At 200 East Division Street in downtown Hope, sits the Southwest Arkansas Arts Council (SWAAC). Many recognize this building as the old train depot with the beautiful garden next door, but what awaits visitors inside is a collection of art, culture, and history from right here in Southwest Arkansas. One of the artists whose work is on display right now is very well-known in the area by either those who traversed the halls of Hope High School during the 90’s and early 2000’s or those who have lived in the Prescott area for the last few decades: Harding Deon.
Some who have known Mr. Deon for years are not aware that he began his portfolio during his college years at Bishop College in Dallas. While there, he met an artist couple from Eureka Springs named Louis and Elsa Freund, and Deon credits Louis Freund for starting him on the path to becoming a certified art educator. Deon taught in the classroom for 22 years in Texas and served as Assistant Principal at Hope High School for 12 years before he retired. Deon said every piece of work at the gallery is a classroom demonstration. He said he told his students, “When I was your age, I could not do this either!” He proved to himself and his students that, “Yes, we can!” This gallery is Deon’s very first time to display his work in a public setting.
Deon’s work in oils and airbrushed acrylic is on display in the Black History Month Gallery at SWAAC, as well as more details of his journey into art. The gallery also displays a collection of historical information regarding Black History in Hempstead County. Another artist from Southwest Arkansas, Oluwatobi Adewumi, also had work in the gallery, but his charcoal sketchings have already left for another showing. SWAAC Executive Director Jennifer Block said the decision was made to extend the gallery for a few weeks to give more people a chance to stop by and view Deon’s work. “He has such an interesting way he found art, especially since he wasn’t exposed to art until he was in his twenties,” Block said. “He had a big journey, and we are thrilled to be able to give him his very first gallery show.”
Next week, Monday through Friday from 10am to 4pm, all visitors are welcome at SWAAC, aka the Art Station, to view the Black History Month Gallery featuring the work of Harding Deon. A few photos can be found below, but we didn’t want to spoil the surprise, so head on down to the Art Station next week before the gallery closes.
Block says more from SWAAC is on the horizon, including a youth contest in May. Stay tuned to SWARK.Today for details or check out the SWAAC’s website for information. Anyone interested in having their work presented by the Southwest Arkansas Arts Council, can call 8707778200.