Arts & the Park

Striving to keep artistry alive in Hot Springs

By Lindsey Wells Photography courtesy of the Hot Springs Area Cultural Alliance

By Lindsey Wells
Photography courtesy of the Hot Springs Area Cultural Alliance

Whether you’ve lived in Hot Springs for 20 years or are just visiting for the weekend, it’s hard not to notice the strong presence of artistry in this city.
With the mission statement “To celebrate, advocate and promote the arts and culture of Hot Springs,” the Hot Springs Area Cultural Alliance strives to keep that artistry alive.

For the third year, the Cultural Alliance will present its annual Arts & the Park Festival, a 10-day festival celebrating the arts, scheduled for April 29-May 8. The festival showcases the thriving talent of local and statewide visual artists, musicians, dancers, poets, jewelers, potters, performers, authors, glass makers and sculptors.

A launch party will kick off the festival on April 29 at Mid-America Science Museum from 6-8 p.m. The celebration will feature music, art, and dance, and guest artist Thomas Green will perform an installation of his art in the museum’s Dome Theater.

“His art is very science-related,” said Kate Schaffer, HSACA board president.

Admission into the launch party is $25 in advance or $35 at the door.

A highlight of this year’s festival is the Studio Tours on April 30 and May 1, when art lovers will have the unique, eye-opening opportunity to visit art galleries throughout Hot Springs to see the environments in which each artist creates his or her work.300_8091

“We work with area artists who live and work here every day and are creating their art every day,” said Mary Neilson, festival executive director. “This is a really unique opportunity for the public to be invited into their creative spaces, into their homes and studios and see where they are and what they do.”

A map will be available and the public will be allowed to go at their own pace and pick and choose which destinations they’d like to visit.

“Hot Springs is known as an arts destination. There’s creative economies and Hot Springs is definitely impacted by that,” said Neilson. “If you look at the number of businesses downtown that are either a gallery or somehow supported by art — even if you look at All Things Arkansas, all of the items in there come from Arkansas so that impacts our Arkansas creative economy. Not only is tourism impacted, but our economy is impacted by the arts and culture, so it behooves all of us to have a strong, healthy arts organization to support that.”

There will be numerous arts events throughout the festival, including artist demonstrations at downtown galleries, artist workshops for all ages, poetry readings and more. Returning this year is special guest artist John Bramblitt who will hold a workshop with adults with developmental disabilities on May 5. Bramblitt will also attend a screening of “John,” a short film about his inspiring story hosted by the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival on May 3.

“John Bramblitt is blind and he creates these amazing pieces of art, and he has no sight,” said Neilson. “Not only is he a phenomenal artist, he’s so inspiring and he’s just an incredible individual. He’s so optimistic and kind and just a wonderful person to welcome to Hot Springs.”

The festival will close with Art Springs, a free two-day outdoor juried art festival and showcase held at Hill Wheatley Plaza May 7-8. This “festival within a festival” will feature artists’ booths, artist demonstrations, children’s art wall and live performances on the festival stage. Special Mother’s Day activities and a brunch will be held on the second day of Art Springs and Neilson said festival organizers encourage guests to bring their mothers to the event to enjoy the food trucks, jazz music and a beautiful time in 300_7853downtown Hot Springs.

Reader’s Circle, a special area set aside for poetry, reading and storytelling will also be included in Art Springs.

“I think (this festival) celebrates what we already have here. We focus so much of it on specifically our local artists and our galleries and people who are our creative economy in Hot Springs that are here 365 days a year,” Neilson said. “This is a 10-day event celebrating our arts community, and they are a part of our arts community and that’s what sets our festival apart. It’s a 10-day festival celebrating the people that are already here and adding those special guests to add even more to it.

“From the board’s perspective, we want people to be involved, whether it’s volunteers or sponsorships. This is an integral part of our Hot Springs community and this is what makes Hot Springs not just another little town and what sets us apart. Obviously we have a national park, but we also have our arts community and we really just want to rally together and support them and encourage them and build it up and make it even stronger.”

Visit http://www.hotspringsarts.org for a complete schedule of festival events.

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