Arts Council of Conway County receives $15,000 matching grant

Originally Published September 13, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated September 12, 2012 at 1:46 p.m.
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Carol Rolf/Contributing Photographer

Shawnna Bowles, executive director of the Arts Council of Conway County, stands in the foyer of the Rialto Theatre in Morrilton, which, along with The Gallery, is operated by the Arts Council. The council recently received a $15,000 matching grant from Lisenne Rockefeller.


Contributing Writer

The Arts Council of Conway County, like many other nonprofit organizations, relies on help from the public. The council recently received a substantial amount of help in the form of a challenge from Lisenne Rockefeller of Morrilton and Little Rock, wife of the late Lt. Gov. Winthrop Paul Rockefeller.

“The awesome challenge we’ve been given is to raise $15,000, and in return, Lisenne Rockefeller personally will match it,” said Shawnna Bowles, executive director of the Arts Council of Conway County.

“We have decided to raise our $15,000 first, and then she will match it. That $15,000 is above and beyond our regular programming and fundraising efforts.”

Bowles said the grant came at the

request of Skipper Dixon, a former member of the Arts Council of Conway County Board of Directors and a personal friend of the Rockefellers.

Bowles said the Arts Council of Conway County receives some funding from the Arkansas Arts Council, but that has decreased in the last few years.

“We have to have public support,” Bowles said. “It’s a misconception by some that because we do have programming and we do sell tickets that we are self-sustaining. That is simply not the case. We have two productions a year. That is not enough to carry us through the rest of the year.

“We have to put a request out to the public. It is fantastic that you purchase tickets and come to our events, but we need you to go above and beyond so that we can continue to keep our doors open.”

Bowles said the Arts Council has added programming for the remainder of the year as one way to raise the $15,000. The Arts Council of Conway County operates the Rialto Theater and The Gallery (an art gallery) at 215 E. Broadway in Morrilton. Members of the council’s board of directors are Cathy Hoelzeman-Bond of Morrilton, chairwoman; Stephanie Koontz of Morrilton, vice chairwoman; Gretchen Schol of Morrilton, secretary; Cindy Edwards of Morrilton, treasurer; David Garrett of Plumerville; Coe Wilson of Petit Jean Mountain; Dr. Jim Bryant of Morrilton; Rick Beck of Solgohachia; and Casey Myers of Plumerville.

“We just finished our first Beer Bash,” Bowles said. “It was great. We had a lot of people attend, including a variety of new people. They paid $25 to taste 10 beers, which were paired with foods. We had a beer expert guide the participants along the way. It was educational, as well as fun.”

Additional programs this year will include the upcoming Dance Like the Stars, set for 7 p.m. Sept. 28 at The Rialto, and The Art and the Spirits, set for 6 p.m. Nov. 8 at The Gallery.

“We’ve never had dance here before,” Bowles said, referring to Dance Like the Stars. “Dance is a part of our mission that has been neglected. We are very excited about it.”

Tickets to view Dance Like the Stars are $5 and can be

purchased from the Morrilton Area Chamber of Commerce or at the door. The entry fee to compete in the event is $25 per team, and the deadline to enter is Friday. Registration forms are available at the chamber and at

Bowles said The Art and the Spirits event will feature an art class by Coe Wilson as well snacks and beverages. The event was sold out last year.

“It’s sort of like a ‘girls’ night out,’” Bowles said with a laugh. “She provides all the art materials, and all you bring are snacks and beverages. It’s a lot of fun.”

Tickets for The Arts and the Spirits are $35 and will be available at the Chamber of Commerce beginning Sept. 17. Participation is limited to 25.

Regular programming for the Arts Council this year will conclude with the Rialto Players’ presentation of Dashing Through the Snow, a Jones Hope Wooten comedy, at 7 p.m. Nov. 16 and 17, and Nov. 30 and Dec. 1; and at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 2.

Tickets are $10 for general admission and may be purchased at the chamber of commerce or at

In addition to the added programming, the Arts Council’s board of directors is conducting a fundraising campaign throughout the area, asking local businesses and patrons for a “one-time only increase in their yearly donations,” Bowles said.

“Thirty-thousand dollars will have a big impact on our programming,” Bowles said. “We hate to ask people for money. We want to be self-sustaining, but we have to ask for the public’s help.

“This grant is just an amazing opportunity for us. We hope our community will continue to support us. Remember, your money is automatically doubled if we can raise our $15,000.”

For more information, call (501) 477-9955. Tax-deductible donations may be sent to Rialto, P.O. Box 176, Morrilton, AR 72110.

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