Two Middlebury residents to receive 2019 Vermont Arts Award

Statewide honor awarded to two neighbors


François Clemmons will receive the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts next month at the Vermont Arts Council Ceremony on Middlebury’s campus.

Middlebury residents François Clemmons and Douglas Anderson will each receive a 2019 Vermont Arts Award from the Montpelier-based Vermont Arts Council. Both Clemmons and Anderson have been active in furthering the arts in the Middlebury community for more than two decades.

Clemmons will receive the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, announced originally by Governor Phil Scott on Sept. 6, 2019. In a Press Release from the Office of Governor Phil Scott, Scott said, “I am pleased to name François as the winner of this year’s Excellence in the Arts award. His renowned musical talent and years of service to his community made him the perfect choice. Congratulations, François, and thank you for making Vermont proud.” 

Clemmons served as the Alexander Twilight Artist-in-Residence and director of the Martin Luther King Spiritual Choir at Middlebury College from 1997 until his retirement in 2013. He is well known for his 25-year career portraying the role of Officer Clemmons on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and for his work as a Grammy Award-winning opera singer.

As an Artist-in-Residence at Middlebury College, Clemmons left a mark as a professor, community leader and mentor who interacted thoughtfully with students and other members of the college community. 

“I would tell my students, ‘I want to know what you think’,” Clemmons said. “My goal up here was personhood. I was benefiting, and they were benefiting. It’s more than an artist in residence, it’s more than a music teacher, it’s how we as a society and as a race have to be together with one another.”

Douglas Anderson will concurrently receive the Arthur Williams Award for Meritorious Service to the Arts.

In addition to Clemmons, Anderson will receive the Arthur Williams Award for Meritorious Service to the Arts. Anderson is the current Artistic Director of the Town Hall Theater, Inc. in Middlebury. His previous directing projects include all Opera Company of Middlebury productions since 2004, as well as Middlebury College productions of ​”Cabaret​” and “Sunday in the Park with George​.”

After moving to Middlebury in 1993, Anderson undertook the project of restoring the Middlebury Town Hall Theater. Built in 1883, the community’s theater had fallen into a state of disrepair, leaving room for a new hub of performing arts. After a ten-year rebuilding process, the theater reopened in 2008 and has been the home of several hundred events since. Anderson also founded the Opera Company of Middlebury in 2004.

Clemmons and Anderson have both been prominent artistic contributors to the town of Middlebury and Middlebury College. President Laurie Patton commended the two Middlebury artists’ work in the community. 

“Through song and theater, François and Doug have brought to the Middlebury community much more than the beauty of art and performance,” Patton told the Rutland Herald on Sept. 14. “They’ve also shown us how emotionally powerful shared experiences can be.”

On Oct. 23, The Vermont Arts Council will hold a ceremony for the recipients at the Mahaney Arts Center.