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The NEA Artist Collective
by Cody Moore, photography by Kayla Broadway

A group of artists are working to enhance the region’s vibrant artistic community through public events that showcase local talent. The NEA Artist Collective, founded by local artists Calli Perkins and Shannon Lamb, continues to highlight the significant amount of talent within Jonesboro and its surrounding communities.

Perkins, a native of Jonesboro, and Lamb, a Paragould resident, are familiar faces when it comes to Jonesboro’s art scene. The two have been creating and selling their own art pieces for as long as they can remember and have been participating in the Local Works art shows at Cregeen’s Irish Pub in Downtown Jonesboro since 2015.

Perkins originally began hosting the Local Works art shows regularly in order to give local artists a space to showcase and sell their works. Lamb later joined forces with her in order to help Perkins grow the shows.

“We knew we had so many fantastic artists in the area and people who wanted to see more of them but that there wasn’t much opportunity to bring the two together,” said Perkins.

It was through orchestrating and participating in the Local Works shows that both Perkins and Lamb began to realize that they could create a bigger group that focused on giving even more local artists the exposure they deserve.

“We have a plethora of artists in this area, not only from the great art program from Arkansas State University, but also the self-taught artists that have amazing work to offer,” said Perkins. “Supporting them enriches our local cultural experience as a community.”

After several years of hosting the Local Works art shows, the two finally decided to start a collective of local artists on their own. The NEA Artist Collective was officially created in October of last year and has given artists of all mediums a more visible platform since its inception.

“Our goal is to brighten the art scene right here in Northeast Arkansas for artists and audiences, as well as provide opportunities to every artist,” said Perkins. “So, we started the collective to bring together resources and host regularly occurring art shows. We also want to eventually create a hub for the public to reach out to if they are seeking artists for certain projects.”

Prior to giving themselves the NEA Artist Collective name, Perkins and Lamb executed nine Local Works art shows at Cregeen’s with an array of local artists. Since establishing the name, they have collected more than 50 artists who have helped put on events such as the Opening Reception Art Show and a Winter Art Walk, both of which took place at several Downtown Jonesboro locations.

On March 7, the NEA Artist Collective will host its Spring Art Show, which will feature more than 20 local artists as they exhibit and sell their pieces.

“We are all having fun showing the community what we do,” said Lamb. “We’ve gathered a group of really great, really talented people who are interested in improving themselves and their craft.”

Why does Northeast Arkansas need a group like the NEA Artist Collective?
Perkins: We noticed more and more artists were moving out of town, even out of state, to places thought to have a more vibrant art scene. We want to keep them here and enrich our own town and end the idea that you can’t be a successful artist here.
Lamb: I didn’t realize it did until we got started, especially after our Winter Art Walk. I got so much positive feedback from artists and community members after that event. It was really an eye-opener hearing how much people enjoyed our event.

How can local artists get involved with the NEA Artist Collective’s future shows?
Lamb: Follow us on Instagram or on Facebook. This way, you can keep an eye out for open calls to participate in our events.

How has the community shown support to the NEA Artist Collective?
Perkins: Not only do we have loyal patrons and viewers that make a point to come to each show, we also have some fantastic business owners that have supported us since the beginning. Special thanks to Travis McAlister of Cregeen’s Irish Pub, Richard Johnston and Bayley Walls of Emerald’s Triangle, Freddie Bowers of Black Arrow and Ty Keller of The Garage, who have been very accommodating and supportive. The Downtown Jonesboro Association has also been very helpful in getting the word out about our downtown shows.

What can we expect at the Spring Art Show on March 7?
Lamb: We’ve collected some new artists, and some of the artists who have shown with us before are branching out and showing new kinds of art. We will have paintings, sculptures, drawings, photography, a little bit of everything. We have a great mix of people; they’re all so unique, and they will all be there to talk about their work, which is a great part of the experience.

What is the most rewarding thing about offering connections to local artists through your group?
Perkins: I love seeing artists make sales of original work or gain a contact for a commission piece. It not only means the artist has made a successful move, but that more local art is now being hung and is a step closer to making all art locally sourced.

What do you hope for the future of the NEA Artist Collective?
Perkins: We hope to create a database of local artists that the public can peruse if they’re looking for art for their home or business, commission a mural or portrait or want to host a specifically curated show. That way, there is easier access from buyer to artist and local art can easily be patronized.

Lamb: I hope it gets bigger and better. We want to continue to get more artists who are actively creating new artwork. We hope that local businesses will continue to show interest, and I hope we become a staple in the area. I want it to become normal that we will be having events. I want to be able to continue to support and help as many local artists as we can.

The NEA Artist Collective’s Spring Art Show will take place on March 7 from 5-9 p.m. at The Garage in Downtown Jonesboro, located at 219 S. Church St. For more information on upcoming events or how to become a part of the collective, find NEA Artist Collective on Facebook and Instagram or contact Shannon Lamb at shann.lamb.artist@gmail.com.