Five Local Collectors Reflect on The Piece That Started It All

Glenn Mack, Michelle Dearing, Raven Cook, Jayshica Amargós, Case Dighero talk about the first piece that piqued their interest
Work by Jaquita Ball is currently on view at  the Gallery at First National Bank of Northwest Arkansas.

Collector: Case Dighero

“I was visiting New Orleans in the early ’90s to see Nine Inch Nails at Tipitina’s. I was especially excited because they were the ‘it’ band after the release of Pretty Hate Machine, and it was an incredibly loud, sweaty, raucous show. The next day, I was with friends near the French Quarter and found this gallery with tons of cool, interesting Southern artists, and I immediately fell head-over-heels for a watercolor that sort of matched the vibe of the trip and the music I was listening to: dark, expressive, sublime. It was this interesting, weird abstract landscape painting with earth tones of rust, gray, brown, traces of water and either a moon or sun reflection—emotional, a little sad. Even though it’s been lost over the years, I can still visualize much of it, or at least I think I can.”

Case is founder of Edible Culture, a culinary consulting firm.

Collector: Jayshica Amargós

“I was browsing around at the 211 Art Gallery in downtown Bentonville checking out the exhibit of local artist Jaquita Ball when I landed in front of a painting of a donkey. Jaquita is known for her series of donkey paintings (left), and this one was particularly bright and beautiful. It made me happy. Like Jaquita, I love donkeys. They’re such gentle creatures. I never thought of myself as an art collector, but I fell in love with that painting that day, and I bought it on the spot. Since then, my husband and I have purchased a handful of Jaquita’s paintings, and Jaquita and I have become friends. She’s taught me so much about art. Now when I look at the piece, which is still hanging in my living room, it makes me as happy as the first time I saw it. Plus, now I think about the friendship it’s brought me.”

Jayshica is chief people officer and executive vice president of public relations at Yeyo’s Mexican Grill.

Collector: Raven Cook

“When I was a kid, I had a hairdresser back in Little Rock who used to paint figures—they were really minimalist but contained strong religious symbolism. There were two that I was particularly drawn to. One was black, red and white and symbolized the protection of Christ’s blood, and the other was white and gold, symbolizing the divinity of God. With the help of a benefactor, my mom, I acquired them. Once I got my own place in college, they went up on my walls. My hairdresser was also a praise dancer at church, so the pieces contained a lot of movement. They were both really simple, but powerful. As a Christian, I drew a lot of symbolism from what they represented.”

Raven is the museum educator at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and an African-American-rights activist.

Collector: Michelle Dearing

“It was years ago, back when I’d take my sons to that coffee shop in Fayetteville on Dickson Street, Common Grounds, before we’d catch a play at the Walton Arts Center. The coffee shop always had art on display, and one day a piece on the wall stopped me in my tracks. It was the colors that just drew me in—reds and golds. It was the first time I’d had an emotional response to a work of art. Plus, the title was Real Love, and at the time, I had just gotten engaged and bought a house with my fiance. The painting was perfect for that time and for that house, but it was more than I was prepared to pay for a painting. I visited it over and over and finally bit the bullet and bought it. Well, my actual love story ended, but I still have the painting.”

Michelle is a realtor with Midtown Associates, which hosts an art gallery at its downtown Bentonville location.

Collector: Glenn Mack

“The rug’s colors drew me in first—dark browns, reds, burgundy, hints of orange and white. Then it was the patterns—geometric and abstract floral motifs, not like the exaggerated bright floral patterns you’d see on a Persian carpet. Then I glimpsed the price tag. It was much too steep for an exchange student scraping by in Moscow. Thankfully, there was another way. One dirt-cheap flight later, and I was in Ashgabat, the capital city of Turkmenistan, once again standing in front of a selection of rugs. Only this time there were acres of them, and there were some I could actually afford. After spending hours roaming around the market, I spotted The One—it was a relatively small traditional Turkmen Tekke rug, awash in those deep autumnal colors that had first stopped me in my tracks back in Moscow. More than two dozen carpet purchases have followed, in Uzbekistan, Dagestan, Armenia, Western China, Afghanistan. I still have them. Each one is like a page in a travelogue, reminding me of my nomadic time in Central Asia.”

Glenn is the executive director of Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food.