From Michael Hibblen, news director at KUAR-FM, 89.1, and KLRE-FM, 90.5, comes news that Ann Nicholson has died. Born in what she said “romantically could be called the foothills of the Himalayas,” Nicholson moved to the United States in 1962 and hosted over a thousand episodes of “Arts Scene” across three decades before retiring in 2019. Listeners knew her for her lilting voice and her fervent dedication to the classical arts in Arkansas.
“She was tiny in stature,” Hibblen told us, “but was such a presence to be around, a fascinating person to work with.” Nicholson, he said, was devoted to both the show and to the arts organizations it covered, and was adamant about getting to the radio station to record “Arts Scene” even as her health declined.
Ann Nicholson, who for more than three decades hosted a program on KLRE and KUAR dedicated to the arts in Arkansas, has died. Her daughter, Dr. Dido Green, says Nicholson died in her sleep early Sunday. An age and cause of death were not immediately available.
Nicholson produced well over a thousand episodes of Arts Scene, talking with local and visiting performers, artists and authors. She reported on cultural issues and discussed events happening around the state.
“I want our listeners to gain a new experience from each program,” she said in a profile for KUAR’s website. “I look for persons in the arts that I think will not only indulge my interests, but also those in the audience. I try to give them a little bit of extra personal background that they wouldn’t get anywhere else.”
Born in India, the daughter of a British Army Officer, and educated in India, Kashmir, Scotland, and England, Nicholson immigrated to Canada in 1958, and then to the United States in 1962. She discussed her background in a 2012 StoryCorps interview with Ben Fry, the general manager of KLRE-KUAR.
She received a double BA degree in music education and music history from Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas. Nicholson continued her graduate education in musicology at the University of Kentucky.
Nicholson moved to Arkansas in 1978 and became public relations director for Ballet Arkansas, helping to produce a regional ballet festival. In 1984, she joined KLRE and conceived, wrote and narrated a 10-part series of 30-minute programs titled The Forgotten Oscar, based on the stories and poems of Oscar Wilde. The next year, she began producing and hosting Arts Scene until her retirement in 2019.
Nicholson interviewed people from across the spectrum of the arts community, including actor James Earl Jones, Broadway performer Lawrence Hamilton, every conductor of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra since the program began, radio host Diane Rehm and former Arkansas first ladies Hillary Rodham Clinton and Betty Bumpers. She also featured countless writers, authors and scholars.
Nicholson was acknowledged for her radio work through many awards, including two national awards from American Women in Radio and Television and the 2003 Aha! Cultural Spirit Award from the city of Little Rock.
Arts Scene still airs on KUAR, now hosted by Daniel Breen.
In addition to her radio program, she was a founding member of the Little Rock Arts and Humanities Promotion Commission and has served the boards of the Little Rock Musical Coterie, the Hot Springs Music Festival and UALR’s Friends of the Arts. On the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Guild, she re-designed the Stella Boyle Smith Young Artists Competition and served as a liaison for the Arkansas Youth Orchestra. Nicholson served as a moderator and host for authors at the Arkansas Literary Festival and participated in the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute’s 2009 Heritage Program.