ArtLinks Speakers

R. Austin Barrow III is the president and chief operating officer of El Dorado Festivals & Events, a mission-driven 501(c)(3) company founded to create the "Festival City of the South!" A native of El Dorado, he attended Louisiana Tech University School of Performing Arts, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree. Barrow began his graduate work at DePaul University’s department of theatre. He also performed on stage and screen in Chicago and Los Angeles. Returning to Arkansas, he received a Master of Fine Arts degree in directing from the department of drama at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. After graduating, he was hired as the head of the department of theatre at Andrew College in Cuthbert, Georgia. He taught classes in acting, directing, history, technical theater, and film. During his time at Andrew College, he was promoted to the chair of the fine art division, where he oversaw the departments of theatre, art, music, and film.

Virmarie DePoyster was born in Puerto Rico and now lives in Little Rock. Although she moved to El Dorado at the age of 15, the intense colors, landscape, and the atmosphere of the Caribbean left an indelible impression on her artwork. Her desire to work with her hands to make something out of nothing started at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, where, driven by her love for fabrics, textures and bright colors, she studied apparel merchandising and design. She embraced her creative side more fully in 2004 when she started painting at the Arkansas Arts Center Museum School, quickly falling in love with the bright pigments of soft pastels, and finding a passion for painting with them on surfaces she created. Since 2010, she has instructed students in drawing with watercolor, oil pastels and soft pastels, encouraging them to use sketchbooks as a tool for storytelling. She has been a member of the Arkansas Arts Council’s Artist Roster since 2011. From 2012 to 2014, she was an Artist in Residence for Community Services Inc., where she helped develop its therapeutic arts program. In 2014, she taught classes at Wildwood Academy of Music and the Arts, integrating music and art.

Gary Glazner is an award-winning New York poet and founder and executive director of the Alzheimer's Poetry Project (APP). He is the recipient of the 2012 MetLife Foundation Creativity and Aging in America Leadership Award and the 2013 Innovations in Alzheimer’s Disease Caregiving Legacy Award. The APP has provided programming in 26 states, as well as internationally in Australia, Canada, England, Germany, Poland, and South Korea. In 2014, Glazner began working in the Arts and Corrections field with his poetry and improv program developed specifically for the Unit for the Cognitively Impaired at Fishkill Correctional Facility in upstate New York, and for the Kevin Waller Unit in Long Bay Correctional Complex in Sydney, Australia. Author of the 2014 book “Dementia Arts: Celebrating Creativity in Elder Care,” Glazner also designed and co-taught a course in 2016 entitled “Creativity in Elder Care” for the arts in medicine department at the University of Arizona Medical School in Tucson.

Christina Littlejohn is the CEO of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. She joined the organization in June 2009 when the orchestra could make only six more months of payroll. In the last eight years under her leadership, the ASO has balanced its budget — even the two seasons its concert hall was closed —successfully completed a $7.1 million “Orchestrating the Future” campaign, increased overall concert attendance, been recognized by Arkansas Business for Excellence in Governance, and received national grants for community outreach from Music Alive and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2013, Littlejohn was one of 50 arts leaders from around the world selected to participate in the National Arts Strategies Chief Executives program. She earned a Masters of Business Administration degree and a Masters of Arts Administration degree from the University of Cincinnati, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in music from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina.

Clayton Lord is the vice president of local arts advancement for Americans for the Arts, where he oversees advocacy, capacity development, and cohort building for local arts administrators, and advocates in 5,000 communities across the United States. He leads the “New Community Visions Initiative,” a multi-year effort to better understand and support the changing role of the arts and local arts agencies in American communities, and Americans for the Arts’ ongoing initiatives around cultural equity, diversity, and inclusion. Lord is a prolific writer, thinker, and speaker about the public value of the arts, and has written for ArtsLink, ARTSblog, Theatre Bay Area magazine, Stage Directions, InDance, The Voice, ArtsJournal,, and others. He has edited and contributed to three books: “Counting New Beans: Intrinsic Impact and the Value of the Arts”; “Arts & America: Arts, Culture and the Future of America’s Communities”; and “To Change the Face and Heart of America: Selected Writings on the Arts and Communities, 1949-1992,” and is working on the forthcoming “New Community Visions: A Blueprint for 21 Century Arts-Based Community Development,” due out in 2017. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and psychology from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Jennifer Moore, Ph.D., is a full-time faculty member and chair of the department of occupational therapy at the University of Central Arkansas. Her teaching emphasis is community-based programming, research methods, occupation-based practice, and professionalism. Moore is also co-founder and director of the community-based program, “Acting Creates Therapeutic Success (ACTS),” which provides opportunities for participation in the performing arts for children and adults diagnosed primarily with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She is working currently with The Center for START Services to develop a training program using expressive arts with those with intellectual, developmental, and emotional health needs. Moore earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in occupational therapy from Texas Woman’s University in Denton, and her career began in a hospital setting, providing occupational therapy services for children and adults with a variety of disorders, diseases, and illnesses.

