Al Head celebrates 30 years

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Patrons of the arts in Troy and Pike County are joining arts organizations and art educators throughout the state today in honoring Albert B. Head for 30 years as executive director of the Alabama State Council on the Arts.

Head, a native Trojan, has long been hailed as a visionary arts leader, said Barbara Reed, ASCA public information officer.

“He is responsible for groundbreaking initiatives that have made the council in Alabama one of the foremost state arts councils in the United States,” Reed said. “His leadership has provided funding growth, long-range planning, support for individual artists, and innovative services to its constituents in all arts disciplines.”

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Head’s handprint is on every arts organization in the state and nowhere is his leadership more appreciated than in his hometown.

“Bringing the Arts to Pike County was a long journey, which began with a grassroots effort by a group of local citizens to save the historic United States post office and repurpose it for the arts,” said Vicki Pritchett, executive director of the Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center. “It happened thanks to Al Head’s leadership, vision and encouragement and vital grants from the state arts council.”

Lawrence Bowden, president of the Brundidge Historical Society, said Head and the ASCA have provided funding and support for of all BHS’ projects.

“Al Head’s support of small town arts organizations has made a difference all over the state,” Bowden said. “No longer do people in small towns have to go outside their communities to participate in the arts and that makes a world of difference.”

Vaughan Morrissette, chairman of ASCA Alabama State Council, said that Head’s leadership had a far reaching effect, from the foothills of the Appalachians to the shores of the Gulf Coast.

“If I had the whole world to choose someone to lead the state arts council, I would choose Al Head,” Morrissette said.

Head’s ability to “deal with people” has gained him wide respect as a leader and arts visionary.

“Al Head has been an outstanding leader for the arts in Alabama,” said Lindy Ashwander, executive director of the Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts. “He has given the arts organizations a role model to strive for as we lead our own organizations. Not only has Al provided excellence and professionalism in the arts, he has personally given sincere support and kindness to individuals who work with the council.”

Kim Wolfe, executive director of the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra, said Head is a model of how great leadership can impact a community and the state in a positive and meaningful way.

“Al Head has been a true friend to the Montgomery Symphony,” Wolfe said. “His guidance and support allow us to continue providing Montgomery and the surrounding area with beautiful music at an exceptional level. The Montgomery Symphony is proud to call on him for his expertise and wisdom.”

George Culver, executive director of the Historic Talladega Ritz Theatre, said Head’s impressive tenure is rooted in a genuine passion for the arts, seasoned with his keen understanding of the creative energies the arts ignite in people regardless of age, gender or socio-economic profile.

“As a valued resource for arts organizations across the state, Al has proven himself to be an extraordinary leader, as well as a man with the right heart, in the right place at the right time for Alabama these last 30 years,” Culver said.

Head has worked in the state arts field for more than 43 years, beginning in 1972 with the Fine Arts Council of Florida, and continuing through executive director positions with the Stephen Foster Folklife Center in Florida, and the Louisiana Division of the Arts.

He earned his undergraduate degree from Troy State University in art history and aesthetics and his Master of Liberal Arts from Auburn University at Montgomery.

Head received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in 1974 to attend Harvard’s Arts Administration Institute. He has served two terms on the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies board.

He has been a member of the Southern Arts Federation board for 38 years and presided as its chair from 1983-85. Prior to serving as chair of SAF, Head served as vice-chair 1981-1983.

In 2012, The National Endowment for the Arts awarded Head the National Heritage Fellowship, Bess Lomax Hawes Award. National Heritage Fellowships are the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. The Bess Lomax Hawes Award recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to the preservation and awareness of cultural heritage.