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Awards announcement highlights SA's strong connection to Arts

Singer Vikki Carr announces recipients of the 2017 Texas Medal of Arts.

San Antonio's strong connections to the Arts were highlighted Wednesday with the announcement of the 2017 winners of the Texas Medal of Arts.

The two co-chairs of the awards this year are from San Antonio and so are a number of the winners, including the Tobin Foundation, which helped create the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, the venue for the announcement.

"The Texas Medal of Arts Award is the biggest spotlight that we can shine on the importance of the arts for our state, not only for the economy but for our children's education," said Jennifer Ransom Rice, Executive Director for the non-profit Texas Cultural Trust, which hands out the biennial awards.

"The Arts are a $5.5 billion industry in the state of Texas and generate $343 million in sales tax revenue. So people think of the arts as a 'nice-to-have,' but they're really a 'need-to- have.'

"[The Arts] sparks the brain in a young person and especially in a child if you can get them interested and into it, the sooner the better," said San Antonio's own legendary singer (and past Texas Medal of Arts winner) Vikki Carr.

She took the podium to officially announce the names of those who will be honored this year at a series of events in Austin in February.

They include Kris Kristofferson, Kenny Rogers, Jaclyn Smith, Janine Turner and journalist Scott Pelley and writer John Philip Santos, who are both native San Antonians.

Santos talked about the importance of Arts education. "I think it's one of the great missions of this organization [Texas Cultural Trust]. That they promote the teaching of Arts in schools and it's something that mends all the wounds of our society and builds bridges to other nations. It's an idiom that really belongs at the very center of our culture. And I'm just hoping that this kind of event will add to that force."

But backers of Arts Education in schools are concerned that with a smaller-than-anticipated budget this year, Texas legislators may cut school funding.

And in the past, cuts to schools has sometimes meant that Arts classes are cut first, especially with the current focus on vocational education and training for jobs.

"I think the Arts are incredibly important," said San Antonio businessman Guillermo Nicolas. He is a co-chair of the awards this year, along with San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt.

"People always think of the Arts as just painting or sculpture. The Arts are being a cameraman, being a lighting expert, being a producer, being a creative graphics person. All of that is the Arts. And San Antonio has done a great job of producing a 'Creative Economy' report that highlights - particularly to politicians - that we as part of the creative economy produce tens of thousands of jobs in San Antonio alone and billions of dollars in revenue across the state."

Nicolas also pointed out that the Texas Cultural Trust creates a school curriculum, which it makes available free for any school in the state.

"So we're really all about providing art education. I think it makes for better people better doctors, better engineers, art has been proven scientifically to improve people's way of looking at things."

But one thing lawmakers will be looking at this session is cutting the rest of the state's incentives for filmmakers to work in Texas.

"They've cut a lot of the film incentives already," Nicolas said. "They've done it prior to this legislative session. I think they really need to look at their budget carefully. I know that San Antonio - as Chairman of the San Antonio Arts Commission - I know we've added film and music committees. The City of San Antonio is dedicated to film and they are going to ramp up the incentives and the talent that we have, the talent pool, so that filmmakers will want to come to San Antonio. So I don't know what the state is going to do, but I know that San Antonio is moving forward in a very positive light towards film."

The Texas Medal of Arts Awards will be presented February 21st and 22nd in Austin.

The 2017 honorees are:

Corporate Patron: John Paul & Eloise DeJoria, Paul Mitchell/Patrón Tequila, Austin

Multimedia: Kris Kristofferson, Brownsville

Television: Jaclyn Smith, Houston

Individual Arts Patron: Lynn Wyatt, Houston

Dance: Lauren Anderson, Houston

Music: Yolanda Adams, Houston

Arts Education: Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Dallas

Film: Janine Turner, Euless

Theatre: Renée Elise Goldsberry, Houston

Foundation Patron: The Tobin Endowment, San Antonio

Visual Art: Leo Villareal, El Paso

Architecture: Frank Welch, Dallas

Literary: John Phillip Santos, San Antonio

Journalism: Scott Pelley, San Antonio

Lifetime Achievement: Kenny Rogers, Houston

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