Arkansas Arts Council announces 2024 Governor's Arts Awards recipients

(Photo Contributed)
(Photo Contributed)

Special to the Banner-News

The Arkansas Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, is pleased to announce the 2024 Governor's Arts Awards recipients. The recipients will be honored at a ceremony on March 8, in Little Rock.

Since 1991, the annual awards program has recognized individuals, organizations 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 Governor's Arts Awards recognizes and honors the supporters, patrons and artists who have helped build and strengthen Arkansas' thriving arts community," said Shea Lewis, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. "This annual program gives us the opportunity to showcase their contributions to Arkansas' arts and creative economy, improving the quality of life for all Arkansans."

The local 2024 recipients is:

Gay Bechtelheimer of El Dorado, Judges Recognition Award

Gay Bechtelheimer is an artist, curator, educator and organizer of community art projects. For over 20 years, Bechtelheimer has been instrumental to bringing quality art experiences to El Dorado and the south Arkansas region. In addition to being 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.

Bechtelheimer provided leadership and organizational skills to bring the "AstroZone: An Interactive Art Experience" to El Dorado. 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 designed educational programs for students in conjunction with the exhibition. She also spearheaded the effort to relocate a historically significant sculpture relief series, Arkansas History, to the Murphy Arts District area. During the pandemic, she developed a series of virtual art talks and collaborated with the South Arkansas Arts Center to create educational lectures on notable artists and art movements throughout history, a program that is ongoing. She continues to lead a studio class for adults at the South Arkansas Arts Center. Bechtelheimer 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.

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