New director at center hopes to expand programs

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published August 13, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: William Harvey

Tanya Hendrix of Russellville began her job as the executive director of the River Valley Arts Center in March. Among recent activities at the arts center were several art camps for students, who displayed their works on the walls of this classroom.

Tanya Hendrix, 52, has fond memories of the old rock building that is home to the River Valley Arts Center and the park in which it sits.

“This building, which was built by the [Works Progress Administration] in 1936, was the public-pool bathhouse located here in City Park,” she said. “I came here often as a child to swim in the pool and play in the park.”

Today, Hendrix comes to that rock building almost every day — she is the new executive director of the River Valley Arts Center, which is operated by the Arkansas River Valley Arts Center Foundation Inc. The foundation is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization that operates on grants and membership and class fees. It also receives some funding from the Arkansas Arts Council.

A native of Russellville, Hendrix began her new job in March after a job search by the arts center’s board of directors.

Toni Bachman of Russellville is president of the board.

“As board president, I have a real specific goal — to have the River Valley Arts Center be a community value. I want it to be a place recognized for what it contributes to the community and representative of all the arts, visual and performing,” Bachman said.

“I feel the administrator of this arts center needs to have a sense of the arts, as well as a sense of business. Tanya certainly has that. She is at ease working with the community and knows how to run a business. And the fact that she was already on our board of directors was a plus. I am only looking for bigger and better things with her as the new executive director,” Bachman said.

“The board of directors was seeking someone with experience in nonprofit

management, event planning and a passion for the arts,” said Mary Clark of Russellville, interim vice president of the board and a member of the Executive Director Search Committee.

“Tanya meets those requirements, and she has a proven track record of establishing strategic relationships, recruiting new board members and developing new and inspiring programs and services,” Clark said.

“Her previous experience also demonstrated she could work independently and that she possesses strong interpersonal and management skills,” Clark said. “We think Tanya can be a visionary leader who will help shape the future of the arts center at a pivotal time, as it looks to further focus its mission, enhance its identity and expand its outreach and programs in the community.

“In her first few months on board, Tanya has been effective at building positive relationships with the board, arts center members, students and visitors. She is doing a great job for the arts center, and we are proud to have her on board.”

Hendrix said she hit the ground running after she was hired as executive director.

“The first three weeks I was here, we had three major events,” she said, smiling. “Among them was the Beaux Arts Academy banquet, honoring local artists and patrons, which we held at the Lake Point Conference Center. We also hosted pARTy in the Park, which we held at City Park to promote the arts; that event featured more than 60 vendors and activities for all ages.

“We also just recently presented our summer musical at the Center for the Arts at Russellville High School. We worked in conjunction with Arkansas Tech University to present the show Annie, which had a cast and crew of more than 150 people.”

Hendrix said the summer months are always busy at the arts center.

“We have sponsored 11 children’s art and theater camps this summer,” she said. “We served about 75 kids from ages 6 through 14.”

In addition to the kids’ camps, the center sponsors monthly gallery exhibits and art lessons, including lessons from the artist-in-residence, Winston Taylor, a potter who was recognized as the 2011

Arkansas Living Treasure by the Arkansas Arts Council. Taylor teaches his classes in a separate building known as the pottery shop.

The River Valley Arts Center, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, also has a gift shop, a classroom and a memorial garden. The memorial garden was designed in 1999 to honor six local residents who were killed in the crash of American Airlines Flight 1420 in Little Rock, including then River Valley Arts Center President Gordon McLerran.

Hendrix is a graduate of Russellville High School. She is a daughter of LaDell Fields and the late C.R. “Buddy” Fields. She has two sisters — Robin Rankin of Russellville and Kelly Owens of Nashville, Tennessee.

“I did not go to college. My dad had a family business, Fields Truck Salvage, and I worked for him for 12 years. I was his secretary. I did payroll, billing, accounts receivable … everything. I was the office manager. Then he fired me,” Hendrix said, laughing.

“I had a newborn baby by then, and he thought I should stay at home with my son. So I stayed home for 4 1/2 years. Then I went to work for a nonprofit, [the Arkansas River Valley Area Council Inc.] in Dardanelle, where I stayed for 16 years. It’s a community-action agency helping people in Conway, Franklin, Johnson, Logan, Perry Polk, Pope, Scott and Yell counties. I loved it there,” she said.

“After that, I was director of the Dardanelle Area Chamber of Commerce for 3 1/2 years,” Hendrix said.

“This opportunity came up, and I applied for this position,” she said. “I was on the board of directors here, and I knew about the opening. I really don’t have much experience with the arts, but I have a lot of experience with the business side of organizations.”

Hendrix said she hopes to use her experience in the business world to find new grants to help continue, and expand, programs at the arts center.

“We recently received a grant from the Junior Auxiliary of Russellville to help fund our art camps,” she said. “That grant included some volunteers to help; the volunteers were JA members working on service hours to the community.”

She said other recent grants include $2,000 from the Pope County Community Foundation; $1,500 from the Russellville Advertising and Promotion Commission to help advertise the summer musical Annie; $2,000 in donations to purchase LED lights for the gallery from a local company wishing to remain anonymous; and additional funds from anonymous donors to redo the memorial garden.

“We are looking for even more grants,” Hendrix said. “We would love to be able to offer more programs.

“We would also like to move closer to the downtown area. We work closely with Main Street Russellville in its monthly art walks.”

Hendrix is a single mother. Her son, Cole Hendrix, 25, is a graduate of Arkansas Tech University in Russellville with a degree in emergency management. He is working on a master’s degree in criminal justice and is employed by the Pope County Sheriff’s Office. Cole also served six years as an EMT medic in the Army National Guard. He a 32nd Degree Mason as well.

“Ultimately, he wants to be a game warden with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission,” she said.

When she has time, Tanya Hendrix enjoys crafts.

“My latest craft is ‘slumping’ or melting glass bottles in molds in a kiln. I make decorative items doing this,” she said.

“This may be art someday,” Hendrix said, smiling.

For more information on the River Valley Arts Center, stop by the center at 1001 E. B St. in Russellville, call

(479) 968-2452, or visit Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays.

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