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‘Venus of the Springs’

HSACA to celebrate mural at quarterly networking event by Lance Brownfield | August 27, 2023 at 4:04 a.m.
A sign for Karicole Plaza hangs underneath the old Kress sign. - Photo by Lance Brownfield of The Sentinel-Record

The Hot Springs Area Cultural Alliance is set to host its quarterly networking meeting Monday at the Karicole/Historic Kress Building and will dedicate a mural completed at the back of the building in the spring and early summer.

The meeting will be from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the building, located at 620 Central Ave.

Starting outside at the back entrance of the building, where the mural is located, the meeting will move inside and up to the second floor where Low Key Arts is headquartered.

Patrick Cunningham, the painter of the mural, "Venus of the Springs," and the former owner of the building who commissioned him, Thomas Nagin, will speak at the meeting and answer questions about the work of art.

"It just kind of came together," Nagin said. "I wanted it to be something colorful and that would stand out but not be offensive. And something I was hoping people would like."

Nagin said he renamed the building Karicole Plaza after his two daughters, Karina and Nicole, and the shell painted on the upper right side of the mural is a nod to the name because caracol, pronounced the same as Karicole, is a Spanish word for seashell.

"From the very beginning, when we organized about 10 years ago, we wanted to provide an event for the arts community," said Mary Zunick, director of HSACA. "All of the arts community. Whether you're any type of artist or an arts-based business, or nonprofit organizations to have events that highlight connectivity."

The theme for this quarter's meeting is "New Spaces New Faces," fitting as the Kress building finds itself under new ownership and with a new face painted on the exterior.

The building was recently purchased by Zunick and her husband, Robert. The celebration of the mural was delayed while the building was being closed on by the Zunicks.

"It's a little bit delayed, but we're going to celebrate the mural and Patrick and Thomas Nagin for his contribution to our Hot Springs public art," Zunick said.

Nagin said he picked Cunningham for the project after he had done a similar painting for his wife featuring a "Renaissance lady," noting he liked the work that he does as well as his interactions with him.

Recently, Cunningham has received a lot of commissions for portraits and abstract expressionism. He has studied old master and fresco techniques, even going to Italy to study under a painter there.

"My idea was to kind of combine the old master techniques in the face of the woman, and then make it more contemporary, inspired by Gustav Klimt," said Cunningham.

The swirls on the piece come from ancient petroglyphs of North America, symbolizing unity, he said, noting, "It's kind of a mesh between ancient and modern art."

"I wanted to give something to Hot Springs," Nagin said. "Because I was selling the building and I wanted to leave something behind that was memorable and that was attractive and that I thought people would like. Something really nice for Hot Springs."

The two collaborated on the design of the artwork, deciding to put the Renaissance lady, a queen from a chess set and the shell in addition to geometric shapes. Cunningham says he was inspired by Klimt, an Austrian painter known for the Vienna Secession movement and his symbolism.

Nagin says because of the rough texture of the exterior wall, the face, the shell and the queen were painted on HardieBacker board, a smooth, water-resistant concrete board. The boards were painted on the ground, then lifted up and placed onto the building.

Due to problems with machinery, the project took a total of five months to complete.

At the event, there will be opportunities to check out available suites on the second floor of the building close to Low Key Arts' office. The property is situated in the heart of downtown, across the street from Hill Wheatley Plaza. Current tenants on the ground floor on Bathhouse Row include the Post Office, Crystal Springs Gallery and DeSoto Rocks & Gift Shop.

In a release about the upcoming meeting, the organization welcomes first-time visitors to come see what the meeting has to offer, while regular attendees are encouraged to bring a friend who has not visited, as well.

Zunick says the event usually sees around 40-50 people in attendance. Last quarter, the group fashioned the networking portion after speed dating, allotting only three minutes for interaction, then making guests move on to another person.

"Looking for opportunities for members of the arts community to collaborate and communicate about what's going on within their organization or upcoming events," said Zunick. "Just an opportunity to be connected."

The free event is open to the public and will feature hors d'oeuvres. Zunick called it a great event for people in creative fields to meet other artists, arts organizations and more, regardless of whether they are new to town or have lived here for decades.

"For many artists, creating artwork is a solitary event, and so this is an opportunity for everybody to come together," Zunick said. "Honestly, networking is the title of the event, but it's the most important part. To have an opportunity to have a conversation with somebody that you might not know."

"I'm kind of nervous," Cunningham said. "I normally just kind of paint in my little man cave, but it'll be fun. It's very nice they're doing this for me."

photo The mural "Venus of the Springs" is shown on the back of Karicole Plaza, 620 Central Ave. - Photo by Lance Brownfield of The Sentinel-Record
photo The window of a vacant suite is seen from Central Avenue. - Photo by Lance Brownfield of The Sentinel-Record

Print Headline: ‘Venus of the Springs’


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