Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam present a 2015 Governor's Arts Awards to Scott Niswonger. (Photo submitted)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam present a 2015 Governor's Arts Awards to Scott Niswonger. (Photo submitted)
DHI Media Staff Report

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE -- Van Wert native Scott Niswonger was among ten recipients of the 2015 Governor's Arts Awards, presented March 17 at the Tennessee Residence.

The awards are Tennessee's highest honor in the arts.

Nashville—Governor and First Lady Haslam awarded Tennessee’s highest honor in the arts to ten recipients who represent the best in arts and culture in Tennessee on Tuesday evening, March 17, 2015 .

“This great state is home to skilled musicians and writers, artists and craftsmen, visionaries and entrepreneurs whose talents help make Tennessee a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family,” Governor Haslam said during his opening remarks. “We are proud to be a state that is home to incredible artists and dedicated leaders in the arts such as we have here tonight.”

In an acc0mpanying bio released with notice of the award, much of Niswonger's history in Tennessee is explained and a short video interview with Niswonger and a few employees. To view the video and the bio, click http://tnartseducation.org/events/2015-governors-arts-awards/scott-niswonger/ The biographical information centers on his efforts in Tenneessee and does not mention his contributions to his hometown of Van Wert.

A businessman and philanthropist from Greeneville, Tenneessee Scott Niswonger has been instrumental in bringing positive change to Northeast Tennessee. Since founding Landair Transport, Inc. in 1981, he built his company into a transportation and logistics leader employing over one thousand people in Greeneville. Using his success to fuel his commitment to philanthropy, Niswonger has made a tremendous impact on the arts in the region through the Niswonger Foundation and the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.

The Niswonger Performing Arts Center (in Greeneville, Tennessee), which seats 1,150, has created a flourishing arts community and offers arts education programming for K-12 children. The center adds to Greeneville’s quality of life and is a powerful economic engine for the entire region. In response to suggestions that a performing arts center could be part of the renovations at Greeneville High School, Niswonger stepped forward and offered a contribution. Plans for an auditorium that seated 800 were scrapped for a more ambitious scheme to build a 39,000 foot performing arts center that would be an asset to the entire region. Opened in December 2004, the Center is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year as a nationally recognized venue for performances by touring musicians, comedians and theatrical companies.

Education and outreach are vital parts of the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. The programming of the center includes shows for children and outreach by the artists in the community. In addition, a summer theatrical day camp is offered annually by the center to students in grades K-12.

Niswonger also supports education through his foundation which provides grants to enhance cultural enrichment and to champion education. With the goal of fostering leaders who will help improve their communities, the Niswonger Foundation provides scholarships to high achieving students who pledge to return to their communities for one year of service after graduation. In addition, the Foundation provides grant money for school programming and professional development, including Arts in Education programs. The Arts in Education funding makes it possible for artists to visit public schools, for all Greene County high schools to offer band and instrumental music programs and for an annual concert to be offered to over 2,000 students in the area by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.

With a focus on holistically supporting the community in its areas of greatest need, Mr. Niswonger also supports healthcare through the founding of the Niswonger Children’s Hospital, which is home to one of only six St. Jude affiliate clinics nationwide. The hospital opened its doors in 2009 and provides essential pediatric services to the region and beyond. Mr. Niswonger often arranges for touring artists from the Performing Arts Center to visit the hospital and entertain the children. Furthermore, Niswonger brings Broadway performers to the hospital to perform with the children in an annual talent show and fundraiser.

These significant contributions are only a small picture of the ways Scott Niswonger’s vision and generosity are benefiting Northeast Tennessee and beyond. His leadership and legacy will have a profound impact on the region, state and arts community for generations to come.

Others receiving Governor's Arts Awards for 2015 included country music legend Loretta Lynn; gospel musician Bobby Jones; Bill May of Gatlinburg's Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts; broommaker Jack Martin; whittler and wood worker Bill Henry; Stax Museum of American Soul Music; opera singer Mary Costa; blues legend B.B. King; and novelist Cormac McCarthy.

Established in 1971, the Governor’s Arts Awards is produced by the Tennessee Arts Commission and recognizes individuals and organizations whose contributions to the cultural life of Tennessee are outstanding. The Tennessee Arts Commission is the state arts agency whose mission is to cultivate the arts for Tennesseans and their communities.