There were fashion shows in the center square, not far from the cookie shop. There were concerts on occasion. Puppet shows. There were sidewalk sales, and fireworks extravaganzas.
There were movie nights at the Mall Twin Cinema, mall walkers and teenagers roaming the corridors and hanging in the foodcourt.
Years ago, the Northwest Arkansas Mall was a gathering place for all types of events, and though that hasn’t been the case as much lately, the mall will soon be home to an art show that longs for the glory days of the large indoor shopping center still operating on the north side of town.
The pop-up show, curated by local artist Alex Bodishbaugh, is called Nostalgia, and will take place in the space formerly home to a Banana Republic inside the mall for three nights, April 14-16.
The show will include more than 100 works by over two dozen artists from Fayetteville, the surrounding region, and artists living and working in other locales around the country, all curated around the theme of nostalgia.
Artists expected to show work at Nostalgia include Matt Miller, Christina Mariotti, Louis Edward Love V, Summer Bostwick, Chloe Jones, and several others.
The idea behind the show. Bodishbaugh said, is to help connect local artists to folks interested in purchasing local art, all in an interesting, unexpected location to create “a viewing and buying experience that is simple, enjoyable and memorable for both parties.”
It is a ticketed event, with a VIP night from 7-9 p.m. on Thursday featuring early access to the show, a goodie bag, beer and wine bar, and other festivities. The Friday and Saturday shows will be open from 6-9 p.m.
Tickets to the show go on sale on Tuesday, March 15.
We got in touch with Bodishbaugh to learn more about her vision for the show, and she was nice enough to answer some questions for us.
Tell us a bit about what you have planned with the Nostalgia show next month. What are you hoping to accomplish with the show?
Nostalgia is a pop up art exhibit, located in the old Banana Republic space at the Northwest Arkansas Mall. Nearly 30 artists, across mediums will show over 100 contemporary works. All artwork in the exhibit will be tied to feelings of nostalgia, as interpreted by the artist. The majority of participating artists are based in NWA, but there is a handful of exciting art coming from Nashville, Chicago, and New York. In addition to art, there will be a variety of experiential elements that play off of the retail bones of the space.
As a working artist, I’ve felt a gap between artists and consumers. Most people are comfortable engaging with art at the museum or community project level, but by and large, I’ve found the average person is intimidated and unsure about how to buy and collect art for their home. On the flipside, most artists are intimidated and unsure about how to make a living by selling their art. My goal with Nostalgia is to connect artists with consumers, and to create a viewing and buying experience that is simple, enjoyable and memorable for both parties.
Nostalgia will also reimagine what it means to “invest in art”. All original art in the show will be for sale, but there will be affordable print offerings of each piece as well. You should be able to walk away with a tangible piece of art, regardless of your budget. Simply posting or sharing about an artist’s work is also encouraged as a cost free way to help support established and emerging artists alike.
I get wordy and in the weeds when I start to discuss all of the things I hope to accomplish with the show, but I guess ultimately I hope Nostalgia brings together a diverse group of people from our community and helps artists tell their stories and show their work to a large audience.
The mall is an interesting and unexpected venue for an art show. How did that come about / what is your connection to that place?
Growing up in Fayetteville, my earliest memories of the mall are going to see Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, eating in the food court, and holiday shopping with my parents. As a teenager, the mall was the first place I was allowed to hang out with friends without parents present. I think nearly everyone has formative memories of the mall in or near their hometown. For decades the mall was an institution. To this day, I’m an avid mall shopper, but have been fascinated by the deterioration and decline of malls in the past ten years or so.
The turning-Banana-Republic-into-an-art-gallery idea specifically came about last year. A friend of mine was working on leasing spaces in the mall at the time and asked if I’d come take a look at a few empty stores and maybe have ideas for potential retail tenants. I came up short on store ideas, but when we stepped into the empty Banana, I was struck by the wood floors, tall ceilings, white walls and track lighting. I couldn’t unsee the potential for a gallery. It took me a year to finally act on the idea and connect the theme, but here we are.
It’s been a big month for the mall, with this show announcement, plus the excitement around the time capsule opening. Obviously, this is a pop-up concept, but do you think the mall could be a viable venue for more things like this in the future?
The collective excitement about the time capsule is really encouraging. I think it goes to show that everyone has ties to memories of the mall’s past. Along with the 25 year time capsule, it’s also the 50th anniversary of the opening of the NWA Mall, originally Northwest Arkansas Plaza, this month!
With some creativity, I think there’s huge potential for the future of the mall. Thinking of it as a venue is a step in the right direction. Events at the mall feel foreign now. But in the process of planning Nostalgia, I was able to go through old mall archives, primarily newspaper ads, dating back to opening day in 1972. Boat shows, concerts, puppet shows, even art shows, were a regular occurrence. The mall was a community gathering spot. I think shifting the focus to experience first, retail second, could be a way to capture a new generation of mall kids.
Who are some of the artists participating, and what kind of work will they be bringing to the show?
I’m incredibly proud of the artist lineup. Nostalgia will feature 28 artists, both emerging and established. Matt Miller, mostly known for his murals around NWA, will have a collection of paintings in the show. Christina Mariotti, also local, has a large piece I’m really excited about. It’s incredibly interesting to hear everyone’s take on nostalgia and all of the different ways that it shows up in their work. Tay Butler is a UARK MFA candidate creating powerful work with collage and sports memorabilia. Meanwhile, Laura Collins focuses on niche celebrity moments, like Britney Spears’ hair. Sarah Turner and Danielle Hatch are both artists in residence at CACHE in Bentonville, working with neon and fabric, respectively. I could list all 28 and why they’re each impressive, but just come see the show!
This is a ticketed event, correct? What can you tell us about that.
Nostalgia is ticketed. There are three available dates to attend, April 14th, 15th, and 16th. Opening night, Thursday, April 14th, is a limited and more expensive ticket at $64. The event is from 7-10 p.m. Thursday night guests will have first access to purchasing art, an opportunity to meet most of the artists, a VIP gift bag, and open bar with beer, wine and a signature cocktail. Friday and Saturday night, April 15th and 16th, 6-9pm, tickets are $28 and also include an open bar with beer and wine. If you aren’t able to attend in person, nostalgianwa.com will have art and merch offerings available through the end of April. Tickets go on sale March 15th at 10 a.m. via nostalgianwa.com!
Nostalgia artist lineup