Mary Ellen Butler

Mary Ellen Butler’s contributions to arts and culture in Georgetown were recognized in a mayoral proclamation at the City Council meeting on June 11, 2019.

During her 18-year tenure at The Palace, Mrs. Butler acted as Artistic Director then Executive Artistic Director. Mary Ellen led the Palace from near bankruptcy into an organization that is a bright beacon in Williamson County. She began the Palace education program and was instrumental in its growth. Her vision and attitude grew the program into the jewel of Williamson County. Mary Ellen also served as a champion for establishing new partnerships and bringing quality and affordable performing arts to Williamson County.

Mary Ellen Butler directed her first play, Our Town, at the Georgetown Palace Theatre in 2002. She served on the board of directors of the theatre and was hired as the Artistic Director in 2003. She remained in that position until her retirement in March, 2019. Mary Ellen helped establish the Palace as an anchor for the downtown which assisted Georgetown in becoming recognized as an official Cultural District by the Texas Commission on the Arts.

Dr. Kenny Sheppard

Dr. Kenny Sheppard’s contributions to arts and culture in Georgetown were recognized in a mayoral proclamation at the City Council meeting on June 26, 2018.

Dr. Kenny Sheppard has been a driving force behind Southwestern University’s Music Department for the last 44 years, starting at Southwestern in 1974. As Professor of Music at Southwestern University, he conducted the University Chorale and the Southwestern Singers and taught thousands of students including numerous music educators and conductors.

Under his leadership the Southwestern University The Choral has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Orchestra of Santa Fe Bach Festival, the Austin Symphony, Big Spring Symphony, Fort Worth Symphony, Temple Symphony, Austin Civic Orchestra, and Air Force Band. Internationally, Dr. Sheppard has led the Southwestern University Chorale in performances in China, Italy and Paris.

Dr. Kenny Sheppard was awarded  the Texas Choral Directors Association’s top honor in July 2016, the Texas Choir Master Award which has only been received by sixteen conductors since 1978.

Dr. Kenny Sheppard created the Central Texas Chorale which became the San Gabriel Chorale in 1988, with a majority of its members being Georgetown residents.  He conducted the chorus until 1998.  For many residents of Georgetown the chorus has been a weekly home to create and sing at the highest levels. The San Gabriel Chorale has created a significant impact on the arts in Georgetown.

Since the 2005 creation of the Georgetown Festival of the Arts, Dr. Sheppard has led the Festival Chorus and Orchestra.

Dr. Paul Gaffney

Dr. Paul Gaffney, left, and Mayor Dale Ross

Dr. Paul Gaffney’s contributions to arts and culture in Georgetown were recognized  in a mayoral proclamation at the City Council meeting on February 27, 2018.

The proclamation came on the heels of Gaffney’s retirement from Southwestern University December 31 after nearly 40 years teaching, Continue reading “Dr. Paul Gaffney”

Carol Light

Carol Light and Mayor Dale Ross at the Nov. 8, 2016 City Council Meeting
Carol Light and Mayor Dale Ross at the Nov. 8, 2016 City Council Meeting

Carol Light’s contributions to arts and culture in Georgetown were recognized Nov. 8, 2016  in a proclamation at a City Council meeting that acknowledged her career and lifetime of service to the arts.

Mayor Dale Ross remarked on Light’s contribution as an artist at the meeting. “Carol Light is a very talented artist and a wonderful representative for Georgetown’s strong arts community. She has helped to build the art community here over the decades through her teaching and encouragement of other artists, and she has enriched life in Georgetown by sharing the inspiring body of work she has created in her 45+ years in Georgetown as a professional artist. She is a person who inspires creativity and joy through the arts,” said Mayor Ross.

In 2015, Light was selected as one of just a handful of local artists commissioned to create artwork to be exhibited in the Sheraton Georgetown Hotel and Conference Center, which opened in July. Light collaborated with Sue Bishop Spahn on a 14-foot-long painting called “Grazing the Fault” that hangs now behind the reception desk in the upscale hotel. (See page B1 of the July 31, 2016 Williamson County Sun for a profile and a picture of “Grazing the Fault.”)

Light’s art has been exhibited internationally, and has won awards in a number of juried shows. Her work was carried by Spicewood Gallery and Design Studio in Austin, and by Hill Design + Gallery in Georgetown. She works primarily in watercolor and mixed media.

