The long list of Ginger Head Gearheart’s accolades grew even longer on Sept. 20, when she was honored with the Heart of Gold Award from Arts Fort Worth. 

A lifelong arts lover and proponent of education, she worked with cultural leaders on a John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts initiative to develop programming that would later be replicated across the country. 

“When we started, it was called Imagination Celebration,” Head Gearheart said in a prerecorded video. “We defined it as a special celebration for deaf students to come and learn about the arts.”

Other honorees

Advocate for the Arts Award:
Estrus Tucker

Emerging Leaders in the Arts:
Jesse Borries
Ayesha Ganguly
Wesley Kirk
Stephanie Love
Armond Vance

Her husband, Joe Gearheart, quipped that the idea was so good that the Kennedy Center ran with it and replicated the program across the country.

“She’s an out-of-the-box thinker, and she has ideas that other people don’t have or are afraid to have,” he told the Report ahead of the award ceremony.  “And she gets the job done.”

That programming has reached more than 4 million students, master of ceremonies Bob Ray Sanders said. For several of the children who participated, it was their first time connecting with other kids like them.

In the video presentation, her husband described a situation where a teacher asked why a kid was crying. The boy gave a surprising answer. 

“He said I live in a small town where I’m the only deaf person. I’ve never met a deaf adult,” he recalled. “I thought we all died.”

Head Gearheart was unable to attend the ceremony, so her son, Robert Head, accepted the award on her behalf. 

“This is truly an honor for her and for our family that you’re celebrating her in this building,” he said. “She spent hours and hours and days in this building throughout her career. It was really like a second home, so it’s a really fitting place for this honor to take place.” 

His mom didn’t make the distinction between friends and family, he said. After expressing his gratitude, he ended his speech with the words he thought she would share.

“I know she would say, ‘I love you all.’”

Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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For just over seven years Marcheta Fornoff performed the high wire act of producing a live morning news program on Minnesota Public Radio. She led a small, but nimble team to cover everything from politics...