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Celebrating Creativity in the Heartland: Arkansas Governor’s Arts Awards 

By Elizabeth Snell

African American woman sits wearing a orange shirt with sculptures and artwork in the background.

Every year, the Arkansas Governor’s Arts Awards sheds light on the artists, arts patrons, arts educators, and arts organizations and businesses that have dedicated their lives to enriching the cultural landscape of Arkansas. 

Arkansas is just one of many states that annually recognize artists and arts champions through governors’ or their state’s awards for their role in boosting the creative economy, preserving folk traditions and stewarding their states’ cultural heritage. 

Celebrating Art, Creativity, and Culture in Arkansas

This year’s Governor’s Arts Awards in Arkansas started off with introductions by Patrick Ralston, director of the Arkansas Arts Council and Shea Lewis, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism. Governor Sanders shared her congratulations with a video message referencing the importance of arts and creativity in the state. Each award recipient receives an original work of art created by an Arkansas artist.

For Garbo Hearne, one of this year’s award recipients and a member of M-AAA’s board of directors, the Arts Community Development Award is a reflection of her dedication to fostering artistic expression and promoting cultural diversity. 

“It shows the importance of all the organizations I get to be a part of,” Garbo told the Little Rock Soiree. “There’s still work to do, but I believe this award is as much theirs as it is mine.”

As director of Pyramid Art, Books & Custom Framing and Hearne Fine Art, she has advocated for the advancement of African American culture through art and literature for over 30 years. As a board member, Garbo’s guidance has been instrumental in shaping M-AAA’s efforts to support and elevate the arts in Arkansas and across our region. As co-founder for Arkansans for the Arts, she works to promote the economic value of the arts and the quality of life they provide. Her advocacy for inclusivity has helped nurture a more vibrant and diverse artistic ecosystem in Arkansas and beyond. Read more about her in the article by Little Rock Soiree.

2024 Governor’s Arts Awardees

Here’s the full list of 2024 awardees:

  • Garbo Hearne of Little Rock, Arts Community Development Award
  • Virmarie DePoyster of North Little Rock, Arts in Education Award
  • General Mills in Rogers, Corporate Sponsorship of the Arts Award
  • Pam Setser of Mountain View, Folklife Award 
  • Stephen Driver of Ozark, Individual Artist Award
  • Gay Bechtelheimer of El Dorado, Judges Recognition Award
  • Tony Waller of Bentonville, Patron Award
  • Charley Sandage of Mountain View, Lifetime Achievement Award

Summaries of event festivities and full biographies of each awardee can be found in the official announcement from the Arkansas Arts Council. Additionally, a video of the event is available on YouTube, providing a glimpse into the remarkable achievements of all this year’s honorees.

Congratulations to all the recipients. Their dedication and passion are an inspiration, reminding us of the legacy that one individual can leave on our state and region.

Governor’s and State’s Arts Awards in Our Region


Established in 1991 and 2002 respectively, the Governor’s Arts Awards and Living Treasure Award in Arkansas are celebrated annually and managed by the Arkansas Arts Council. Award categories include Arts Community Development; Arts in Education; Corporate Sponsorship of the Arts; Individual Artist; Folklife; Patron; Lifetime Achievement; and Living Treasure.



Missouri Arts Awards, established in 1983, are celebrated annually and managed by the Missouri Arts Council. Award categories include Arts Education; Arts Organization; Creative Community; Individual Artist; Leadership in the Arts; and Philanthropy.



Nebraska Arts Council and Nebraskans for the Arts recognize the state’s art champions through the biennial Nebraska State Arts Awards and the annual NebraskARTS Award. Award categories include Emerging Leader; Excellence in Arts Education; Heritage Arts; Organizational Achievement; Outstanding Artist; Leonard Thiessen Award; Thomas C. Woods III Partner in the Arts Award.



The Oklahoma Arts Council hosts an annual recognition of arts leaders through its Governor’s Arts Awards, established in 1975, the oldest, active celebration of artists and champions of arts in our region. Award categories in Oklahoma include The Governor’s Award; Arts in Education; Business in the Arts; Community Service; Media in the Arts; George Nigh Public Service in the Arts.



The Texas Cultural Trust awards the Medal of Arts Award every two years, in the categories of Architecture; Arts Education; Arts Patron (Individual, Corporation, Foundation); Craft; Dance; Design; Film; Folk Arts; Lifetime Achievement; Literary Arts; Media/Multimedia; Music; Television; Theatre Arts; Visual Arts.


Kansas awards are currently inactive.


Header photography: Photo courtesy of Garbo Hearne.