HER Arts

Art is a fam­ily af­fair for the Gilbert fam­ily

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Contents - Story by Tan­ner New­ton and pho­tog­ra­phy by Grace Brown

H oards of peo­ple line the aisles of pop­u­lar shop­ping des­ti­na­tions and bar­gain hunters scour the in­ter­net for last minute deals dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son but, just like last year, you can bet there will be one per­son on that shop­ping list who is just im­pos­si­ble to shop for.

One an­swer to that dif­fi­cult-to-find gift might be Hot Springs’ lo­cal art gal­leries and the time­less trea­sures they of­fer.

For over 25 years, Amer­i­can Art Gallery has pro­vided unique works of art avail­able for pur­chase in down­town Hot Springs. But the gallery’s ori­gins go back fur­ther than that.

The gallery is owned by Ann and Wil­lie Gilbert. When their son, Robert, was a teenager, he be­came in­ter­ested in art, so in­ter­ested in fact that his lo­cal school couldn’t pro­vide the train­ing he needed, so the Gil­berts let their son take art classes in Arkadel­phia.

Robert was too young to drive, so Ann drove him to his classes. Be­fore long, she ran out of things to do in Arkadel­phia and de­cided to en­roll in classes to kill time.

“I found I didn’t have any prob­lem with paint­ing,” Ann said. Be­fore long, the Gil­berts had a house full of art­work.

Ann then started giv­ing paint­ings away to friends and rel­a­tives for birth­days and hol­i­days. With the house fill­ing up with paint­ings, though, Wil­lie came to the de­ci­sion that it was time to start sell­ing the art­work.

Shock was how Ann de­scribed her re­ac­tion to this news. How­ever, once she learned that her work would sell, she said she and her son started mak­ing paint­ings to sell.

Over the next few years, the Gil­berts would ex­hibit their work in art gal­leries. Their daugh­ter, Pa­tri­cia, would help set up and sell at these events.

Even­tu­ally, Wil­lie re­tired from Arkansas Power and Light (now En­tergy Arkansas) af­ter 30 years and be­gan look­ing at his dream to be­come a busi­ness owner un­der a more se­ri­ous light.

Wil­lie also tried paint­ing Hol­stein cows once. He worked all day on the paint­ing, but the cat­tle looked flat. Robert saw the paint­ing and told his fa­ther that he needed to feed those cows. He then showed his dad how to fill out the cows in

the paint­ing. When they were done, Ann said that Wil­lie de­cided that paint­ing was too dif­fi­cult and left it to them.

Over the past 25 years, there have been a num­ber of art gal­leries that have opened and closed in Hot Springs, but AAG has sur­vived. Ann said that the main rea­son for their sur­vival is that they of­fer a wide va­ri­ety of prod­ucts at their gallery.

The gallery doesn’t just sell Ann’s work. She es­ti­mates that in a year’s time she has art­work in her gallery from around 35 dif­fer­ent artists, not in­clud­ing the amount of jew­elry artists she also has.

Vis­i­tors to the gallery will see a wide va­ri­ety of ob­jects, from hand-weaved bas­kets to pot­tery. The va­ri­ety is what brings peo­ple in. Ann said that it would be nice to fo­cus on one thing, but that doesn’t work any­more. They also sell prints and books re­lated to Hot Springs. Ann said that these are good sellers for them be­cause of all the tourists that visit the city. She said that when some­one vis­its the city, they of­ten want to pick up some­thing to re­mem­ber Hot Springs or learn about lo­cal his­tory.

The Gil­berts have also em­braced sell­ing art­work on­line. As of Novem­ber, they have 62 pieces of art­work upon their web­site at http :// amer­i­cana rt gallery and gifts. com/shop/. They also sell art­work on eBay. Listed as seller wee334, they cur­rently have 415 items for sale on the web­site.

As for why a piece of art­work would make a good gift for Christ­mas, Ann had sev­eral thoughts. “It’s some­thing unique … that will last for years,” Ann said. Ann also said that art­work is dif­fer­ent for ev­ery­body. When you look at a piece of art­work, you in­ter­pret it in your own way. Some­one may even see some­thing in the art­work that the artist didn’t see.

The gallery is usu­ally open Mon­day through Satur­day from 10 a.m. un­til 5 p.m., but Wil­lie has had some health prob­lems re­cently. Ann hopes that Wil­lie will be able to re­turn to the art gallery in the near fu­ture, and in the mean­time, she will be at the gallery as much as she can.

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Ann Gilbert

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