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The Paint Gang

Historic Arkansas Museum - Sunday, March 08, 2015

Students of Arkansas artist Mallie Vena McAninch (1913-2007) have stuck together long after they began painting together in the late 1960s. The glue? A shared experience with a memorable teacher, the need for an honest critique or, perhaps, a simple love of art and expression. Whatever it is that binds them, the “Paint Gang,” as they call themselves, continue to meet to this day—and recently met at the museum to view some of their teacher’s work that is part of the museum’s permanent collection of Arkansas-made art and artifacts.

The Paint Gang: (from left) Margaret Blackwood, Marge Irvin, Susan Hurst, Kyle Hest and Gerry Carter

In July, Marge Irvin, Margaret Blackwood, Susan Hurst, Gerry Carter and Kyle Hester met at the museum for lunch and a private viewing of the museum’s collection of McAninch’s work. The students reminisced about their teacher’s strict style (no talking in class, for example) and her keen eye for what would improve her students’ paintings. The years of instruction (20 plus for some students) created a bond among the painters who still look to each other for artistic feedback as well as the camaraderie of a decades-long friendship.

Marilyn and Paul McAninch by Mallie Vena McAninch; purchased with funds from the Natural and Cultural Resources CouncilMs. McAninch was known for her portraiture—her subjects included business entrepreneurs such as Sam and Helen Walton and members of the Dillard family—as well as still life paintings and murals. In her lifetime, she won numerous awards, showed her work in solo exhibitions and was named Arkansas Woman of the Year.

Having McAninch’s work in the museum’s Arkansas Made collection adds to the museum’s goal of documenting and preserving Arkansas’s cultural and material legacy from the 19th century to the present.