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Sculpture shoot-out 

Guilds go head to head in River Market district.

AT THE RIVER MARKET: Sculpture by Brett Anderson, one of eight  Arkansas artists in the show.
  • AT THE RIVER MARKET: Sculpture by Brett Anderson, one of eight Arkansas artists in the show.

On the north side of President Clinton Avenue this weekend is the third annual “Sculpture at the River Market” show, featuring work by artists of the National Sculptors Guild. On the south side, “Exploring the Works of Arkansas Sculptors” is at the Arkansas Studies Institute, featuring the work of the Arkansas Sculptors Guild.

The latter was purposely timed to coincide with the former, organizer and sculptor David Harris says, in a “direct heads-up competition” to show that there is quality sculpture being made within Arkansas, by Arkansans, he said.

There are even competing private parties on Friday, Oct. 16: The preview party at the River Market at 6:30 p.m. (tickets $100), sponsored by the city of Little Rock and Harriet and Warren Stephens, and the invitation-only patrons party at 6 p.m. at the Arkansas Studies Institute, sponsored by the guild and Lisenne Rockfeller.

The River Market show is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18. The Arkansas guild's show, which opened Oct. 9, is at ASI through Dec. 11.

The bottom line: Around 70 sculptors and more than 800 sculptures will create a 3D-palooza in the River Market. “That's a great thing,” River Market sculpture committee head Jane Rogers said about the dual shows.

To make things more festive, the Riverfront Park sculpture garden, where work purchased from past River Market shows has been installed, will be dedicated at noon Friday. The park was built with private donations and a contribution of $26,000 from the City Parks Conservancy, conservancy director Kellie Wilhite said.

The “Sculpture at the River Market” invitational will occupy the pavilions, and its 45 contributors include 10 Arkansas sculptors and another sculptor once on the faculty of the University of Central Arkansas. Many of the Arkansans, including Bre Harris, wife of David Harris, are members of the Arkansas Sculptors Guild. The Arkansas guild's show, a juried exhibit, includes 59 sculptures by 26 Arkansas artists, five of whom are also exhibiting in the “River Market” show.

The Arkansas Sculpture Guild formed in 2005 and had several exhibits at the River Market until the National Guild out of Loveland, Colo., headed up by John Kinkade, was brought in by City Director Dean Kumpuris in 2007. Proceeds from sales at the “Sculpture at the River Market” exhibit — the city takes a commission — go back into Riverfront Park, and were used to buy the seven small-scale pieces installed in the park sculpture garden, located on the northeast side of the Peabody Hotel. The River Market sculpture committee is working to form a non-profit organization to handle proceeds, which will also pay for maintenance of the artwork.

National Guild artists have dominated the public art acquisitions in Little Rock — all those along the Riverfront Park trail and at the Peabody playground, at Little Rock National Airport and at War Memorial Stadium — are from the Loveland group, a fact not lost on the Arkansas Sculptors Guild. “They've got money and influence,” David Harris said of the River Market show organizers. “We have to show the public that we do have a high base of quality within our state for [buyers] to choose from without having to go out of state.”

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