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Two ARftA Co-Founders, Arts Advocates Recognized At Annual Governor’s Arts Awards

(From left) ARftA Chairperson Lace Jeanfield, Tony Waller (awardee), Garbo Hearne (awardee) and ARftA Executive Director Mariah Hatta pose during Governor's Arts Awards.

Two luminary figures in the arts, Garbo Hearne and Gay Bechtelheimer, were honored March 8 with prestigious Governor's Arts Awards for their outstanding contributions to the arts in Arkanas and beyond. Both are co-founders of Arkansans for the Arts.

“I am honored to have had the opportunity to attend the awards ceremony and to see pioneers and supporters in the arts recognized from all over Arkansas,” said Jean Lacefield, chairperson for Arkansans for the Arts. “Two of the recipients are founding members of Arkansans for the Arts. Garbo and Gay’s leadership and vision have created the foundation for success in arts advocacy statewide.”

More than 200 people, including lawmakers, from across the state turned out to celebrate the eight awardees for the Governor’s Arts Awards, which were held at the Robinson Center in Little Rock. The awards are sponsored by the Arkansas Arts Council, and awardees are chosen by independent judges. 

 The event was streamed live by Arkansas PBS. Each recipient was featured in docu-style videos via the Arkansas Arts Council.

Garbo Hearne, of Pyramid Art, Books & Custom Framing and Hearne Fine Art in Little Rock, and Gay Bechtelheimer, an arts educator, artist, advocate and community leader in El Dorado, were celebrated for their unwavering dedication and significant impact on the cultural landscape of their respective communities. Bechtelheimer and Hearne earned the Arts Community Development Award and the Judge’s Recognition Award, respectively.  

“I leave you with a challenge, first of all I want you to consider joining and becoming an active member of Arkansans for the Arts,” Hearne said. She then asked attendees to get to know their lawmakers. “More funding is definitely needed for the arts,” she said.

Hearne, an esteemed arts advocate, is pivotal for her work celebrating, highlighting and elevating Black art and artists in literature and visual arts in Arkansas and throughout the region. For more than 30 years, she has tirelessly championed the work of Black artists, providing them with a platform to showcase their talent and creativity. 

Hearne is also on an arts advocacy committee and the board of directors for Mid-America Arts Alliance, the regional arts organization that includes Arkansas. She also is on the board of directors for the Arkansas Committee of National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Hearne is a member of the talent committee for the Six Bridges Book Festival, a board member of the Dunbar Historic Neighborhood Association and has been a key organizer in the Central Arkansas Community Kwanzaa celebration for over 30 years. 

She previously was a member of the arts advisory council for the Arkansas Arts Council, the only statewide and state-funded arts organization, for more than 20 years. Hearne also played a vital role in founding and continuing arts advocacy through Arkansans for the Arts for more than a decade.

Hearne is a certified member of the Appraisers Association of America with a specialization in African American fine art.

Bechtelheimer, of El Dorado, is an arts educator and visual artist whose work has been extensively exhibited. She installed museum exhibitions at the Arts and Science Center of Southeast Arkansas in Pine Bluff and the Delta Cultural Center of Helena-West Helena. She brought in public installations and routinely gives artist talks and presentations for the South Arkansas Arts Center

Bechtelheimer encouraged attendees to buy original art to support individual artists and to nurture the arts. One of her former students was amongst the many celebrating the awards, Arkansas Speaker of the House Matthew Shepherd.

For over 20 years, Bechtelheimer has been instrumental to bringing quality art experiences to El Dorado and the south Arkansas region. She provided leadership and organizational skills to bring the “AstroZone: An Interactive Art Experience” to El Dorado in 2020. The project was the first traveling exhibition offered by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The exhibition, funded by the Murphy Arts District, was viewed by over 5,000 attendees and was free to all. 

Bechtelheimer spearheaded  the effort to relocate a historically significant sculpture relief series, Arkansas History, to the Murphy Arts District area. She is a member of the International Women’s Forum and has served on the boards of the Arkansas Arts Council, the Mid-America Arts Alliance and the South Arkansas Arts Center.

During the Governor’s Arts Awards Ceremony, she was recognized for her tireless efforts to connect artists and build a thriving arts ecosystem in south Arkansas. In addition to being an arts advocate, Bechtelheimer is a practicing artist working in pastel, watercolor and mixed media. She retired from a distinguished career as an art educator in the El Dorado Public Schools. 

The Governor's Arts Awards ceremony served as a testament to the profound impact that Hearne and Bechtelheimer. Their dedication, passion and commitment to the arts have enriched the lives of countless individuals and have left an indelible mark on the cultural landscape of the state.



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