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For the first half of 2006, professional and amateur artists found their way on Friday nights to The Scene, a place to paint, listen to music, watch films and let the aesthetics roll. It attracted performance artists from New York and musicians and multi-media people. There were wheels for potters and models for the artists. It all made for, well, a scene, in the former Otasco at 301 Main St. in North Little Rock.
John Rogers, a Little Rock lighting and design professional and arts promoter, paid about $1,000 out of his own pocket every month for art supplies and refreshments (which included alcohol).
There was no air-conditioning, the donation jar was pinched, and the curtain fell on The Scene in July. But arts supporter John Gaudin liked what he saw and Main Street Argenta thought a lively arts venue downtown was a good idea. So the curtain will rise again when the Arts Scene Gallery and Art Market makes its debut Saturday, Oct. 14, at 201 Maple St., in the former Rye Furniture.
The new space, 45,000 square feet in which what were Rye’s mock rooms serendipitously serve as mini-galleries and artist stations, will exhibit the work of some of Little Rock’s best known artists — including Todd Crockett, Patrick Cunningham, Jeff Horton, Charlie James, Kevin Kresse, Erin Lorenzen, Tonya McNair, Dominque Simmons and Katherine Strause — and feature a market of fine arts crafts. Crafters working in jewelry, glass, wood, textiles and fashions will be on hand every weekend — the gallery and market will be open only on Saturdays and Sundays at first. The building also has space for community outreach, where at-risk kids, the elderly and handicapped persons can work with artists in various disciplines.
The Friday night art events will be held from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. in a separate area of the building so that the gallery/market area is secure. Admission is free; you must sign in to attend. Donations are requested.
Gaudin (whose New Argenta Development Group owns it) is providing the building and Main Street Argenta has paid for advertising for The Scene, including banners to be hung from downtown street lamps. Contributions to Main Street Argenta, a non-profit, will be used to help put on the weekend workshops. The Arts Scene will pay for utilities with 25 percent commissions on the sale of artworks and crafts.
Rogers, a lighting and interior designer who has hosted several benefit art functions, and Gaudin, a financial consultant, are hosting a private event Thursday, Oct. 12, to introduce the public art studio concept to civic leaders and media. At that event, Gaudin will make an announcement about progress in his plans to develop an Argenta arts district. He announced two years ago plans to build Argenta Place at Main Street and Broadway, but work has yet to begin.
Rogers said the original Scene attracted people from all walks of life — a retired couple from Lakewood, a young mother and her baby, jazz musicians from New Orleans. “You’ve got to make things happen,” Rogers said. “Here was an opportunity. I had all this gear from previous art events.”
“With my naivete, I thought I was going to get more accomplished artists to come.” But what did happen was that The Scene “sparked something [non-professionals] had a yearning for.”
Rogers hopes the new venture can sell enough art to be self-supporting. The Rye Furniture Building will be demolished some time next year, so Arts Scene will have to have to move again to continue operating.
For more information, go to www.thesceneonline.org
For those who’d rather look at art than make it Friday night, there’s the monthly gallery walk and trolley ride in Little Rock, 2nd Friday Art Night. Galleries will stay open from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The lineup: “First Annual Collector’s Show” at Hearne Fine Art, 500 President Clinton Ave.; “Through Separate Lenses: Photography by Nancy Nolan, Maxine Payne and Kat Wilson” at the Historic Arkansas Museum, 200 E. Third St.; “Out on a Limb: The Basketry of Mary Laurie” at River Market Artspace, 301 Clinton; and a demonstration by watercolorist Marlene Gremillion at the Cox Creative Gallery, 120 Commerce St. Ten Thousand Villages at 305 Clinton, a fair trade shop that sells handcrafted items, will also be open late. The Arkansas Arts Center will be closed for a private event, but will take part again in November.