Inside Art Connection: A Young Artist’s Haven in Argenta

Creativity is in all of us, sometimes all we need is a little guidance and motivation to discover our true potential. No one knows this better than the young artists of Art Connection, an Argenta based nonprofit organization that aims to let budding artists find their artistic voice.

A short trip from Main Street will lead you to Art Connection’s doors at 204 East 4th Street. Take a step through the threshold, and you’re met with a brightly colored gallery, equipped with beautiful hardwood floors and endless works arranged on the walls, each one different enough to cause you to stop and examine the colors, the subject or the medium.

Likely, if you enter during studio hours, you’ll hear the faint sound of chattering beneath soft music in the background. If you listen even closer you’ll hear a swishing created by a small army of paintbrushes coming into contact with canvas.

Stemming from a Boston-based model, Artists for Humanity, North Little Rock’s own Art Connection aims to offer a creative outlet to local, underserved youth, and has been in operation since late 2012. Since its inception, over 70 teens have been employed as artists at the organization.

Maurice Taylor, a prominent businessman in North Little Rock, worked hard with Argenta leaders including artist and developer John Gaudin to make Art Connection come to life. The location and timing couldn’t be more perfect, as Executive Director Hollie Lewis says, “The arts movement in Argenta is growing, so not only is it great to see all of the wonderful things happening, but to also be a part of it … it’s wonderful and beneficial. The great people in Argenta have been so supportive of Art Connection. It has been a true “community” effort.”

The organization functions as a job for the young artists, who interview to get their position at the studio. They then work under the direction of an artist mentor – Lilia Hernandez and Justin Bryant – to create various works. The artists spend three nights a week working on pieces during shifts. Their works are then displayed at the front of the studio, gallery-style, for which they receive a commission if sold, while the rest of the money goes into running the center.

In the beginning, the organization functioned solely as a painting studio, but now there is also a digital studio, and construction plans are in place for a screen printing studio to begin later this summer. Lewis details the process, “At Art Connection, we have introduced the teens to other mediums including printmaking and pastels. They are encouraged to take all of what they are learning here and be creative in their art pieces. In the digital studio, the teens have been working primarily in Photoshop, but recently have been working in Illustrator.”

If you haven’t ever experienced this organization, it’s worth examining, and you’re in luck. On Friday, July 17 from 5 – 8 pm, Art Connection is hosting a summer themed art exhibition ‘Melted Goodness’ complete with an ice cream social. Teaming up with Loblolly, the Creamery Mobile will be on hand at the Art Connection location, plus the event coincides with Argenta’s Art Walk. Head out to chat with the artists, view the gallery, and eat ice cream. There’s also a chance for passers-by to get creative by making their own ice cream prints or stopping in the photo booth.

No doubt, the young artists have fun while getting in touch with their creative side, and at the end of the day, it’s all for a good cause. “While Art Connection is primarily about art, it is also about the transformation of these teens into innovators and leaders. Ensuring that we continuously embed the much needed 21st century skills in this program, including communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity, it is our hope that we are a major part of transforming these teens into productive adults,” says Lewis.

For more information on Art Connection check out their Facebook page, and be sure to come out to their Melted Goodness event tomorrow.

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