A! Magazine for the Arts

Mary Beth Rainero

Mary Beth Rainero

Locals win 50 for 50 Arts Inspiration Awards

December 27, 2017

From a pool of more than 350 nominees, the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the state arts agency, has selected several regional organizations or individuals to receive its prestigious "50 for 50 Arts Inspiration Awards."

The "50 for 50 Arts Inspiration Awards" were conceived and designed by the commission as a 50th anniversary tribute to 50 examples of programs, individuals and organizations critical to the arts in Virginia. The designated "Arts Inspirations" may have played a critical role in the last 50 years, or they may serve as today's leaders and exemplars or be tomorrow's visionaries, leading the way to a culturally vibrant future. The commission was established by law in 1968 to promote awareness of and access to the arts across the state and to support a broad range of artists, arts organizations, and arts educators.

Following a statewide call for nominations, nominees for the awards in all categories were accepted for two months this spring. A panel comprised of former commissioners and arts leaders reviewed the nominations this past summer and recommended a slate to the full board, which adopted the final roster this fall. To ensure impartiality, no former commissioners and no state-elected officials were selected for the roster.

"We are indeed fortunate in Virginia to have an abundant and diverse roster of outstanding artists and organizations and their supporters spanning disciplines and decades," said Margaret Vanderhye, the commission's executive director. "The 50 selected winners are representative of the best, but this list is far from definitive. Every day in communities across the commonwealth, thousands of people benefit from the creative energies and pursuit of excellence that characterize Virginia artists and arts organizations."

VCA Commissioner and 50th Anniversary Co-Chair Jo Hodgin (Annandale) said, "These awardees carry the banner for countless arts workers and supporters who use the arts to build a strong Virginia. We believe the arts are essential for a creative 21st-century workforce, economically dynamic communities and a culture based on wellness and accessibility."

Regional recipients are Carter Family Fold, Barter Theatre and Bristol Ballet in the Bedrock Institutions category. Birthplace of Country Music Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion was chosen in the Exemplary Programs and Pinnacle Events category. The Wayne C. Henderson School of Appalachian Arts was chosen in the Emerging Artists and Organizations category.

Mary Beth Rainero was the only individual in Southwest Virginia chosen in the Arts Leaders and Supporters category. Rainero has shown leadership in the arts community. Her vision, energy and determination played a major role in the restoration of the Paramount Theatre. She served as project coordinator, helping to secure a $1 million grant from the State of Tennessee. She oversaw the fundraising effort to match those state monies.

Her gifts to the community include her teaching and volunteer efforts to spread the arts to children and adults. She has been on-stage and backstage at Theatre Bristol for years, served as creative dramatics teacher in local schools, director of children's shows and director of development. She was organizing chairman of Bristol's Mid-Atlantic Chamber Orchestra, and also was chair of the Junior League Follies and Junior League Art Show.

She has served on the Board of Directors of the Bristol Ballet, Sullins College Board of Trustees and Bristol Memorial Hospital Board of Governors. She has been on the Regional Panel of the Virginia Commission for the Arts, and is a Charter member of the Bristol Concert Choir.

Wednesday, Jan. 31, from 1-5 p.m., the commission holds a 50th anniversary program for arts organizations across the state at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. That afternoon the 50 for 50 Arts Inspiration Award recipients are officially recognized for their achievements. A reception follows in the Marble Hall.

Commission Chair Shelley Kruger Weisberg (Williamsburg) said, "The entire commission applauds the "50 for 50 Arts Inspiration Award' recipients whose work is representative of the transformative power of the arts in our commonwealth. The impressive array of arts leaders, arts organizations, pinnacle events and artists are a testament to the extraordinary diversity and vitality of the arts in every corner of the state."