February 9, 2024

State of Alabama
Press Release: Alabama State Council on the Arts

Governor Ivey appoints three new members to the Alabama State Council on the Arts

Governor Ivey appoints three new members to the Alabama State Council on the Arts
Mario Gallardo, Rob Lyda, and Gary T. Whitley, Jr. begin six-year terms with state arts agency

MONTGOMERY, Ala., (February 9, 2024) — Governor Kay Ivey recently appointed Mario Gallardo, Rob Lyda, and Gary Whitley, Jr. to the Council on the Arts. They began serving their terms on the agency’s governing board on January 1, 2024. The Council is a body of fifteen 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.

“Our staff is pleased to welcome this new cohort of committed arts advocates to the 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.”

Mario Gallardo is a college art professor and Chair of the Division of Fine Arts at Gadsden State, 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, a contemporary art gallery, in Gadsden, Alabama. 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 is also the founder of The Gadsden Public Art Project, which has placed numerous public sculptures and murals throughout Gadsden in the last ten years. 

Dr. Rob Lyda is sought-after for his expertise in general music education, creativity, and folk songs of the Southern United States as a clinician for professional development workshops, curriculum writer, educational consultant, and presenter at state, regional, and national conferences. Throughout his career as a music educator, he has taught a variety of instrumental, vocal, and general music courses for students in grades pre-Kgraduate study. Currently, Lyda teaches music in the Auburn City School system. He received the B.M.E. from Troy University and the M.Ed. and Ph.D. in Music Education from Auburn University.

Gary T. Whitley, Jr. is a Huntsville resident and currently serves as the Community Relations Manager for Huntsville Utilities. In this role, Whitley, Jr. is responsible for internal communications and external community relations. A native of Detroit, MI, he relocated to Huntsville after receiving a music scholarship to attend Alabama A&M University where he sang in the University Choir and earned his undergraduate degree in Political Science. In addition to his previous service on the Arts Huntsville Board, Whitley, Jr. has a vast appreciation and knowledge for the arts. While he considers himself a retired singer, he appreciates all the art forms and can be seen around Huntsville and the region supporting local arts and humanities events and programs.

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 C. Coleman as vice-chair, and Ceil Jenkins Snow as secretary. They will serve in these roles through 2025.

For more information on the Alabama State Council on the Arts’ initiatives, visit arts.alabama.gov.

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About Alabama State Council on the Arts
The Council on the Arts is the official state agency for the support and development of the arts in Alabama. The Council works to expand and preserve the state’s cultural resources by supporting nonprofit arts organizations, schools, colleges, local governments, and individual artists. Arts programs, assisted by Council grants, have a track record of enhancing community development, education, cultural tourism, and overall quality of life in all regions of the state. Alabama State Council on the Arts grants are made possible by an annual appropriation from the Alabama Legislature and additional funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. 

  • For more information, visit http://arts.alabama.gov
  • For more state-wide press releases, click here