Skip navigation

USM Alumnus Ed McGowin to Receive Governor’s Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement

Tue, 11/29/2022 - 10:23am | By: Ivonne Kawas

Governor’s Arts Awards

Ed McGowinEach year, the Mississippi Arts Commission, in partnership with the Office of the Governor, honors individuals and organizations for their outstanding work in the artistic disciplines, arts-based community development, and/or arts patronage in Mississippi through the Governor’s Arts Awards.

On its 35th edition, a dynamic painter and sculptor and a University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Art and Design Alumnus Ed McGowin, will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

“The Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement is the most meaningful award I have ever received,” said McGowin. “To be among a list of artists that includes B.B. King, Leontyne Price and Eudora Welty among many others is a very humbling and extremely gratifying experience. For me USM was the beginning of a wonderful journey as an artist, and along the way it has remained in my thoughts.”

The 2023 recipients will be recognized at the 35th Governor’s Arts Awards ceremony at the Two Mississippi Museums in downtown Jackson on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, at 6 p.m. A public reception at 4:30 p.m. will precede the ceremony.

“We are very excited to honor this excellent group of artists from our state,” said Marie Sanderson, board chair of Mississippi Arts Commission. “These recipients have made lasting impacts in their fields and Mississippi. We look forward to honoring them at the Two Mississippi Museums in February.”

McGowin, a native of Hattiesburg, Miss., received his Bachelor of Art at USM in 1961 and later pursued a Master of Arts at the University of Alabama in 1964.

While at USM, McGowin studied what back in the days was called a degree in commercial art.

McGowin notes that he is grateful for having found an environment that allowed him to cultivate his talent.

“I am very grateful to USM to have had a place to grow and experiment until I found something I could do well,” said McGowin. “The technical facility required for producing competent work gave me a good background for what I wanted to do later as an artist.”

McGowin also recalls being able to take advantage of the opportunities created by a professor who was particularly influential in his development.

“Professor Vernon Merrifield was an exceptional teacher who was a very encouraging and helpful mentor. I was one of many students he created opportunities for which served as a stepping stone in finding our way,” he added.

McGowin is an internationally recognized multi-media artist who has participated in more than ninety one-person exhibits and four hundred group exhibits across six continents.

In 1969, he had his name changed legally twelve times in the Washington D.C. court system, and he continues to make art for these 12 personas. Through his Ed McGowin, Name Change project, he has been able to create bodies of work that go beyond traditional categories.

“I have built my career around trying to make anything I want to make,” said McGowin. “I most enjoy having to work out problems to make something and let that take me where I have never been. That process, in part, was one of the reasons for starting the Name Change project.”

If you were wondering what his 12 identities are up to now, McGowin notes that creating works for all personas will always be an ongoing process, except for his persona McDuff.

“For now, making things for Thornton Dossett is a preoccupation,” said McGowin. “Thornton’s work is mostly about race and how the African American society and the white society contribute to Southern culture. The good and bad and how that combines. One piece of art that is a good example of is the Rogers, Johnson, Presley wall sculpture. Additionally, Alva Fost is creating some breakthrough work. It is possible that McDuff is dead, as nothing has been produced for him in decades.”

McGowin’s work is in the permanent collection of major museums, including Mississippi Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, among many others. He has corporate collections in AT&T, Chase Manhattan Bank, McKinsey and Co., American Medical Association, Prudential Life Insurance, and Goldman Sacks.

He has created more than 20 public commissions, with his most recent being a commission by the Palm Beach, Fla. symphony to create ten paintings to be projected during the presentation of The Shoe Bird, a composition by Mississippi composer Samuel Jones, based on a book by Eudora Welty.

McGowin is a Professor Emeritus at the State University of NY. He lives and works with wife Claudia DeMonte in New York City and Miami, Fla.

About The Governor’s Arts Awards

The Governor’s Arts Awards is an annual ceremony that recognizes individuals and organizations that have made noteworthy contributions to the arts in the state of Mississippi. Schools, businesses, organizations, arts initiatives, and events are eligible to receive Governor’s Arts Awards, in addition to individual artists and supporters of the arts. Notable past recipients include John Grisham, B.B. King, Thalia Mara, the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi, and Malaco Records.

Award recipients are nominated by members of the public and selected by a jury of community arts leaders and industry peers. Recipients are not required to be Mississippi residents, but they must have significant ties to the state through some years of residency. For more information, visit