(LITTLE ROCK) – The Old State House Museum is hosting a new exhibit 'Forty Years in the Woods,' showcasing the botanical illustrations of artist and naturalist Kent Bonar. Admission to the exhibit is free.
A reception will be held on Saturday, Jan. 28, from 1 to 3 p.m. to celebrate its opening. During the reception, the duo Still on the Hill will perform music composed especially for the exhibit. Bonar will attend the reception.
“Kent Bonar has dedicated his time showcasing the smallest parts of what makes Arkansas the most beautiful state in the country,” said Mike Mills, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. “The Old State House Museum has the privilege to put Kent’s work on display for the world to see, while also displaying Arkansas’s beauty to all who visit.”
Bonar attended the University of Missouri as a wildlife studies major before going on to work for Arkansas State Parks in 1971. He served at parks across the state, including Lost Valley, Lake Fort Smith, Queen Wilhelmina, Devil’s Den and the Ozark Folk Center. While working in the park system, Bonar came across a copy of botanist Edwin Smith’s “Atlas and Annotated List of the Vascular Plants of Arkansas.” Thus began his journey of capturing Arkansas’s natural beauty.
“Forty Years in the Woods” features detailed drawings of Arkansas plants that Bonar created while on expeditions into the state’s forests and wilderness areas. During these expeditions, Bonar carried the atlas with him. However, it did not include illustrations of the state’s plants, so he added his own.
“This exhibit is a collection of Arkansas’s botanical heritage, and we are very proud to finally share it with the people of Arkansas,” said Jimmy Bryant, director of Arkansas Heritage. “The staff at the Old State House Museum have done a terrific job with the curation of this collection of art. I can’t wait for everyone to see it.”
The exhibit also features framed specimens of some of the plants that Bonar illustrated. The Old State House Museum partnered with Theo Witsell, chief of research for the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission (ANHC) and curator of the ANHC Herbarium, to frame the plant specimens. Witsell and Bonar worked together to select species that were either dependent, uncommon, rare or indicative of high-quality forested habitat.
“There are two key factors that I like to tell people about the ‘Forty Years in the Woods’ exhibit – the quality of Kent’s art and his knowledge as a scholar and naturalist,” said Daniel Cockrell, director of the Old State House Museum. “Kent is a wealth of information on Arkansas natural heritage and how the people of Arkansas have interacted with nature historically.”
Photos from the exhibit can be found here.
To schedule group tours of the Old State House Museum, including the new exhibit, contact the museum’s education department at 501-324-9685. For media inquiries, including interviews and photo opportunities with staff, contact Noah Delashaw at [email protected] or call 501-682-1925.
Old State House Museum
Construction on the iconic Greek Revival building that would house Arkansas’s first state capitol building began in 1833. The structure served numerous purposes until 1951 when the Old State House became the state’s museum dedicated to preserving the history of Arkansas from statehood to today. It received national accreditation in 1993 and again in 2003. It is part of Arkansas Heritage, a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.
Arkansas Heritage was created in 1975 and is a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. There are eight agencies with unique heritage focuses under the umbrella of this division: Arkansas Arts Council, Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, the Delta Cultural Center in Helena, the Old State House Museum, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, the Historic Arkansas Museum and the Arkansas State Archives.
Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism
The Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism protects and promotes our state’s natural, cultural and historic assets, contributing to a thriving economy and high quality of life. It is made up of three divisions: Arkansas State Parks, Arkansas Heritage and Arkansas Tourism. Mike Mills serves as the cabinet secretary for the department.