Mena Art Gallery is a part of SouthWest Artists (SWA), a local non-profit 501(3)C organization which has been devoted to promoting the arts in Mena since 1945. We welcome your support. Take an art class, come to see our exhibitions, attend our monthly meetings where (most months) an artist makes a presentation on some aspect of art, become a member of the association.  Please click here for the upcoming meetings.
 
 
SWA has been showing the work of local artists in the mezzanine of the First National Bank for almost two decades, but in 2002 we acquired our own building at 607 Mena Street. We now have 10 to 12 exhibits a year, most of which are open to members and non-members of all ages.

Every year SWA offers classes in a wide variety of media and styles such as painting and drawing, photography, and three dimensional work such as wood, clay, and metal.  Our instructors include local and guest artists recognized for their skill and experience in these areas. For details, please see specific classes listed under "Education" in the left panel menu.

 

To continue these activities and begin the many new ones we are planning to add in the coming months, we must reach out to new constituencies for support and participation. We hope you will join in our mission to bring art to the people of Polk County by becoming a member today. Call (479-394-3880) for information or come by the gallery at 607 Mena Street. Also you may download the membership application form.
 

Donations in addition to the membership fees are accepted and appreciated.  Please make checks payable to SouthWest Artists, Inc. and send them to:
 
Southwest Artists, Inc.
P.O. Box 871
Mena, AR 71953

or pay online:

As we are a 501(3)C corporation, your donations to the gallery are tax deductible!
 

Leave a legacy for the Arts - ensure a community of the Arts for future generations.  Remember Mena Art Gallery in your estate planning.  Click links below for information:
 



Whitney Lewis Espinoza took the Executive Director position in April of 2018. Her background in art began at birth, born to the 3rd generation of working artist and raised on the steps of the Memphis Academy of Art and Brooks Museum, she developed an early appreciation for fine arts and finds her talents lie in interior design. She followed her heart and took a job in Cairo Egypt managing an Arabian Horse farm for Her Royal Highness Lulua Al Sabat where her love for horses, architecture, history, ancient Arts and Culture were part of her and her children’s daily life. Back in the states her position as Director of Programs and Services for a multimillion-dollar non-Profit prepared her for different duties. Whitney, her husband Rosbel and their son Loki relocated to Mena to be with family when her father Tyrone Lewis was diagnosed with cancer. She say’s “When the opportunity to be part of the Mena Art Gallery arose it just seemed like the natural evolution to apply for the job, the scene had been set so to speak leading me exactly here”.

 
 

 
Mena Art Gallery started in 1945, and has grown from a group of artists meeting in their homes to the exciting art center you see today.  Here are some of the details:

1945   SWA started during World War II with people painting in each other’s homes.
1961   Dot Howell organized the first LaVora Painting Workshop in Old Potter.
1969   School Superintendent Manning of Wickes revived interest by starting an adult painting class.
1972   LaVora Workshops and SWA became one and worked at 706 Mena Street.
1982   SWA was organized officially by writing Articles of Incorporation, By-Laws, and filing with the Secretary of State. Founding members were: Carol Nesbitt, Mena; Dayton Holman, Wickes; Wade Wilson, Grannis; Carole McLaughlin, Wickes; Kitty Hughes, Vandervoort; Lorene Hendricks, DeQueen; Dola Head, Mena; Dot Howell, Mena; LaVora McCall, Wickes.
1982   SWA was awarded non-profit status (501(c)(3)). SWA worked at 701 Mena Street (corner of Mena and Maple) at the time until the Water Department rented the space to a dress shop.
1982   First National Bank designated the second floor mezzanine for SWA artwork. SWA began a circulation program with First National, Queen Wilhelmina Lodge, and various restaurants.
1983   As president of SWA, Lucy Mulcahy wrote and circulated a petition to KCS railroad asking for the Depot to be repaired and used as a permanent gallery. In order to be more effective, we formed the Mena Depot Commission. Board Chair Mary Stoker headed the fund-raising and restoration committees.
1984   Our building fund started with a donation from Rachel Goforth and her brother, William Watkins. We continued to supplement it with many silent and regular auctions, plant and bake sales, donations from businesses and from our members plus several generous donations from Mena natives Alvina Schreiner and Dr. and Mrs. Walter Geyer.
1985   SWA leased space upstairs at 601 Mena St. on condition that we replumb, rewire, paint and refurbish space, which was badly deteriorated as there had been broken windows and holes in the roof. The floor was in a terrible state. We continued with our program of classes and circulation of work while renovation was going on. When it was finished, we resumed our spring and fall exhibits as well as shows of individual artists and special shows for adults and children. It cost a great deal in time, money and effort, but when we were finished, we had a spacious, well-lighted gallery upstairs with classrooms, 2 bathrooms, a fully appointed kitchen, and a beautiful floor. We lost it when the city sold it as a loft.
1988   SWA started High School shows for the area with Mena High School acting as host school. We had the first few shows at upstairs gallery and then at the Old Armory when the shows got too big and we lost our space upstairs. We started with 3 schools, but have had as many as 11. Funding for the prizes has come from supportive area merchants, some of the banks and several schools.
1993   SWA The gallery was sold as a loft. We rented a small room in back of City Hall with a room upstairs for classes. The stairs were dangerous and space too small, so we had our meetings at SWEPCO, receptions and shows at the First National Bank, and classes and workshops at Firehouse II and the Old Armory. The circulation program continued throughout.
1998-2002   We lost the space at City Hall, but continued as many activities as possible during this time. This included an area High School Show, which had started in 1988. It has continued to grow. Last year’s was the 25th show and included 9 schools. We had so many entries, it filled the gallery and classroom even though it was limited to 2 entries per student in each category. We have been fortunate in getting the funding for the prizes from area businesses and banks.

Since 1984, we had been looking for a permanent home for SouthWest Artists. Throughout the year, we evaluated at least thirty possibilities. At the end of our 2002 annual meeting, we went to see the last three. When we got to our present one, we all agreed that it was the best one thus far, and we should proceed with the purchase even though it needed a lot of work.

Many of the members helped with the scrubbing, painting and repairs until now we feel it is a very special place. We finished paying for it in 2005.
2002-2008   In 2005, thanks to a 3 year grant from the Arkansas Arts Council, we were able to hire our first part-time Executive Director, Daniel Erwin. At the end of his year, Daniel decided to go back to school and Carolyn MacMahon was hired as a replacement. Following Carolyn MacMahon's departure Jim Pawley was hired.

In 2007, we added track lighting and are continuing to work toward making our space as inviting as possible so that we can show art work under the best conditions we can create. We also changed the name of the gallery to Mena Art Gallery in 2007.

True to its motto, “Art for all ages in the heart of the Ouachitas,” Mena Art Gallery continues to grow as a community-based arts organization open to all people with an interest in art regardless of their level of training.