Sharon Killian named as inaugural recipient of $25,000 artist grant

Sharon Killian photo by Kat Wilson / Artists 360

Local artist Sharon Killian has won a $25,000 grant from Artists 360.

The organization on Thursday announced Killian as the inaugural recipient of its new Creative Impact Award, which recognizes a local artist that has shown to be an exceptional contributor and nurturer of the region’s cultural ecosystem.

Killian has been active in the local arts community since moving to the area in 2005. She is president of Art Ventures and board president and co-founder of the Northwest Arkansas African American Heritage Association. She was also a member of the Fayetteville Underground board.

Killian’s artwork has been shown at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Edison Place Gallery, Washington, DC, and the Bentonville Fine Art Show, presented by Black Art in America. In Arkansas, she also had solo exhibits at Carnall Hall at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville, Fort Smith Trolley Museum, Fayetteville Public Library, Arts Center of the Ozarks in Springdale, and others.

Artists were nominated for the award by a panel of Northwest Arkansas arts and cultural leaders and their respective organizations.

“From her leadership at Art Ventures, to her mentorship of students at the University of Arkansas and from all walks of life—not to mention her own trailblazing work—Sharon is a passionate advocate for artists and an inspiration to our community,” said Martin Miller, executive director of TheatreSquared.

Killian helped guide the former Fayetteville Underground to become Art Ventures, a nonprofit charitable organization that operates under the self-guiding principle of “art for everyone.” The nonprofit emphasizes values of inclusiveness, cross-cultural communication, creative learning practices, shared stories from micro-communities, and developing young artists, according to a news release.

“The space I create is one where you are not left alone,” said Killian. “I just want to help push the needle, to help artists not in the mainstream, and to create space for marginalized people.”

Killian said during her time in the region, she has seen progress in the local creative community.

“I can see a difference, that change is happening in Northwest Arkansas and hopefully it will be longstanding,” she said. “I found my home. I feel like I’m part of the fabric of this place. I just keep trying to do what I believe will make a huge difference in our community.”

The award follows last month’s announcement of grants for over two dozen local artists from Artists 360.

The Mid-America Arts Alliance program is made possible from support by the Walton Family Foundation. Its aim is to identify and elevate the Northwest Arkansas area’s leading artists.