Art That Heals

Hot Springs native Anthony Tidwell recognizes the transformative power of art in his own life and provides a unique opportunity for children to experience the same joy through Cutwell 4 Kids.

By Barrett Gay | Photography by Jeff Fuller-Freeman

There are some stories that just make you stop and smile. This one begins with a Hot Springs barber who experienced childhood trauma and discovered art as a therapeutic outlet. Today, he introduces this medium to others and offers them the same opportunity.

Anthony Tidwell, a barber at Tim’s Barber Shop, established Cutwell 4 Kids in 2014 as a venue for self-expression through the visual arts. The mission of Cutwell 4 Kids is to “promote and support the self-awareness and growth of every child’s uniqueness and individuality in the form of artistic expression.”

Anthony explains, “I know first-hand how art saved my life, and I wanted to ‘pay forward’ the therapeutic benefits I received as a youth during The Atlanta Child Murders.”

His reference to the horrific period in Atlanta during the late 70s and early 80s – in which approximately 29 African-American youths were murdered – is one that haunted him when his classmates were reported missing. Anthony says he experienced nightmares, and for nearly a year after this dark time, he did not speak. A teacher suggested he draw what he was thinking and feeling, and through his art, Anthony was finally able to cope with his pain and confusion by ‘leaving it all on the paper.’ To this day, Anthony uses art for that exact same purpose: closure. “I can get something off my chest by using my charcoal, drawing a picture that represents my frustration. Then I ball it up and throw it away, and it feels like I am done with it.”

Now, Anthony works tirelessly to provide other kids with that same opportunity. Cutwell 4 Kids recently received The Lower Delta Initiative Grant that will expand its scope throughout the state. “We are replicating the program throughout the lower delta region by using art to reach youth so they can embrace their culture and appreciate their surroundings,” Anthony notes.

The Cutwell 4 Kids art studio is in a building that has been in his family since the 1940s. The space has been home to various businesses, including a barbershop and a diner. After extensive renovation, hundreds of children now enjoy the fruits of his dedication and desire to facilitate healthy self-expression.

Anthony’s devotion and support of the arts date back before the inception of C4K. He has worked as an art teacher at the Stuttgart Fine Art Center’s community after-school arts program for children in the fifth and sixth grade. Additionally, he is a member of the Hot Springs Cultural Alliance, an organization that supports the arts in the greater Hot Springs area.

Events like The Birth of An Artist introduce the community to the important mission fulfillment work of C4K. The evening will showcase artwork by C4K kids as well as other renowned artists from across the state. Guests will enjoy light hors d’oeuvres, live music from Rock Town Jazz Squad and art available for purchase. Anthony and the C4K board of directors hope this fourth annual fundraiser will generate additional support for C4K programs and services.

Anthony cites a quote from iconic artist Pablo Picasso as the heart + soul of C4K: “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

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