The Legacy of ACANSA



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In celebration of Charlotte Gadberry’s unwavering support of the arts, ACANSA will honor her and the ACANSA vision of accessible arts programming for Arkansans.

By Barrett Gay | Photography by Sara Reeves | Hair by Kennedy Whitlock with Red Beauty Lounge | Makeup by Scarlett Endsley with Red Beauty Lounge | Shot on location at Ballet Arkansas | Special thanks to Alisa Coffey and Zeek Wright

An Arkansas native and avid patron of the arts, Charlotte Gadberry can’t imagine the past three years without her most ambitious enterprise, ACANSA – inspired by a fortuitous discovery in South Carolina.

When Charlotte and her husband Jim happened upon Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, they were instantly captivated. Spoleto is a 17-day performance arts festival that features well-established celebrities – including Yo-Yo Ma and Renée Fleming – as well as emerging artists. “It was a marvelous festival,” Charlotte recalls. “Just not to be believed.”

Never content with merely being a spectator, Charlotte was determined to recreate the experience of Spoleto in Arkansas. “It was just so different and neat. I felt it would be so valuable,” she says. “I don’t know, that’s just me. I’m always wanting to start things.” After meetings and consultations with community leaders in both Little Rock and North Little Rock, Charlotte assembled more than 200 enthusiastic volunteers to host the inaugural ACANSA Arts Festival in 2014. “We got together afterward and said, ‘we did it!’”

After three years of well-executed festivals, ACANSA serves as a cultural anchor on both sides of the Arkansas River. More than an annual arts extravaganza, ACANSA – a Quapaw word thought to mean “Southern place” – has expanded to include year-round programming and events. It’s also focused on strengthening relationships among constituents in the arts community.

New to its portfolio, the ACANSA Spring Break Program is designed for students of all ages. Executive Director Dillon Hupp explains that it introduces them to an “artistic experience that they don’t necessarily get in schools – including screenwriting, jewelry making and acting for film.” Through a collaboration of community partners, local artists and teachers, ACANSA expects to welcome 300 students to the pilot program.

A recent accolade, Charlotte was selected as the 2018 Patron Award recipient for the Governor’s Arts Award, an honor that commemorates decades of community service. “Her contributions to the arts here in Central Arkansas are immeasurable, not just through ACANSA,” Dillon says. “She supports all of the major artistic establishments, because she’s passionate about the arts scene here.” The reason for that, according to Charlotte, is simple. “The arts just fulfill me. They enlighten me, raise my awareness and make me feel whole.”

Dillon notes the impeccable timing of this award, as the organization’s leadership has hoped and planned to honor Charlotte for some time. Not only a celebration of her patronage, An Evening Honoring Charlotte Gadberry will simultaneously provide necessary funding for the inaugural ACANSA Spring Break Program. Guests can expect an elegant evening of wine + cheese with performances by Praeclara, Traci Bair and John Grieco.

ACANSA will also introduce the Charlotte Gadberry Award, serving as an annual distinction for other devoted Arkansans. “The award recognizes someone who in the same spirit as its namesake has vision, dedication and passion,” Dillon explains. “Who gives of their time and talent to make this a stronger and more vibrant arts community.” He adds, “Charlotte does not want all this attention. The only reason she agreed to it is because she knows it’s an opportunity to raise money for ACANSA, but she’s 100 percent deserving.”

For Charlotte, it’s hard to imagine life without ACANSA. For the many friends and fellow patrons in Central Arkansas, it’s hard to imagine the local arts scene without Charlotte.


Chit-Chat with Charlotte

Favorite Artist: Van Gogh
Favorite Instrument: violin
Favorite Musical: My Fair Lady

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