El Dorado Conference Center hosts rotating historic art exhibits

The El Dorado Conference Center animates its space with new rotating exhibits courtesy of the South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society and the South Arkansas Arts Center.

The two organizations will each have separate exhibits at the Conference Center that will rotate regularly.

The exhibits, called the South Arkansas Gallery Collective, are the result of a collaboration between SAHPS, SAAC and the SouthArk Foundation, said Caroline Callaway, marketing director of the El Dorado Conference Center.

“The South Arkansas Community College Foundation Board of Trustees is pleased to collaborate with the South Arkansas Arts Center and the South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society on the South Arkansas Gallery Collective. The exhibits that will be curated and presented at the El Dorado Conference Center will be open to the public for viewing and enjoyment. We are pleased that our university campus provides a home for art and dialogue. It is part of our commitment to lifelong learning – we continue to be committed and to play a crucial role in the cultural life of our region,” SouthArk Foundation Director Cynthia Reyna wrote in an email to The News-Times.

The exhibits, Callaway said, will exist for both El Dorado residents and people who come from elsewhere to attend events at the center.

“[The new exhibits] really come from a place of desire for change… I think we want to take advantage of what our community has to offer. At the conference center we hold several events for people who don’t live in town and who may not know how to get to the Historic Preservation Society or the Southern Arkansas Arts Center to see this kind of things. But, they can be here and between sessions and able to watch these exhibits and see what [El Dorado has] to offer,” Callaway said.

“Our goal is to get as many people here as possible to watch this,” she continued. “It’s open to the public and we want people to come and see it.”

The majority of SAHPS’ first exhibit, featuring historical artifacts from state and local elections, was already on display at the conference center on Thursday.

SAHPS director Steve Biernacki said the exhibition was the first time the gallery’s entire archive of election materials had been exhibited at once.

The Historic Preservation Society, Biernacki said, will then look to possibly feature pieces from the Fitzgerald Collection, a vast archive of movie memorabilia collected by late El Dorado resident Michael Fitzgerald.

Biernacki also celebrated the growing collaboration between participating organizations.

“We are stronger together doing things and can do bigger and better things for the community if we work together. We have already started this process with SouthArk; we are doing rotating exhibits in their library and collaborating as much as possible, including the [South Arkansas] Literary Festival,” he said.

The SAAC exhibits will replace a collection of Japanese art prints that the organization previously displayed at the conference center. SAHPS will rotate its exhibit after approximately four months and SAAC will rotate its exhibit after nine months, leaving a new exhibit at the Conference Center approximately every four months.

The SAAC, according to director Laura Allen, is taking the opportunity to display pieces from its permanent collection, of which Japanese art prints are only a small part.

“Our plan is to rotate pieces from our permanent collection. We have an extensive collection of local and regional art…We showed it once during COVID when a lot of things were canceled. So there are things that people haven’t seen in a We’re going to start with a range of pieces and probably as we change it we’ll do a specific artist or a specific time period,” Allen said.

SAAC plans to set up its exhibit at the Conference Center next week.

“It’s a big part of our mission, to collect and preserve the art of local artists…We’re excited to show it at the Conference Center and share it in the community,” Allen said.

SouthArk Chairman Dr. Bentley Wallace, credited by Reyna and Callaway with spearheading the new partnership, also celebrated the new exhibits in an email to The News-Times.

“The college is excited to expand its arts programming through the South Arkansas Gallery Collective. The rotating exhibitions of the South Arkansas Arts Center and the South Arkansas Historic Preservation Society will provide guests of the El Dorado Conference Center and students, faculty and SouthArk staff the opportunity to view artwork and artifacts in a convenient and familiar setting,” Wallace wrote.

A reception for the new exhibitions will be held on October 13 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Palais des Congrès.

The South Arkansas Gallery Collective, located at the El Dorado Conference Center, will feature rotating exhibits from the South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society and the South Arkansas Arts Center. SAHPS’ first exhibit features election artifacts from the History Gallery’s collection. (Matt Hutcheson/News-Times)

William E. Bennett