In her studio

Light, 86, says, “I am still making art, mostly mixed media lately. I work on paper and canvas, and I love handmade papers and collage. It’s so much fun to be in the creative process—it’s a different world. It transports you like books and reading do, but putting color down on paper is a special joy for me.”

Light is a third-generation floral designer who worked as a young woman in Austin for the family business, Belding Flowers, which served the needs of customers like Lyndon Baines Johnson and John Connally. She worked as a floral designer until 1976. When asked how she was first inspired to take up art, she said, “We were not taught much art in high school, but my parents owned the retail flower shop in the Driskill Hotel in Austin, and you learn a lot of design in the floral industry.”

In addition to that on-the-job training, Light attended Tarleton College in Stephenville, Texas and also The University of Texas at Austin. She left college in order to study art more intensively, and she took summer courses at Louisiana Tech University in Rustin, Louisiana.

Light and her husband and sons moved to Georgetown in 1969, into a house she still occupies. She works in a studio on the property that was rebuilt from the remains of a barn with a sweeping view of the countryside.

A recent work in collage

In 1980, she became an art instructor and she continued to teach art until 1996. “Most artists,” she said, “have to supplement their income. Artists are trying to say something in a nonverbal way….while you are practicing and working on those creative goals, you have to support yourself, so I took up teaching—then I found out what a joy it was. I ended up travelling and teaching all over the state. It was so inspiring to teach other artists and see them develop.”

In June, her farm was the site for a “Curated Picnic” for creatives organized by Light with graphic designer and artist Nick Ramos, owner of Georgetown graphic design firm Graphismo. Ramos says, “Carol is a pioneer, an inspiration, a true guiding light. The never-ending desire to learn keeps her young. She has mentored endless numbers of artists, citizens, and children in our community. She was there at the beginning of the Williamson County Art Guild. Her words, kindness, talent, and smile are a source of energy that will inspire anyone that crosses her path.”

In addition to her teaching, Light has worked in other ways to foster local creativity. She has a history of involvement in local arts groups, having served as president of the Williamson County Art Guild and judging art exhibits, as well, including the 2012 Art Hop, a statewide competitive exhibit hosted by the Georgetown Art Center.


Ellsworth Peterson

After receiving his doctorate in music from Harvard, Georgetown native Ellsworth Peterson realized his dream of coming home and building a career that has enriched the lives of students, residents and visitors through music.

His many contributions to the arts were acknowledged by a mayoral proclamation naming Jan. 24 as Ellsworth Peterson Day. The recognition took place at the beginning of the Jan. 24 City Council meeting.

“I don’t think there is anyone as influential as Ellsworth Peterson in terms of the arts and culture scene in Georgetown,” Library Services Director Eric Lashley said. “Georgetown is fortunate that Ellsworth continued to contribute to arts and culture well after he retired from Southwestern University. This recognition is well deserved.”

Peterson, who was born Nov. 22, 1933, attended Georgetown schools where he was taught by well-known first grade teacher Annie Purl before attending Southwestern University.

“After a two-year period of military service—I played oboe in the Eighth Army Band in Korea—I attended Union Theological Seminary in New York, where I received a master’s degree in sacred music, and Harvard University, where I received my doctorate,”  Peterson said.

He returned to Georgetown in 1965 as the Margaret Root Brown Professor of Fine Arts at Southwestern University, where he taught for 37 years. He has also served as an organist for Georgetown’s First United Methodist Church and university organist at Southwestern.

Peterson smiles when he is asked about changes in Georgetown’s arts scene over his lifetime.

“Things have changed in Georgetown,” he said. “The coming of Sun City has brought more people with time to help in the arts, and just the way the town has grown overall means we can do so much more now.”

Peterson has been organizing public arts events in Georgetown since 1982, including five Brown Symposia at Southwestern University focusing on the works of Mahler, Britten, Shostakovich and Messiaen as well as the arts and culture of Thailand.

Peterson also established a program at Southwestern that brought music professors from Thailand to teach students to play Thai Classical music.

Peterson traveled to Thailand seven times, teaching Western music to students in the Thai language. His facility with the Thai language led to some translation work in addition to including Thai music in the SU curriculum.

“Hearing our SU students playing Thai instruments was one of the highlights of my career,” he said.

Peterson retired from Southwestern in 2002.

