SAAC is hosting an exhibition entitled “The Warner Brown Artistic Development Committee: A Reunion for This Moment” now through March 27. Curated by Gay Bechtelheimer, the exhibition reunites artwork selected for the interior of Warner Brown Hospital after its major expansion in the 1970s by the Artistic Development Committee, chaired by founding SAAC member Lyda Merkle. It combines artwork from the collections of the SHARE Foundation, the South Arkansas Arts Center, and the Merkle family to represent the artists and patrons who made this impressive artistic effort possible.

Painter and educator Millard Sheets worked closely with Merkle to help the committee develop a “master plan for the artistic development of Warner Brown Hospital.” Using the natural beauty and abundance of Arkansas as their inspiration, Merkle and Sheets assembled a collection that included both of their own work, which are prominently featured in the exhibition. Also included is the work of Milford Zornes and Alvar Sunol Munoz-Ramos.

Those familiar with the hospital may remember many of the pieces on display, including the large-scale mural that once hung in the lobby. Painted by Susan Hertel, it depicts the people of Arkansas journeying through life’s ends and beginnings. The tapestry featured was designed by Joe Ellen, of El Dorado, and woven by Pinton Brothers, D’Aubusson, France.

A new addition to the building at SAAC are terra cotta relief sculptures created by sculptor Betty Davenport Ford, a student of Sheets. Depicting the wildlife of South Arkansas, the glazed stoneware sculptures include a fox, quail, bobcat, and doe and fawn. Displayed at the main entry doors at Warner Brown for decades, these four were recently installed on SAAC’s re-designed front façade, while a group of squirrels has found a home at the South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society.

“A Reunion for This Moment” is a beautiful tribute to the history of arts and culture in South Arkansas. The exhibit is on view Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a reception scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 14.

Susan Hertel, mural from the Warner Brown lobby, paint on wood panel 8’x30′ from the Share Foundation Collection. 

“The wonderful people of Arkansas live near the real center of life. They know the secrets of life’s beginnings and the skills of raising and gathering the foods that sustain it; they know the ways of healing to protect it; they dignify the death that ends it. Their music and stories celebrate these things.  Their arts and crafts echo the beauty of their surroundings.  Their days are filled with hard work and humor.  They live in harmony with the earth, their neighbors, and their God.” – Susan Hartel, Mural Artist.