AUSTIN — With the dynamic talents of rocker Steve Miller, Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson and young cross-over violinist Charles Yang in play, Tuesday night's Texas Medal of Arts Awards gala morphed from sedate ceremonial evening into a high-voltage concert that had many in the Long Center for the Performing Arts jiving in their seats.
The biennial salute to Texas talent and cultural leadership recognized individuals and entities from across the state with the prestigious award, including Houston Ballet and fine art sculptor James Surls, who has an enduring relationship with Houston. Several dozen Houstonians made the trip to Austin for the evening that was chaired by two H-Town power forces Kelli Blanton and Marita Fairbanks. As honorary chairs, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Tricia Dewhurst were front and center. Tricia is a board member of the Texas Cultural Trust, which presents the awards.
The jolt of energy to the evening was provided by Miller, who performed his "Fly Like an Eagle" and "Abracadabra. "
Any questions that Texas' vast talent pool runs the gamut from the deliciously ridiculous to the sublime were firmly put to rest with the cross-section of artists spotlighted including award recipients Eva Longoria, Greater Tuna talents Joe Sears and Jaston Williams, plus the Art Guys wearing white jumpsuits and cymbals (they clashed against one another as the William Tell Overture blasted from a boom box) and Chris Harrison, who is Blanton's cousin, a Dallas native and host of ABC's The Bachelor.
Garnering much of the red carpet attention before the tented dinner and the ceremony that followed in the theater were Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and NFL great and Dancing With the Stars champ Emmitt Smith (accompanied by his glam wife Pat). They, along with close friend T. Boone Pickens, introduced award recipients Gene Jones (wife of Jerry) and daughter Charlotte Jones Anderson, recognized for their inspiration and guidance with the Cowboys Stadium art program.
The jolt of energy to the evening was provided by award recipient Miller, who performed his "Fly Like an Eagle" and "Abracadabra" with 2011 Medal of Arts recipient Benson and musicians in one set and then joined Benson and Yang, who had his own stirring performance earlier, in the finale performance of Buddy Miles' blues classic "Texas."
Joining the festivities that included the official awards presentation by Laura Bush at a luncheon on Tuesday were Houston Ballet's Jim Nelson, Houston Ballet board president Jim Jordan, Ginger and Jack Blanton, Eddy Blanton, J.B. Fairbanks, Sara Dodd Spickelmier, Gregory Fourticq, Andrew Echols, Jonathan Glus, Cathy Brock, Jesus Moroles, Shara Fryer, Astrid Van Dyke, Merrill and Joe Hafner, Jean May, Shawn Stephens, Rainey Knudson, Molly Hipp, Marci and Steve Alvis and loads more.