Art is a family affair for the Gilbert family
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.