Since opening in June 2009, it has had more than 2.5 million visitors.

JANISSE RAY. The Reidsville-based writer, naturalist and activist from South Georgia was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame in 2015. She has written six books, including Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, Wild Card Quilt and Drifting Into Darien.

LOIS REITZES. No one else in Atlanta radio has done more to promote classical music, the arts and culture in the city. Since 1979, Reitzes’ distinctive voice has been heard on WABE-FM (90.1). As host of the weekday morning program “Second Cup Concert” (1982-2015), she explored the myriad ways that classical music can inspire and influence us. She was Public Broadcasting Atlanta’s program director (1992-2007), then became director of arts and cultural programming. Since 2015, she has hosted “City Lights With Lois Reitzes,” a weekday arts and culture program created to elevate Atlanta’s arts scene. “City Lights” has increased WABE’s listening audience in the 11 a.m.-noon time slot by 72 percent, with 86,000 listeners each week.