The crowd gathered Friday evening for the unveiling of John Bell’s newest painting was eager to see the new art.
Bell was just glad it was over.
“There is a lot that builds up to this. I’m pleased, but glad it's over,” Bell said.
The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith commissioned Bell, a painter whose work is in private collections around the country, to paint the UAFS Bell Tower in the center of the university’s campus.
On Friday (June 12), UAFS Chancellor Paul Beran unveiled “Concert on the Green,” Bell’s interpretation of a campus concert held at the base of the bell tower.
“We are just honored that you took this on to do,” Beran told Bell before the unveiling ceremony held in the Mary Tinnin Jaye Gallery in the Fullerton Building on the UAFS campus. Beran praised Bell for his “amazing ability” to create art that meticulously depicts life and its vitality.
For his part, Bell said doing commissioned work is a challenge because he knows there are expectations to be met. However, Bell said he agreed to Beran’s request under the stipulation that he had complete artistic control. Bell said he made numerous trips to the campus, took many pictures and had UAFS also take pictures of the bell tower at different times of the day. The painting took about 3 months, he said.
The painting will be hung in the Boreham Gallery in the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center. The painting also is part of the Chancellor’s Coalition for the Visual Arts, a program to “establish and exhibit a collection of art to enhance and to support the education of students, faculty, staff, and the region,” according to UAFS literature.
Bell and his wife, Maxine, are preparing for a September exhibit at the University of Arkansas. He plans to have 20 paintings at the exhibit in Fayetteville, with one painting, “Game Day,” depicting a stream of vehicles adorned with Hog flags and stickers entering Fayetteville from Interstate 540. Another painting is likely to be of the old courthouse in the Fayetteville square, Bell said.
Bell said he has a little more than three months to prepare the 20 pieces. And there is no average time to produce a Bell painting. He said some works can take a week, with others requiring three months or more.
“I’ll be busy with that (UA exhibit). If people come by to see me, I won’t have much time to visit,” Bell said with a laugh.