Posting Date: July 11, 2011

Luncheon will honor community leaders, raise funds for arts scholarships
Awards will be presented to Georgia Ballet, Robert Farley, Bill Pinto and Jennie Collier-Johnston

For media inquiries: Cheryl Anderson Brown, Director of Public Relations,
770-499-3417 or


The 2010 Flourish Award recipients were (from left) Seth Hopkins, Lee Rhyant, Chiazor Nwabude and Theatre in the Square, represented by Palmer Wells and Raye Varney.

Photo by Tracie L. Hinnant

KENNESAW, Ga.—The Kennesaw State University College of the Arts will present its annual Flourish Awards at the Fourth Annual Flourish Luncheon on Tuesday, Sept. 13, at 11:30 a.m. at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. The awards will be presented to The Georgia Ballet of Marietta; Robert J. Farley, artistic director of Georgia Ensemble Theatre in Roswell; Hillgrove High School art teacher Jennie Collier-Johnston; and William A. "Bill" Pinto, president of Hardin Construction in Atlanta.

Approximately 300 guests are expected to attend the luncheon, which is anticipated to raise more than $100,000 to benefit scholarship endowments and student-learning initiatives in the KSU College of the Arts. The event’s theme, “Creativity: The Key Element,” spotlights the vital role creativity plays in businesses and the community in this "Age of Innovation."

“The talented and dedicated students of the College of the Arts will really be spotlighted at this year's luncheon,” said Joseph Meeks, who has served as the dean of the college since its inception in 1998. “Last year's guests were so thrilled by their performances and their artwork, that we are planning another very exciting presentation.”

The Flourish Awards honor those who have helped the arts flourish in Georgia. They are presented in four categories.

The award for an Arts Leader will be presented to Robert J. Farley, founder and artistic director of Georgia Ensemble Theatre & Conservatory at the Roswell Cultural Arts Center. He began his career in the late 1960s on Broadway with the APA-Phoenix Repertory Company. He was the co-founder and artistic director of the acclaimed Alaska Repertory Theatre in the 1970s, and was the artistic director of the Tony Award-winning Alliance Theatre in Atlanta during the late 1980s. Under his leadership, Georgia Ensemble Theatre has earned numerous awards and has become a vital part of the community. Additionally, the conservatory serves the diverse socioeconomic and multicultural community in the northern sector of the metro Atlanta area with ongoing educational opportunities for young people and adults.

The award for an Art Educator will be presented to Jennie Collier-Johnston, who has served as the art teacher at Hillgrove High School in Powder Springs for several years. She has taught in Cobb County Public Schools for more than 20 years. She mentors new art teachers, student teachers and teachers working with high-risk populations. She reaches students unable to take visual arts classes due to their schedule with an after-school art club which meets weekly. She also has built programs that connect her classroom with local businesses, community organizations and other schools. Outside of work, she has volunteered as an art teacher for Georgia Baptist Hospital, Egleston Children’s Hospital and the Cobb County Center for Children and Young Adults.

The award for Community Service will be presented to Bill Pinto. In addition to his responsibilities as president of Hardin Construction, Pinto has been a longstanding supporter of various arts organizations in the community. In previous years, he chaired the KSU College of the Arts Annual Benefit Gala and more recently he has served as chair of the board of Theatre in the Square in Marietta. His commitment to these organizations includes extensive hours of service, travel, fundraising solicitation, recruitment of additional volunteers, encouraging philanthropy and event attendance among his employees and personal philanthropy. Beyond the arts, Pinto is a member of the board of directors of the Metropolitan Atlanta YMCA and the current chair of the March of Dimes West Metro Region March for Babies.

The award for an Arts Organization will be presented to The Georgia Ballet, located in Marietta. Founded in 1960 by Iris Hensley, The Georgia Ballet has performed for a quarter million area residents, provided dance education and training for 15,000 students, and offered educational outreach to 350,000 school children. In recent years, artistic director Gina Hyatt-Mazon and school director Michele Ziemann-Devos have led The Georgia Ballet to become a regional destination for outstanding dance education, performance and outreach. In that time, in addition to classical ballets and a broad repertoire of contemporary works, its professional performing company has produced six world premiere ballets, one of these being a major collaboration with the Georgia Symphony Orchestra.

Major sponsors of the 2011 Flourish Luncheon so far include Bill Beddingfield, JoAnn Durham and Leo Perras and The Color Spot. Sponsorships are still available.

The event is being organized by a volunteer committee that includes chair Chad Massaker of Carceron and committee members Don Burton of Plan Ahead Events, Steve Byrne of Mauldin & Jenkins, Mike Feldberg of The Color Spot, Jeff Holyoak of Everspark Interactive, Frank Lazaro of Purchasing Power, Mark McKenzie of DocQMax Digital Printing, Patrick Ridley of Fifth Third Bank, Mike Russell of Elite Telecom Services, Michael Tappler of Social Science Research Group and Eric Yonge of EY Studios. The recipients of Flourish Awards were selected by a committee that included artist Linda Flournoy, Livvy Lipson of Journeys Unlimited, Mark Wallace Maguire of Cobb Life and Cherokee Life Magazines and Marci Tate at at Public Broadcasting Atlanta.

For more information about the luncheon, visit the luncheon's web site or call 770-499-3214.

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Kennesaw State University is the third-largest university in Georgia, offering more than 70 graduate and undergraduate degrees, including new doctorates in education, business and nursing. A member of the 35-unit University System of Georgia, Kennesaw State is a comprehensive, residential institution with a growing student population of more than 22,500 from 142 countries.

The KSU College of the Arts is one of only four Georgia institutions to have achieved full national accreditation for all of its arts departments.


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