LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Arts Council, a division of Arkansas Heritage has announced the recipients of the 2020 Governor’s Arts Awards, including one to a Pine Bluff man.


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 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 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 2020 recipients are:


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.


Linton was nominated by Go Forward Pine Bluff.


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.


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.


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,


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.