Subiaco art and music find friends in downtown Fort Smith

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 77 views 


More than 250 Subiaco Academy students, faculty members, graduates and supporters gathered Tuesday (Sept. 28) at Neumeier’s Rib Room in downtown Fort Smith to raise money for the Subiaco Jazz Ensemble and display the newest commissioned painting from artist John Bell.

Subiaco Academy is a boarding/day school for males in grades 7-12, and is the only Catholic boarding school in Arkansas. Half of the student population is from out-of-state and several students each year are from foreign countries. More than 190 students registered for the 2010 school year, with more than 40 faculty and staff and about 50 monks supporting the Abbey and Academy.

Rib Room owner Bill Neumeier is a Subiaco Academy graduate.

Roy Goetz, director of the Jazz Ensemble, lead the group of talented musicians through classics including pieces from Santana, Herbie Hancock as well as 1940s swing music. Goetz, who has to be one of the hippest chaplains in Arkansas, also played the lead guitar through a bluesy rock set that included “Red House.” (Think Jimi Hendrix.)

Bell, a Fort Smith-based artist, was recently commissioned to paint the unique building and grounds of Subiaco Academy in Logan County. The Subiaco painting was the brainchild of Sparks physician Kenneth Seiter Sr., but was given legs by Eugene Didion. Proceeds from sales of cards and prints of the painting are used to raise money for the school, said Steve Wilmes, director of development for the Subiaco Abbey and Academy.

“He (Dr. Seiter) mentioned years ago that we do this (commission a painting) and nothing ever came of it. But it put the idea in my head for John Bell, but I couldn’t afford to do that by all by myself. But I thought if I got a bunch of donations to get the painting, then Subiaco could have the painting and make some money selling the prints,” Didion, a 1986 Subiaco Academy graduate, explained during an August interview.

Didion put the word out, and more than 10 investors wrote checks for $1,000 each.

“They’ve been one of the nicest groups of people I’ve worked with. It’s been enjoyable,” Bell said Tuesday night of those who commissioned the art and the Subiaco staff.

Bell’s next show is at Mt. Magazine State Park, with his newest paintings of the large and modern lodge resting on the side of Arkansas’ highest mountain. Bell will have up to 15 paintings in the exhibit scheduled for the Thanksgiving holiday. About 10 of the paintings will be of the lodge and surrounding area, with about five paintings of scenes not related to the area.

He recently completed a commissioned painting of the First National Bank of Fort Smith. About the same time, he finished a painting for a War Eagle Mill television documentary produced by Larry Foley, a Fort Smith-area native and professor of journalism at the University of Arkansas.

In September 2009, Bell’s work was on exhibit at the Mullins Library at the University of Arkansas — Bell’s alma mater. Only six artists a year are invited to exhibit at the library.