Arkansas Arts Council Announces 2023 Governor's Arts Awards Recipients

Arkansas Arts Council Announces 2023 Governor's Arts Awards Recipients
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Arkansas Arts Council
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Monday, November 21st 2022
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The Arkansas Arts Council, an agency of the Division of Arkansas Heritage, is pleased to announce the 2023 Governor’s Arts Awards recipients.
 
Since 1991, the annual awards program has recognized individuals, organizations 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 Governor’s Arts Awards recognize Arkansans who have made significant contributions to maintaining, growing and enhancing the arts in our state,” said Stacy Hurst, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. “These artists and art supporters are part of the cultural heritage of Arkansas and are fundamental components of our creative economy and quality of life.”
 
The recipients will be honored at a ceremony in March 2023.
 
The 2023 recipients are:

Christina Littlejohn of Little Rock, Arts Community Development Award
Christina Littlejohn is the CEO for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra (ASO). Through her leadership, she has guided a once-struggling nonprofit to become the state’s leader in music education and the top employer of professional teaching artists and musicians. In addition, the organization has balanced its budget for 13 consecutive years while expanding its music education programs. ASO launched the Sturgis Music Academy in 2016 to provide hands-on music instruction by ASO instructors. The program partners with local schools without music programs of their own.
 
Throughout the pandemic, the ASO continued to provide performance and learning opportunities with online offerings and instructional videos. Littlejohn’s vision and commitment also paved the way for a new dedicated performance space featuring a recording and broadcast studio to reach all corners of the state. ASO will break ground on the music center in 2023. Littlejohn used a combination of strategic planning, restructuring, board cultivation and development, sustainable operations and fundraising to transform ASO to the successful and impactful arts organization it is now. 
 
Jorge Villegas and Maria Botti Villegas of El Dorado, Arts in Education Award for an Arts Educator
Jorge Villegas and Maria Botti Villegas are teaching artists at the South Arkansas Arts Center and in arts-in-education programs in El Dorado area public schools. Both Jorge and Maria relocated to Arkansas from Argentina. In 1982, the South Arkansas Arts Center (SAAC) developed an in-school artist residency program and Jorge became the first teaching artist; Maria joined the program in 1993. Both artists have been sharing their diverse artistic expertise with students in public schools across south Arkansas ever since.   

Jorge completed 14 years of degree programs from three art colleges in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He specializes in drawing, painting and murals. Jorge has worked with such diverse groups as alternative education schools, people with disabilities and death row inmates. Maria holds a five-year degree from the national school of fine arts in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She is a professional muralist and multidisciplinary artist. Her artwork has been included in regional exhibitions and she has painted more than 30 public art murals in Arkansas and Louisiana. Both Jorge and Maria speak fluent Spanish and can engage with beginning English speakers. During the pandemic, Maria and Jorge were determined to continue arts education for students. They developed video lessons for use in the classrooms. With their help, SAAC was able to provide online virtual arts camps throughout the summer, broadening the reach to even more isolated areas. Jorge and Maria have provided transformative arts experiences to generations of students through hands-on, interactive arts experiences and made deep, lifelong connections with their students.  
 
The Foundation of Arts in Jonesboro, Arts in Education Award for an Arts Organization
The Foundation of Arts (FOA) began as a community theatre when it was founded over 32 years ago. In the last decade, FOA has expanded student learning opportunities in dance, vocal music, musical theatre, drawing and painting. The organization offers more than 40 classes to nearly 300 students every week. FOA curriculum is developed by experienced arts educators to stress leadership, character development and personal growth, in addition to mastering artistic skills. 
 
Summer programs include the “Young Artist Theatre” for children and teens, which culminates in a main stage production. Community outreach programs include “First Fridays at the Forum Concert Series,” which was developed to showcase emerging musicians from Northeast Arkansas. Additional programming for adults with special needs, visual artists and filmmakers is offered. The FOA now produces 12 annual theatrical performances providing opportunities for performers and production crew. The Foundation of Arts serves the Jonesboro and Northeast Arkansas area by providing a vast array of live entertainment and learning opportunities in the arts.
 
The Springs Magazine in Hot Springs, Corporate Sponsorship of the Arts Award
The Springs Magazine began in 1993 to serve the growing arts community in Hot Springs. The monthly print publication is a guide to art gallery openings, musical performances, poetry readings and other local entertainment events and festivals. The idea was originally conceived by Sonja Lash and Diane Hampo. Sonja managed the magazine until 2013, when JoAnn Mangione became the publisher. Almost every cover has been designed by Richard Stephens, who has donated his graphic design services by incorporating photographs, logos and original artwork by area artists to create eye-catching covers. 
 
