ArtsBuild Announces Recipient of Ruth Holmberg Arts Leadership Award

Mai Bell Hurley will be honored during the 2015 Ruth Holmberg Arts Leadership Award presentation on Tuesday, March 10. ArtsBuild will host the event at the Hunter Museum of American Art from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm.

This new annual award was established to recognize an individual who has made significant contributions to the arts in Chattanooga and is actively engaged in the cultural life of our community. The award honors an individual who, through his or her exemplary efforts, has significantly contributed to building a stronger community through the arts.

Mrs. Hurley began volunteering in the arts in the 1960s, serving as one of the founding members of the Chattanooga Arts Council which eventually became Allied Arts of Greater Chattanooga (now ArtsBuild). Through the Arts Council, she helped produce one of Chattanooga’s first arts festivals. Mrs. Hurley served on the Allied Arts (ArtsBuild) board of directors for 40 years and was the first woman to chair the organization’s annual campaign.

Mrs. Hurley chaired the Chattanooga Symphony Guild before joining the Chattanooga Symphony board of directors in 1968. She has served on the CSO board three times and is currently a member of its executive committee.

When the Tennessee Arts Commission was formed in 1967, Mrs. Hurley was one of the first gubernatorial appointees as a Commissioner. Mrs. Hurley was active in the early days of the Adult Education Council (now the Southern Lit Alliance). She is an honorary life board member of the Creative Discovery Museum and has served on the board of the Regional History Center (Chattanooga History Center), where she is currently active in raising funds for its new facility.

Mrs. Hurley’s work in the arts led to other civic involvement which greatly impacted the quality of life in Chattanooga. As the chair of Chattanooga Venture, she was instrumental in the creation of the Tennessee Aquarium (chairing its capital campaign), Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprises, the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, and in the renovation of the Tivoli Theatre.

In addition to her work in the arts, Mrs. Hurley was the first woman to chair the United Way campaign. She continues to serve on the United Way board as well as the board of the Chattanooga Public Library. Nationally, Mrs. Hurley has served as president of the board of the Child Welfare League and was appointed by President Reagan to the National Commission on Children in 1989. She was part of a panel discussion broadcast on CSPAN in 1988, Partners in Urban America, which was sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, New York City Partnership Incorporated, and the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Mrs. Hurley acted as a champion of design standards for Chattanooga and, through her service on the Lyndhurst Foundation board in the 1980s, helped secure countless dollars for renovation and investment in downtown Chattanooga. She became the first woman elected to office in the City of Chattanooga government in 1990 where she continued to support the arts, helping to increase local government arts funding.

“We are thrilled to be able to honor Mai Bell with this award,” said Dan Bowers, President of ArtsBuild. “I can think of no more deserving recipient of the first Ruth Holmberg Arts Leadership Award. Through her decades of commitment, she has truly helped make our community stronger through the arts.”

Tickets for the event are $35 per person, $195 for 6, or $300 for 10. The 2015 Ruth Holmberg Arts Leadership Award is sponsored by First Tennessee Bank and the Chattanooga Times Free Press Foundation. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call (423) 756-2787.