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story.lead_photo.caption Clarke and Cindy Huisman, owner of Cantrell Gallery, are calling on their artist friends for items to be auctioned during the first night of the two-day Tabriz XXV fundraiser for the Arkansas Arts Center. The event takes place the nights of May 4 and May 6. - Photo by John Sykes Jr.

Tabriz -- that two-night, every-other-year fundraiser for the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock -- is turning 25 this year, and organizers are taking the milestone seriously. The theme for the casual May 4 party and May 6 black-tie gala is "New York," complete with a performance by The Midtown Men, four performers from the original cast of Jersey Boys.

Photo by John Sykes Jr.
As longtime gallerists and framers, Cantrell Gallery’s Clarke and Cindy Huisman enjoy working on the Arkansas Arts Center’s Tabriz fundraisers. This year marks the center’s silver anniversary of the two-night event.

Officials hope to raise more than $800,000 from the event, at least $150,000 of which is expected to come from art, antiques and other items sold mostly during the May 4 affair and in limited (and high-dollar) silent and live auctions May 6. Money from Tabriz goes toward art acquisitions and educational programs at the center.

Gathering all those auction items has been left to a committee that includes Cantrell Gallery's Clarke and owner Cindy Huisman. Cindy Huisman's parents, Helen and the late Norman Scott, established Cantrell Gallery in Little Rock as an art and custom-framing business in 1970, making it among the oldest in the area. The Huismans came aboard in the late 1980s.

On the Cantrell Gallery website, Cindy Huisman is deemed the marketing guru, Clarke Huisman's the expert framer and "logistical go-getter," and Helen is proclaimed the design specialist.

Cantrell Gallery features art by established and emerging local and regional artists, some of whom the Huismans have tapped for Tabriz auction items. So far, Clarke Huisman has secured works by favorites including David Coston, Bill Lewis, Katherine Strause and Brad Cushman.

"There's not competition in the arts," Cindy Huisman says. "We're all working toward getting the art out there, for people to have in their lives, to have in their home and their office."

"I see the Arts Center as the hub of arts in the community," she adds between occasional interaction with the gallery's "official greeters," dogs Skye and Zoey.

Clarke and Cindy Huisman met in 1988 while working for the Arkansas Repertory Theatre when it was in a small church across from MacArthur Park. He was a lighting and sound intern, and she was the "properties mistress," working in props. Their first date was a New Year's Eve after-party at The Rep. They married in 1990 and have a grown son, Christian.

Over their many years in the business, they've made connections with artists, collectors and dealers. That network is like a call list for Tabriz auction items.

"This is the only charitable event where we ask the artists that we know to contribute," Cindy Huisman says.

"All the different charities need stuff, but I feel like the Arts Center ... if you're going to support something, it makes sense for artists to want to support this," Clarke Huisman adds.

Some 300 items will be on the block during the May 4 Tabriz: Auction in the City. With elaborate decor throughout the center's atrium and galleries, guests will be transported to New York for a walk around Central Park and other Big Apple landmarks, where they'll find classic street vendor food carts, beverages and pockets of entertainment.

"It's going to feel like when you go to New York or some other big city, there are people around and there are artists around," Clarke Huisman says. Some artists, including the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's John Deering, will be drawing and sketching at the event.

In addition to Arkansas-made items and unique art, patrons also will be privy to bidding on parties, events and experiences, one of which is a catered party at the house of Cindy's mother.

"People love the idea of going to someone's house who has had an art gallery this long," Cindy Huisman says. "She'll play the piano for the party. Isn't that a lot of fun?"

"Thursday [May 4] has an incredible variety of items being offered -- at all price points," says Maria Davison, communications manager for the Arkansas Arts Center. About 40 committee members in total are involved with making Tabriz happen, she says.

Between May 4 and May 6, the center will undergo another transformation for Tabriz: The Silver Anniversary Gala, an elegant affair featuring cocktails, dinner, the small but pricey auctions and the performance by The Midtown Men.

Tickets are $50 for May 4 and $750 for May 6, although gala ticket holders may also attend the opening-night event. Both nights begin at 6 p.m. The May 4 event actually draws a bigger crowd, Davison says. The May 6 dinner is limited to 360 people seated in the galleries.

"People just mill about on [the opening night], and we can fit far more that way," Davison says. As in the past, guests will be able to make bids using a mobile app, which releases them from the pressure of having to guard the items they want. They'll also have the option to simply buy what they want instead of competing with other bidders.

The Huismans are longtime members of the Arkansas Arts Center, with Clarke Huisman currently serving as president of the Contemporaries auxiliary group. That post also puts him on the board of the Arkansas Arts Center. The couple go to as many openings as they can, and through the accompanying lectures, they've come to have a deeper understanding of what they see.

In other words, being involved makes one a better patron of the arts.

"The Arts Center, it's big," Clarke Huisman says. "It can be easy to get lost sometimes, but getting into a smaller group or taking lessons ... helps you make connections easier."

Tickets and information on the two nights of Tabriz are available at or by calling (501) 372-4000.

High Profile on 04/23/2017

Print Headline: Huismans get the goods for 25th Tabriz's auction

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