BY JACLYN ROSE –
Seventy years ago, a group of local artists began meeting in homes in Polk County. During wartime, these artists used this time to share their work as a form of release and out of that group Southwest Artists, Incorporated, was created. Sometime later the name, Mena Art Gallery, was added to counteract the confusion that the Southwest Artists only created Southwestern style art. Today, the two names are synonymous and are used interchangeably.
Located at 607 Mena Street in Mena, Arkansas, Mena Art Gallery is a place for both artists and lovers of art, of any age. New shows open once a month, with the exception of the Christmas Gift Show that goes up on the 4th of November and lasts through the end of December. These shows exhibit a wide variety of local talent. “I encourage everyone to come and check out our Christmas Gift Show, there will be many pieces of very affordable, unique, handmade art for people looking for something different to give as a gift,” explained the Gallery’s Executive Director, Julie Vande Zande. Most recently Mena Art Gallery hosted The Art of the Heartland, a National Juried Painting Competition and their only show that is open to the entire country. This was their first year for the competition.
Mena Art Gallery is open on Tuesday for Art Day from 11 am until 2 pm. Local artists come in and bring what they are currently working on, they visit and eat lunch, and this is open to any artist working on any project. “This is such a neat group of people, they have such a great comradery. If anyone has a question about what they are working on, or how to do something, there is always someone who can answer the questions. It’s very fun,” said Vande Zande.
Mena Art Gallery is also open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 am until 3 pm and hosts several classes and groups on different Saturdays of the month. Every 2nd Saturday from 10 am until 12 pm a photography club meets, and then from 1 pm until 3 pm, there is a children’s art class for ages 6-12. For two dollars per person the children participate in many different types of art. Every 3rd Saturday from 1 pm until 3 pm there is a young artist’s class for ages 13-17. Mena Art Gallery also runs special workshops for different types of art. For more information on any of the classes or to request a special art workshop check their website at www.menaartgallery.org or call 479.394.3880.
On Saturday, November 7, the Mena Art Gallery will host their annual Ouachita Arts Celebration downtown in the Art District. The street will be blocked off from 10 am until 4 pm and there will be a large selection of family friendly events to be enjoyed. “This is a community celebration of the arts, there will be so many demonstrations: pastel, watercolor, fiber-arts, a whole big mix of stuff. There will also be face painting, live music, balloon art, a popcorn stand, and of course the Skyline Café and American Artisans will be open and serving food. We will also have a drum circle, flint knapping, and The Fair Lady will be hosting a fashion show. Tommy Young will be there with his flying birds and the Mena High School Choir will be performing. Rich Mountain Community College will be doing a culinary arts demonstration and there will be art vendors set up. The Ouachita Little Theater will also be performing skits,” explained Vande Zande.
“We have an amazing amount of art talent in the Mena and Polk County area. There is such a variety of different types of art, I encourage everyone to come and visit the gallery any chance you get,” Vande Zande said.