Here in the Natural State, you can easily get swept away with the beauty all around, especially when in Hot Springs National Park. But another added bonus to Hot Springs is there is also ample cultural beauty to indulge in as well. We’re talking about beautiful, eye-catching murals. Whether they celebrate local history, community, or just the whimsy of art, these pieces in and around downtown Hot Springs make the area somewhat of an outdoor art museum. Come with me as we tour the beautiful pieces gracing the city.
We have quite the tour ahead of us, so we’ll start with a cup of locally roasted coffee at Redlight Roastery. Then, head across the street to see the first stop on our tour: Signature, located near 910 Park. Then, head to 811 Park. Here you will find the David F. Watkins Memorial Park Mural.
This colorful mural resulted from a workshop that brought together a group of young local artists in a workshop led by Danae Brissonnet. The group worked on painting this mural that “brightens the landscape at one of Hot Springs’ newest parks.” The artists created drawings with Brissonnet instructing them how to scale and arrange them.
Our next stop is the Northwoods Mural, located at the Waterworks Trailhead in the Northwoods Trail System at 300 Pineland Drive.
Created in 2020 by internationally known artist Camille Walala, this mural is a part of the “ARkanvas Initiative,” which created 12 murals across the state. Walala’s practice has taken her worldwide to “transform homes and workspaces with her signature tribal-pop style.” The mural covers the structure on-site.
Our next few stops will take us through the beautiful, serene Whittington Park. Here, you will find three beautiful murals: the Alligator Farm Mural at 847 Whittington, the Dryden Pottery Mural at 341 Whittington, and finally, the Emergent Arts Mural next door at 341-A Whittington.
By now, you’re probably getting hungry, so let’s hit a second coffee shop with loads of food options that also happens to be the site of our next mural.
At 110 Central Ave., you will find Kollective Coffee and Tea. You will also be captivated by Remember, the fantastical mural created in 2022 by Danae Brissonnet. This brightly colored mural is a tribute to the “nature, history and people of Hot Springs.” Its colors are that of a garden created with a box of crayons, and its message changes every time you look at it.
Up next is the beautiful Verna's Dream by Pepe Gaka. The mural dedicated to the local botanical Garvan Woodland Gardens was the “dream and creation” of Verna Garvan in 1956. “After a significant amount of work was completed on the property Verna sought a benefactor that would agree to maintain the grounds after her death. This led her to create an endowment agreement with the University of Arkansas that remains in effect under the Fay Jones School of Architecture. One major landscape architecture component completed before Garvan's death is the Verna Cook Garvan Pavilion, co-designed by famed architect E. Fay Jones.”
Moving forward, don’t miss a photo op with the nearly-hidden Lauray’s Angel Wings by John Payne at 402 Central Ave.
When you get to 502 Central Ave., you will be greeted by the massive Quapaw Mural, created by Pepe Gaka in 2017. This piece celebrates the first residents of the area: The Quapaw Tribe. “The mural is based on a painting by Charles Banks Wilson that was adapted as a mural by Gaka, recognizing the history of Native Americans in the area.
Next, we’ll see the 728 Central Avenue Mural, created by local artists in 2014. Cross the street, and head down Bridge Street. Cross the road again, and arrive at the Playing Cards mural at 204 Malvern Ave. Created by artists Chris Arnold and Jeff Garrison, the image is a “whimsical look back” at the nostalgic players who once came to Hot Springs to play baseball. The diverse historical figures represented by their own baseball cards include Babe Ruth, Tell Ott, "Smoky" Joe Wood, Jackie Robinson, and Walter Johnson.
Head down Malvern Ave. and check out Black Broadway created by Pepe Gaka, located at 350 Malvern Ave. This mural celebrates the history and culture of the Malvern Avenue neighborhoods between Grand Avenue and Convention Boulevard. Between the 1930s and ‘60s, this area was referred to as ‘Black Broadway’ because it was where world-renowned African-American entertainers would stay when performing in Hot Springs. The mural comprises community members and musicians from the Hot Springs World Class High School Band.
Next, we’ll check out the murals Promise For Peace and How We Play. The former is a moving piece by then-high school student RayShaun McNary located at 127 Pleasant Street. The next is created by Pepe Gaka at 247 Silver St. and decorates the building that holds Cutwell 4 Kids, a local children’s arts organization.
We’ll head to the Central Theater at 1008 Central Ave. for our following two pieces.
Facing the street, you will see the Central Theater Mural. Created by international mural artist Jason Botkin, this intricate mural was inspired by the Echinacea plant, which is native to Arkansas. Before leaving this site, be sure to peek around the left side of the building to see the Community Mural. Under the leadership of Botkin, several local artists came together, creating their own addition to this imaginative mural.
Cross the street and head downtown. The next stop is the Freedom mural located at 123 Market Street. This beautiful piece by Little Rock artist Perrion Herd depicts Harriet Tubman leading people to freedom.
Continue downtown on the same side of the street, and you’ll soon see the Sister City Mural, located at 833 Central Ave. Completed in 2018 by Pepe Gaka, the mural celebrates Hot Springs’ Sister City relationship with Hanamaki, Japan. This relationship began in 1993. Since then, “many friendships, greater understanding and a mutual respect have grown out of the steady cultural, educational and artistic exchanges between cities. While our sister city may be on the other side of the world, you can feel a bit closer with this mural.”
Now we’re on our way to the last stop, which also offers pizza and beer — a well-deserved spread after completing this tour. Head up Ouachita Avenue to feast your eyes on the SQZBX Mural on the back patio of this pizzeria at 236 Ouachita Ave.
Created in the spring of 2022 by Danaé Brissonnet, an artist from Quebec, Canada, this artist creates imagined worlds for the viewer. In this case, that means a magical accordion-pizza-oven spewing trumpets and crawling on piano keys. “Her work invites a deeper consideration into the power of symbolism, myth, and metaphor. Brissonnet’s art enforces connections between her work, herself, and the public.”
And this, my friends, is how to enjoy yet another beautiful component of the astounding Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas. We’re grateful to the artists who are fostered here and who come here to share their talents and make our home that much more beautiful — for you and me.
Cassidy is a Hot Springs-based freelance journalist. She spends most of her time exploring and writing about the city for her online publication The Hot Springs Post, and has recently published her first book, 100 Things to Do in Hot Springs Before You Die. In her freetime she enjoys playing games, skating, walking her dog Murphey and spending time with her nieces and nephews. Cassidy aspires to create a positive impact with her writing, be it fun or informative (or both!).