River Valley Arts Center Revival

by | May 11, 2022 | Features

Photo by Liz Chrisman

Throughout history, art has told the stories of communities and cultures.

Early one Saturday morning, as she took a break from her weekend work at the Arkansas River Valley Arts Center, I sat down with Randi Cañas and we discussed the future narrative of the organization.

The Arts Center has long served as a home to pottery, music and painting classes for artists and patrons in the River Valley. As of late, the building and culture experienced woeful neglect as the center suffered through pandemic closures and declining membership. The past two years have certainly taken a toll on the little art building on the east side of Russellville.

Randi, Executive Director since November 2021, is working at lightning speed to ensure that the little building once filled to the brim with local art and pottery, and classes of artists at all levels, can once again become the center of attention.

While she has lived in both small hometowns and large cities, Randi says the Arkansas River Valley is a community that gives her the relationships and support that make her feel at home.

She’s not just a dreamer. Randi is a doer, as well. These two worlds will soon collide, integrating existing and new plans. It’s going to be an exciting year!

Painted ponies invited to the party

Party in the Park is a staple event for the Arts Center that has been widely attended for several years.

The Arts Center marked 40 years in the River Valley in 2021. While a celebration was postponed, they are ready to commemorate their 40th at Russellville City Park on Saturday, May 21st, with Party in the Park.

This year “painted ponies” will be in attendance. Using veterinarian-approved paint, children will be allowed to paint the equestrian guests from the Short and Sweet Miniature Horse farm in Hector. What miniature pony doesn’t enjoy a good party?

The celebration will also have crafts, bounce houses, and visiting artists (visual and musical) – a great time for families and artists.

The Artist Hangout

Randi wants to see the Arts Center filled with artists – and their art – again.

What the center has always offered in the way of pottery, painting and musical classes, is still on the calendar, with summer camps for kids in the works. This will be a busy year at the Arts Center and volunteers and members are very much needed.

Workshops and courses are taught by an array of local artists. The classes have always been a popular offering in the River Valley, so it’s easy to see why the little arts center is a community favorite. It has something to offer artists as well as people who just like to hang out with artists!

In the rotating Main Exhibit Gallery, artwork is displayed for each artist for a month and has bookings into the next year. This year the gallery has displayed the artwork of Jessica Mongeon, Alex Rodriguez, and Wilson Whitlock. High school students who competed in the High School Competitions saw their artwork on display, as well.

Local artists on the upcoming calendar include Brenda Morgan, John Lightfoot, and Trent Connor.

Randi provides exhibit space for local artists who need to showcase their work. Having the background of a gallery is important to artists who are broadening their experiences and striving to be recognized.

The Arts Center also works in conjunction with the Russellville Downtown Art Walk, the Visitor’s Center at Lake Dardanelle, and the library – to display artwork for the community to enjoy in these locations.

Classes available to community

The center has a full class lineup that serves the community, with a wide array of instructors.
Two featured artists and instructors are Sooyan Ahn and Lisa Jones.

Soyoon Ahn, who studied in Korea and also studied under Winston Taylor, teaches pottery at the Arts Center. This class continues to grow as Soyoon adds her own flair to classic techniques.

Lisa Jones, who taught art for Pottsville Schools for 40 years, teaches acrylic and oil painting on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. All classes have discounted price offerings to members of the Arts Center.

A watercolor class geared for seniors lets the young-at-heart socialize while they paint. Experienced art instructor Miranda Townsend ensures that the summer camp for children from Kindergarten through Grade 12, runs smoothly.

Randi was thrilled to announce a free-to-the-community workshop on genealogy research that will be taught by Tom Turner. The introductory course, which begins in June, will teach participants to find ancestors and descendents in their family lineage.

Patrons support artists in our midst

Although normalcy has begun to return to the Arts Center, Randi still has a few things that she would like to see under the proverbial tree. . . members!

Corporate donors are always appreciated and are essential, but Randi would love to see the members, both returning and new, embrace the Arts Center. Memberships are discounted for senior citizens and students.

Members, patrons, and corporate donors all necessary to keep the doors open and allow the classes, theaters and exhibits to continue. Ultimately, Randi would love to have an expanded space for the arts that would allow even more workshops and events.

Members experience not only the workshops and galleries, but the members also take field trips, have mystery dinners, and enjoy themed events.

With a full year of events and activities already on the calendar, the Arts Center also is in need of volunteers to help put the shine back on the facility and assist with programs.

Having a place for artists to express themselves and that serves as a haven for aspiring and experienced artists, brings joy to the community. The Arkansas River Valley Arts Center allows everyone to appreciate the talented artists in the community and get to know the artists and patrons who live here.

Donations and volunteers are always welcome and those interested may visit in person or reach out by phone: (479) 968-2452, social media such as ARV Arts Center on Facebook, or email: rvartscenter@gmail.com. The webpage of the Arkansas River Valley Arts Center is an up-to-date hub for the endless activity at the center.

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