Grandeur at the Gardens

Martha and Joe Dooley, patrons of Ballet Arkansas & Garvan Woodland Gardens, bring the two organizations together for a spectacular performance.

By Jillian McGehee | Photography by Sara Reeves | Hair by Ashley Johnston with Paisley Parlor | Makeup by Carrie Sweeter with Lancome at Dillard’s | Dress, shoes and pearl jewelry from Dillard’s | Styling/Fashion consulting by Paulette McClanahan

Martha and Joe Dooley were enamored by the majesty and beauty of Garvan Woodland Gardens during their visits to the Spa City, long before they considered Hot Springs home.  They moved to Hot Springs five years ago from Wynne, Arkansas, where Joe’s family owned and operated a John Deere dealership for three generations. Now, these Hot Springs residents are avid Garvan Gardens ambassadors, Martha through her Master Gardener membership and Joe as a docent. Their appreciation for the arts, both visual and performance, has been a constant throughout their years together.

They also share great enthusiasm for Ballet Arkansas. The upcoming Ballet Arkansas Encore! performance, hosted in the awe-inspiring Anthony Chapel at Garvan Gardens, combines these two passions. Highlights include excerpts from Under the Lights, set to the music of Johnny Cash; The Nutcracker and Group Therapy, a contemporary jazz ballet.

Garvan Gardens Membership and Special Events Director Kristin Mangham notes her appreciation for the Dooleys and their continued commitment to Garvan Gardens as devoted volunteers, as well as their support of the annual Ballet Arkansas appearance at the gardens – this marks the fifth year of unique collaboration between the two organizations.

Ballet Arkansas Artistic Associate Laura Hood Babcock says the Dooleys are an invaluable resource. “Ballet Arkansas is grateful for wonderful patrons like the Dooleys. Joe and Martha continue to share their knowledge to help us bring new opportunities that expand our audience base; and they are genuine fans of our dancers.”

Ballet Arkansas Encore! is a unique opportunity to experience dance performances in one of the most beautiful structures in Arkansas, Joe says. “The all-glass, tree canopy setting is just spectacular and tickets to the ballet also include same-day entrance to the gardens as well as the reception.” Garvan Gardens is the 210-acre botanical garden of the University of Arkansas with a mission to preserve the natural land and provide a learning environment in partnership and service with the community.

Watching a performance in Anthony Chapel is special for these two Garvan Gardens enthusiasts. “And having the opportunity to visit with the ballet company after the performance at the Garvan Pavilion gives us an opportunity to renew old friendships and make new ones with the dancers,” Joe adds.

Their devotion to the Garvan Gardens is unwavering, with Joe’s role as a docent being a highlight of his time spent at the gardens. “The joy of being a docent and meeting people from all over the world is amazing,” he says, noting the gardens attract an estimated 175,000 visitors each year. Kristin adds that visitors last year came from all 50 states and 10 countries.

Martha spends her time at Garvan Gardens as a Master Gardener – weeding, planting and tending to the flowerbeds. Her favorite part of the park is the Ellen Edmonson Great Lawn and the pergola – which was named in honor of the Dooleys. “The majesty of the great lawn and seasonal changes of the flowering border are something to behold,” she says. The pergola, which has become a prime spot for weddings, is the perfect “visual reminder of the splendor that first attracted us to Garvan Woodland Gardens,” Joe adds.


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