The Art Gallery Scene of Hot Springs

Central Avenue, the main thoroughfare of downtown Hot Springs, was named one of the 10 Great Streets in the U.S. this year by the American Planning Association. The street is home to many eye-catching sights, including Gallery Row.

Alison Parsons Gallery in Hot Springs. Photo by Z. Clift.

“Our galleries downtown are all within walking distance of each other and each is committed to creating a comfortable environment for experiencing works of art,” said Alison Parsons, owner of Alison Parsons Gallery at 802 Central Avenue. “To get its true sense of significance one must experience art in person.”

According to Parsons, who grew up in Hot Springs and opened her business in 2006, galleries plays a vital role in the city. “They are a place to build a community, an art ecosystem, cultivating relations between artists, collectors, our residents and visitors,” she said.

Parsons, who is well known for her colorful paintings that capture local scenes like Bathhouse Row and Oaklawn, said each gallery in town exhibits a diverse range of art by local, regional and international artists. She added that Hot Springs is a resort town and the galleries are centrally located and within minutes of parks, lakes and area attractions.

The town is home to both a thriving and supportive arts community and also Gallery Walk, a monthly series that highlights new art exhibitions and showcases local art galleries and studio spaces. During the event, which is held the first Friday of every month, galleries stay open late and artists are also often present to discuss their work.

Among the many galleries that take part in this monthly series is Justus Fine Art Gallery, located at 827 A. Central Avenue. Dolores Justus has owned the gallery for around10 years and her space, which hosts new exhibits every month, features her own work along with work by many other established Arkansas artists including noted sculptor Robyn Horn.

Justus Fine Art Gallery in Hot Springs. Photo by Z.Clift

“The galleries have played a big role in the development downtown,” said Justus. “There have also been a lot of collaborative events between the galleries and artists, with many of the other art events and programs including music, film, poetry, theater and arts education.”

Justus, who is also a painter and has lived in the city for over 20 years, said the Italian artist Benini helped spur the art scene in Hot Springs when he opened a gallery in town in the late 1980s, but prior to that, there was already a strong creative culture in place. Local artists such as the Larsons at Fox Pass Pottery, pen and ink artist Gary Simmons, and others had already laid an important foundation for the further development of the arts.

Justus stated that now Hot Springs has become a destination for art collectors and appreciators. “The galleries and other exhibit venues offer a range of work from artists who are just starting out, to those who are in prominent museum collections,” she said.

“For the gallery owners, it is certainly a labor of love,” she added. “I hope with a lot of the improvements that are happening downtown, the arts will continue to grow and develop. The fine art galleries and wide range of culture offering in Hot Springs are something for the community and state to be really proud of.”