2017 Governor's Arts Community Development Award
Sam and Barbara Tobias, Mena


For the past 15 years, Sam and Barbara Tobias have provided generous support to SouthWest Artists, Inc., a community-based arts organization in Mena founded in 1945. They have donated their time, talents and financial support to uphold the organization’s mission of bringing art to the people of Polk County. Since SouthWest Artists, Inc. purchased a historic storefront property in 2002, the Tobiases have put their skills to use to give local artists much needed gallery space.Sam's engineering and design talents have aided in the remodeling of the exhibit space, classroom space and the gallery kitchen. His photography and video skills have benefited gallery promotions. Barbara regularly uses her writing abilities to garner publicity for the organization through promotional articles. She also secured a three-year grant for the gallery’s first executive director. In addition, she teaches classes in drawing, oil painting, fiber arts and writing.