WORDS / ARKANSAS ARTS COUNCIL
The Arkansas Arts Council, a division of Arkansas Heritage, is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2020 Governor’s Arts Awards.
Since 1991, the annual awards program has recognized individuals and businesses for their outstanding contributions to the arts in Arkansas. Recipients are nominated by the public, then selected by an independent panel of arts professionals.
The recipients will be honored at a ceremony in March 2020.
The 2020 recipients are:
Arts Community Development Award: Gretchen Hall of Little Rock
Gretchen Hall is the president and CEO of the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau (LRCVB.) She began her work at LRCVB as an event coordinator in 2001, before becoming the manager of marketing and public relations. She was the driving force behind the restoration of Robinson Center’s performance hall, which is the major venue for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Arkansas and the Broadway Theater Series. Hall managed the $70 million renovation, which included major improvements to the backstage area, technical and acoustic improvements, as well as restoration to the Art Deco architectural features. It was Hall’s vision to update and enhance the outdoor amphitheater in Riverfront Park. She founded Jazz in the Park, which pays local jazz musicians to perform a series of free outdoor concerts two months out of the year. The LRCVB, under Hall’s lead, has been an annual sponsor of Sculpture at the River Market, a nonprofit organization that has helped increase public sculpture in Little Rock and created the Sculpture Garden in Riverfront Park. Additionally, the Little Rock Advertising and Promotion Commission, which is a governing body of LRCVB, dedicated a 2-percent lodging tax to the current Arkansas Arts Center renovation. These funds are generating 100 percent of the $31-plus million public bond dedicated to pay for the project. LRCVB also produces the annual Little Rock Arts and Attractions guide and provides marketing support to multiple arts organizations annually.
Arts in Education Award: Jeannie Hulen of West Fork
Jeannie Hulen is the associate dean and professor of ceramics at J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Hulen has been a major catalyst in conceptualizing, organizing and implementing historic fundraising and grant-writing efforts that resulted in the construction of a 33,000-square-foot, state of the art, sculpture facility at the university. Hulen’s vision helped to establish the university’s School of Art, which was made possible via $120 million from the Walton Family Foundation and $40 million from the Windgate Foundation. The School of Art will expand to the Art and Design District that is developing on the edge of the Fayetteville campus. In addition, Hulen oversaw the department’s National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAS) accreditation, which involved five years of intense work by the entire art faculty and staff. Under Hulen’s leadership, student enrollment in the art department, as well as faculty and staff positions have increased. Hulen is a ceramics and multimedia sculptor who has exhibited internationally. She was a visiting resident artist in Taiwan in 2009 and U.S. Fulbright Scholar in Ghana, West Africa, in 2018 and 2019.
Corporate Sponsorship of the Arts Award: Arkansas Health and Wellness, Little Rock
Arkansas Health and Wellness (AHW) is a subsidiary of Centene Corp., a health insurance company based in Little Rock. ARH&W has been a sponsor of the ACANSA, the annual visual and performing arts festival in Central Arkansas, since its inception in 2014. The corporation’s support has helped facilitate the expansion of ACANSA events, including enabling ACANSA to partner with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra to create a free event for the 2014 opening of the Creative Corridor on Main Street in Little Rock. Since 2016, AHW has sponsored Children’s Day, a free event for children and families. Thanks to AHW support, ACANSA has been able to expand artists’ contracts to include more master class opportunities and artist “talk-back” sessions. AHW has a mission to “Help Arkansas Live Better,” which includes supporting the arts to increase the state’s quality of life. The corporation also provides support to many health organizations and educational institutions and hosts statewide community health fairs that provide health screenings, medical care and educational resources. AHW understands a holistic approach to health and wellness is an important component of thriving communities.
Folklife Award: Marty Scarbrough of Jonesboro
Marty Scarbrough is the program director at KASU-FM 91.9 at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. He began working at KASU-FM in 1992 and has more than 30 years of experience working in public radio. Although he has hosted radio shows focused on jazz, classical, blues and folk music, he has made a special effort to promote bluegrass music specifically. Scarbrough created a weekly bluegrass radio program, called “Down Home Harmonies,” in the late 1990s. In 2002, KASU-FM began monthly concerts, called “Bluegrass Mondays,” to feature live music and to contribute to the downtown revitalization effort. Scarbrough works to promote bluegrass music by booking the bands, doing all publicity for the event and serving as emcee at the concerts. Scarbrough has been instrumental in bringing 187 free bluegrass concerts to Northeast Arkansas. He has brought in local and nationally renowned bluegrass acts to venues across the region. The events are funded by support from sponsors and donations from concertgoers. Up to 400 bluegrass fans attend monthly.
