The Art Of Cooperation

The Art Of Cooperation

Wishing Spring Gallery one beautiful collaboration


The Free Weekly/Becca Martin-Brown
Nancy Veach’s “hotties” make holding soup easier and safer.

The first surprise is that it took them so long. The Wishing Spring Gallery has been open on the south edge of Bella Vista since 1982, and many of the people who stop at the native oak-and-stone barn east of U.S. 71 say they’ve driven by for years before curiosity won out.

The second surprise is the variety and quality of artwork they find inside. An artists’ cooperative, the gallery features the creations of 50 members of the Village Art Club, which has been in existence since 1966. On display and for sale are everything from stained glass to pottery, woodwork to jewelry, repurposed denim to traditional paintings — plus photography and whimsical fabric figurines.

“We have lots of useful things,” says the gallery’s director, Pearl Williamson. “And lots of things people don’t expect,” adds artist Bill Croft. The continuing challenge, they agree, is getting the word out to a generation that goes online first.

“We do have regulars,” Croft says, “people who stop in every time they come to see Mom or Grandma.”

Williamson adds that she’s been learning her way around social media, hoping to reach a clientele as diverse as the artists themselves. The youngest currently showing is in her mid-30s, she says, and the oldest is Wanda Roe of Pea Ridge, who is in her late 90s.

The Free Weekly/Becca Martin-Brown
Bill Croft’s first art was stained glass, but more recently he’s turned to fiber art. It was natural, he says, having grown up with a mother who sewed.

Both Williamson and Croft are a rare breed in Bella Vista: They’re Northwest Arkansas natives. Williamson went to school in Gentry and Decatur, and Croft is from Springdale. Coincidentally, both worked in accounting — Williamson at J.B. Hunt and Croft at the historic hotels in Eureka Springs — before turning to their art full time. Croft spent 35 years making stained glass, he says, before taking up quilting and fabric art, and Williamson is a nature photographer.

Croft laughs when asked how he came to his second artistic pastime. “I grew up tethered to a sewing machine,” he says. His mother made everything from coats to prom dresses for Croft, his twin brother and their two sisters, “and I got bored when I retired.”

Williamson says she started like everyone else, taking photos on family vacations. “Then I realized I really, really enjoyed it.” When digital photography became popular, she jumped in head first — but she was still reluctant to show her work beyond friends and family.

“I took some classes at NWACC,” she says, “and my instructors told me I was good.”

That was enough to urge her on, and two years ago, she became director of the gallery. It took financial adjustment, she says, to work for a nonprofit, but it’s clear she loves every minute of it. And she’s got a younger member coming on board to help with rebranding both the gallery and the Village Art Club. Although it’s probably better known as host of the Bella Vista Arts & Crafts Festival in October, one of the club’s priorities has always been to provide higher education art scholarships to aspiring young artists from Benton County.

The Free Weekly/Becca Martin-Brown
Joe Ray Kelly is a new exhibitor at Wishing Spring Gallery.

Williamson, at least, doesn’t think the making of art is endangered by the popularity of computers, iPhones or tablets.

“People enjoy art too much,” she says. “It’s both relaxing and fulfilling. You feel good about something you’ve created.”

Having the big kid, Crystal Bridges Museum, just down the street doesn’t hurt either.

“It’s certainly done wonders for art appreciation in the Midwest,” says Croft.



Wishing Spring Gallery

WHEN — Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday & 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 23

WHERE — 8862 W. McNelly Road at the Bentonville/Bella Vista border

COST — Free; all work is for sale

INFO — 273-1798 or


The Free Weekly/Becca Martin-Brown
Mary Sinkus makes unique wool “pots” for faux plants, but her best sellers at Wishing Spring are wool balls she says speed the drying time for clothes in the dryer.


More To Love

Three other artists’ cooperatives are keeping busy this holiday season:

Heartwood Gallery

Facing Change

Change, says Anita Hejtmanek, is coming to Heartwood Gallery in south Fayetteville. After 17 years, this might be the last Christmas for the artists’ cooperative.

“The gallery is doing great,” she says, “but the neighborhood is so different since the Walmart Market opened.”

Heartwood has epitomized the model of a successful co-op. Each artist works one day a month, pays a small amount of rent that covers utilities and other costs to run the building and gets to keep 100 percent of all sales.

“We opened when the Arkansas Craft Guild gallery closed, because people wanted a place to get local art,” Hejtmanek says. “And we’ve been that place ever since.”

Among the artists showing at the gallery are Margery Shore, Susan Bell, Trent Tally, Linda Flores, Judy Goodwin, Hank Barnes, Janet Greeson, Susan Idlet, Janelle Redlaczyk and Teresa Chard. Categories represented include basketry, pottery, painting, jewelry, photography and stained glass.

WHEN — 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily (except Christmas) through Dec. 31

WHERE — 428 S. Government Ave. in Fayetteville

INFO — 444-0888


The Free Weekly/Becca Martin-Brown
Ruth Klotz paints birds on anything she can, including magnolia leaves.

Eureka Puts

‘Fine’ In Art

The Eureka Fine Art Gallery was founded six years ago on Main Street, then moved to its Pine Street location four years ago. As they do in other artists’ cooperatives, the eight member artists “share the duties and responsibilities of owning and operating the gallery,” says member and spokesman John Rankine.

“We all have to work one day in the gallery, but members can opt out of their day by paying someone to cover for them, allowing artists to spend more time in the studio,” he adds. “Everyone pays dues to cover the operating costs, and each artist receives 90 percent of any sales with 10 percent going back into the co-op.”

Members are painters Larry Mansker, Drew Gentle, John Willer, Diana Harvey and Cynthia Re´Robbins; Ernie Kilman, landscape painter; Teresa Pelliccio Devito, painter and mixed media collage artist; and Rankine, who is a photographer and assemblage artist.

WHEN — 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily; closed Christmas Day

WHERE — 2 Pine St., next to Brews, in Eureka Springs

INFO — Email


The Free Weekly/Becca Martin-Brown
Ruth Klotz paints birds on anything she can, including magnolia leaves.

Fenix Offers

‘Buy And Take’

A large selection of original artworks by Fenix Fayetteville artists are being presented for holiday gift ideas in a “buy and take” show — meaning any artwork purchased may be picked up at the time of purchase.

The holiday show is the fourth exhibition since April to be shown at Fenix Fayetteville’s permanent location on the north side of the historic Fayetteville square. A self-governing group of emerging and established visual artists working in all disciplines, Fenix Fayetteville was founded in 2016 and is “committed to a culture of mutual support, community and collaboration.”

“Members add their own vibrant voices to the creative culture growing in Northwest Arkansas, contribute to the active arts scene, and serve the community through their creative and educational work,” says gallery spokeswoman Jeanne Parham.

The Free Weekly/Becca Martin-Brown
Artist David Johnson makes simple clay “buttons” that help display flowers perfectly. They’re very popular items at Wishing Spring.

Among Fenix Fayetteville artists are Don House, Eugene Sargent, Hank Kaminsky, Cindy Arsaga, Jaquita Ball, Karla Walden Caraway, Matt Miller, Sabine Schmidt and Susan Idlet.

WHEN — 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday & Friday; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday; and 1-4 p.m. Dec. 23

WHERE — 16 W. Center St. in Fayetteville

INFO — Email

Categories: 'Tis the Season