Local students awarded first Art Education Opportunities scholarships


Recently, two Monticello area students were awarded scholarships from the local non-profit organization, Art Education Opportunities. 

Rylee Meeks, a senior at Monticello High School, was awarded the Commercial Bank and Ryburn Automotive Art Scholarship.  The Lesa and Brooks Handly Art Scholarship was awarded to Drew Central High School Senior, Isabella Sheffield.

Art Education Opportunities was started by Monticello native Stephen Coburn. Coburn recently moved back to Monticello following his retirement. He started the Main Street Art Gallery as well as the non-profit. Coburn’s goal is to build an art community in southeast Arkansas. 

“I just wanted to give something back to the town I grew up in,” said Coburn. This was the heart of starting Art Education Opportunities.  

To qualify for the scholarships, the students must be enrolled in one of the two high schools in Monticello.  The must also have a desire to pursue an education in the visual arts. The biggest factor is that the students must be interested in pursuing this education at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. Coburn said that he wanted to build an art community and a pipeline between the local high schools, the university, and the city of Monticello.

“I also want these scholarships to be impactful,” added Coburn. “$1000 will go a long way at UAM, where it won’t even cover books or art supplies at some of the other universities.”

Coburn said that his ultimate goal for the non-profit is to be able to give more than just the two scholarships.  With enough growth, and continued donations from both private individuals and local businesses, he would like to be able to give scholarships to students who attend high schools in the southeast Arkansas region.

In this first year the non-profit has raised $14,000. A simple Facebook ad turned into 26,000 hits in just seven days. The hope is to raise even more funds moving forward. Coburn encourages those who are interested in becoming a “Friend of Art” to contact him on how you can donate and help build community through art.

Coburn can be reached at aeomonticello@gmail.com.