We invite you to have “More Fun Per Gallon” in Arkansas this year. Each day we will be blogging on different Arkansas destinations which can be reached on one tank of gas or less. This is basically every corner of The Natural State. We hope these suggestions help you in planning a trip to remember.
Today’s Trip: The Hot Springs Art Scene
Known as one of the “100 Best Art Towns in America.” , Hot Springs is a nice day trip option to get your art fix in. It is home to the Museum of Contemporary Art (the state’s first contemporary art museum), monthly Gallery Walks, the Fine Arts Center of Hot Springs (the state’s oldest art organization), the Artchurch Studio, and annual festivals such as the Hot Springs Music Festival, Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, and the upcoming Hot Springs Blues Festival ( which starts August 30).
If you want to take in the scene, a stop by the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) at the Ozark Bathhouse on Bathhouse Row is a must. MOCA opened in 2009, making it the first contemporary art museum in Arkansas. The 14,000 square foot facility, formerly known as the Ozark Bathhouse, displays modern art pieces from around the world. In a nod to their Arkansas roots, they also have a permanent collection of Disfarmer photographs on display. The museum is at 425 Central Avenue.
For me, architecture is art, so just strolling down Bathhouse Row and taking in all the different forms of architecture each bathhouse highlights is a nice way to enjoy a day.
Described as “the grandest collection of bathhouses of their kind in the nation,” the Row is a National Historic Landmark District with structures dating to the late 1800s. Eight bathhouses make up the Row including the Buckstaff Bathhouse, which has operated continuously since 1912 and is celebrating its 100 year anniversary this year. It is the only bathhouse on the Row that has never closed and it still offers the traditional spa treatment.
Lunch: check out the 3 Arts Café and Bookstore in the Hale Bathhouse lobby. This is a project of the Muses Creative Artistry Project, who are hoping to lease the building for a performance venue and arts- education center too. Here are options for other dining spots too.
While downtown, be sure to check out the many (many) art galleries that can be found here. The town also hosts Gallery Walks the first Friday of every month, where the galleries stay open late. I enjoy strolling through them all including Star Gallery, which is an artist co-op.
Also downtown is Low Key Arts, an unassuming venue and a hot spot for the independent art/music scene. They put on the popular Valley of the Vapors festival and the Hot Water Hills Music & Arts Festival ( Oct. 5 this year) and many many other cool events and shows throughout the year. The warehouse, which is located 1 block North of downtown, was renovated in 2007 and has since become a beacon for creativity. Nearby is also Artchurch Studios, a non-profit that provides arts opportunities in the community.
The town is also home to some great pottery shops. Dryden Pottery houses the largest showroom of handmade pottery in the state and is known for colorful handmade pieces such as plates, bowls, cups and vases. Materials used for the pottery include Ouachita Mountain clays and Arkansas quartz crystal.
Dryden’s is a four-generation family business. It was founded in Kansas by Alan James Dryden in 1946. Ten years later he relocated the business to Hot Springs. Dryden’s son, James (“Kimbo”), learned wheel-made pottery and is at the helm of the operation today. Kimbo’s sons are all potters too The shop is located at 341 Whittington Avenue. They can also be reached at 501-623-4201.
Since 1973, Fox Pass Pottery has been a landmark of the Hot Springs arts community. The studio is set in a woodland setting nestled against Hot Springs National Park and features handmade pottery by Jim and Barbara Larkin. The Larkin’s specialize mainly in functional work and Barbara does sculptural work. Jim’s work is made on the potter’s wheel and Barbara’s is hand built.Over the years, their gameplan has been to stay small and specialize in hand crafted specialized items. Fox Pass Pottery is located at 379 Fox Pass. For more details call 501-623-9906 or visit www.foxpasspottery.com.
This is just a quick peek at what can be found art wise in town. Enjoy!