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Shown left to right: RMCC President Phillip Wilson, RMCC History Instructor Kathy Adams, Artist Linda Palmer, RMCC Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs Steve Rook, and Jan Wennberg.

RMCC Hosts Linda Palmer for Champion Trees Presentation

Double-Nickel Club Purchases Drawing of Mena’s Own Champion Tree

BY MELANIE BUCK –  

Rich Mountain Community College hosted artist Linda Williams Palmer in the Ouachita Center on Monday, March 2, for her Champion Trees presentation and drawing debut. Not only did Palmer give a presentation of her Champion Trees collection, Kathy Adams’ 55 and older classes from RMCC purchased Palmer’s drawing of Mena’s own Champion Tree.

Linda Williams Palmer began her visual arts career in 1980 by studying with Don Lee and Pete Howard at the Westark Community College, now the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. With an Associate Degree already in hand, she immersed herself in drawing and painting classes while raising a family, and did so for five years, ending her research with a Special Projects class on “The Landscape.”  From 1985, Palmer directed her focus on establishing her visual arts career.  She opened a studio and The Linda Palmer Gallery in Fort Smith, created multiple series of work, entered and was selected for numerous competitions, and was publicly and privately collected.  When she moved to Hot Springs in 1991, she opened her studio and Palmer’s Gallery 800 on Central Avenue.  It has since moved upstairs in the same location and is now known as the Linda Palmer Gallery.

Artist Linda Palmer's drawing of Mena's 'T. Texas Tyler Tree' - Arkansas' Champion Water Oak.
Artist Linda Palmer’s drawing of Mena’s ‘T. Texas Tyler Tree’ – Arkansas’ Champion Water Oak.

Palmer’s latest series, Arkansas Champion Trees: an Artist’s Journey, began in 2007 when she viewed the online list of the largest and oldest examples of each species of tree determined by Arkansas foresters.  The Champion series has entailed over 5,000 miles of travel across the state, accompanying documentary photography, and research into the history and science of the trees.  Part of her journey has been to share her knowledge and artistic expertise with arts groups and institutions, and via educational programs sponsored by the Arkansas Forestry Commission.

RMCC said they were honored to host Palmer for her presentation and the debut of her latest drawing of a champion tree from Mena.  The tree is the largest water oak in the state of Arkansas and is located on the old Myrick homestead, which now belongs to Dr. Robert Manis and wife, Suzanne.  The homestead belonged to the grandparents of none other than T. Texas Tyler, the first country western singer to perform in Carnegie Hall in New York City whose origins began in here.

The tree has withstood countless tornadoes, straight-line winds, floods, and ice storms, to maintain its glory. It even withstood the Manis’ children when they spent hours climbing up and down the trunk to their treehouse that was perched in the limbs.

Dr. Manis said, “This tree is named the T. Texas Tyler Memorial Tree. The land was originally owned by the Myrick family. Tyler’s real name was David Luke Myrick. This was his grandparents’ farm and Luke spent a lot of time here.” Since this was the only land in Arkansas that Tyler owned and he was the first country western star to play Carnegie Hall, the tree was named in honor of him.

One of RMCC's 55 and older classes, also called the Double-Nickel Club, visited the T. Texas Tyler Tree.
One of RMCC’s 55 and older classes, also called the Double-Nickel Club, visited the T. Texas Tyler Tree.

Since 1940, the National Big Tree Program’s goal has been to, “to preserve and promote the iconic stature of these living monarchs and educate people about the key role that these remarkable trees and forests play in sustaining a healthy environment.” There are more than 750 trees listed on the national list; Arkansas has over 130 on the state list.

There are many species in Arkansas that have not made the list so far. You could be Arkansas’ next big tree hunter. To submit a tree, you must measure the tree according to standards listed on their website, http://www.arhistorictrees.org/ or by contacting your local forestry station. You will need the trunk circumference, height, and crown spread. A formula, called the Bigness Index, using these measurements is calculated for species that have more than one submission. There is another Water Oak submission from Chicot County in Southeastern Arkansas however the Manis’ tree is slightly bigger. Trees are re-measured every ten years.

The Arkansas Champion Tree program is the subject of a documentary on AETN. Their website explains, “With lives spanning hundreds of years, these silent sentinels have watched history unfold around them. “Champion Trees” is a one-hour AETN original documentary that explores these natural wonders and how they influence and inspire the people around them. Featured in the documentary are champion trees from throughout Arkansas from Fayetteville to Helena and many points in between.” The documentary has won two Emmys, Best Cultural Documentary and Best Cinematography, among other highly acclaimed awards.

RMCC's Double-Nickel Club hug the tree to show its enormity.
RMCC’s Double-Nickel Club hug the tree to show its enormity.

Palmer is also included in the documentary. Palmer said, “These trees have witnessed the history of our state, along with the histories of the families and people that lived around them. Arkansas has such natural beauty and our trees are an important part of our heritage. My desire is to celebrate this beauty with my art.”

The Manis’ tree was the focus of a field trip of RMCC’s history classes for 55 and older students. Instructor Kathy Adams said the classes have 135 students who are focusing on the history of the Ouachitas and Ozarks. The 55 and older students are known as the ‘double-nickel club’ who all donated money to purchase Palmer’s drawing of the T. Texas Tyler tree. The drawing will hang in the Ouachita Center for all to enjoy.

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