Winston-Salem won four new starry medallions for the Benton Convention Center sidewalk on Friday, as city leaders once again celebrated the achievements of people on the city’s Walk of Fame.
A few days before the start of the National Black Theater Festival here, nominees included Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin, the festival’s former executive producer who passed away in January.
Country music artist George Hamilton IV took the lead, as did theater lighting designer Howell Binkley and visual artist Anne Kesler Shields.
“It gives us the opportunity to perpetually recognize these people who have had a tremendous impact on Winston-Salem’s cultural and entertainment fabric, but also nationally in many ways,” said Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines, in a ceremony that began inside the Benton with short films about the life and achievements of each person, and ended off with the unveiling of the bronze medallions.
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Board member DD Adams expressed enthusiasm for the start of the theater festival, which begins Monday after the COVID-19 pandemic has moved its usually two-year program back by a year. Adams said the city has learned that the festival is a good opportunity to highlight the Walk of Fame, as both events have their roots in the arts.
With the latest addition, the city has now placed 24 sidewalk medallions along Cherry Street next to the Benton.
Here are the latest winners, in the order their stars were unveiled:
* Binkley, who died in 2020, was nominated nine times for a Tony Award for design lighting and won twice, in 2006 for “Jersey Boys” and in 2015 for “Hamilton”. Born in Winston-Salem, he was a student at Reynolds High School, where he was the demon’s mascot, when he acquired the fascination for theater that led to his career as a lighting designer. His Broadway hits began with “Kiss of the Spider Woman” in 1993, and he won a Lawrence Olivier Award for Outstanding Lighting Design in London Production. At the time of his death, he had 52 Broadway productions to his credit.
* Hamilton, who died in 2014, made his first record in 1956 while a freshman at UNC Chapel Hill. That song, “A Rose and a Baby Ruth,” became a gold record for ABC-Paramount, and Hamilton went on television shows hosted by such lights as Jimmy Dean, Dick Clark, Arthur Godfrey, and Perry Como. In his 58-year career, he has released 40 albums and 63 singles. He was a regular at the Grand Ole Opry and made his last performance only 11 days before his death. Known as “the international ambassador of country music,” Hamilton’s overseas appearances included a trip behind the Iron Curtain in 1974. A bridge over the Salem Parkway also honors Hamilton.
Sprinkle-Hamlin, who died in 2022, was the wife of Larry Leon Hamlin, who founded the NC Black Repertory Co. and the National Black Theater Festival. Beginning as the company’s secretary in 1983, she joined the festival’s board of directors in 1991. In 2007, when Hamlin passed away, she Sprinkle-Hamlin took on the role of executive producer of the festival. All the while, she worked at the Forsyth County Public Library and in 2000 she became the first black person and the first woman to serve as the director of the library.
* Shields, who died in 2012, had a career in the visual arts that spanned 60 years and included work in multiple genres including abstract landscapes, geometric paintings and prints, portraits and collages. Art critic Tom Patterson described her as “entirely unparalleled as an artist for her generation in North Carolina”. In 1956, Shields teamed up with other artists to found the Associated Artists of Winston-Salem, later joining others to found what is now known as the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art.
PHOTO: Winston-Salem honors artistic leaders on the Memorial Walk of Fame