Thea Foundation’s Blue Plate Special brings together Capital City chefs, mixologists and local celebrities for an evening of light bites + cocktails, to support the arts in education.
By Barrett Gay | Photography by Sara Reeves
“I am passionate about education for the youth of Arkansas. I want to see every child – no matter what part of the state they are located in – have a fair shot and an opportunity for a solid education.” Mark Roberts, president of Malvern National Bank, brings his enthusiasm for the success of each student to the table as this year’s chairman of Thea Foundation’s Blue Plate Special.
Paul Leopoulos and his wife, Linda, established the foundation shortly after the untimely death of their daughter, Thea Kay, in 2001. The couple found that prior to her death, she became involved in the arts, which caused a dramatic improvement in her grades. This revelation drives the mission at Thea: “our programs have been designed to inspire youth who, like Thea, gain confidence and learn via creative expression.”
“I had known Paul for years,” Mark says. “I knew that he was a wonderful person and was pleased that he and his family and friends were making such a positive impact from something so tragic.” He adds, “If you talk to Paul for five minutes, you will be sold on the mission.”
Blue Plate Special’s name, like the foundation’s name, was inspired by Thea’s life. “Blue was Thea’s favorite color — it’s the color of her beloved B.B. King portrait we display prominently at the foundation, and it’s always been important to the arts, from the Blue Period to the Delta Blues,” Stacey Bowers, marketing and communications director at Thea, explains.
Stacey notes the organization’s fundamental values reflect Thea’s academic success and personal growth. “Thea Foundation advocates the importance of the arts in the development of Arkansas youth, implements arts programs where there isn’t access to the arts in schools and expands existing arts programs. Research shows that young people who are involved in the arts are more confident, able to creatively problem solve and think critically.”
Malvern National Bank, a well-established sponsor of Thea Foundation, offers personal and business banking services throughout Central Arkansas. Its finite focus as a community partner brings civic leaders into the spotlight and improves the landscape of each community as well as the future of Arkansas. Mark considers his role this year as an ardent ambassador for Blue Plate Special. “I see myself as a cheerleader for the event, promoting it in any way possible.”
Paul sums it up best: “The great thing about Blue Plate Special is that it’s a win-win for everyone who attends. Win No. 1: The food and drinks are great, the jazz is fantastic and the casual atmosphere is relaxing and fun. Win No. 2: Everyone’s donation goes directly to support young people across Arkansas by providing high quality art, music and drama supplies to schools with little or no budgets — impacting thousands of young people for a lifetime.”
THEA by the numbers
Scholarships: $2.3 million to 333 high school seniors
Art Supplies: $1.5 million to Arkansas schools
Musical Instruction: 150 students
Mark at a glance
Hobbies: I play golf + take care of my grandchildren – a wonderful diversion
Philosophy to live by: Be fair, be honest and communicate
Favorite music: Motown
Favorite band: Eagles
Favorite artwork/visual art: Anything by Chihuly
Favorite food: Apple pie
Favorite movie: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Favorite book: The Bible