Patrick Ralston is the executive director of the Arkansas Arts Council, a division of the Department of Arkansas Heritage. Patrick holds a Bachelor of Science degree in history from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, and a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He has more than 20 years of experience in state government, having worked as a senior legislative analyst for the Bureau of Legislative Research and the Arkansas House of Representatives. He was also assistant director of Arkansas Historic Preservation Program from 2000-2006. He has held leadership roles in various organizations, including the North Little Rock History Commission and the National Conference of State Legislators.

Jim Rice is is the senior vice president/chief operating officer of the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau (LRCVB). In this position, Rice is in charge of all facility management, including the Statehouse Convention Center, Robinson Center, River Market, and five parking facilities. He is also the liaison for two city-owned hotels (Marriott and DoubleTree) and the current lease holders of those properties. Rejoining the LRCVB in 1997 after spending many years traveling with Aramark Corporation and Fine Host Corporation, Rice has been an important part of the growth of LRCVB, overseeing the Statehouse Convention Center’s expansion, and assisting in the transition of the Excelsior Hotel, first to the Peabody, and then to the state’s first full-service Marriott. He was also instrumental in LRCVB taking over the management of the River Market, which continues to serve as the heartbeat of downtown. Recently, much of Rice’s time has been spent managing the $70 million renovation and expansion of the Robinson Center, which closed July 2014 and reopened in November 2016. Rice earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hendrix College in Conway, and is a certified destination management executive.

Christina Shutt is the director of Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage. At MTCC, she has implemented the #InclusiveArkansas initiative to make the museum a welcoming place for all. Before joining the MTCC, Shutt was the associate librarian for special collections and instruction at Hendrix College in Conway. Prior to her work at Hendrix, she worked at the Center for the History of Medicine at Harvard University, as well as the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Archives at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University. Shutt holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Central Methodist University in Fayette, Missouri, and a Master of Science in library science/archive management and a Master of Arts in history from Simmons College in Boston.

Terry Stewart is the new chairman and CEO of El Dorado Festivals and Events. A native of Alabama, Stewart will be tasked with establishing El Dorado as a cultural and entertainment destination in the Southern region of the United States. Although Stewart has held several high-profile positions during his career, he is probably best known for his stint as the top executive at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland from 1999 until his retirement in 2013. He holds the distinction of being the longest-running CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which opened in 1995. During his time there, he brought stability to an organization that had quickly gone through four previous leaders. Stewart was also instrumental in striking the current deal that brings the Rock Hall's annual induction ceremony to Cleveland every three years. Prior to joining the Rock Hall, Stewart served as president and chief operating officer of comic-book company Marvel Entertainment Group. Marvel became a public company in 1991, and Stewart was named Marketing Executive of the Year by CNBC that same year.

Ryan Stubbs is the research team director for the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA), overseeing NASAA’s role as an authoritative source for information on public funding for the arts and state arts agency grant-making, programs and activities. With more than 10 years of professional experience in arts research, Stubbs produces or manages all reports, tools, and resources on matters of state arts agency policy, funding, services, operations and grant-making. He has evolved NASAA’s use of data, data visualization and custom research services for state arts agencies, serving as NASAA’s primary research liaison to federal agencies, foundations, consultants and scholars conducting research on public support for the arts. Stubbs has experience in state government as a capital construction analyst for the Colorado Department of Higher Education, and in economic development as a business manager for Adams County, Colorado. He holds master’s degrees in public administration and urban and regional planning with an emphasis in economic development planning from the University of Colorado in Denver.

Martin Thoma is a 30-year veteran of the communications industry, having held publishing, creative, and leadership roles in news organizations, advertising agencies, and his own firm Thoma Thoma. Since founding his firm in 1988 with his wife Melissa, Thoma has represented local, state, regional, and national organizations in healthcare, energy, financial services, transportation, retail, hospitality, government, insurance, and food service industries. His firm has been recognized repeatedly for its philanthropic support — by the Governor’s Arts Awards, the Arkansas Business of the Year Award, and the National Fundraising Professionals state chapter. He led the board of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra from 2008 to 2012 through its notable turnaround during a period when orchestras were going bankrupt across the country. Thoma is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English.

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