Oval comes around 

New gallery opens downtown.

A new business on Capitol Avenue — that’s news in itself. A new art gallery, 5,200 square feet divided into two large galleries and one smaller one and offices — that’s big news. Oval Artist Management and Gallery opened its doors Sept. 24 at 201 W. Capitol, and when it did, nearly 1,000 people flooded in — or so says Pepper Pepper, co-owner of the gallery with Carla Koen. As its name reveals, Oval is more than a gallery. It hopes to fill a business need of artists’ with three "business incubators," offices that will give the artists who share them a business address, computers, phones, copiers and a showroom for potential buyers. The offices will be available for six-month contracts. Oval also includes a small conference room equipped with audiovisual equipment, and all of its spaces are available for lease for parties and meetings. Some 2,000 square feet are devoted to the main exhibit space — sunny, sophisticated rooms on the corner of Center and Capitol. A competitive exhibit inaugurates the larger West Gallery off the entry, where works by Sandie Moore Bettis, Endia Bumgarner-Gomez, Henry Callahan, Maria Elena de Avila, Dale A. Ellison, Rita Henry, Kyle Holmes, Charlie Neel and Sabrina Zarco, all of Little Rock; Karlyn Holloway of Austin; James Hayes of Pine Bluff; Sue F. Lopez and Patrick Ralston of North Little Rock, and Ron Phillips of Fairfield Bay are being shown through Oct. 22. De Avila won a purchase award for her punched-tin piece "Indias con Alcatraces." Oval has 11 artists in its stable and hopes to have 12 by the time it opens its next show, "Oval Artists, the Collection," on Oct. 29. For that show, Koen said, "Halloween costumes are optional"; the reception will be from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Oval’s artists include the well-known — Stephano (large, hard-edge portraits), Dominique Simmons (who’s been to Mexico and has added light, joy and mystery to her work), Tonya McNair (squares of color) and Charlie James (figurative surrealism). It includes also emerging artist Liz Deering Morris, who’s got several exhibits under her belt; New York artist Gary Bolyer, who paints soft landscapes in understated hues; and Rob Wellborn, sculptor of muscular steel and furniture, including a piece in the center entry lobby of two large circles chained together. Prices run the gamut from less than $100 to $12,000 (for a Wellborn desk). Oval’s ambitious hours are 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. There is metered parking on the street during the day, and free parking in a lot in back of the building on Center for evening shows. Phone 244-0800.

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