Retiring ASCA director Al Head visits JCA

Published 3:00 am Friday, November 16, 2018

In June 2018, Al Head, executive director of the Alabama State Council on the Arts for the past 33 years, announced his retirement, effective December 31, 2018.

Head was quoted as saying it had been a wonderful and memorable run in a field made up of a special group of artists, arts administrators, arts educators, arts patrons and volunteers.

“The opportunity to contribute a bit to the quality of life in Alabama through the arts has been a privilege,” he said.

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Mack Gibson, who chaired the Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Foundation for 14 years,

questioned Head’s statement.

“Contributed a ‘bit’ to the quality of life?” Gibson said. “Al Head’s contributions to the arts in Alabama and to the quality of life of all our citizens are immeasurable. There is no way to calculate what his influence has meant and will continue to mean to all Alabamians. His influence has reached into every corner of the state, from the largest cities to the smallest communities. He was just what the arts in Alabama needed and he did not leave us short.”

On Thursday, the Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Foundation and the Johnson Center for the Arts hosted a reception for Head as a way of showing appreciation to him for his leadership in moving Alabama arts forward for more than three decades.

Gibson said it was Al Head’s support, his encouragement and his influence that steered Troy’s grassroots arts effort in the right direction.

“We were trying to begin a cultural arts movement and look credible while doing it,” he said. “Al steered us in the right direction and helped us become notable in the art world. Al is a native of Troy but he didn’t just do it for us. His support and encouragement were also invaluable for those involved with the We Piddle Around Theater, the Troy Arts Council and Troy University. Al Head has moved the arts forward across the entire state of Alabama.”

Wiley White, Johnson Center for the Arts exhibition coordinator, agreed that Head has done much for the arts in Troy and all Alabama.

“From the beginning of our efforts to bring the arts to the forefront in Troy and Pike County, we have had the support of Al Head and ASCA,” White said. “The Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Foundation received a Cultural Arts Facilities Grant for the renovation of the old Troy Post Office to an arts center. The grant was the largest given that year.

“The Al Head-led Alabama State Council on the Arts has been very gracious in funding our programs over the years. We didn’t always receive the amount we had requested but we never came away empty-handed. We are where we are today because of ASCA’s support. Al’s leadership has brought the arts forward in Alabama in ways we could never have imagined. We can never thank him enough for his support, his encouragement and his leadership. Al Head will be greatly missed. We wish him all the best.”

Head, who served in state arts agency positions in Florida and Louisiana before returning home to Alabama as council director in 1985, is the longest sitting state arts agency director in the country. 

Among the highlights of Head’s leadership are the development of a nationally-recognized state folklife program, the creation of the Alabama Writers Forum, the creation of Design Alabama, the creation of the Alabama Dance Council, expanding arts education partnerships and the cultivation of a cultural exchange with Pietrasanta, Italy

His personal recognitions on the national level include the National Heritage Award in 2012 given by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Gary Young Award presented to him in 1998 by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.