The Arkansas Arts Council, an agency of Arkansas Heritage, will honor eight Arkansas artists during a virtual ceremony at 7 p.m. on March 19 on Facebook Live and the council’s YouTube channel.
The annual awards program has recognized individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations for their contributions to the arts in Arkansas since 1991. Recipients are nominated by the public, then selected by an independent panel of arts professionals.
“The Governor’s Arts Awards recognizes 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 2021 recipients are:
Arts Community Development Award: Pat Qualls-Taylor of Jonesboro
Pat Qualls-Taylor is a retired high school choir director and private music teacher who was elected to the Arkansas Music Educators Hall of Fame in 2001. She plays harp and piano and maintains a private studio for harp, piano and voice students. Of special significance, Qualls-Taylor founded an innovative music performance program for musicians with disabilities. This unique program has grown from five performers 11 years ago to 75 performers today. Qualls-Taylor has been an arts leader and advocate for over 60 years. She served as an Arkansas Public Service commissioner for 14 years and as the mayor of Lake City for four years.
Arts in Education Award: Kai Coggin of Hot Springs
Kai Coggin is a widely published poet and author of three full-length collections: “Periscope Heart,” “Wingspan” and “Incandescent.” She is a teaching artist in poetry with the Arkansas Arts Council and Arkansas Learning Through The Arts. For the past two years, Coggin has been the host for Wednesday Night Poetry, an open mic series founded in 1989 by Bud Kenny in Hot Springs. The show is now the longest-running consecutive-weekly poetry open mic series of its kind in the U.S. Coggin developed an online platform to keep the series running through the pandemic, and the virtual program has grown in viewers and submissions, including renowned and international poets who are now participating.
Corporate Sponsorship of the Arts Award: Bylites, Inc. of Little Rock
Bylites is an event rental and production company that has provided services in central Arkansas and beyond since 1973. Bylites has provided significant contributions to many Arkansas arts organizations, including The Arkansas Repertory Theater, Ballet Arkansas, The Arkansas Arts Center and the ACANSA arts festival in Little Rock. For the past seven years, Bylites has assisted the ACANSA arts festival with more than 100 performances. Donated technical support has included sound systems, theatrical lighting, video systems and professional technical support.
Folklife Award: Joe Doster of Huntsville
Joe Doster is a woodworker and retired educator. For four decades, Doster has been creating hand-crafted wooden pieces ranging from cutting boards to intricate period furniture. He is a long-standing member of the Arkansas Craft Guild and a founding president of the board of the Arkansas Craft School. He is also an accomplished blacksmith and mentors members of the Blacksmiths Organization of Arkansas.
Individual Artist Award: Warren Criswell of Benton
Warren Criswell is a painter, printmaker, sculptor and animator. He has had 41 solo exhibitions in the United States and one in Taiwan. His work has been included in 73 group exhibitions in New York, Atlanta, the District of Columbia, Arkansas, Virginia, North Carolina, Germany and Taiwan, and is represented in the permanent collections of many institutions, including The Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock; the McKissick Museum of the University of South Carolina, Columbia; The Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Ga.; Historic Arkansas Museum, Little Rock; the University of Arkansas at Little Rock; Capital Arts Center, Taipei, China; the University of Central Arkansas, Conway, Ark.; Hendrix College, Conway, Ark.; the Center for Arts & Science of Southeast Arkansas, Pine Bluff; and the Central Arkansas Library System, as well as in many private collections and corporate collections in the United States, Europe and Asia.
Patron Award: The Bob Bogle Family of Bentonville
Bob and the late Marilyn Bogle are generous supporters of the arts in Northwest Arkansas and have been so since moving to Bentonville in the early 1950s. The Bogles have donated to improvements in the arts, history, healthcare, athletics, academic and cultural spheres and have helped perpetuate and grow the arts statewide. Among those organizations benefiting from the family’s support are: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the University of Arkansas, The Peel Compton Foundation, Walton Arts Center, The AMP, TheatreSquared, the Rogers Historical Museum and the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas (SoNA).
Judges Recognition Award: Elmer Beard of Hot Springs
Elmer Beard is a poet, author, retired educator and community activist. His love of service and uplifting the African American experience has led to a lifetime of community and civic leadership, as well as using poetry and writing as a tool for progress. As an educator for over 40 years, Beard has taught at the primary, secondary and college levels, including teaching English at Arkansas Baptist College. He is the author of two self-published books, “The Challengers: Untold Stories of African Americans Who Changed the System in One Small Southern Municipality” and “Let Reason Roll: Race, Religion & Reflections,” the latter of which is a book of poetry. For more than 30 years, Beard has been a regular participant at Wednesday Night Poetry and has shared his rich, baritone voice along with his wisdom and perspective gained from his 83 years of life.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Trout Fishing in America of West Fork
Trout Fishing in America is a musical duo consisting of Keith Grimwood, a classically trained upright and electric bass player, and Ezra Idlet, a self-taught guitar, bouzouki and banjo player. They have been writing, performing and recording music together for 41 years. They began as folk-rock music performers and took the band’s name from a Richard Brautigan novel. The duo continues to entertain and engage audiences of all ages with their clever lyrics, genre-defying musical style and inimitable stage presence. They have released 26 albums on their own record label and been nominated for a Grammy Award four times.