A regular stop on our yearly Little Rock Writing Marathon is The River Market’s ArtSpace on President Clinton Avenue. Aside from being an excellent place to write, it’s also one of those galleries where I could easily mortgage my house and fill it with every single piece I see.
These paintings, for example. The artist is Megan Chapman, a blog acquaintance of mine who lives and paints in Fayetteville. These sorry cellphone shots don’t do her work justice, so you’ll need to visit her site to get a better look. She also has an Etsy shop where she sells smaller works on paper.
Imagine my surprise when, four days later, the River Market ArtSpace announced a sudden and permanent close. Something about a failure to renegotiate a lease. After twelve years, it’s going to be a food joint or a – hell, I don’t know – a souvenir shop for cheap presidential trinkets. What it won’t be is a gallery featuring the finest local artists Arkansas offers.
Artists like Marc Hatfield. I went to kindergarten with Marc and scads of other professor’s kids. His father taught art and is still creating – the walls of the building where I teach every day are covered with his work. His mother, one of the loveliest women I ever met, attempted to teach me French in college. The story of their lives is the stuff of novels.
Why does any of this history matter? Because a couple of years ago I wandered into the River Market ArtSpace and came face-to-wall with the visible attainment of Marc’s kindergarten hopes. He wanted to be an artist when he grew up and there he was, canvas after canvas.
I spent the next hour in the basement of the Flying Saucer weeping into bar napkins and scribbling in my notebook. I was half tempted to barter my car for one of his paintings. If I hadn’t given all those teachers from Yell county a ride, I might have done it.
So there’s more to a gallery closing than hanging a sign and turning it into some burger joint. It’s a personal loss for me and for all the writers I take to the River Market. Next year, we may get our passports in order and set sail for Hot Springs instead.