Better World Starts With Art

Better World Starts With Art

Artists collaborate to bring sustainability message to Terra Studios


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The Better World Mural consists of 21 panels overall, each a 4×4 sign board donated by City Lumber Company, painted with a high-grade exterior paint donated by Sherwin Williams of Fayetteville. Here, Jamie Ulick of Terra Studios adds clear coat for the mural’s outdoor display.

“Often, when we think about the problems facing the world, they seem insurmountable,” muses Val Gonzalez, executive director of Terra Studios east of Fayetteville.”We feel hopeless about having any impact on global issues. But we truly can do our part. In fact, many of the biggest issues the world faces are being addressed by a handful of individuals who care. We cannot do it all, but we can all do something.”

With a mission of “using art to create a better world,” the something Terra Studios decided to do will be unveiled April 13. The Better World Mural includes the work of 19 artists, Gonzalez says.

“Last year at the Compassion Fayetteville Partners Celebration, we heard Marilyn Turkovich, the director for the Charter for Compassion International, speak,” Gonzalez remembers. “During her presentation, she talked about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and we were inspired. So we came up with the idea of a collaborative project where each of the goals would be depicted by a different artist to create a mural that would be permanently installed at Terra Studios. We also included a panel about the Charter for Compassion, because that’s where our inspiration came from.

“At first, we thought we would have a very formal process for choosing artists,” she goes on. “However, as soon as we told a few of our artist friends about the project, they were volunteering and choosing their preferred goal. The word spread, [and] all the panels were taken in short order.

“The very first goal to be taken was the one about climate action,” Gonzalez adds. “Susan Crabtree, a scenic artist and neighbor, was over for dinner, and when we showed her the concept, she said, ‘I’m in. I want this one!’ And that’s pretty much how it all fell into place.”

The size and scope of the project was daunting for many of the artists, but perhaps none more than for Susan Idlet, who ordinarily works in colored pencils.

“When Jamie [Ulick, president of the Terra Studios Board] asked me to participate, I told him I was NOT a painter. He said he was pretty sure I would be able to figure it out, so I agreed,” says Idlet, who moved to Northwest Arkansas in 1994, following her brother Ezra Idlet of Trout Fishing in America and his family from Houston. “The 4-foot by 4-foot white panel stared at me for two months before I was brave enough to start. I talked to lots of other painters, getting advice, tips, etc. I bought the stuff. And Jamie was right. I figured it out.”

Idlet selected “compassion” as her theme.

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Artist Obed Gonzalez primarily works in digital illustration, he says, “owing to my background in graphic design, which sparked my interest in art to begin with. While the subjects of my artwork vary greatly, my style could be described as playful and painterly.”

“I have painted a cozy quilt with some welcoming hands — there to wrap you up in the warmth of love and compassion. I hope folks will kind of feel the hug I’m sending out,” she says.

Although Idlet has been a working artist for only three years, she says as a child her life’s ambition was to make art.

“We lived in Baltimore, and my mother rented our third floor to students of the Maryland Institute of Art,” she recalls. “I knew then that I would grow up to become an ‘abstract artist’ — even then I understood the difference. I would live in Greenwich Village, in an attic apartment, dress all in black, drink lots of coffee and smoke lots of cigarettes — and make art. Art was my ‘thing’ — even won a scholarship to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston — but I dropped it all at age 15. That was 1970, and I jumped on the hippie wagon and had too much fun to spend time on art.”

Returning to her first love makes Idlet feel like “I’ve been given a huge gift of joy.”

Jaquita Ball of Red Cat Art, who has always pursued her artistic passion, now works in encaustic, acrylic, pastel, pen/ink, oil, graphite and watercolor, and her art generally has an environmental or animal welfare theme.

“‘No Hunger’ was my mural choice. … so as I worked and sketched this panel about hunger, I wondered how I could relate to the hunger issue,” she recounts. “It was then I realized how connected all these issues are. A bounty of food for all, as depicted in my bouquet of food, can only happen when other issues are also addressed, such as climate change, the environment, social justice, clean water, compassion for all. In turn, addressing food shortages and feeding our world, this is what provides the sustenance we need to address our challenges — therefore, a bouquet of healthy food for a healthy world.”

Next, she says, she is “working on expanding my atmospheric abstract series that focuses on the environmental issues of climate change and water conservation.”

Obed Ibrahim Gonzalez — no relation to Val — chose “Education” as his theme.

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Artist Obed Gonzalez primarily works in digital illustration, he says, “owing to my background in graphic design, which sparked my interest in art to begin with. While the subjects of my artwork vary greatly, my style could be described as playful and painterly.”

“As someone with an education background, [it] was a natural choice, in more ways than one,” he says. “While many are familiar with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), I wanted to base the theme of my mural on STEAM which includes an ‘A’ for art as the missing component to a truly holistic education. In terms of creating a ‘Better World,’ the subject I choose to emphasize the different sections corresponding to the letters of STEAM was nature itself. I believe that students need to be taught more about the natural world around them, locally and globally, and the all too real effects of climate change that they are already facing today.”

“The purpose of the mural is to educate folks about the Sustainable Development Goals and to inspire them to take action,” Gonzalez concludes. “We hope folks will be inspired to act, whether in individual ways or by getting involved in their local communities’ efforts to address any of the global goals.”



Better World

Mural Unveiling

WHEN — 12:30 p.m. April 13

WHERE — Terra Studios, 12103 Hazel Valley Road in Fayetteville

COST — Free

INFO — 643-3185 or

BONUS — Native American flautist John Two-Hawks will play; Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan and the Rev. Lowell Grisham will speak; a reception will follow.


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In addition to her mural panel at Terra Studios, Susan Idlet’s work can be seen at Fenix Fayetteville and Heartwood Gallery. “I will have a monthlong exhibit at the Ozark Beer Co. in Springdale in May, and I’ll be at Arsaga’s at the Depot in October,” she adds.


Goals & Artists

1. No poverty — Matt Miller

2. Zero hunger — Jaquita Ball

3. Health — Suzie Spurlock Sanford

4. Education — Obed Gonzalez

5. Equality — Carol Hart

6. Water/sanitation — Valerie Hubbard Damon

7. Energy — Trent Talley

8. Economic growth — Olivia Trimble

9. Industry, innovation, infrastructure — Eugene Sargent

10. Reduced inequalities — Octavio Logo

11. Sustainable cities — Xi Krump

12. Responsible consumption — Brandon Bullette

13. Climate action — Susan Crabtree

14. Life below water — Jason Jones

15. Life on land — Amy Eichler

16. Peace, justice, strong institutions — Lisa Crews

17. Partnerships — Drew Gentle & Cathrin Yoder

18. Compassion — Susan Idlet

Categories: Galleries