By: Bob Pest

The Ozark Gateway region is home to a number of diverse and impressive art galleries. The Batesville Area Arts Council (BAAC) was formed in 1988. The goal was to provide an umbrella that would serve several community arts organizations. Over the years the various arts groups—Batesville Community Theatre, Batesville Symphony League, and North Arkansas Dance Theatre became autonomous organizations with their own board of directors. The council’s current focus is the Main Street Gallery and an Arts in Education program in the Batesville schools.

The gallery, which opened in 1998 in a rent-free storefront provided by Heuer’s Family Shoe Store, serves is located at 246 E. Main in the heart of the historic downtown business district.

This space allows local and area artists a venue to share their work with the community. The gallery hosts exhibits by talented local and visiting artists along with receptions to allow the public to meet the artists and learn more their work. The gallery also offers a variety of workshops and classes such as calligraphy, drawing, gourd art, mosaics, pastel painting, and watercolors. 

The arts council hosts special programs and guests as part of downtown’s monthly 2nd Friday Celebration. Exhibit openings, visiting artists, and demonstrations make the gallery the place for arts lovers to be on 2nd Friday.  The gallery also hosts the annual unveiling of the Ozark Foothills FilmFest poster and in most years also mounts an exhibit by the artist whose work was selected for the festival poster.  It recently hosted an exhibit of art by comic and “pulp fiction” illustrators, followed by the Arkansas Arts Council’s Small Works on Paper touring exhibit.  Much of the art on display at any given time is for sale, generally at surprisingly low prices.

The Batesville Area Arts Council plays an important role in the life of the community with special activities like an after-school art class for elementary school children, a Friday Painters program involving cancer survivors, care givers, and friends. Materials for beginning painters are provided by the White River Medical Center Cancer Care Center. To extend their reach, the council also maintains three “mini galleries”—one at UACCB, the local two-year college; one

at the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce headquarters; and one at White River Medical Center. The Batesville Arts Council Gallery is open Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  During the winter holiday season the gallery is also open Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. For more information, visit www.batesvillearts.org, email baac@suddenlinkmail.com, or phone 870-793-3382.

The Kresge Gallery on the campus of Lyon College in Batesville presents a variety of touring and curated exhibits, visiting artists, gallery talks, and work by students and faculty. Memorable past exhibits and events include Contemporary Landscapes (Group Invitational); Katie Howell: Portraits of Subjectivity; Margaret LeJeune’s stunning photo exhibit, Modern Day Diana Series; and a screening of the documentary film Diego Rivera: I Paint What I See.

Black River Beads and Pottery, located at 213 E. Broadway in downtown Pocahontas is a beautiful and eclectic gallery that showcases work by over twenty local artists, ranging from watercolors, oil paintings, and weaving to photography, hand-painted glass, and silversmith jewelry. Black Rivers Lampwork Beads are created by gallery owners James and Amanda Tinker.  Each bead is individually crafted. The Tinkers will work with you to design a custom piece of jewelry for a special occasion or outfit.  Black River Beads also carries beading supplies, repairs beaded jewelry, and teaches classes in jewelry making.

In addition to beads, the multi-talented Tinkers create high quality, durable pottery, made with lead free food safe glazes.  It can be cleaned in the dishwasher and is also safe to use in the microwave.  It is created in their in store studio with a wide selection of glazes and textures available.

Black River Beads and Pottery is open Monday through Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 5:00 p.m. the gallery is closed Saturdays.  For more information, visit their impressive website, www.blackriverbeads.com, or call 1-877-240-8427. Black River art is also available online at www.etsy.com/shop/blackriverbeads.

The Arkansas Craft Guild, founded in 1960, encourages and promotes excellence in traditional and contemporary crafts and fine arts in Arkansas. The guild has also worked to build a market for high quality handmade products and provides a collaborative environment where craftsmen and women can share information and explore further development of their art. The Arkansas Craft Gallery, located at 104 E. Main just off the square in downtown Mountain View, the guild’s sole retail showroom, features thousands of pieces by hundreds of talented artisans. The gallery showcases and sells pottery, woodworking, photography, paintings, brooms, candles, jewelry, leather work, jewelry, gourds, blown glass, homemade soap, and more. The work is artfully displayed in the bright, spacious gallery.  Summer gallery hours are Thursday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Sunday noon to 4 p.m. The gallery staff is extremely friendly and helpful; I have personally purchased a number of Christmas and other special occasion gifts for my wife with guidance from gallery staffers, all of which made me look like good at home. If time permits, hang out in the Joanne Webb Coffee Lounge, with free WiFi.

Appreciating the arts and showing support for the arts community is one of the best ways to elevate the quality of life in your community. Famed Beat Poet William S. Burroughs wrote, “Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it. I call it creative observation, creative viewing.”  We can all learn a lot from the visual arts. Visit the gallery in your town and take your children with you, attend an exhibit opening or a gallery talk, take an art class yourself, and remember that a work of art, whether it is jewelry, a ceramic coffee mug, or a painting, always makes the perfect gift.  See you at the galleries.

For more great places to visit contact the Ozark Gateway Region at1-800-264-0316 or visit ozarkgateway.com.