Photography by Jamison Mosley
Wildwood Park for the Arts is bigger, brighter and bolder than ever. Nestled in the valley of West Little Rock, the sprawling 105-acre property continues to offer the beauty of nature and the arts to the community at large. Under the leadership of Dr. Bevan Keating, the annual Lanterns Festival is the place to celebrate international culture and cuisine.
“If you love food, if you love music, if you love looking at beautiful lights while walking in the woods – you will love our Lanterns Festival.” Bevan invites families to join in the fun and support park conservation and arts education at Wildwood. “Lanterns is the largest outdoor festival in Arkansas. No matter what your interests are, there’s something for just about everyone.” The festival features five countries that offer guests an immersive experience of each destination’s landscape: China, France, Scotland, Jamaica and Ukraine. “China is included every year,” Bevan elaborates. “This year feels particularly meaningful to express solidarity with the Ukrainian people; we are donating a portion of proceeds to help refugees from that country’s war.”
Wildwood is a unique venue that continues to evolve with current global events and the recent expansion of West Little Rock. Bevan explains, “With increasing housing and shopping developments in our area, we are forging partnerships with local companies and community leaders to ensure that Wildwood provides opportunities for recreation, meditation and nature education.” There are also annual summer music and art camps as well as year-round lessons in voice, piano, and other instruments. “We host hundreds of school children for dance and theatrical performances each year.” Accessibility to the arts and nature is paramount. “We are constantly working to improve quality and security for our visitors.”
For more than two decades, the park’s vision of connecting people with nature and connecting people with each other remains steadfast. Visitors can be found fishing in the catch-and-release ponds, strolling the trails, enjoying picnics or simply communing in the park. Bevan expands, “If you walk inside, you find students in our classroom spaces singing and playing piano as well as talented artists and engineers on stage creating the set for the next big production. Volunteers congregate in our office sharing a love for the park. There is such a buzz of excitement and a newness to each day at Wildwood!” He reminds us that the purpose of a lanterns festival is clear, “It’s a custom said to bring good fortune in many world cultures.”