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Artist Showcase

by Charlie Alison

While the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art just 30 minutes north of campus provides a world-renowned collection of artwork for Arkansans to see, another “gallery” just 30 seconds from the center of campus might rightfully claim to be the center of art created by Arkansans for Arkansans.

That gallery is ower ouse, the campus residence of Chancellor and Mrs. Gearhart, a home designed to provide a space for the university’s chancellor to entertain friends of the university, alumni, benefactors, students, parents, public dignitaries and faculty.

Since completion of Fowler House in 2008, Chancellors White and Gearhart have hosted more than 800 events, with more than 17,000 guests in attendance. Significant dignitaries have included former President Bill Clinton, former Panama President Ricardo Martinelli and several presidential cabinet members, U.S. senators and governors.

Just as important to the campus are the receptions that honor students who have achieved academic honors, faculty who have attained new successes and alumni who return for visits to campus.

Fowler House has become known as the “campus living room,” by allowing the university to further extend its hospitality in a comfortable and beautiful location designed to make guests feel especially welcome.

Adorning this campus living room, drawing all visitors to the Hill, are more than 30 works of art owned by the university as well as 11 pieces owned by the Gearharts themselves.
From the soft pastels of Alice Andrews’ Cow Grazing, Boxley Valley and Adrian Brewer’s Spring Landscape to the exuberant colors of George Hunt’s cubist Delta Bluesman and Donald Roller Wilson’s surrealistic Cookie, the art of Fowler House reminds visitors of the depth and breadth that Arkansas artists represent.

Scenic pieces from Louis Freund, Charles Harrington and Glenn Gant give a regional hint of mountain towns like Eureka Springs. Landscapes by Barry Thomas, Judy Howard, Glenn Swedlun and William McNamara spread the fields, thickets, swamps, hollows and hillsides of Arkansas across their canvasses.

Sculpture such as Anita Huffington’s Earth AP4, James Hayes’ hand-blown glass vases and Robyn Horn’s Slightly Off Course Again are the earliest three-dimensional pieces acquired.
The artwork has come from purchases by the university, gifts from benefactors and loans from the University of Arkansas Libraries.

Jane Gearhart said she couldn’t pick a favorite. “So much thought and care went into the selection of each piece,” she said. “I particularly remember when Mike and Cathy Mayton of the Stella Boyle Smith Trust surprised us by personally delivering a Carroll Cloar painting — Waiting for Queen Elberta at the Peach Festival. It was a work Dave and I had our eye on for the Fowler collection and the Maytons made it happen.”

Judy Schwab, associate vice chancellor, helped identify artists and pieces to add to the university’s collection.

“It’s been wonderful over the last seven years to see how the Fowler House art collection has fostered a deeper awareness and appreciation of Arkansas artists among the university’s alumni and friends, faculty, staff, and students,” she said. “The collection — which we began to acquire in 2008 — has increased awareness of our state’s artists and fostered a deeper appreciation of the importance and prominence of Arkansas artists  in our country’s art history. Almost all visitors to the chancellor’s residence — and that’s been thousands each year — seem to have their favorite work or works.”