Billie Jo Starr Honored with 2019 Arkansas Arts Council Lifetime Achievement Award

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, March 14, 2019 ― The Arkansas Arts Council has honored the recipients of its 2019 Governor’s Arts Awards during a ceremony on March 12 at the Governor’s Mansion. Billie Jo Starr, the namesake of Walton Arts Center’s Starr Theater and long-time advocate for the arts in our region, received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Starr was one of the first to catch the vision of Walton Arts Center and has dedicated much of her life to making the dream of a world-class performing arts center a reality for the region. Beginning in the late ‘80s, Starr was a driving force in raising funds and garnering community support to build a state-of-the-art performance facility that would give everyone access to the arts. Her passion and her family’s commitment to serving area children led to the donation for and naming of Starr Theater, a black-box theater often filled with students from regional schools experiencing live performance for the first time.

The Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to an art patron whose lifetime of dedication to the development and support of the arts will sustain the arts beyond his/her lifetime. Starr’s commitment to Walton Arts Center and its mission of providing access and arts education has created ripples of impact beyond any measure, and the region is far better for it.

Since 1991, the annual awards program has recognized individuals and corporations for their outstanding contributions to the arts in Arkansas. Recipients are nominated by the public, then selected by an independent panel of arts professionals from across the state. Each of the 2019 recipients received an original work of art created by an Arkansas artist.

Other honorees and their awards include Steve Clark of Fort Smith with the Arts Community Development Award, The Center for Youth and Families in Fayetteville with the Arts in Education Award, Murphy USA in El Dorado with the Corporate Sponsorship of the Arts Award, Oxford American Magazine in Little Rock with the Folklife Award, Marjorie Williams-Smith of Little Rock with the Individual Artist Award, Anthony Tidwell of Hot Springs with the Judges Recognition Award and Jim and Joyce Faulkner of Little Rock with the Patron Award.

About the Arkansas Arts Council: The Arkansas Arts Council advances the arts in Arkansas by providing services and supporting arts endeavors that encourage and assist literary, performing and visual artists in achieving standards of professional excellence. In addition, the Arkansas Arts Council provides technical and financial assistance to Arkansas arts organizations and other providers of cultural and educational programs. The Arkansas Arts Council is division of the Department of Arkansas Heritage. Other agencies are the Arkansas Historic Preservation ProgramArkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Arkansas State ArchivesDelta Cultural Center in Helena, Historic Arkansas MuseumMosaic Templars Cultural Center and the Old State House Museum. Funding for the Arkansas Arts Council and its programs is provided by the State of Arkansas and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Walton Arts Center is Arkansas’ largest and busiest performing arts presenter. Each year more than 195,000 people from Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma and beyond attend more than 400 events at Walton Arts Center, including performances, rehearsals, community gatherings, receptions, weddings and more. Approximately 45,000 students and teachers participate annually in arts learning programs at Walton Arts Center, and almost 200 volunteers donate 21,000 hours of time each year to its operations. Walton Arts Center presents entertainers and artists from around the world including Broadway musicals, renowned dance companies, international artists, up-and-coming jazz musicians and more. As a non-profit organization, Walton Arts Center enjoys the generous support of public sector funding, corporate sponsorship and private donors who help bring world-class arts experiences to Northwest Arkansas. To learn more about Walton Arts Center, visit