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Local Couple Honored with Prestigious Governor’s Arts Award


Sam and Barbara Tobias, of Mena, are recipients of a prestigious award given by The Arkansas Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage. The Arkansas Arts Council recently announced the recipients of the 2017 Governor’s Arts Awards, and the Tobias’s as the recipients of the Arts Community Development Award. For 26 years, the Governor’s Arts Awards program has recognized individuals and corporations for their outstanding contributions to the arts in Arkansas.

Each year, the recipients are nominated by the public and then selected by an independent panel of arts professionals from around the state. Each of the recipients will be honored at a ceremony in the spring and will receive an original work of art created by Arkansas artist, Elizabeth James, of Springdale.

For the past 15 years, Sam and Barbara Tobias have provided generous support to SouthWest Artists, Inc., a community-based arts organization in Mena founded in 1945. They have donated their time, talents and financial support to uphold the organization’s mission of bringing art to the people of Polk County.

Since SouthWest Artists, Inc., purchased a historic storefront property in 2002, the Tobias’s have put their skills to use to give local artists much needed gallery space. Sam’s engineering and design talents have aided in the remodeling of the exhibit space, classroom space, and the gallery kitchen. His photography and video skills have benefited gallery promotions.

Barbara regularly uses her writing abilities to garner publicity for the organization through promotional articles. She also secured a three-year grant for the gallery’s first executive director. In addition, she teaches classes in drawing, oil painting, fiber arts and writing.

Other recipients are: Lifetime Achievement Award – Thom Hall, Little Rock; Arts in Education Award – Art Porter Music Education, Inc., Little Rock; Corporate Sponsorship of the Arts Award – Wright, Lindsey & Jennings LLP, Little Rock; Folklife Award – Freda Cruse Hardison, Mountain View; Individual Artist Award – Reese Rowland, Little Rock; Patron Award – Johnelle Hunt, Rogers; Judges Recognition Award – Max Elbo, Eureka Springs.

The Arkansas Arts Council 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.

The Arkansas Arts Council is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage. Other agencies 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.


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