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Reception Sept. 8 Opens Palmer Exhibit

Reception Sept. 8 Opens Palmer Exhibit(Posted: August 20, 2013)

The opening reception at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith on Sept. 8 for the statewide traveling exhibit of "Arkansas Champion Trees: An Artist's Journey" will be somewhat of a coming-home event for artist Linda Williams Palmer.

The reception at UAFS, hosted by the Chancellor's Coalition for the Visual Arts, is slated for 3-5 p.m. in the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center, a building which didn't exist when Palmer was a student at what was then Westark Community College. Palmer said Westark was where she immersed herself in drawing and painting classes as a part of her life in Fort Smith.

"I lived in Fort Smith and raised my family for 25 years," said Palmer from where she now resides in Hot Springs and maintains her own gallery, the Linda Palmer Gallery on Central Avenue. "Three of my children and six of my grandchildren are still in Fort Smith, and I also have a sister there."

Palmer also has Oklahoma ties, growing up in Checotah.

"Although my parents have passed away, I still have many friends and family there," she said. "I also have a sister who lives in Sentinel, Okla., with her family."

The exhibit features large and detailed drawings and documentary photographs of 18 trees. Palmer's research and documentation of the champions began in 2007. The exhibit is the culmination of five years of work and more than 7,000 miles of travel across the state.

Exhibit project manager Barbara Satterfield of Conway called the exhibit "family friendly."

"It includes anecdotes and stories to encourage multi-generational conversations," Satterfield said. "The goal is to bring people together to enjoy Arkansas' greatest natural resources – its land and its people."

Represented in the exhibit, which began last November and has crossed all parts of the state, are a variety of trees shown in their locales. One of the trees portrayed is an eastern cottonwood in Van Buren. Another is a sugar maple in Fayetteville.

Palmer's presentations to schools, universities, civic groups, summer programs and continuing education classes have raised awareness about Arkansas champion trees as well as her objective to artistically interpret this great natural resource. Her research and drawings have been highlighted in an AETN documentary film on the topic.

The website on the exhibit,, even includes education resources for families or school teachers to use, with a group of activities for grades kindergarten through second grade and another group of activities for grades 3-5.

Stacey Jones of Fort Smith, associate vice chancellor for campus and community events at UAFS, said the exhibit is an opportunity for all ages of people to benefit from Palmer's talent.

"This is more than an art exhibit," said Jones. "This exhibit touches on history and science. But it also reminds us of what we have in nature in our state, which is important for children to learn and for adults to remember. It's a great exhibit, and we're so glad to bring it to the people of the Fort Smith region."

Palmer's visual arts career began at Westark in 1980 by studying with instructors Don Lee and Pete Howard. Lee is currently an associate professor and head of the Art Department, and Howard retired in 1991. With an associate degree already in hand from Ouachita Baptist University in Shawnee, she immersed herself in drawing and painting classes while raising a family.

In 1985 she directed her focus on establishing her career and opened a studio, the Linda Palmer Gallery in Fort Smith. For the next few years, she created multiple series of work, entered and was selected for numerous competitions and was publicly and privately collected. She moved to Hot Springs in 1991.

Palmer's children who live in Fort Smith are Josh and Kathy Palmer, grandchildren Bailey, Riley and Olivia; Jeff and Laura Palmer, grandchildren Blake and Austin; and Janet and Frank Seaton, granddaughter Hannah. Palmer's sister in Fort Smith is Kathy Williams, who was director of the Fort Smith Art Center for many years. Palmer's daughter who lives in Little Rock is Dr. Shanna Palmer, whose husband is Tommy Hammond.

"Arkansas Champion Trees: An Artist's Journey" is organized for travel by the Arkansas State Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, an advocacy organization for Arkansas women artists. Satterfield said the Arkansas Committee thanks Champion Sponsors Plum Creek Timber, Domtar Paper, and the Williams-Palmer Family, Medalist Sponsors Robyn and John Horn, and donations from individuals who support the arts and education. The tour is made possible in part by the Arkansas Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, and by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The UAFS exhibit hours are 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on Fridays. The exhibit is located on the west end of the first floor of the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center and encompasses wall space outside the Reynolds Room. The exhibit will hang until Oct. 25.

For more information on the UAFS exhibit, contact the Campus and Community Events Office at 479-788-7300.

Article by: Sondra LaMar, Director of Public Relations

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