Office of Raleigh Arts Announces 2016 Medal of Arts Recipients

News posted Jun. 15, 2016 - 10:20 am
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The City of Raleigh Arts Commission has selected six individuals to receive the 2016 Raleigh Medal of Arts, the City’s highest arts honor, the City’s Office of Raleigh Arts announced today.

The awardees are William Henry Curry, former resident conductor of the North Carolina Symphony; fashion designer Eric Ennis; Sharon Moore, NC State LIVE director; Sarah Powers, executive director of Visual Art Exchange; ballet dancer and mentor Dr. Mel Tomlinson; and Virginia Zehr, a founding board member of Community Music School and former staff member of the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County.

The Raleigh Medal of Arts ceremony, featuring special guests and performances, will be held on Oct. 6 in the Fletcher Opera Theater at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. Details will be announced at a later date. The event is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Raleigh Medal of Arts is awarded for extraordinary lifetime achievement in the practice or support of local arts. Based on the National Medal of Arts program, the Raleigh Medal of Arts was inaugurated in 1984 by the City of Raleigh Arts Commission so that excellence in the arts could be given special recognition. Over the past 32 years, 151 medals have been awarded.

Following is additional information about this year’s Raleigh Medal of Arts recipients:

  • William Henry Curry recently concluded a 20-year tenure as resident conductor of the North Carolina Symphony and artistic director of the Summerfest Series to devote his career to teaching, composing, and his music director responsibilities with the Durham Symphony. Outside of North Carolina Symphony’s long-time music director Benjamin Swalin, Curry has led more education concerts than any conductor in the Symphony’s history. His ability to communicate with audiences of all ages—from concerts for schoolchildren to thousands of families at Summerfest, Pops performances with world-famous guest artists to the classical series in Raleigh and around the state—has greatly strengthened the North Carolina Symphony.
  • Eric Ennis, a fashion designer for 30 years, created dresses for opera singers, society ladies, brides, debutantes, Miss North Carolina contestants and reigning Miss Americas. He also served as assistant librarian at the North Carolina Symphony and choir director at the Church of the Good Shepherd, and now creates jewelry and hand-beaded artworks.
  • Sharon Moore, NC State LIVE director for 27 years, has worked tirelessly to connect artists and audiences while building a performing arts series that is recognized nationally for innovative, artistically excellent and culturally diverse programming. She established a matinee series for Wake County Public School students, providing what is often their first performance experience, and serves as a mentor to arts professionals across the state.
  • Sarah Powers, executive director of Visual Art Exchange, has worked as an artist, arts administrator and volunteer to advance Raleigh’s arts community, securing funding, support and respect for the arts. Co-chair of the Raleigh Arts Plan steering committee, she served as chair of the Raleigh Arts Commission from 2011-2013, leading efforts to secure increased per capita funding and to fund the Arts Plan.
  • Dr. Mel Tomlinson performed with Dance Theatre of Harlem and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater before becoming the only African American member of New York City Ballet in 1981, quickly rising to the rank of soloist. He went on to teach at his alma mater, UNC School of the Arts, committing his life to training and inspiring future generations.
  • Virginia Zehr has provided leadership in the arts community for more than 35 years—first as the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra’s executive director and a founding board member of Community Music School, then as an invaluable staff member at the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County, where she led the arts education and grant programs for 17 years.

The Office of Raleigh Arts supports and promotes the arts in Raleigh by administering the programs of the City of Raleigh Arts Commission and the City’s Public Art and Design Board, and supporting the Pullen and Sertoma arts centers. The Office of Raleigh Arts is part of the City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department.

For more information, contact

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