The first extra-large painting – a 10x12-foot section of sidewalk – on Hope's one-of-a-kind ARTpark, was completed Friday, November 25 by 11-year-old Lilly Allen of Blevins.

The first extra-large painting – a 10x12-foot section of sidewalk – on Hope’s one-of-a-kind ARTpark, was completed Friday, November 25 by 11-year-old Lilly Allen of Blevins.
The painting, named Gertrude the Owl, took the sixth grader more than 20 hours over three weeks to complete. Always accompanied by one or both of her parents (Timothy  and Cheryl Allen), Lilly was a study in concentration as she measured, and painted, first with Magic Marker and then with exterior porch paint for the detail work.
The finished painted was overlaid with a clear coat of polyurethane to create a protective shield; it is estimated that each painting will last five to seven years before restoration work is required.
Although Lilly said she has “never really had a big interest in painting, my first love is to do black and white drawings in pencil.” She remembers starting to “play” by “painting in Headstart classes but it was mainly just stenciling things in. I think all preschoolers enjoy painting.’
She was introduced to the ARTpark when she and her mother came to the Southwest Arkansas Arts Council’s (SWAAC) gallery show of works by Little Rock artist Sandy Newberg.
The ARTpark encompasses a city-owned parking lot and sidewalks. George Smith, SWAAC executive director, after seeing some photos of a couple of Lilly’s drawings, asked her if she would be interested in putting one of her works on a section of sidewalk.
“At first,” she said, “I thought that it was really, really big and that it was too advanced for me and that I really was not capable of doing it.” Then, she said, “Although that didn’t stop an idea from forming in my head.”
Her idea – a gigantic portrait of a horned owl -- was an assignment in her fifth grade art class. She dedicated the painting to “my great-grandmother.”
An extremely shy girl, Lilly said she has only told “my very closest friend about my painting.” But she admits being a bit in awe knowing that in the future, thousands of visitors will she her finished work.
“That is something very new, very new to me,” she said. “Nothing I have every drawn has caught the attention of so many people and it’s very hard to even think about a lot of people seeing my work.
A benefactor bought Lilly a membership in the SWAAC so she could attend the members-only opening exhibit of Pine Bluff glass artist James Hayes. “I have never met a real-life artist before,” she said.
She had her picture taken with Hayes, who praised her burgeoning talent after seeing a photo of her sidewalk art. “You keep at it, Lilly. You have a very good eye.”
Space is available for any artist to participate in the ARTpark project. Contact the SWAAC at 870-777-8200.