Arts Council’s Summer Among Busiest in Its History

Actor Lilly Allen looks like she’s not for sure her villain character in the STAR Academy play would wear a blonde wig. SWAAC board member Judy Vaughan not only loaned the wig but also served as hair stylist.

By George S. Smith

The Southwest Arkansas Arts Council (SWAAC) staff, board and volunteers stay busy year-round with gallery exhibits, art workshops, Artist in Education participants in area school, the annual Holiday Bazaar, scheduling and coordinating with artists painting on available spaces in the downtown ARTpark, plus other civic programs.

Summer 2019 will enter the history books as one of the non-profit’s busiest seasons in its 34-year history.

At the beginning of the summer, the council held its annual membership party at Coulter Homestead in Old Washington. “With a live band, silent auction and enough food and refreshments to feed Patton’s Army,” said George S. Smith, SWAAC staff member, “the event got the non-profit’s membership drive off to a great start.”

One of the council’s most popular annual annual events – STAR Academy theater workshop and performance – was bigger and better than ever. Dallas playwright and director Chris Espinoza wrote a melodrama especially for the SWAAC – “Trouble Blooms at Ruby Rose Ranch.”

The free show, a partnership performance with Hempstead Hall, garnered significant donations, plus funds from sales for commemorative Christmas ornaments made by the actors. More than 500 attended the performance.

The council also started first-time partnerships with two Hope institutional summer programs – UAHT’s Kids’ College and the Hope Parks and Recreation Department’s summer student program.

Native American artist Norris Chee and Mary Overton worked with the students at Kids’ College: Chee’s students designed and airbrushed individualized t-shirts; Overton’s classes were titled “Foundations of Art,” giving students a rudimentary exploration in the beginnings of being an artist.

Parks and Rec students assisted on cleaning and restoring the “Leaves of Hope” mural at the Arts Council’s offices at 200 E. Division Street.

In other activities, an ARTpark painting by 13-year-old Lilly Allen of Blevins, was completed. Allen also wrote a poem to go with her painting and volunteer calligrapher Lindsey Heard scripted the poem, titled “The Giver.”

In other activities over the summer, two art workshops were held with Sue Allen Pico, the “Art Lady of Arkansas,’ teaching four classes for students and adults. One class was on perspectives of facial features for portraits; another focused on creation of “boxes” in the style of origami, without using tape or glue, as well as using common objects like paper and rubber bands to create simple optical illusions.

The summer exhibit at the Arts Station gallery were paintings from the SWAAC’s in-house collection and were viewed by more than 100 visitors from four states.

This week the council hosted the Farmers’ Market, and served donuts, cookies and coffee, and handed out SWAAC brochures and membership cards.

Smith said, “Wow! This summer was a very busy one for the arts council and its amazing corps of artists, board members and volunteers. We had family members of actors (mothers and siblings) helping us with the arts and crafts art workshops and working with the young thespians on art projects and making commemorative Christmas ornaments, place mats and play props.

“You cannot put together a string of events like this without everyone pitching in and making it happen,’ Smith said. “The actors, from the lead characters to the cue card kids, were all on their game every rehearsal, dress rehearsal and the final performance. The kids and adults who attended the arts and crafts workshops and those that worked on the wall mural restoration were just phenomenal.”

He said, “Next year, get ready for a bigger and better theater production and a summer full of fun arts-related activities.”

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