Dean Peter MacKeith, left, and Ryan Watley pose for a photo at an awards ceremony held December 9 at Vol Walker Hall. Watley is CEO of Go Forward Pine Bluff, which was awarded the 2021 Dean’s Medal.
The U of A’s Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design recently recognized five civic organizations in Arkansas that strive to create a better culture and quality of life in their communities through design-led initiatives .
These organizations were awarded the 2021 Dean’s Medals, an honor Dean Peter MacKeith started in 2015, the year after he was named Dean of the School, and first awarded in 2016. MacKeith created the honor of the Dean’s Medal to recognize the recipient’s significant contributions to architecture. and the design culture of Arkansas and to the students of the Fay Jones School and their education. Over the past five years, the Fay Jones School has awarded an additional 18 Dean’s Medals recognizing individuals and organizations.
“The Dean’s Medal is intended to recognize individuals and organizations who would not otherwise be affiliated with the school as alumni, faculty or staff, but who we believe serve the greater good with us. of the state and serve the common cause of improving the built environment,” MacKeith said.
The recognition of these Arkansas communities was part of a larger hybrid awards ceremony held Dec. 9, with some participants at the Vol Walker Hall and others joining virtually. The event celebrated the school’s Alumni Design Award winners, Distinction Awards and Gold Graduates – the school’s alumni who graduated 50 years prior, in 1971.
Arkansas Community Dean’s Medal recipients were the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust, Go Forward Pine Bluff, Murphy Arts District (El Dorado), The Lawrence Group (Wilson), and StudioMain (Little Rock/North Little Rock) .
“This year, we thought of recognizing organizations that are deeply committed to communities and municipalities across the state of Arkansas, who have demonstrated that sustained commitment over many years, and most recently during pandemic conditions,” said said MacKeith. “By recognizing these organizations, we want to signal to them and their constituents the common cause we share in the value of community-centered design. We share the belief that it is not just architectural education or in landscape architecture or interior design that commits to the improvement of the built environment, it is simply to act as a good citizen… simply to think quietly, even heroically, on behalf of your community. This is the cause we have: to build better communities, to build better lives for each other, individually and collectively, and to do so through the transformative power of design.”
Advance Pine Bluff
“I’m grateful that we were able to get the attention of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design. It gave me really positive news as we struggled, trying to figure out some things here,” said Ryan Watley, Director General of Go Forward Pine Bluff. “I hope this recognition will continue to highlight the work that we do and allow people to become more invested in the needs of this area of the state, and to really be able to connect these things to the middle and north- western Arkansas for investment opportunities to help us solve some of our challenges.”
Moving Forward Pine Bluff’s vision is to make Pine Bluff a town its residents are proud to call home, to transform Pine Bluff into a regional hub and destination point, and to ensure that the city “grows and goes”. This effort creates a positive image for Pine Bluff, a metropolitan community that provides residents with a safe and attractive environment, a skilled workforce and high academic performance for the city’s youth, plenty of entertainment, cultural and social, economic development through capital investment, quality affordable housing and revitalized city governance. The U of A Community Design Center and the school’s emerging efforts in affordable housing design worked with Go Forward Pine Bluff.
The Lawrence group
“The Lawrence Group is honored to receive this prestigious award and honored to be recognized for its contributions to promoting unique and innovative design and architecture in Arkansas,” said Norbert Mede, vice president of operations. “We will use this distinction to further invigorate our efforts in the near and distant future, for the benefit and beautification of the region.”
Since 2012, The Lawrence Group, led by the late Gaylon Lawrence Sr. and his son Gaylon Lawrence Jr., has worked to revitalize Wilson. The Lawrence Group moved its world headquarters to Wilson and acquired the farmland and significant commercial real estate on the acreage, including much of the town of Wilson. The Fay Jones School has held several summer Design Camp sessions at Wilson.
Northwest Arkansas Land Trust
“The Land Trust is honored to receive this recognition,” said Terri L. Lane, Executive Director and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust. “We appreciate the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design for highlighting land protection as an essential part of community leadership. What we set aside is as important as what we build. The future is promising when emerging leaders are shown this valuable connection.”
The Northwest Arkansas Land Trust’s mission is to preserve and enhance the quality of life for all residents of Northwest Arkansas through the permanent protection of the land. The organization aims to ensure that the region’s abundant scenic beauty, clean air, clean water, wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation opportunities, local food supply and natural heritage are protected. permanently for the benefit and prosperity of present and future generations. Over 5,000 acres are under the conservation stewardship of the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust. The organization focuses on education, reaching over 1,500 students each year, many from the Fay Jones School, and working with the school’s faculty.
Murphy Arts District
“Murphy Arts District (MAD) is extremely honored to be the recipient of the Dean’s Medal of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design,” said Pam Griffin, President and CEO of Murphy Arts District. “We cannot accept this award without thanking DLR Group and design leader Paul Westlake. Our ultimate goal was to create a multi-location arts and entertainment district that preserves and celebrates El Dorado’s unique identity while attracting new visitors to our area. This award is a much-needed reminder of why MAD was created and that we are not just a destination for Southern Arkansas, but for Arkansas as a whole. “
The Murphy Arts District was created by the non-profit organization El Dorado Festivals & Events. The goal is to provide the city of El Dorado with creative outlets to explore music, dance, theater, art and food in a fun and immersive way that is true to the people and culture of El Dorado. . The Murphy Arts District is a two-phase creation of an entertainment district aimed at revitalizing downtown El Dorado and improving the quality of life for its residents. It houses the spirit of Southern arts, culture and themes; the organization and the district have created a calendar of festivals to share the talents of those who live in the South.
StudioMain, located in Little Rock, is a non-profit organization that mobilizes the design community and engages the local community to encourage innovative design for everyday life. The organization’s designers create solutions and interventions for the urban fabric. These solutions challenge designers and the public to participate in areas of the city ranging from basic spaces to the most attractive spaces. The organization aims to educate the community, advocate for better design, collaborate with allied fields, and challenge convention.
Past recipients of the Dean’s Medal include the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council, the Walton Family Foundation, TheatreSquared, Preserve Arkansas, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Alex Foundation.