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story.lead_photo.caption Art on the Green gallery director Brenda McClain (left) and curator of education Kelly Booy set up an exhibit Thursday in Conway. - Photo by Benjamin Krain

CONWAY -- For some, the 3,000-square-foot gallery is a place to enjoy and perhaps buy fine art, whether it's an oil painting, a sculpture or a photograph.

For others, it is a place to learn through classes, art books or a stroll among the artworks, which rotate on display every three months.

"We have more than one person who calls us their place of peace," said Brenda McClain, director of Art on the Green, a gallery owned by Conway artist Nina Baker and her husband, David Baker.

Located on Bob Courtway Drive in Conway's Littleton Park since September 2013, the gallery offers works by more than 30 artists and shares artworks with others through exhibitions and special displays. Works can be viewed online at artonthegreen.net.

An exhibition titled Arkansas Natural, for instance, is showing through Aug. 25 at the Governor's Mansion in Little Rock. On display and for sale are 40 paintings by Nina Baker, Carolyn Baker, Parilee Croft, Jay Ewing, Linda Flake and Sheila Parsons.

Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock, the University of Central Arkansas in Conway and Conway Corp. are just a few of the public spaces that are now home to works from Art on the Green.

Among commissioned works by the gallery's artists is sculptor Bryan Massey's 2,000-pound, stainless steel bear. For a glimpse of it, drive by Donaghey Hall at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, where the huge bear appears to be looking over its shoulder as it climbs up the brick building.

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Perhaps the best known artist featured at the gallery is C. Ford Riley, known as "the Winslow Homer of the South," McClain said. Riley lives in Florida and Georgia. His landscape paintings reflect nature, even duck-hunting season in Stuttgart.

"He really has elevated our opportunities by believing in us," McClain said.

Riley's painting Spring Morning hangs near the gallery's front door. A visual feast of browns and greens, the painting shows two turkeys in a forest. Nearby is his Deer in Fog Break. Brown is again a dominant color.

Nina Baker's works are varied. There's 8 Piece Special, a watercolor of blue, red, white and orange chickens. Sheep from Pisgah, a sheep farm she and her husband own, show up in other paintings. Pisgah is the Hebrew word for mountains.

"The sheep farm for us is a gift from God, combining tranquility, biblical lessons from the sheep, endless plein air painting opportunities and physical exercise," Baker is quoted as saying on the gallery's website.

Many of Baker's works reflect nature, from flowers to birds to a nest with three pale blue eggs. In Joy, a little girl in blue holds a lamb.

Some of the gallery's art reflects the city's and the region's history.

Siloam Springs artist John P. Lasater IV's works, for example, include a painting of Stoby's, a longtime Conway restaurant shown just two weeks before it caught fire last year. It is a plein-air work, meaning he painted it outdoors and on-site -- in this case, a small, yellow restaurant with green-and-white awning on Donaghey Avenue.

There is also Megan Ledbetter's photograph titled Road Most Traveled. It shows a dilapidated wooden bridge over Cadron Creek. Parts of the bridge are missing. The cars that once crossed it have given way to a green forest of trees, flowers and weeds growing into, around and over the bridge.

Croft, assistant gallery director and artist in residence, offers paintings of sunflowers, daffodils, bluebonnets and more; boats parked in Israel and a boat in Iceland that's sitting near both a glacier and brilliantly green grass. She's also painted an apple so green it could be the gallery's logo.

A committee decides which works the gallery will display.

"We want all of our artists to fit with our vision, our heart for the arts," McClain said.

That vision, she said, is "to bring beauty into Conway" at a time when the world and the country face so many problems.

Gallery prices are as varied as the artworks, from two-digit to five-digit figures. Other items, such as illustrated note or recipe cards, also are available and can be commissioned.

While the gallery is a business, it welcomes visitors who simply want to stop by for a few moments.

"We have people who come here to read," McClain said. "We want you to come here and feel at home."

The gallery also offers tours to small groups, said Kelly Booy, the gallery's curator of education.

Visitors might include young artists who can see that their passions are also "a legitimate career," Booy said. Others might say they love pastels and want to start collecting them, she said.

"There are just so many seeds that can be planted" at the gallery, Booy said.

Or as Baker put it, "Art on the Green is about community. A community of peace, love and learning. Everyone is welcome."

State Desk on 07/05/2017

Print Headline: Gallery features art, classes, peace

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