|Bess displays a collection of handmade purses on a series of bookshelves.|
|A Barry Thomas painting entitled Friends hangs above the guest room love seat.
Collecting art has been the life’s work of Bess McFadden Sanders, owner of Gallery Central in Hot Springs. She began purchasing pieces as a teenager in Dallas, and has amassed a diverse and ever-evolving collection. “I began by putting pieces on layaway when I was quite young,” she says. “But starting small allows room for growth and awareness.”
This love of art became an even bigger part of Bess’ life when she became the owner of Gallery Central, exposing her to more artists and allowing her to introduce them to a wider audience. “On the walls of Gallery Central I hang art that I love and would enjoy in my home and my office,” she says. “It’s easy to sell art when you personally have a love of the work and also respect the artists.” Beyond her work with the gallery, Bess is an active member of the Arkansas art community. She was appointed by Governor Mike Huckabee to the Arkansas Humanities Commission Arkansas Arts Council, and she serves on the boards of the Arkansas Chapter of the National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., and the Mid-American Arts Alliance.
When Bess and her late husband, Bill Sanders, began building their own house, creating spaces to display their artwork was of primary importance. Working with architect David French and builder Mike Terry, Bess ensured that the bones of the home, from the placement of windows to electrical outlets, would allow ideal vistas for hanging paintings by artists as diverse as Todd Crockett, Barry Thomas, Allison Parsons and Michael Ethridge.
The Mediterranean-influenced home also benefits from an open floor plan and neutral color palette with natural limestone floors, developed by working with designers Tom Chandler and Scott Paterek. This classic combination is the ideal backdrop for the collection, allowing the artwork to provide rich color and interest. “The colors and fabrics are tone-on-tone, very warm and textural,” Bess says. In addition, this gives her the freedom to move art around as often as she likes. “I enjoy rearranging my art to see each piece in a different light and surroundings.”
Entertaining was another key consideration in the home’s design, especially to make the most of its lakeside location when her children and grandchildren visit. “I have always loved to entertain, so our objective was to have open space for indoor and outdoor entertaining,” Bess says. In the great room, French doors line the back of the house, opening onto a wide porch and pool area, which leads down to the lake.
Collecting is an ongoing process for Bess, and things never stay the same for too long in her home or her gallery. “The dream of my life really came true when I was lucky enough to own Gallery Central,” she says, “because my collection continues with the artists whose work I select to showcase there.”