Delta Visual Arts Show brings back crowds to downtown Newport

NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) – The town of Newport saw its downtown area flood with traffic Saturday, some residents saying this is what Newport used to look like.

The Blue Bridge Center for the Delta Arts held the fourth annual Delta Visual Arts Show, and organizers expected more than 600 people to tour the displays. Not only were the crowds bigger, but a record number of artists came to show off their work.

"It's just great," said Natalie Curtner, a photographer from Newport. "I mean, everyone walks in and is like, 'I didn't know you did this.' We get new people. We get old people. It's getting bigger and bigger every year."

Inside the old post office in downtown Newport, Curtner set up her photographs, capturing the beauty of her hometown and her travels abroad.

"My peers, my community support me," Curtner said, "and I love walking into their houses and seeing my stuff up."

Curtner is one of the 100 artists that displayed or sold their work at the arts show Saturday. This year's show reached capacity two months in advance, requiring organizers to place artists from five states on a waiting list. Jon Chadwell, executive director of the Newport Economic Development Commission (NEDC), says it's a good problem to have.

"There's five different organizations that sponsor this," Chadwell said. "We have over 100 volunteers that give part of their day to come do this in addition to the 100 artists, and so it's just been a fantastic thing."

The arts show featured less than 20 artists when it started, all confined to one building. This year's event was housed in four places: the Iron Mountain Train Depot, the Newport Business Resource Center, the old post office and the former First National Bank building.

"It turned out to be a really nice thing, and there are lots of people here today," Susie Henley of Little Rock said.

Henley visited the show last year, resolving to show her paintings this year. She says the turnout and the town's hospitality made the trip from Little Rock worthwhile.

"I can't say enough about the volunteers here and the people in the community coming together to do this," Henley added, "just can't say enough."

The buzzing streets brought back memories for locals, like Cheryl Mauldin.

"That's what I remember as a child in Newport was how busy downtown was," Mauldin said.

The Newport native served on the arts show steering committee this year and showed her business, Studio 1910 Photography, for the third time.

"It's special to me because I'm from Newport," Mauldin said, "but it's special as an artist because you're taken care of here."

Mauldin says the visitors may bring a slight boost to the local economy, but she and others hope they understand the value of the community.

"As people look at Newport, they may have had one idea of what Newport was, but then they come to the art show and they see it and they meet all the friendly people," Chadwell added. "And then, when they talk to somebody in another town, they say, 'Oh, Newport, I got to tell you it's great.' That really helps us sell the town and let people know what we're made of."

Chadwell says a number of artists have already booked a place for next year's show.

The Blue Bridge Center for the Delta Arts is a joint project of the Iron Mountain Regional Arts Council, the Newport Downtown Revitalization and Improvement Volunteer Effort, the City of Newport, the NEDC, Merchants and Planters Bank and Suddenlink Communications, also working in conjuction with the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock.

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