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Kai Coggin Receives the Don Munro Leadership in the Arts Award

By Elizabeth Snell

Kai Coggin headshots with a state outline of the M-AAA heartland region and the state of Arkansas highlighted.

Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA) is proud to announce Kai Coggin as the recipient of the Don Munro Leadership in the Arts Award. This award, named in honor of the late Don Munro, recognizes outstanding contributions to the arts and celebrates those who have made a significant impact on the local arts community in Arkansas.

“It is an incredible honor to be chosen for the Don Munro Leadership in the Arts Award, and to walk in the noble shoes of a man who made the world better with every step he walked,” says Coggin. “I can close my eyes and remember his charming smile, and his humble and kind nature. As an artist living in Hot Springs for the last 11 years, I know countless times that Don’s philanthropy and support has directly impacted the growth and success of artistic endeavors in our city, rippling impacts out infinitely. Along with Dorothy Morris, Don’s giving heart was many times the wind beneath the art community’s wings. His support enabled creativity, passion, risk, dreams, collaboration, and growth for individuals and organizations alike.

Kai Coggin is the inaugural Poet Laureate of the City of Hot Springs, and author of four collections, most recently Mining for Stardust (FlowerSong Press 2021). She is a Certified Master Naturalist, a K-12 Teaching Artist in poetry with the Arkansas Arts Council, a Catalyze grant fellow from M-AAA, and host of the longest running consecutive weekly open mic series in the country—Wednesday Night Poetry. 

Recently awarded the 2021 Governor’s Arts Award, twice named “Best Poet in Arkansas” by the Arkansas Times, and nominated for Arkansas State Poet Laureate and Hot Springs Woman of the Year, her fierce and powerful poetry has been nominated six times for The Pushcart Prize, as well as Bettering American Poetry 2015, and Best of the Net 2016, 2018, 2021— awarded in 2022.

Ten of Kai’s poems are going to the moon with the Lunar Codex project, and on earth they have appeared or are forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Best of the Net, Cultural Weekly, SOLSTICE, and Bellevue Literary Review, among others. Coggin is editor-at-large at SWIMM, associate editor at The Rise Up Review, and serves on the board of directors of the International Women’s Writing Guild. 

“The Don Munro Leadership in the Arts Award is a fitting tribute to an exceptional artist who has not only left an indelible mark on the arts in Arkansas but also continues to inspire positive change in the world,” says Todd Stein, President & CEO of Mid-America Arts Alliance. “Kai Coggin’s contributions to the arts and her unwavering commitment to her vision of a more inclusive and just future truly embody the spirit of this award.”

About Don Munro

Don Munro, Hot Springs, Arkansas, passed away at the age of 94 on April 27, 2022. Munro had recently been added to the Arkansas Walk of Fame in Hot Springs in 2021. His business accomplishments were many, but he will be most remembered for his philanthropic endeavors for which he became the first recipient of the Pew Foundation’s American Philanthropy Award. He was awarded the Roots and Wings Award and the Lugean Chilcote Award from the Arkansas Community Foundation, which he led as president for 10 years. He served on the Mid-America Arts Alliance board of directors from 2005 to 2022. He was an emeritus board member of Mid-America Arts Alliance at the time of his death.

He worked tirelessly on increasing access to the performing arts in rural Arkansas, fostering the arts and artists of Arkansas, and was busily raising contributions for a performing arts center to serve the needs of small communities.