Prominent Hot Springs artists Gary Simmons and Richard Stephens have accepted the invitation to serve together as grand marshals of this year’s Oaklawn Rotary Christmas Parade, to be held at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, December 2 in downtown Hot Springs.
“This year’s parade theme, ‘The Art of Christmas,’ honors the talent, heart, and generous spirit of our entire arts community,” said Lee Richardson, parade chair. “Downtown Hot Springs is home to a vibrant arts district that caused us to be named of one of the best small art towns in America. Our diverse arts scene strengthens our economy and boosts our cultural ‘cool factor.’ We can’t wait to see how each parade entry will incorporate the arts theme.”
Simmons and Stephens, both individually and as a team, have significantly influenced Hot Springs; arts scene over the years. Simmons, a nationally-recognized pen-and-ink artist, began drawing science illustrations as a student worker in the zoology department at Southern Illinois University. After acquiring bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English and American literature and a doctorate in instructional systems technology, he worked for the University of Arkansas until beginning his career as a freelance artist in 1976. He taught at Henderson State University’s Art Department from 1991 until his retirement as professor emeritus in 2013.
In 1992, after two years of teaching national pen-and-ink seminars for Rapidograph, the manufacturer of Simmons’ pens, he released The Technical Pen: Techniques for Artists, published by New York’s Watson-Guptill Publishers and recently reissued by Echo Point Books of Vermont. It has been critically acclaimed as the bible of pen and ink drawing.
A native of Hot Springs, Arkansas, Richard Stephens earned a Bachelor's Degree in Art from the University of Central Arkansas in 1969. After serving in the Army as an illustrator, Stephens began his professional career in 1971 with a design firm in Little Rock, Arkansas. Three years later he opened his own graphic design studio in his hometown. He continues to provide design and production services for a wide range of commercial accounts.
Having been introduced to the medium in college, Stephens re-discovered transparent watercolor in the early 90's. He quickly garnered a reputation nationwide for his confident, loose, impressionistic paintings. His works have won national awards and earned him signature member status in several major watercolor societies. For the past 15 years, Stephens has shared his passion for the medium by conducting painting workshops around the country. In 2014, he was featured in a six-page article by the French publication The Art of Watercolor, widely considered the top watercolor publication in the world.
The Christmas Parade application deadline is 5 p.m. on Friday, November 20. The official parade entry form, including parade rules, is available at www.oaklawnrotary.com and under the Our Community tab on the City of Hot Springs’ Web site, www.cityhs.net . Parade inquiries may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org , and parade updates will be posted to www.facebook.com/oaklawnrotary .