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story.lead_photo.caption The North Central Arkansas Art Gallery will celebrate its silver anniversary at a reception from 6-8 p.m. July 24 at the Fairfield Bay Conference Center, 110 Lost Creek Parkway. Making plans for the event are, from left, Fairfield Bay Mayor Paul Wellenberger; Rocky Nickles, general manager of the Fairfield Bay Community Club; Wilba Thompson, co-director of the Fairfield Bay Conference Center; and Charlotte Rierson, art gallery coordinator. - Photo by Staci Vandagriff

FAIRFIELD BAY — The community is invited to celebrate the arts from 6-8 p.m. July 24 as the North Central Arkansas Art Gallery celebrates its 25th anniversary.

The event, which will feature many artists who exhibit at the gallery, will take place at the Fairfield Bay Conference Center, 110 Lost Creek Parkway.

The gallery is a program of the city of Fairfield Bay, the North Central Arkansas Foundation for the Arts and Education, and the Fairfield Bay Community Club.

“We hope the community will come meet the artists and show their appreciation of them for bringing quality art to our children and community for 25 years,” said Charlotte Rierson of Fairfield Bay, art gallery coordinator. “There will be local dignitaries and representatives from the Arkansas Arts Council and the Arkansas Arts Center attending.”

Fairfield Bay Mayor Paul Wellenberger recently signed a proclamation declaring July as Art Appreciation Month in Fairfield Bay.

“This art gallery is such a plus for the community,” Wellenberger said. “The art is so popular with everyone. Everyone — residents and visitors alike — who comes into the center is impressed with the art gallery.

“The people who are building the hotel next door (Cobblestone Hotel and Suites) have already bought three paintings from the gallery,” Wellenberger said. “They know the importance of art to a community.”

Rierson said the North Central Arkansas Foundation for the Arts and Education was established by Irene Puckett in 1993, three years before Rierson moved to Fairfield Bay.

“After I got here, I went to a board meeting and quickly was named the volunteer executive director of the art gallery. It was a group of wonderful people,” said Rierson, who is an artist and has had museum training at the Arkansas Arts Center and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia.

“We wanted to bring in the classics … the fine arts … to our children and community,” she said, noting that the foundation was established to serve Cleburne, Van Buren and Stone counties. “We already had the folk art and the arts and crafts, especially in Mountain View, and that was our main focus at that time.

“Once I had been here for a while, I discovered we had a wealth of talented people here who could work with our children. The foundation now offers poetry and creative writing, the visual arts, theater and music.”

Rierson said the NCA Art Gallery was first housed at the Indian Hills Country Club and then at the Fairfield Bay Library. The gallery moved into the Fairfield Bay Conference Center in 2013, when the center, which was built in 1978 but closed in 2002, reopened after being closed for more than 10 years.

“The North Central Arkansas Art Gallery showcases the works of all artists. We show not only the work of area artists, but we have guest artists from throughout the state as well. We change out the exhibit every six months,” she said.

“The gallery brings excellent, quality art to our community with good taste and family values,” Rierson said. “During the past five years, the gallery has been visited by hundreds of visitors from all parts of the United States and beyond. Vacationers, time-share owners, residents, students, people of all ages and all walks of life have found their way to the North Central Arkansas Art Gallery.

“Whenever we moved the gallery here five years ago, all of this was donated — the professional track lighting, the hanging rails for the paintings and photography, and the glass showcase for the three-dimensional art. This gallery … this whole building … has been a community effort.”

The art is on display, free of charge to the pubic, when the Fairfield Bay Conference Center is open — from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. All art is available for purchase. However, the gallery is also open for special events.

“When we have conferences, meetings, weddings, events, entertainment or visitors coming in for information about the Bay, the art is available for viewing,” said Wilba Thompson, co-director of the conference center with her husband, Bob.

For more information, contact Rierson at (501) 884-6100 or chardon@artelco.com, or Wilba Thompson at (501) 884-4202.

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