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Artists Meet with Public on Proposed Art Project

By Twyla Pruden, 07/15/21 6:40 AM
Photographer Paul Hester and sculptor David Griggs met with 25-30
area residents Wednesday, July 14th, to hear comments and ideas for a proposed
public art project being considered by the Southwest Arkansas Arts Council.
The crowd of 25-30 met at the Hope-Hempstead County Chamber of
Commerce o)ice.
Hester, of Houston, and Griggs, of Denver, previously created the
Heritage Wall at the downtown Hope Railroad Depot. That Arts Council
project was completed in 2000.
The two artists told the crowd that they had walked the streets of
downtown Hope earlier in the day to get a feel for locations that might turn
into “opportunities” for another public art project. They also visited the
Heritage Wall to see how it has weathered the past 20 years.
Griggs said the wall is in need of some necessary art conservation, but
is holding its own very well. He also said, “Now is the time to reach out,”
with additional public art.
When asked if the train station would again be the focal point of such
a project, Hester said, “It certainly was before, but we are not that far along
yet.” He said the train station is only one of many points of focus for
Asked what had piqued their interest, Griggs replied, “Pocket parks
and the promenade,” a reference to the streetscape project of the City to
create a walkway from the National Park Historic Site to downtown Hope.
When one participant commented on the “eyesores” along that path, Hester
said, “Maybe we can use art to help see the beauty instead of the eyesores.”
When asked if there would be just one project or if it will be possible
to spread the focus to more than one site, the artists’ answer was
“Absolutely.” Griggs said one possibility might be a type of “scavenger
hunt,” with a path leading from one site to the next, looking both back at
history and toward the future.
One participant suggested a communal space where people could
“hang out” surrounded by art. Griggs said there is a lot of opportunity for
pocket parks and he would love to build a gazebo for children to play on in a
pocket park. “If you get kids, you get the parents,” he said, stressing that
pocket parks need to be used, and programming – such as performances of
music or art displays — is instrumental in bringing visitors to a pocket park.
Including a stage was also suggested.
Another participant suggested that a grass-roots movement is
necessary, saying, “Hope people have to appreciate the art installation
6rst,” adding, “We need to look at what’s going to bring honor and
excitement to the community.” Griggs added, “What is memorable – how
can we make something memorable?”
The artists were asked if students had been engaged in the process
and if the Hope Public School District could help with that. The comment
was made that reaching out to the next generation would help determine
what would resonate with them. “We can work on that,” said Griggs.
A resident of the county asked for clarity on the scope of the e)ort,
wanting to know more speci6cs, such as location of the project. Hester
answered, “We were invited here by the Southwest Arkansas Arts Council;
Southwest Arkansas is the location at this point.” He continued, “We are
very fortunate to have representatives of di)erent constituents here today.”
Arriving at speci6cs “will be a long process,” he continued.
Rodney Steele, chairman of SWAAC’s Public Art Steering Committee,
said in conclusion, “It’s super early in the process. What rolls around in my
head is — what if this is the 6rst of many endeavors?”
Hester and Griggs asked that other suggestions and incites be
collected by the Arts Council and forwarded to them


Artists Griggs (left) and Hester (center) with SWAAC’s Public Art Steering Committee at the corner of 2nd and Main in downtown Hope

Public Art Steering Committee Chair Rodney Steele and artists meet with the public