Hot Springs is a tourism destination and the arts are an important part of the local economy. The Springs Magazine provides a vital service to the arts tourism sector. The publication is a guide for monthly art walks and provides schedules for the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and maps during arts festivals. Up to 10,000 print copies are distributed monthly and a digital version of the magazine has been available since 2013. As a free publication, The Springs Magazine has been fully supported by advertisers, including several who have been supporting the magazine since its inception.
 
The Music Roots Program/Founder Danny Thomas in Mountain View, Folklife Award
The Music Roots Program was established in 1997 by Danny Thomas, the superintendent of the Mountain View School District. Through a career orientation grant, an in-school program was developed to create a career path for young people in a town known for folk music. The program is a partnership with the Ozark Folk Center State Park, which reviews and recommends musicians as program instructors and provides performance opportunities for the students.
 
Beginning in fourth grade, free lessons are available to students during the school day and free loaner instruments can be taken home. Students in the program not only learn how to play an instrument, but also develop stage presence skills and learn how to work as a band. Many have gone on to play at festivals and in competitions, become professional musicians and even teach folk music to other students. For the past 25 years, folk music has been embedded in the school system benefiting generations of students and families in the Stone County area. The Music Roots program not only contributes to the preservation of the authentic folk music of the Ozarks but promotes cultural tourism to the area. Funding for the program is provided by the Committee of 100, the Mountain View School District and Mountain View Bluegrass Association.  
 
Sammy Peters of Little Rock, Individual Artist Award
Sammy Peters is an abstract painter who has exhibited nationally and internationally. His work is included in collections around the world including the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, the estate of Winthrop Rockefeller and many private collections from Little Rock to London. His work has been described as multi-layered, richly textured and complex in color. 
Peters was raised in Little Rock after his family moved from Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1945. His father owned the Ace Sign Company and when his father retired, Peters operated the family business while pursuing his art career. He studied painting, art history and design at the University of Arkansas Little Rock and the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Over the years, he has earned many accolades including awards in competitive exhibitions, fellowships and solo exhibitions in major cities. Peters currently maintains a full-time studio practice in Little Rock and is recognized as one of Arkansas’s most outstanding abstract painters.
 
Kelly and Marti Sudduth of Fayetteville, Patron Award
Kelly and Marti Sudduth relocated to Northwest Arkansas in 2009 and have been supporting the arts in their new home state for the past 12 years. They have made significant contributions to not only the Walton Arts Center, but also the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas (SoNA) and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. In 2016, the Sudduths’ substantial donation of a $1 million gift enabled the Walton Arts Center to meet its deadline for a major challenge grant. The funding was part of a capital campaign dedicated to the expansion of the arts center. In 2017, the Sudduths joined a small group of patrons to make a financial gift to establish an endowment for the Van Cliburn Concert Series at Crystal Bridges Museum. In 2021, the Sudduths gave a significant donation to SoNA that enabled the symphony to weather the pandemic. The Sudduths are active arts patrons, engaged volunteers and members of committees and advisory panels for the arts institutions they support. Through their generosity, they have made an indelible impact towards sustaining the arts in Northwest Arkansas.

Andrew Kilgore of Fayetteville, Lifetime Achievement Award
Andrew Kilgore is a portrait photographer who specializes in documenting intriguing groups of people. His signature black and white documentary style of photography is distinctly recognizable. Kilgore moved to Arkansas 50 years ago after spending time in India with the Peace Corps and attending theological seminary school. With an artistic eye and an activist heart, Kilgore began his path as an advocacy photographer. His personal goal was to create and archive a photographic collection of people living during his lifetime.
 
He has worked with various nonprofits and advocacy organizations to photograph people who are often unseen and overlooked. Some of his photographic collections have included developmentally disabled children and adults, people suffering from mental illness, at-risk adolescents and people living with severe economic challenges. He has also traveled across the state photographing thousands of Arkansans during his career as a professional portrait photographer. He has taught photography at the University of Arkansas, lectured throughout the state and published a book of his art. At age 82, Kilgore is still an active photographer.

For more information and requests for photos, contact Lindsey Tugman at [email protected] .

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