By R.V. Baugus
We at IAVM only became recently aware of the passing of Richard Huff, who most recently served as Executive Director of the Irving Arts Board and the Irving Arts Center. Despite his passing in 2020, we wanted to share his obituary and to send belated condolences.
Richard Huff’s professional experience has included working at the local, state and national levels. He has gained a national reputation for his work in each of these arenas. As Director of the Cultural Activities Center in Temple, Texas (a community of 25,000) he was instrumental in raising the funds necessary to construct a new cultural center. As Director of the Dallas City Arts Program for seven years, he played a key role in the creation of the Dallas Arts District, the creation of the city’s first Cultural Policy and Plan, the establishment of the Neighborhood Cultural Center Program and the renovation of the Majestic Theater, a 1920’s elegant vaudeville and movie theater.
Mr. Huff has served as the Executive Director of two state arts agencies: The Texas Commission on the Arts and the Illinois Arts Council. In Texas, Mr. Huff led the agency through times of political turmoil and changing values with respect to grant making. Under his direction, staff was reduced and efficiency was increased. With his guidance, a long-range plan was created and grants making processes and procedures were revised. Many of those revisions are still being utilized today. In Illinois, he also addressed the grant-making procedures to increase public accountability and reduce potential for conflict of interest. Mr. Huff reached out to the rural arts interest in Illinois, working with both the arts world and the rural development interests throughout the state.
As Director of the National Endowment of the Arts Locals Program, Mr. Huff was able to double the program’s budget, promote the value of community cultural planning and policy making. He encouraged rural constituents to become involved with the NEA’s Locals Program and was a member of the management group for President Bush’s Rural Development Initiative. He redesigned the Locals Program’s panel review procedures to ensure that specific criteria were established and followed. The new design also ensured that the panel meetings were open to constituents.
Mr. Huff was the President of Richard Huff & Associates, a consulting service that provided organizational planning, meeting facilitation and technical assistance to a wide variety of arts and cultural organizations. Clients have included the Ames International Orchestra Festival Association in Ames, Iowa; the Mid-America Arts Alliance in Kansas City; the Missouri Association of Community Arts Agencies; the Assembly of Community Arts Councils of Oklahoma; the State of Louisiana Division of the Arts; the Marshall Regional Arts Council in Marshall, Texas; the Arts Council of the Brazos Valley in College Station, Texas; the Texas Alliance for Education and the Arts; the Branson Arts Council in Branson, Missouri; the Calcasieu Arts and Humanities Council in Lake Charles, Louisiana; Slidell Little Theater in Slidell, Louisiana; the New Iberia Arts Commission in New Iberia, Louisiana; the Cross Timbers Regional Arts Council in Stephenville, Texas; the Association of American Cultures in San Antonio, Texas; and the Texas Commission on the Arts.
• Since August 1, 1995, Mr. Huff has been Executive Director of the Irving Arts Board and the Irving Arts Center. The Center has a budget of $5 million dollars annually and is home to 11 Resident Art Organizations. The six-acre campus includes a facility with more than 91,500 square feet of performing and visual arts space, including the 707-seat Carpenter Performance Hall and the 253-seat Dupree Theater.
• In 2007 the Irving Arts Center was named an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.
• The Arts Center’s four gallery spaces have housed notable exhibitions from local, regional and national artists, including:
– 200 Years of African American Art: The Arthur Primas Collection
– Within the Emperor’s Garden: The Ten Thousand Springs Pavilion – A Smithsonian exhibition
– Dance Theatre of Harlem: 40 Years of Firsts -A retrospective of the first 40 years of the company.
• In 2011, the Arts Center welcomed the international tour of Genghis Khan: The Exhibition. The multi-media exhibition brought with it the largest number of artifacts from 13th century Mongolia ever gathered in a single showing. During the four month exhibition, over 50,000 people attended, including 12,682 students. Visitors came from 49 states and the District of Columbia and represented over 2,303 zip codes, pushing annual IAC attendance up to 162,831.
• In 2014, the Arts Center partnered with National Geographic Museum in Washington D.C. to present “Peruvian Gold: Ancient Treasures Unearthed.” Irving and Washington are the only locations for the exhibition which showcases pre-Inca splendors from the royal tombs of Peru.
• The Sculpture Garden was completed during Huff’s tenure and features commissioned sculptures by James Surls, Jesús Moroles and Michael Manjarris; the monumental mosaic Irving Centennial Mural created by artist Francisco Mendoza with Irving youths; and ’03 Politicized Democracy by John Brough Miller. The Sculpture Garden also features rotating sculptures by Texas and national artists, including a sculpture by American artist Reuben Nakian, on loan from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Huff graduated from Wichita State University with a B.A. in Speech and Drama with a minor in Business and received an M.A. from the University of Denver in Technical Theater (Set and Light Design). He also attended the University of Texas for Post-Graduate studies in Arts Management. He was an Adjunct Professor for the Community Arts Management Graduate Program at University of Illinois at Springfield in Springfield, Illinois, an Adjunct Professor for the Arts Management Program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas and a guest lecturer to the Arts Management Graduate Program at Columbia College of Chicago. Mr. Huff is a founding member of the U.S. Urban Arts Federation and the Texas Assembly of Arts Councils (now called the Texas Alliance for Education and the Arts). He has served on the boards of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, the National Association for Regional Ballet, Texans for the Arts and Texas Non-Profit Theatres and two regional arts organizations: Arts Midwest and Mid America Arts Alliance. Mr. Huff served as both a panelist and site evaluator for the National Endowment for the Arts prior to and since his employment at the Irving Arts Center.
Richard is preceded in death by parents, Robert and Charlotte Huff. He is survived by son, Robert Huff and wife Margaret; daughter, Cecillia Huff; grandson, Marcus David Huff; grandson, Richard Steven Huff; brother, Harold Huff; sister, Barbara Sue Mikesell; numerous other nieces, nephews, extended family, and loving friends.