Mississippi Arts Commission announces 2024 recipients

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Mississippi Arts Commission announces 2024 Governor’s Arts Awards recipients.

The Mississippi Arts Commission has announced the 2024 winner of the 36th annual Governor’s Arts Awards. This is a prestigious honor for the state’s top artists recognizing their impact on Mississippi.

Mississippi Arts Commission announces recipients

This year’s recipients are Cedric Burnside, Brent Funderburk, Peter Zapletal and the group that built the historic 100 Men Hall. Earl Poole Ball will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC) will honor the recipients at a ceremony at 6 p.m. on Feb. 8, 2024. It will be held at the Two Mississippi Museums in downtown Jackson, MS. A public reception will take place before the ceremony at 4:30 p.m. Award sponsors will receive priority seating during the ceremony. The public will have access to seating on a first-come first-serve basis.

The announcement of the Mississippi Arts Commission announces recipients comes after a months-long nomination and decision process. Starting each year in spring, the MAC calls for public nominations. Applicants must include a biography of the nominee, why they should win and the impact of their work on Mississippi.

Ellie Banks, communications director for the MAC, said the Governor’s Arts Award winners have to have made a significant impact on the Mississippi arts community. The nominees do not have to be from or currently live in the state. They must have a tie to Mississippi in a long-term manner. A well-known presence and past awards also factor into the decision-making.

This year, the artists on the committee are all from Mississippi, Banks said. The committee typically receives between 30-45 nominees each year.


Earl Poole Ball is a pianist, music producer and actor born in Foxworth in 1941. The current Austin, Texas, resident will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for a long musical career spanning genres from Americana to Rockabilly. As it states in his biography, his career began in Foxworth where his aunt Kathryn Ball taught him piano at their church. According to the MAC press release, Ball’s is most known for the 20 years spent touring with Johnny Cash. For the past 24 years, Ball has recorded with his band Earl Poole Ball and The Fabulous Friends.

Cedric Burnside is a North Mississippi Hill Country Blues musician raised in Holly Springs. He shares deep Hill Country roots with his grandfather, blues legend RL Burnside. Cedric played drums for him for years. Burnside’s career has expanded into vocals and guitar, but in particular he is best know for his powerful and enthusiastic drumming. Burnside has won previous prestigious awards including several Blues Music Awards, Living Blues Awards and a Grammy for his 2021 album “I Be Trying.”


Brent Funderburk currently works in Starkville as head of the Mississippi State Art Department. Funderburk will receive the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Visual Arts and Education for his water color paintings and his passion for art education. As illustrated, the North Carolina native’s paintings depict nature and have been featured in public and private galleries throughout the Southern states.

In recent years, the MAC has included art from a current recipient advertising the ceremony. This year, the poster features Funderburk’s watercolor titled “Blood Moon.” The painting, currently in the collection of Tibar and Olga Pechan. It depicts a colorful scenery supporting a Magnolia flower in the center.

Peter Zapletal, Jackson resident, will receive the Excellence in Performing Arts award. Growing up in Czechoslovakia, Zapletal started a long and prosperous career in theatrical puppetry. He received his masters in Puppetry from the Academy of the Performing Arts in Prague before joining the Zilina Puppet Theatre in Slovakia. Zapletal and his wife Jarmila then came to New York to produce puppet performances before settling in Mississippi in 1970. Preceding this award is a 32-year career at Mississippi Public Broadcasting. There Zapletal produced several puppet shows, collecting numerous awards including five Emmy wins.

100 Men Hall

Another key point, the last award, the Arts in Community award, honors a century-old Mississippi institution, the 100 Men Hall. In 1894, 12 African Americans in the Bay Saint Louis area formed an organization to care for the Black community, which did not have access to burial and medical insurance in Mississippi. The nonprofit built the Hall in 1922 as a gathering place for Black artists who had been shut out of other performing spaces. James Brown, Ray Charles and Etta James are among the famous faces to grace the Hall during its peak. Today, Rachel Dangermond owns and operates the Hall which stands as one of the only remaining physical landmarks of the Mississippi Blues Trail. The Governor’s Award will honor those who made the 100 Men Hall a reality.

And finally, the MAC will partner with Gov. Tate Reeves to present the recipients their awards during the February 2024 ceremony. Read more here