“Ellsworth Peterson is one of the most significant members of our arts and culture community in Georgetown,” said Laura Sewell, Sarofim School of Fine Arts Administration manager at Southwestern University, and member of the City of Georgetown Arts & Culture Board. “It seems that Ellsworth’s constant motivator is how to give Georgetown the very best in culture through music. In so many ways his life is about how to make us all better as a community and we cannot be more grateful for his dedication to Georgetown and all of us.”

After retiring from Southwestern, Peterson worked to create the annual Georgetown Festival of the Arts, which arose from conversations with colleagues over coffee at Cianfrani Coffee Co. about ways to bring people who love classical music together.

He has now served as artistic director of thirteen festivals each of which focused on a major composer or group of composers. Each festival includes multiple concerts and lectures in various locations throughout Georgetown, including a free community concert in San Gabriel Park that is followed by a fireworks show.

“I’ve enjoyed being involved with the festival over the years very much,” Peterson said. “One of the biggest thrills of all was seeing student musicians from Georgetown High School and East View High School performing Tchaikovsky’s ‘1812 Overture’ with Round Rock Symphony Orchestra musicians during the 2013 concert in the park.”

He said he stays in touch with several former high school students, many of whom have gone on to become professional musicians.

In addition to continuing work with the festival, Peterson is teaching a Senior University class this spring about the composers featured in this year’s festival Great Britons, which will focus on three British composers. He also writes the program notes for Georgetown Symphony Society concert programs.

“I love teaching, and this gives me the opportunity to do that,” he said. “I enjoy doing research and having the opportunity to meet people and really try to give people with an interest in classical music these opportunities.”

Peterson has been the recipient of several awards, including the 2009 Community Arts Leadership Award presented by the Performing Arts Alliance of Georgetown, the 2010 Martha Diaz Hurtado College Town Award presented by Southwestern University and the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and of the 2010 Future Trails Award presented by the Chisholm Trail Communities Foundation.

Dar Richardson

Georgetown Mayor Dale Ross, left, and sculptor Dar Richardson

Local artist and arts organizer Dar Richardson was recognized July 16, 2017 when Georgetown Mayor Dale Ross read a proclamation making the day Dar Richardson Day in Georgetown.

The proclamation was planned as a surprise to Richardson. The Georgetown Arts & Culture Board had suggested the proclamation as a way to recognize Richardson’s role in curating the Georgetown Sculpture Tour, serving on the Arts & Culture Board, initiating the annual Texas Society of Sculptors exhibit at the Georgetown Public Library, and more, but the event organizers and City staff kept the plan a secret.

The surprise proclamation was read by the Mayor at the awards reception for the Texas Society of Sculptors Tenth Annual Show. The text of the proclamation reads:

“Whereas Dar Richardson is a Georgetown artist who has enriched the lives of others through his work; he has carved wood, sculpted in clay, created mixed media sculpture, painted in enamel, made 3-dimensional mosaic works, and even sung on stage at the Palace Theatre and with the San Gabriel Chorale;

“Whereas Dar Richardson is a local arts organizer who has promoted the arts in Georgetown in many ways including by serving on the City Arts and Culture Board, and has helped to provide artists with venues to show their work including contributing to the beginnings of the Georgetown Art Center;

“Whereas Dar Richardson has sparked interest and excitement in children and adults alike about doing art, whether during sculpture demonstrations at the library or teaching clay sculpture workshops at Rock House;

“Whereas Dar Richardson initiated the popular Texas Society of Sculptors Show at the Georgetown Public Library, which is now in its 10th year showing more than 80 works of art by artists from around the state;

“Whereas Dar Richardson has coordinated and curated the City’s outdoor Sculpture Tour during its first eight years providing visitors to the Most Beautiful Town Square in Texas with surprise, delight, and beauty;

“NOW, THEREFORE, I, DALE ROSS, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF GEORGETOWN, TEXAS, do hereby proclaim July 16, 2017 as

In Georgetown, Texas”

After the proclamation was read, Richardson was asked to speak, so he stepped to the microphone. “I’ve been asked to say a couple of words,” he said to the 75 or so people assembled on the second floor of the library. He paused and then said simply, “Thank you,” before he smiled and stepped away from the podium to rounds of applause and handshakes.

Eric Lashley, director of the Georgetown Public Library, said, “It has been wonderful working with Dar for the past ten years with the annual sculpture show in the library, the outdoor Sculpture Tour around the Square, and his service to the Arts & Culture Board. Dar is a leader in the arts and culture community and he deserves this recognition for all he has done for our community.”