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UALR magazine

Fall/Winter 2007 • Vol. 3 No. 2

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A Gallery with Soul

By Robin Henson

A tragedy is often the impetus to pursue a dream. For Little Rock artist Vicki Kovaleski, the nudge to open her own gallery came during a bout with breast cancer.

“Knock off the dream and just do it” became the mantra for the watercolorist during her cancer recovery.

“I had breast cancer. It was an awakening, and I thought about what my dreams were,” said Kovaleski. While going through chemotherapy she realized her passion to open a gallery. That dream — Art & Soul: A Kovaleski Gallery — became a reality in 2005.

Perseverance is no stranger to Kovaleski. Growing up in a household of 10, she was aware there wasn’t much money for college, but she wanted to get a degree.

“I always worked full time and went to school,” said the mother of three boys. She was a respiratory therapist when she enrolled in an art class at UALR. “I got hooked. I loved it. I have to paint.”

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Kovaleski’s intrigue with painting led to many more hours studying watercolor, design, and illustration before securing a UALR fine arts degree in 1990.

“As you get older, you are more practical,” said the painter. She taught watercolor and design classes out of her home, did commission work, and designed logos. “To make a living at art, you have to teach, produce work, and commission work,” she said.

She continues to grow as an artist. “Some people think you’re born with it, but it has to develop,” said Kovaleski, former president and active member of the Mid-Southern Watercolor Society. The watercolorist has studied with many internationally known authors and artists, including Jean Dobie and Charles Reid, and at alluring locations like an Italian Riviera and Barcelona. Australia’s top watercolorist, David Taylor, inspired her recent works. Additionally, St. Nicholas, France, where she has taught watercolor and journaling workshops, has given her quite a bit of subject matter.

Kovaleski’s “Sisterhood” painting series depict scenes of women having fun just being around each other. They were reproduced as notecards enabling her to make a sizable contribution to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Her Art & Soul gallery also primarily features female artists, including fellow UALR alumna Joan Crews.

Kovaleski said she is grateful to UALR for helping her achieve her dream. “With my family size, I would not have been able to do what I did without UALR. Anyone who is 30, 40, or 60 can say ‘I really can go back,’ especially to a metropolitan university. It takes away the excuses.”

Serving as vice president of UALR’s Friends of the Arts, Kovaleski reconnected with the university when her son expressed interest in studying applied design after moving back to the capital city to practice design at Dassault Falcon Jet, a UALR business partner.

She utilizes her talent to give back to the community where she has called home for 25 years. Her work is among a distinct artist line-up featured in the 2008 Arkansas Governor’s Mansion Association’s arts calendar. As a board member for local homeless shelter, Our House, she recently organized the fundraiser, “Tie One On,” an auction of artistic aprons, raising $20,000.

Kovaleski rarely passes up the chance to encourage others to “just do it.”