Women in the Arts event draws women from Fort Smith area

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 275 views 

story and photos by Linda Kaufenberg

More than 200 women from across the state gathered at the Governor’s Mansion on Nov. 13 to attend a Lunch with Julia Reed in support of the Arkansas Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

The committee is composed of Arkansas women who work to support female Arkansas artists. They focus primarily upon visual art by noted female artists in the state, though it also sponsors writers, poets, and songwriters.

“In the state, we offer scholarships and provide internships to female artists. Nationally, we adopt a work of art that needs to be restored and every three years we have an exhibit at the National Museum of women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. Our next exhibit, ‘Women to Watch’ will be in 2010,” said Ellon Cockril, president of the Arkansas Committee.

Learning about the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) while on a visit to Washington D.C., Ed Dell Wortz, of Fort Smith, and Helen Walton, of Rogers, called together a group of Arkansas women interested in the arts on Feb. 1, 1989, to develop plans for a state committee. The Arkansas Committee of the NMWA was organized in Little Rock on March 21, 1989, with a representative from each of twelve districts derived by equal distribution of the state’s population. The exception was Little Rock, which had three members on the board.

Serving on the committee from Fort Smith are Mary Cooper, Maggie Malloy, Linda Udouj, Ed Dell Wortz, Janice Yancey and Pamela Yantis. Sheree Niece from Clarksville is also a member.

The luncheon was hosted by Ginger Beebe, First Lady of Arkansas. She has started a permanent art connection of Arkansas artists to hang in the hall which was added to the mansion in 2003.

“More than half of the art is done by women,” Beebe explained.

Julia Reed, the event speaker, was born in Greenville, Miss., and for 20 years was contributing editor at Vogue. She is now a contributing editor at Newsweek, where she writes the “Food and Drink” column. Reed also writes for the New York Times and appears regularly on MSNBC and CNN. She is the author of several books, including "Queen of the Turtle Derby and other Southern Phenomena."

“Queen of the Turtle Derby is a story told by my father,” Reed said. “You know, in the south, every single event has to have a queen and the Turtle Derby is in Lepanto. My favorite is Miss Pink Tomato. I have had several women who at signings proudly announce they are a former Miss Pink Tomato.”

Reed is now a resident of New Orleans, living on First Street. When she first moved there, she lived between two gay bars with a church school across the street.
“At night, I would go to sleep to the beat of bass drums from the bars and would wake up to the mistress of the private school singing the National Anthem on the loud speaker,” Reed quipped.

She spoke of her experiences during and after Hurricane Katrina. One of her friends, Bob, owned a rug shop. He slept in the store to keep the looters out. He posted a sign on the window, “Don’t even think about coming in; I got an ugly woman, a dog, 2 claw hammers and a loaded gun.” Later the sign advised, “Woman left, dog is now gumbo, still have 2 claw hammers and loaded gun.”

Reed remains hopeful for New Orleans. She said the renaissance there is led by cooks, artists and musicians.

“I think the culture is changing. It’s not funny any more to have a crook for a governor,” Reed said. “The school system is being overhauled with many experts helping make them safer and better.”

The Great Hall in the Arkansas Governors Mansion.







Julia Reed, author and speaker (left), and Arkansas First Lady Ginger Beebe.








Peggy Weidman, (left), Amy Jordan and Janice Beran, all of Fort Smith.








Kate Maurras (left), Christy Ivy and Mitzi Hicks, all of Fort Smith.








Mary Cooper (left) and Maggie Malloy.








Deana Hankins (left) and Sara Goodwin.