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MONTPELIER — Shanta Lee Gander of Brattleboro has been named a recipient of the 2020 Vermont Arts Awards recognizing outstanding individual and organizational contributions to the arts. Awards honor educators, artists, performers, advocates, administrators, volunteers and scholars.

Vermonters are being recognized for their contributions in five categories. Gander will receive the Arthur Williams Award for Meritorious Service to the Arts.

"I am still in shock and surprise over winning this award because it often feels like so much of my work has occurred unseen or unnoticed," Gander wrote in an email to the Reformer Wednesday. "This is not a unique feeling given so much amazing work in the world that often slips away without our knowledge. I can not deny that attracting this kind of recognition is an encouragement for me to keep doing all of the work that I am doing through my writing, photography, and other means of bearing witness. I am truly interested in a lifelong endeavor that involves going beneath the surface and sharing that discovery with others."

Gander's writing has been featured in Palette Poetry, BLAVITY, DAME Magazine, The Crisis Magazine, Rebelle Society, on the Ms. Magazine Blog and on a former radio segment, "Ponder This." She is a Master of Fine Arts candidate in Creative Non-Fiction and Poetry at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has a Master of Business Administration from the University of Hartford and an undergraduate degree in Women, Gender, and Sexuality from Trinity College. She has forthcoming work in ITERANT literary magazine and Prism and posts updates on her Facebook page and website,

"We are honored to recognize these five extraordinary individuals," Arts Council Executive Director Karen Mittelman said in an email to news organizations. "Each one of them has been a trailblazer, in his or her own way. Their creativity moves, inspires, and stretches us — as Vermonters and as human beings."

The other winners are:

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John Fusco of Morristown will receive the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts, the highest honor presented to an artist by the state of Vermont. In selecting Fusco for this award, Gov. Phil Scott said, "John's talent and the dedication shown throughout his career — from his award-winning screenwriting and musical talent to his service to his community — make him the absolute right choice for this year's Excellence in the Arts award. Congratulations, John, and thank you for making Vermont proud."

Hannah Dennison of Chelsea will receive the Walter Cerf Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts.

Jody Fried of Kirby will receive the Margaret L. (Peggy) Kannenstine Award for Arts Advocacy.

Ray Vega of South Burlington will receive the Ellen McCulloch-Lovell Award in Arts Education.