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Harrell named to arts board

Asked to name the greatest advocates for the arts in Suffolk, most people won’t get very far down the list before they say “Pearl Harrell.”

The artistic champion can be seen constantly at arts venues throughout Suffolk, particularly the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts. Harrell, along with others, was a driving force behind the transformation of the former Suffolk High School into the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts.

“She’s extremely proactive with the cultural arts center,” said Betsy Brothers, who also was instrumental in the conversion of the building. “She has a passion for what she does.”

Now, Harrell will be able to influence the arts statewide. Brothers felt so strongly about Harrell that she nominated her for a board position with Virginians for the Arts, a nonprofit arts advocacy group that supports legislative actions that increase arts funding and improve conditions for artists. The 18-year-old group also coordinates Virginia’s participation in National Arts Advocacy Day.

“It’s good to have somebody from Suffolk up there,” Harrell said Friday. She will be the only board member from Suffolk or Western Tidewater.

Brothers said she thought of Harrell to nominate for the board position because Harrell is “a great advocate for the arts.”

“She loves the arts,” Brothers said. “She’s extremely hard-working. She really, really cares.”

In addition to serving on the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts Foundation Board, Harrell serves as a director on the board of the Suffolk Art League, and has served on the boards of Young Audiences of Virginia, the Suffolk-Nansemond Historical Society and the Garden Club of Virginia. She is a member of the Gateway Bank Suffolk Branch Advisory Board, and the Nansemond River Garden Club.

Harrell said she is involved so much with the cultural arts center simply because she loves it.

“It’s such a wonderful thing for the folks in Suffolk,” Harrell said.

Brothers said Harrell was a driving force behind getting the arts center project off the ground. Harrell was particularly involved with raising money from wall sponsors and ensuring signs were placed in the proper places around the building, Brothers said.

“She was so devoted to it,” Brothers said. “She graduated from Suffolk High School. She loves Suffolk — and pair that with really caring about the arts, plus just the passion to work really, really hard.”

It takes a special person to be an advocate for the arts, Brothers said — particularly when she is not being paid to do so.

“Not a huge amount of people have the time or the energy or the passion to give it their all,” Brothers said. “Pearl has done that. She’s been an important player for a number of years.”

For more information on Virginians for the Arts, visit www.vaforarts.org.