Lenore Shoults, Ph.D., curator and former executive director of the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas (ASC), was honored during a reception Feb. 6. She is retiring after a career dedicated to the arts and economic development, according to a news release.
Government and art leaders, the ASC Board of Trustees, and ASC staff recognized Shoults on her last day at ASC during a public opening reception for ASC’s latest exhibitions, “Whimsy & Flights of Fancy” and “Reunion.”
Louise Sullivan, the mayor’s assistant from the office of Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington and the City of Pine Bluff, proclaimed on the mayor’s behalf that Feb. 6, 2020, be “Dr. Lenore Shoults Day.”
Garbo Hearne of Arkansans for the Arts and Hearne Fine Art at Little Rock presented Shoults with a citation from the Arkansas House of Representatives, on behalf of state Rep. Vivian Flowers. The citation commended Shoults for her many years of exceptional leadership and service at ASC, and for her dedication to growing the community’s creative economy, according to the release.
ASC Board of Trustees Chair Sandra Fisher and past Chair Troy DeBill presented Shoults with a large, decorative glass bowl by Pine Bluff’s James Hayes of James Hayes Art Glass Co. The gift was presented on behalf the ASC Board of Trustees, ASC Endowment Fund and ASC staff.
Shoults joined the Arts & Science Center as executive director in 2011. During her six-year tenure, Shoults increased ASC’s financial stability, strengthened ASC’s focus on STEAM programming by emphasizing its relation to workforce development, and successfully cultivated lasting collaborative partnerships. The agencies included the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) STEM Center, Merchandising, Textile & Design Program, Fine Arts Department, and Music Department, and the Discovery Network. All of these are instrumental in developing several of ASC’s popular STEAM public programs, according to the release.
Under her leadership, ASC achieved reaccreditation with the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) in 2016 — the gold standard in the field and a recognition held by less than 4 percent of museums nationally, according to the release.
Shoults’ guidance also led to ASC receiving the 2016 Governor’s Arts Award for Arts Education, the Arkansas Museums Association Award for Conservation (of artwork from ASC’s Permanent Collection), and a 2017 nomination for the Henry Award in Arkansas Heritage Tourism at the 43rd Governor’s Conference on Tourism.
“Her keen understanding of Pine Bluff’s cultural heritage and its significant connection to the national art scene and historical narrative inspired one of ASC’s best and most recognized exhibitions and accompanying publication, 2016’s ‘Here: African American Art from the Permanent Collection’,” according to the release.
In May 2017, Shoults transitioned into the role of part-time curator to spend more time with her family.
“As curator, Shoults’ steadfast commitment to following AAM best practices elevated ASC’s Permanent Collection. Her perceptive aesthetic and passion for telling the ‘whole story’ resulted in beautifully curated diverse and thought-provoking exhibitions that have brought statewide positive attention to ASC and Pine Bluff,” according to the release.
Shoults grew up in New Jersey and earned a bachelor’s degree in art and K-12 art education from Rutgers College (now Rutgers University). Her first career, as a theatrical costumer, led to travel throughout the United States and the Caribbean and a move to Arkansas. Small business ownership followed, which led to an interest in the arts as an economic driver and the role of authenticity in tourism development.
Shoults sold the businesses and went on to earn a Master of Mass Communications degree and a Ph.D. in heritage studies from Arkansas State University at Jonesboro.
One of Shoults’ projects outside of ASC was curating Clinton Presidential Center’s exhibition “The Mighty Mississippi: HeART and Soul of the Southern Delta.” The exhibition in Little Rock opened December 2019 and remains on view through March 22.
ASC Assistant Curator Chaney Jewell will succeed Shoults. Jewell joined ASC in October 2019, and previously worked at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, and the Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis in St. Louis, Missouri.
Jewell earned a Master of Arts degree in art history from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in art history with a minor in museum studies from Missouri State University in Springfield. Her studies specialized in modern and contemporary activist art and propaganda.