‘Creative Roots’: Arts & The Park Returns to Hot Springs
Hot Springs has long been applauded for its efforts in the arts community. Combining arts and the outdoors, Arts & The Park is back for another year, with the theme of “Creative Roots” and plentiful opportunities to experience all genres of art.
According to Mary Zunick, cultural affairs manager of Visit Hot Springs, the city has been committed to celebrating the arts and integrating them into the community for decades.
Years ago, Don Munro and Dorothy Morris, both prominent local philanthropists, started working toward rebooting the Hot Springs Area Culture Alliance (HSACA), becoming official in 2014, allowing for the planning of Arts & The Park to begin.
“We want people to think of Hot Springs as an arts community all 365 days of the year, pushing to keep Hot Springs at the forefront of art in Arkansas,” Zunick says.
Scheduled from April 29 to May 8, Arts & The Park will be hosted by the HSACA and include live performances, workshops, children’s events and exhibitions. With a wide variety of activities, Zunick says the festival contains something for everyone.
The annual event that first began in 2015, after briefly converting to a primarily virtual event in 2020 and 2021, will return as a hybrid event this year — offering both in-person and virtual opportunities.
Including activities to represent all of the arts, Art Springs, the two-day, free festival will be kicking off Arts & The Park from April 30 to May 1. Taking place at Hill Wheatley Plaza, located in the heart of downtown Hot Springs, the festival will be jam-packed with talented artists, artisans and fine crafts. There will also be food truck and beverage vendors, the Renaissance fair and a children’s area with a book giveaway.
“There’s really something for everyone with every interest,” Zunick says. “Whether you’re interested in visual arts or poetry or music, or whether you’re looking to purchase art for your home or as a gift, there are options for everyone.”
While this event is focused on highlighting the arts in Hot Springs, Zunick also speaks about the importance of fun being a cornerstone for visitors’ experiences.
“I think that art is a high priority for Hot Springs. Downtown is, of course, known for nature, history, bathhouses and Majestic Park. It’s nice that there’s more than one thing to do, and art is permeated throughout our community,” Zunick says. “There’s a unique ability to not only catch a concert or step into a gallery but for visitors to experience enrichment and for residents to experience artistic offers throughout the year.”
While Arts & The Park is not new to Hot Springs, it has almost been revived in a sense, after being limited because of safety and health concerns in recent years. While it is no longer the only source to experience the event through, the virtual evolution has allowed for Arts & The Park to outlive its 10-day in-person stretch.
This year, the virtual cooking class will be hosted by Andrew Disney from VAULT restaurant. The online event will allow attendees to follow along to prepare a meal to enjoy with their families and friends in the comfort of their own homes.
There will also be a virtual photo exhibit displayed on the website for attendees to look back on throughout the year. Don House, fine art and portrait photographer and writer, will lead a workshop centered around Mike Disfarmer — the late small-town Arkansas photographer whose negatives came to national attention in the 1970s, despite his famous works being developed in the early 1900s through 1959.
“This exhibition of Mike Disfarmer’s work and the Don House workshop seemed the perfect fit for the 2022 Arts & The Park theme ‘Creative Roots,’” Zunick says. “We are thankful to the Arkansas Department of Heritage and Arkansas Arts Council for their sponsorship of the festival, which seeks to encourage artists to draw inspiration from their own individual ancestry or the cultural heritage of our state.”
Disfarmer’s portraits rose to fame after his death, with his work now widely acclaimed. House will lead the workshop in accordance with Disfarmer’s signature style, and participants will be able to take pictures with their own cameras. Reproductions of his works will be on exhibit at the Hot Springs Convention Center debuting on April 28.
Along with unique online events taking place, there is a broad lineup of in-person activities, including chalk sidewalk creations, a book giveaway to foster love for literature and more. The songwriter competition will ensue for the second year to pay homage to local music legend Henry Glover, and young artists will be encouraged to participate in a mural workshop. The 10-day event will include other exciting activities and workshops for attendees.
While Hot Springs’ gallery walks take place the first Friday of every month, the Arts & The Park gallery walk will offer visitors an opportunity to visit all the galleries on May 7. In addition to this, artists will be opening their studios for on-site tours from May 7 to 8, presented in partnership with Riser Ford. These tours will be free and self-guided, allowing a glimpse into the artists’ creative process and environment.
Arts & The Park is about fun and enrichment, fostering a love for art in attendees and supporting the community. The HSACA will host an annual fundraiser on April 23 at the Mid-America Science Museum. “Hot Seats in Hot Springs” will be emceed by Maxwell Blade and Davis Tillman, who will live auction 15 handcrafted Arkansas Cypress Adirondack chairs that were individually painted by 15 jury-selected artists.
According to Zunick, the same fundraiser was conducted in 2005, with local businesses sponsoring the chairs. The painted Adirondack chairs can be found throughout Hot Springs.
In addition to Arts & The Park, the HSACA will continue to work on fostering a community for the arts in Hot Springs. For more information about arts and cultural events in Hot Springs, visit hotspringsarts.org.