by Matthew Hutcheson | September 25, 2022 at 12:00 a.m. - El Dorado Newstimes
The El Dorado Conference Center is livening up its space with new rotating exhibits courtesy of the South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society and the South Arkansas Arts Center.
The two organizations will each have separate exhibits at the Conference Center that will rotate on a regular basis.
The exhibits, called the South Arkansas Gallery Collective, are the result of a collaboration between the SAHPS, SAAC and the SouthArk Foundation, El Dorado Conference Center Marketing Director Caroline Callaway said.
"The South Arkansas Community College Foundation board of directors is pleased to collaborate with the South Arkansas Arts Center and the South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society on the South Arkansas Gallery Collective. The exhibits that will be curated and displayed in the El Dorado Conference Center will be open to the public for viewing and enjoyment. We are pleased that our college campus provides a home for art and dialogue. This is part of our commitment for lifelong learning – we continue to be committed to and play a crucial role in our region's cultural life," wrote SouthArk Foundation director Cynthia Reyna in an email to the News-Times.
The exhibits, Callaway said, will exist for both El Dorado residents and people who come from elsewhere to attend events at the center.
"[The new exhibits] really come from a place of wanting change... I think we want to take advantage of what our community has to offer. We at the Conference Center house several events for people who don't live in town and may not know to go to the Historical Preservation Society or the South Arkansas Arts Center to look at these kinds of things. But, they may be here and in between sessions and able to look at these exhibits and see what [El Dorado has] to offer," Callaway said.
"Our goal is to get as many people in here to look at this as possible," she continued. "It's open to the public and we want people to come see it."
The majority of SAHPS's first display, featuring historical state and local election artifacts, was already on display at the Conference Center on Thursday.
SAHPS director Steve Biernacki said that the display is the first time the gallery's entire archive of election material has been displayed at once.
The Historical Preservation Society, Biernacki said, will next look to possibly feature pieces from the Fitzgerald Collection, a vast archive of film memorabilia collected by late El Dorado resident Michael Fitzgerald.
Biernacki also celebrated the growing collaboration between the participating organizations.
"We're stronger together doing things and can do bigger and better things for the community if we work together. We've already started that process with SouthArk; we do rotating exhibits in their library and collaborate on as much as we possibly can including the [South Arkansas] Literary Festival," he said.
SAAC's exhibits will replace a collection of Japanese art prints the organization previously displayed at the conference center. SAHPS will rotate its exhibit after around four months and SAAC will rotate its exhibit after nine months, leaving a new exhibit at the Conference Center approximately every four months.
SAAC, according to director Laura Allen, is using the opportunity to display pieces from its permanent collection, of which the Japanese art prints are only a small part.
"Our plan is to rotate pieces from our permanent collection. We have an extensive collection of local and regional art... We showed it once during COVID when a lot of things got cancelled. So there's things that people haven't seen in a long time. We're going to start with a range of pieces and probably as we change it do a specific artist or a specific time period," Allen said.
SAAC plans to put up its exhibit at the Conference Center next week.
"It's a big part of our mission, collecting and preserving the art of local artists... We're excited to show it at the Conference Center and get it out into the community," Allen said.
SouthArk president Dr. Bentley Wallace, credited by Reyna and Callaway with spear-heading the new partnership, also celebrated the new exhibits in an email to the News-Times.
"The college is so excited to extend our arts programming through the South Arkansas Gallery Collective. The revolving exhibits from the South Arkansas Arts Center and the South Arkansas Historic Preservation Society will offer El Dorado Conference Center guests and SouthArk students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to see art and artifacts in a convenient and familiar setting," Wallace wrote.
A reception for the new exhibits will be held on October 13 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Conference Center.