Our neighbors drove the three of us (my wife, my sister-in-law, and me) to Hot Springs for the First Friday Gallery Walk last night. The guy is an accomplished artist in his own right; their house is flush with his work, mostly oil paintings, but some encaustic.
The event was more interesting and more fun than I imagined. We saw some spectacular works of art by area artists and talked to a number of interesting people, both artists and patrons of the arts (along with some hybrids). And I learned that a number of people with whom I share pottery studio space are involved with the event in one way or another; showing their work, representing the work of others, or simply keeping an eye out on local art developments.
At one gallery, I recognized the work of an artist I knew I’d met, but I didn’t recall who the artist was. Then I saw her name and made the connection; I had not only seen her work, I had met her during a writers’ critique group meeting a few months ago at the Garland County Library. She is a well-known artist locally and beyond. And she has written and is seeking to publish a work of young adult fiction about ten misfit girls and how they adjust to their status and how they respond to bullying. One of the girls, a Muslim, is the protagonist. The book, a few chapters of which I heard her read those months ago, deserves publication.
At another gallery, I ran into a ceramic artist whose works represented a good half of the art on display in the gallery and recognized her as someone I first met on last year’s art studio tours. Since then, we’ve bumped into one another in the pottery studio of the National Park Community College and elsewhere. I spoke to her for a few minutes, looked at her art, and enjoyed being in the company of the people in the gallery who appreciate the work on display.
Throughout the Gallery Walk, our host neighbors ran into untold numbers of people they knew and graciously introduced us. One guy is doing a ten foot by sixteen foot commissioned work for a European client; his “old master” style work hanging in the gallery oozed talent. Another guy paints exquisite scenes from nature, all of which are local to Arkansas. Yet another person, a gallery owner, was exceptionally gracious in offering to go make copies of the bio of an artist who work intrigued me (Matthew Hasty), even though she knew I was neither sufficiently knowledgeable nor sufficiently flush with cash to buy a painting last.
I do not belong in the company of such artists, but I enjoyed it, anyway. I sensed that the artists whose work was on display share a deep camaraderie. I’d like to find such a sense of connection among people who share my enjoyment of writing.
The other day, I had a conversation with someone about organizing a writers’ retreat; we plan to explore the idea. But I see more than an occasional “retreat” to focus on writing. My wish is for a community of writers who nourish one another’s talent by talking of writing and listening to readings and helping sustain a community dedicated to growing talent.
I envision a group of writers gathering regularly at a welcoming bar, knocking back a few drinks, and then writing like the world depended on it. And it does.