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Iona Blake Dobbins Scholarship Fund for the Visual Arts
By Jean Cohoon / December 31, 2013 /   Loading Disqus...
“First lady of the arts in Rhode Island.”

“A champion for artists and the arts.”

“Our artist in chief.”

These are just a few of the tributes Iona Dobbins earned during her more than 40 years of dedicated service to the arts in Rhode Island. Born in Boston and raised in Franklin, MA, Iona was a graduate of Fisher College in Boston. She came to Rhode Island in 1960 when her husband, Dick, joined the faculty at Brown University.

Iona volunteered extensively, promoted arts in education, and served on nonprofit boards. She was the state coordinator for the New England Foundation for the Arts, founded Business Volunteers for the Arts in Rhode Island and First Night Providence, and helped establish VSA Arts of Rhode Island. She was executive director of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts and was active with the Providence Art Club and the Art League of Rhode Island, serving as the latter organization’s president from 2008 to 2010. Iona died in July, 2012 at age 82.

The Art League hosted “IonaFest” in September of 2013 “to celebrate, promote, and support the arts by honoring the life and legacy of Iona B. Dobbins.” Event proceeds benefited both this scholarship fund and the existing Iona B. Dobbins Art Fund at the Foundation.

“Iona was somebody whom everyone in the arts community knew and knew over a long period of time,” explains Stephen Metcalf, treasurer of the Art League.

“The scholarship fund is a way to keep Iona’s name alive, to tell people about her passions, and to help get young people to the next level in their artistic efforts,” explains Kristie Gardiner, secretary of the Art League.

Noting the arts can provide people with a sense of community, Kristie said that in bringing the fund to the Foundation, “We looked at the mission of the Foundation, and we like that it’s a community foundation.”

“And your return sounded great. A group of professionals are doing the work that we wouldn’t be able to do,” Steve adds.
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