Ivey appoints Gallardo to the State Arts Council


Governor Kay Ivey recently appointed Gadsden’s Mario Gallardo to the Alabama State Council on the Arts. He began serving his term on the agency’s governing board on January 1, 2024.

The council is a body of 15 members appointed for six-year terms to help promote the arts statewide. The primary responsibility of board members is to make decisions on grants awarded to support arts-driven programming throughout the state. Ivey recently appointed Rob Lyda of Auburn and Gary Whitley, Jr. of Huntsville to the council.

In addition to these new appointments, council members John C. Coleman and Dr. Rachel Brown Fowler were reappointed for six more years of service. Also noteworthy is the selection of council officers for 2024 – Lisa Blach Weil as chair, John Coleman as vice-chair and Ceil Jenkins Snow as secretary. They will serve in these roles through 2025.

“Our staff is pleased to welcome this new cohort of committed arts advocates to the Alabama State Council on the Arts,” said Dr. Elliot Knight, the Council’s Executive Director. “Mr. Gallardo, Dr. Lyda and Mr. Whitley, Jr., each bring valuable perspectives and insights that will be assets to the council as we work to expand the reach and impact of arts in Alabama.”

Gallardo is an art professor and Chair of the Division of Fine Arts at Gadsden State Community College, where he oversees the academic departments of Art, Music and Theatre, along with the Wallace Hall Performing Arts Center and the Meadows and Mezzanine Art Galleries.

Gallardo is the founder and Executive Director for the Walnut Gallery in Gadsden. Since 2010, he has curated over 70 exhibitions of regional, national and international artists for the gallery, each with accompanying cultural programing that is free and open to the community.

Gallardo has been involved in arts education in Alabama for over 30 years. His journey in arts education began in 1993 when he worked with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Northeast Alabama, serving as Director of Arts and Cultural Enrichment for several clubs in Etowah County. Later he was an art instructor for Westbrook Christian School from 1995-1999, where he taught classes for K5-12th grade. From 2000 to 2002, Gallardo served as the Curator/Outreach Educator for the Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts, overseeing exhibition booking and installation for three gallery spaces.

Gallardo received an Associate of Arts degree from Gadsden State, a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting/ceramics from Jacksonville State and a Master of Fine Arts degree in sculpture from the University of Alabama, where he was a national alumni fellowship recipient. He is the recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship by The Alabama State Council on the Arts for his work in sculpture and performance art.

Although he is a practicing studio artist, for the past thirteen years, Gallardo’s creative scholarship and research has focused primarily on community development through the arts. This focus has led him to establish numerous art initiatives in Northeast Alabama, including founding three art galleries, a public arts project and an artist residency program. Gallardo is currently a candidate for Doctor of Public Administration at Valdosta State University, where his research focuses on how creative placemaking contributes to equitable economic and community development in Alabama.

Gallardo is the founder of The Gadsden Public Art Project, which has placed numerous public sculptures and murals throughout Gadsden in the last 10 years.

Gallardo is active in many arts organizations. He currently serves as President for the Gadsden Museum of Art – Board of Directors. He is a member of Americans for the Arts, Mid-South Sculpture Alliance and the Alabama Museum Association.

Gallardo has served on institutional grant and artist fellowship review committees for the Alabama State Council on the Arts and has been a national grant reviewer for The Institute of Museum and Library Services. He has juried numerous exhibitions including the 2020 and 2022 Wiregrass Biennial and the 2020 Jacksonville State Student Exhibition. Gallardo is also active in International Art Education, having led many college and community study abroad tours, including a cultural exchange to Cuba.

Gallardo and his wife Lisa own and operate Owls Hollow Farm with help from their three kids, four dogs and nine cats.

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