Tonight's MSA Membership Mixer was one for the books as board members took time this evening to recognize a group of individuals who have an impact on Denton and the Downtown area, respectively. These individuals are the 2017 Inductees for the Arts Walk of Fame, and Outstanding Business Volunteer of the Year.
These artists, businesses and volunteers contribute to Denton’s reputation as an eclectic haven to live, work and visit. It only seemed fitting to dedicate the first mixer of the year on their accomplishments and contributions.
First came the presentation of the Outstanding Business Volunteer Award. Created in honor of the memory of Bill Thomas, many recall that Bill Thomas owned and ran his furniture store in downtown for more than 50 years. He was one of the first businessmen to help form the Downtown Business and Professional Association back in 1964 that, by all intents and purposes, is the Denton Main Street Association today. The dedication to downtown and the community that was exemplified by Bill Thomas is a cornerstone to the success of downtown Denton and its revitalization through the years.
Our inaugural recipient of year is Ken Willis, co-owner of Beth Marie’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream & Soda Fountain. Willis is an unassuming man and enjoys working behind the scenes. If something is happening downtown, he is there, but out of the limelight. He grew up in Denton and started out in the restaurant business under his father’s direction at the Charcobroiler Restaurant. He's managed a Grandy’s and is best known for his former restaurant, Ruby’s Diner, which opened in the mid-90’s on the square. His most current clam to fame is the 2003 partnership in Beth Marie’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream & Soda Fountain.
Willis served on the DMSA board for two 6-year terms starting in 1998, including serving previously as MSA President. He helped transform the Twilight Tunes into a flourishing weekly event for the entire community to enjoy. You can still catch Willis on site, helping to set up the event, selling ice cream, or leading the “bucket brigade” on the lawn during some concerts. Not to mention, the help on the sponsorship and membership he sells and his participation in events throughout the year. His passion for revitalization efforts really shines through each time he lends a hand. He has had an impact on the success of DMSA and downtown over the past 18 years and we're quite thankful for it.
And Now: The 2017 Denton Arts Walk of Fame Inductees.
Denton has been the hub of activity for businesses and the arts for many generations. Several well-known artists have put Denton’s name on the map during their careers. It’s one of the many reasons the City of Denton decided to create the Denton Arts Walk of Fame in the heart of the arts – Downtown Denton.
In 1995, the City of Denton, Chamber of Commerce, The Denton Record-Chronicle, Texas Womans’ University, University of North Texas and about 400 citizens came together to create “A Vision for Denton -- The 21st Century.” One committee focused on downtown and its future needs. The group identified an Arts and Entertainment Corridor along E. Hickory Street as a priority action, specifically listing an arts district, east-end capital improvements, and music as part of the development. This idea was referenced in both the Downtown Master Plan and the Downtown Implementation Plan.
As part of improvements on E. Hickory that took place in 2015, the Denton Arts Walk of Fame came to light. Each year a dedicated committee nominates artists from fields of music, literature, architecture and visual & performing arts to be inducted into the Denton Arts Walk of Fame. The honoree’s name, their claim to fame, and “Denton Arts Walk of Fame” are engraved on granite stones which are placed in the brick band by the sidewalks. Today, you can find the stars along both sidewalks of E. Hickory Street from Locust to Bell.
The 2017 Denton Arts Walk of Fame inductees are:
Leon Breeden--Musician (1921-2010) - University of North Texas; Chairman of UNT Jazz Studies; Director of One O’clock Lab Band, 1959-1981; clarinet, saxophone, composer, arranger.
John Ford Coley—Musician University of North Texas; singer, film, television; Piano, guitar; England Dan and John Ford Coley.
Paula Blincoe Collins—Sculptor Texas Woman’s University; Sculptor, potter, brick sculptures; More than 200 sculptures across the country.
Carlotta Corpron—Photographer (1901-1988) - Texas Woman’s University; Photographer; Created “light drawings” which influenced the techniques of generations of photographers.
Margo Jones—Producer (1911-1987) – Texas Woman’s University; Stage director and producer; introduced theatre-in-the round concept.
Tom “Bones” Malone—Musician University of North Texas; Musician, arranger, producer; Trombone, saxophone, flute, piccolo; The Blues Brothers band, Saturday Night Live Band, CBS Orchestra, Late Night With David Letterman.
Lou Marini—Musician University of North Texas; Musician, arranger, composer; Saxophone; The Blues Brothers band, Saturday Night Live Band.
Neil Slater--Musician University of North Texas; Musician, composer, arranger; Piano; One O’clock Lab Band Director, 1981- 2008; Created Master degree in Jazz Studies.
The Denton Main Street Association congratulates each Inductee and Award Nominee on their accomplishments — both past and present —that brought us all here together in this great little town we love to call home: Denton. We're excited to pass by your stars as we walk through our bustling downtown, on our way to pay Willis a visit for a scoop or two, or onto the next downtown