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What's New

Meet Advisory Council Member Remica Gray

Arkansas Arts Council - Monday, June 24, 2019


Remica GrayRemica Gray, of Texarkana, has been closely tied to the arts ever since she was a small child. Gray earned a bachelor’s degree in music at Southern Methodist University and two certifications, one for piano and one for music education, from the Music Teachers National Association. Gray has been involved in the arts all of her life as a music student, performer, teacher, supporter, volunteer or advocate. She taught piano for more than 30 years. Gray has long been recognized as a volunteer who seeks to improve her community. She has served as a boardmember and supported organizations, including the Texarkana Arkansas School Board of Education, the Junior League of Texarkana, Texarkana Regional Arts and Humanities Council, Women for the Arts, Wadley Regional Medical Center Board of Directors, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and the Texarkana Symphony Orchestra. Gray was awarded the Arkansas Governor’s Arts Award for Arts Community Development in 2015. She was appointed to the Arts Council’s Advisory Council about four years ago and represents district 7, which stretches from the Texas border in southwest Arkansas through Howard and Dallas counties and west to include Union and Calhoun counties.

Q. How would you describe yourself?

A. I have been a lifelong community volunteer. It has been my passion to give back to the place where I’ve lived and support the things that have supported me in my lifetime. The arts have been a huge part of my life. I think it’s pretty critical, and I can’t imagine my life without the arts.

Also, I really enjoy people. I very much enjoy being around different kinds of people. I think that is what has kept me going as a volunteer. I don’t want to lose connections with the people.

Q. What is your connection with the arts in Arkansas?

A. The arts have always played an important part in my life. My parents raised me around the arts, and the arts have benefited me and my family personally. My connections to the arts have been through teaching private piano lessons; choral directing; working with various arts programs in schools and churches; helping to form a professional symphony and a youth symphony in my community; supporting local, state, and national arts organizations with my time and/or financial resources; talking with elected officials about the importance of arts programs; and, now, serving on our state’s arts Advisory Council.

Q. Why is it important to be on the Advisory Council of the Arkansas Arts Council?

A. I think it’s a tremendous opportunity when you get together with like-minded people who support the arts and learn from each other. That’s what we do as members of the Advisory Council. We all have funding issues in our districts. We all need more money for the arts. We all need to make a case for our districts and our artists. The Arkansas Arts Council gives us an opportunity to come together and explore ways to solve those problems and make more arts available in all of our own communities. I learn from the other members, and I enjoy learning about what other people are doing in their districts. I think anytime we can come together as a group, we can make an impact statewide.

Also, it’s exciting to be part of a council that actually gets to give out money from time to time. I spend a lot of time, personally, trying to raise money to help my community. The Arts Council gives us the opportunity to be supportive and encouraging to arts projects, endeavors and enterprises all over the state. I find being part of a Council that gives to the arts communities very rewarding.

Q. What are your biggest accomplishments as an artist or arts supporter?

A. Currently,the biggest accomplishment is helping to establish the symphony for my community.

Also, I feel rewarded every time my efforts to support and spread the joy of the arts take root. For example, I taught piano lessons for over 30 years, and just the other day, one of my friends sent me a photo of her grandson’s piano recital. She gave me – probably too much – credit for helping to instill a love of music in her son, who passed that love to his son. If that happened to one or two of my students, that’s a huge reward to me. Similarly, I feel a sense of accomplishment because my children are exposing their children to the arts.

As for other accomplishments, I don’t want to take too much credit for things that really belong to a good support system. There have been lots of people along the way who have helped me. It takes a team to develop the best programs.

Q. What would you like to see the advisory board or the Arts Council accomplish this year?

A. One of the things I’ve been assigned to do is to work on our grant proposals by exploring ways to make sure we are getting the information we need to show the outcome of the grant proposals and projects we fund. The Grant Committee will meet again in July. It’s kind of exciting to be on both sides – I’ve been someone who has written grants for funds; now I am reading grant requests.

Our committee is also looking for the best method to collect information to pass along to the National Endowment for the Arts and our state legislators. We are looking at who we are reaching, how we are reaching them and what impact the projects we fund are having on communities and individuals. I think so many times it’s easy to lay out our program, but it’s not so easy to evaluate the success. So, we are working on an accountability piece.

The advisory board and council want to position our state’s arts organizations to be recognized and valued for their contributions to quality of life and creative economy.

Q. What do you wish people knew about Arkansas’s arts communities, the Arts Council or the advisory board?

A. I wish people knew how important the arts can be in people's lives. Unless they experience it themselves, people often don’t understand how valuable art is. I hope the younger generations will be as committed to the arts as other generations have been. We need younger artists to participate, and we need fresh ideas. I think it’s important to continue to reach out to the younger generations and different segments of our communities and to enable them to continue to develop and expand the arts in Arkansas.

There are many great art opportunities in our state! I hope people will seek them out, give the arts a try and support them in ways that are meaningful to them and their communities.