Individual Artist Award: Mark Landon Smith of Fayetteville
Mark Landon Smith is the executive director of Arts Live Theatre in Fayetteville, where he’s worked since 2003. He is an actor, comedian, playwright and stage director. Under Smith’s direction, Arts Live Theatre produces nine productions a year, up from two to three shows a season. Smith has 16 published scripts, mostly in the “Southern comedy” genre. His scripts, which have been produced worldwide, include two foreign translations, an Off-Broadway production and a film adaptation. In addition, he is the founder and director of the Actors Casting Agency, which helps place actors and crew members in Arkansas film projects. Smith co-founded Ceramic Cow Productions, a fringe, comedic theater company that also produces films. He also co-founded an improvisational comedy group that has been performing for more than 10 years. In addition, Smith co-directs the Arkansas Playwrights Workshop for TheatreSquared. He has numerous film and television credits for his work in casting and producing and has received awards and recognition for his roles in regional theater performances.
Judges Recognition Award: The Breakfast Club Interdisciplinary Arts Program at Ramay Junior High School in Fayetteville
The Breakfast Club Interdisciplinary Arts Program at Ramay Junior High School was created in 2015 to teach skills for life, school and work through visual, performing and stagecraft skills. The program was founded by Martha Sandven, the English Department chair at the school, and is an after-school and summer program for at-risk and under-served children. Certified professionals teach students drawing, painting, computer-aided design, acting, costuming, play writing, set construction and prop design. Students in the program are required to participate in one public service project each semester. Past projects have included creating murals to cover graffiti, beautifying a bike path and reading to elementary students. The program has improved self-esteem and self-motivation among students and has helped students identify more positively with their peers. The program specifically targets children who are struggling. More than 50 percent of students at Ramay are considered low-income students and nearly 20 percent of students are eligible to receive special education, according to the Arkansas Department of Education. The school also has a significant number of students who report being homeless. Most students do not have access to arts-related electives because they are scheduled for remedial or language courses by the school district. The Breakfast Club program brings arts to students and improves student achievement, both inside and out of the classroom. Students in the program show improved test scores, miss fewer overall assignments, come to school more regularly and are less likely to be truant or to get suspended.
Patron Award: Madison and Suzanne Murphy of El Dorado
Madison and Suzanne Murphy are patrons of the arts in every sense of the word. The couple provides significant levels of financial support and attends performances and other events. They’ve also been personally involved in creating an arts district in their hometown of El Dorado. Madison Murphy is chairman of the board for Murphy USA. He is a founding member of El Dorado Festivals & Events, Inc., which gave rise to the creation of the Murphy Arts District, known as “MAD,” in El Dorado. Highlights of the new arts and entertainment District include an outdoor amphitheater that accommodates 7,500 attendees and an indoor venue that holds 2,500. The $100 million project was developed with the aim of making El Dorado a vibrant destination for arts, culture and music in the South. The Murphy family has supported the South Arkansas Arts Center in El Dorado for the past 55 years, which is when the Center was founded. The couple continues that support with an annual gift that supplements the center’s Arts in Education program. The grant pays to bring artists into classrooms to work with students in hands-on art projects that enhance the curriculum. The Murphys’ support has enabled the program to reach up to 1,500 students with over 1,000 hours of instructional time every school year since 1982. In addition, the Murphys provide support to the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the South Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, The Muses Creative Artistry Project, the Oxford American and the Walton Arts Center.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Henri Linton Sr. of Pine Bluff
Henri Linton, Sr., is an artist, curator and retired educator. For more than 50 years, Linton worked in the Department of Art at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). He began his career in 1969 as an art instructor, then became a professor before being promoted in 1980 to chairman of the art department. He remained chairman until his retirement in 2014. In 2004, Linton founded and became the director of the University Museum and Cultural Center, a facility that documents UAPB’s and the surrounding Delta area’s 144-plus years of history and creates changing art exhibitions. His work as an artist has garnered attention since the 1960s and has brought him numerous commissions for large-scale work. Linton, whose artwork focuses on the Arkansas Delta landscape, is among the most renowned landscape painters in the state of Arkansas. His paintings are included in private and corporate collections and are in galleries, public facilities and office buildings throughout Arkansas and the United States. Linton was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2001 and later was selected to design the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame permanent exhibition located in the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock. In 2018, he was selected for inclusion into “The HistoryMakers Digital Archives,” a video collection of prominent African Americans that is housed at the Library of Congress. Now retired, Linton continues to work on commissioned projects. He is also organizing a museum and cultural center to document the history of Merrill High School, a historically black high school that existed in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, from 1886 to 1970.
About the Arkansas Arts Council
The Arkansas Arts Council, a division of Arkansas Heritage, advances the arts in Arkansas by providing services and supporting arts endeavors that encourage and assist literary, performing and visual artists in achieving standards of professional excellence. In addition, the Arkansas Arts Council provides technical and financial assistance to Arkansas arts organizations and other providers of cultural and educational programs. Other divisions are the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Arkansas State Archives, Delta Cultural Center in Helena, Historic Arkansas Museum, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center and the Old State House Museum. Funding for the Arkansas Arts Council and its programs is provided by the State of Arkansas and the National Endowment for the Arts. Arkansas Heritage is a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.