Former art student bequeaths $40,000 for UA Little Rock art scholarships

Mary Jane Stotts (MJ) Robbins loved creating art. It’s what drew her to Little Rock and then to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to study art.

Robbins passed away last year at the age of 67. On Wednesday, Oct. 10, Robbins’ birthday, her estate announced a $40,000 gift to UA Little Rock to establish two new scholarships funds in her honor.

The MJ Robbins Memorial Endowed Scholarship will provide assistance for education-related expenses for students pursuing or furthering a degree or continuing education in the Department of Art and Design in the College of Arts, Letters, and Sciences at UA Little Rock.

The second scholarship – the MJ Robbins Annual Penland School of Craft Scholarship – will provide scholarships for UA Little Rock art and design students to attend a two-week summer workshop of their choice at the Penland School of Craft in North Carolina.

“MJ Robbins’ contribution to the arts in Little Rock and our university will continue due to the generosity of her estate,” said Sarah Beth Estes, interim dean for the College of Arts, Letters, and Sciences. “Her gift will provide transformative experiences to UA Little Rock students for years to come.”

Robbins, a native of Lake City, Arkansas, retired from FedEx in 2003 and moved from Memphis to Little Rock, where she immersed herself in the central Arkansas arts community. She was a member of the Arkansas Arts Center, a student of the Museum School, and an early supporter of the ACANSA Arts Festival.

Her interest in fine metalsmithing led her to UA Little Rock. In the Department of Art and Design, former faculty member and metalsmith David Clemons became Robbins’ teacher and mentor, helping her advance in her metalworking and later encouraging her to study at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina.

“The creative community is where she forged the majority of her central Arkansas friendships, and at UA Little Rock she further developed her artistry and began greater production of her art,” said Robbins’ niece, Tracy Stotts Weed of Little Rock.

Weed remembers her aunt as a “person always in motion” with many creative talents. Robbins could sew, knit, work with metal and clay, and made stone and metal jewelry.

“She had a great appreciation for education and a lot of varied interests,” Weed said. “There was no limit to her skills or her willingness to be adventurous and try something new.”

In the top right photo, MJ Robbins works on an art piece.

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