‘A Bend In The Road’

‘A Bend In The Road’

Artist Carol Hart returns to her first love


In addition to her current show at the Story Gallery, where she’s pictured visiting with gallery director Tim Logan, Carol Hart is one of more than a dozen artists working on a 4-foot by 4-foot section of a 30-foot mural promoting compassion and sustainability at Terra Studios in southeast Fayetteville. It will debut on April 13.

For nearly 40 years, Carol Hart was known for her work in the disabilities community. Fresh out of college at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas, she moved to Northwest Arkansas and found a job at the first version of the Elizabeth Richardson Center. It was called the “Washington County School for Trainable Children,” which says everything about where those with disabilities stood in the world at the time. But Hart immediately knew there was so much more they could do — and she wanted to help them do it.

“I fell in love with the kids,” she remembers, “and I realized that as they got older, they had nowhere to go” — unless it was away to a “Human Development Center” downstate somewhere. “It didn’t take me long to understand that all people belong in communities.”

Hart says she was young and enthusiastic and didn’t worry that what she wanted to accomplish was the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest without a Sherpa. Instead, she started calling around the country, trying to find models of inclusion for adults with developmental disabilities. And in 1976, she started Life Styles with that goal.

Fast forward to 2012. The nonprofit had grown from eight clients to more than 200 and from 10 rooms in an old motel on College Avenue to two campuses, one in Fayetteville and one in south Springdale. Services included the College for Living, teaching clients independent living skills along with performing and visual arts; supported employment to help them learn and keep jobs; and supported living to keep them in the community, not in an institution. Through many tears — so many, she jokes, that husband Bill thought she was either dying or wanted a divorce — Hart began to think and talk about retiring.

Image courtesy Tim Logan & Carol Hart
Hart says she considers herself a feminist, and many of her paintings include abstracted — but powerful — women.

It was only then that she revealed her secret talent. Hart had studied fine arts in college, with an emphasis on painting. But although she had been integral in establishing an art program at Life Styles, she hadn’t picked up a brush for herself in four decades.

Her current exhibit in the Story Gallery at Grace Point Church in Bentonville is her eighth solo show since she returned to her art, and she’s still growing, exploring and pushing her boundaries, creating landscapes, figure studies and abstracts in acrylics and mixed media.

“It didn’t come easy,” she says of her re-entry into the art world. “I wasn’t even sure I could do it.”

But in characteristic fashion, she stuck with it and soon found “it was so freeing,” she says. “I remembered how I used to feel in college.”

Inspired by hundreds of photos she’d taken over the years — and by “cloud patterns, color combinations I see in fabric, my grandchildren, the work of other artists, groups of women, you name it” — Hart takes her art seriously.

“I do a lot of sketching prior to starting to paint,” she says. “I like to have some sense of composition. I want the viewer’s eye to travel around the painting, and I want harmony within the colors. Sometimes I’ve tried to limit my palette, but I love color! I like fluid lines, and the longer I paint, the more abstract my work becomes.”

Hart was drafted for her first show — at the Springdale Public Library — by Tania Knudsen, proprietor of Studio 7 in Rogers, where Hart was painting. Next was Art on the Creeks, and she discovered she really enjoyed talking about her work with patrons. What she never imagined was selling it. But she did for the first time at that show.

“It was completely a shock — and still is — but it delights me,” she says.



‘A Bend in the Road:

Paintings by Carol Hart’

WHEN — 8:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Sunday; 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday and Tuesday; and until 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; or by appointment, through March 31

WHERE — Story Gallery at Grace Point Church, 1201 N.E. McCollum Drive in Bentonville

COST — Free

INFO — ArtStoryNWA.net, carolchartcontemporaryart.com



A Labor Of Love

Just as Carol Hart wanted to see adults with disabilities included in the community, Grace Point in Bentonville wanted to see the community in its building. With that in mind, the church built in 2014 included a wealth of gathering spaces, among them the Story Gallery. Tim Logan, its director, says the gallery hosts six to eight exhibitions a year, some local, some solicited to bring in a national element.

“It’s been a blessing to us,” Logan says. “I believe art ought to be where the people are.”

The gallery will host a meet-and-greet with Hart on the final day of her show, “A Bend in the Road,” from 8:30 a.m. to noon March 31. Most of her work in the show is for sale.

Email Logan at tim@gracepointchurch.net.

Categories: Galleries