Following The Yellow Brick Road
The history of NCAFAE must start at the beginning of the Yellow Brick Road. The North Central Arkansas Foundation for the Arts and Education was first envisioned by Mrs. Irene Puckett, a retired educator and lover of the Arts in her own right. She sensed a hunger for the music, drama and art she had enjoyed “back home.”
Mrs. Puckett introduced her dream to several friends who became interested, enthused and committed, and her dream became a reality when NCAFAE was formally organized as a non-profit organization in June 1991.
The “ARTS” purpose of the Foundation was and still is to bring to North Central Arkansas the best of the performing Fine Arts, exemplified by outstanding professional performances of music concerts, dramatic productions, visual arts exhibits, lectures, and book reviews.
The “EDUCATION” purpose of the Foundation is to supplement and augment the education and instruction in the Arts which the schools in North Central Arkansas are providing. The aim to do this is:
• By inviting students to the concerts, productions and exhibits, thereby building interest in and an appreciation for the Arts.
• To place special emphasis on supporting teachers in the Fine Arts disciplines: visual arts, singing, band/orchestra instruments, dance, drama and creative writing.
• Set goals for students which will inspire them to work harder and aim higher by holding contests and competitions to demonstrate and develop their talents.
• Offer scholarships for continued education in the Arts.
An important goal in the “Arts in Education” program was developed to tap the wealth of experience and educational skills which professionals in music and art brought to Fairfield Bay when they retired. Two examples are still prevalent today. Doris Sexson, a retired teacher and an AIE Roster Artist, directs a visual arts project which features in-service training for teachers to guide them in developing and presenting the lives and works of famous artists and to encourage students to enjoy an appreciation for using visual arts as a means of self-expression to create their own paintings which, if they wish, may be placed on public display and entered in competitions.
The second example is a program specializing in aiding band and orchestra learning. Buster Westmoreland is another retired professional who refuses to retire from helping school children with their music education. Continuing his lifetime music career, he helps students in schools too small to have adequate bands or orchestras, by combining several small schools into big group clinics and festivals.
In both these instances, these opportunities will be useful to students as they become more well-rounded students, giving them confidence to prepare for college and enabling them to meet friends and make associations in the visual arts field, which may carry on through the years.
You may remember other retired professionals who shared their talents in concert and were willing to help a vision – like Herb Ellis, the internationally famous jazz guitarist; performing artists, Lee Phillips, piano and Kevor Mardirossian violin, fresh from their Carnegie Hall debut in New York City and Ben Tice and his “Jazz in the Afternoon” quintet of retired musicians.
Some concerts introduced exotic, international music; an Arabian musician demonstrated their native “nose flute” while other avant-garde musicians brought well-received variations from standard concerts: dulcimer music, bell choirs, computer-generated melodies and arrangements.
When one piano artist expressed disappointment over the condition of the borrowed piano, the Foundation mounted an “Add-A-Key” campaign in Fairfield Bay and nearby towns which resulted in the purchase of the “Miracle Grand” piano. In early years, it was housed in the Shirley Auditorium, but is now in the Kirk of the Hills, used exclusively for concerts.
The Foundation is proud to stress “Education” to assure a lasting impression of our efforts to bring to North Central Arkansas students and adults the beauty, bounty and blessings of learning and living with the six disciplines: Visual Arts, Voice, Instruments, Dance, Drama and Creative Writing.
NCAFAE would like to thank everyone for their support during the last twenty-plus years. We have accomplished what we have with volunteer help, modest membership dues fivefold, expanding our contacts for pro-bono performances, and planning special fund-raising events to build our resources.