Several arts organizations and individuals were honored with the Kendig Awards for 2020 and 2021.
Co-sponsored by Roanoke College and Hollins University, the Kendig Awards recognize exemplary individuals, businesses and organizations in Virginia’s Blue Ridge (counties of Roanoke, Botetourt and Franklin, as well as the cities of Roanoke and Salem, and the town of Vinton) that support excellence in the arts.
The awards were presented during a ceremony at Roanoke College’s Olin Hall on October 5. The awards ceremony was hosted by Roanoke College President Michael C. Maxey and Hollins University President Mary Dana Hinton.
“The Kendig Awards highlight the vital and important role that the arts play in the economic development, education and cultural identity of Virginia’s Blue Ridge,” Maxey said.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s awards ceremony combined nominees for 2020 and 2021, and two winners were awarded in each category.
Individual Artist Award
The Individual Artist Award winners are Todd Ristau and Pat Wilhelms.
Todd Ristau designed and launched the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University and has served as program director since its launch in 2007. His work has been performed in theatres across the U.S. and England, including London’s West End. He founded No Shame Theatre in 1986 and led its evolution into a national network of venues for new works in dozens of cities. He has an extensive theatre background, with expertise in acting, directing and design. He’s known for his incredible mentorship of emerging playwrights, and his courage in advocating for the spaces and resources for this new work to enter the world.
Pat Wilhelms founded Roanoke Children’s Theatre in 2008 and carried the organization from 2008-2020. In 2020, Wilhelms founded PB & J Theatre Company. PB & J strives to bring new theatre opportunities for young and not so young, that educate, challenge and inspire. Wilhelms is quick to point out that her acting workshops and productions aren’t just for kids. They are for everyone. She is a true visionary with a keen eye for producing top-notch stage direction for theatre for young audiences. Before establishing Roanoke Children’s Theatre in 2008, she was director of education and outreach at Mill Mountain Theatre for many years. She loves the Roanoke Valley and has a true endless love for the young people in the community.
Arts and Cultural Organization Awards
The Arts and Cultural Organization Award winners are Roanoke College’s Olin Hall Galleries and the Smith Mountain Arts Council.
The vision, programming, breadth of shows, and interaction with the community that are all central to the work and mission of Olin Hall Galleries. Olin Galleries exhibits have ranged from on-site installations and residencies, to shows geared toward highlighting collaboration among the disciplines on the Roanoke College campus. Some shows were multi-year projects involving workshops and programming to create community-generated exhibits, such as the Coral Reef Project or Paper Blooms. Olin Hall Galleries have creatively pushed to reinvent itself with each season, providing high-quality shows, generous artists, immersive experiences and community engagement through workshops, lectures and openings. This innovation in exhibits and outreach in programming year to year makes Olin Hall Galleries a leader in the arts community in Roanoke Valley.
The Smith Mountain Arts Council is the main community arts organization for the three-county Smith Mountain Lake area and has taken the leadership in this area for over 30 years. The 20-member board convenes once a month to plan events and determine networking and scholarship opportunities in the community. Past annual events have included an art show, photo shows, productions by Lake Players (a community theatre group), pop concerts by the community chorus Lakeside Singers, and an annual Christmas concert. The Smith Mountain Arts Council also sponsors the Franklin County chapter of Junior Appalachian Musicians, teaching 30 to 40 children a year in their choice of fiddle, guitar or banjo. The Smith Mountain Arts Council uplifts all aspects of the arts community not only in the Smith Mountain Lake area but all throughout Virginia’s Blue Ridge.
Individual or Business Arts Supporter Award
The Individual or Business Arts Supporter Award winners are Shelby and Jason Bingham. The award was presented posthumously to Don and Barbara Smith with their family accepting the award on their behalf.
Shelby and Jason Bingham made their mark on the arts in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. Upon moving to Roanoke, their children became involved in various organizations, and the Binghams brought their keen leadership, generous spirits, and innovative thinking to these organizations. For the Southwest Virginia Ballet, Shelby created a “Backstage Committee,” which has become a significant fundraising component of the ballet. She served on the company’s Board of Directors and received its Volunteer of the Year award. Jason’s tenure in Roanoke has included service on Mill Mountain Theatre’s Board of Directors. He was part of a small core of board members who labored for four years to take the nonprofit theatre from overburdened by operating debt to a sustainable new business model. The Binghams did whatever it took to put the theatre back on track. The investment in their children’s futures was the motivation for their incredible gifts of energy and resources to the arts in our region.
During their lives, Don and Barbara Smith worked tirelessly and generously to support the arts and culture in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. Their support was legendary, both financially and through their hands-on leadership. Don served on more than 25 local, regional and national boards, including Center in the Square, the Jefferson Center, Mill Mountain Theatre, the Roanoke Symphony, and the Virginia Foundation for Arts and Sciences. He was awarded the Key to the City of Roanoke. Barbara wrote poetry and loved music and theatre. In honor of their charitable spirits, the Don and Barbara Smith Kids Square Museum in Center in the Square was dedicated to them. Their five children have followed in their parents’ footsteps and are givers to the community themselves. Grandchildren are now becoming involved in giving back to the community as well. Some of them have chosen or are studying for careers in the fine arts or performing arts.
Named for the late Perry F. Kendig, who served as president of Roanoke College and was an avid supporter and patron of the arts, the Kendig Awards program was established in 1985 and presented annually by the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge through 2012. Hollins and Roanoke College first partnered the following year to bestow the honors. Kendig’s sons Bill and John attended Tuesday’s event to represent the Kendig family.
Congratulations to the winners!
Perry F. Kendig Awards 2021
All winners of the 2021 Kendig Awards
Todd Ristau, of Hollins University Playwright Lab, and Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton
Pat Wilhelms, of Roanoke Children's Theatre and PB&J Theatre
Roanoke College President Mike Maxey with Olin Galleries staff, Lacey Leonard and Talia Logan
Roanoke College President Mike Maxey, Karen DeBord of Smith Mountain Lake Arts Council and Hollins University President Mary Dana Hinton
Shelby and Jason Bingham
Babs and Don Smith Jr. with Hollins University President Mary Dana Hinton
Bill Kendig '80, Roanoke College President Mike Maxey, John Kendig
Presidents Mary Dana Hinton of Hollins and Michael Maxey of Roanoke