Special Announcement!

SHARE Foundation relocates the 40-year-old "History of Arkansas" art sculptures.

Many are unaware that SHARE Foundation has developed a beautiful art collection through generous donations and gifts over the last 26 years.  Various pieces are displayed throughout the community for public access and viewing.  The most locally recognizable pieces are the concrete sculptures created by Richard H. Ellis and Tony Sheets called "History of Arkansas," located at Warner Brown Hospital in El Dorado.  These sculptures have been proudly displayed on an exterior wall at the old hospital for 40 years.
In 2015, the last medical offices left the Warner Brown Hospital, vacating the facility.  Since then, the old abandoned hospital has remained empty and deteriorated.  To view the sculptures, one would have to look through blocked gates and "do not enter" signs or get a quick glance with a drive-by.  For years, the poor condition of the old hospital caused concerns regarding the public art access, appreciation, and preservation of the once cherished artworks.
Over the past four years, SHARE Foundation and Murphy Arts District (MAD) have worked together to develop a plan to remove and relocate the artwork.  MAD generously agreed to provide new locations for the artwork and played a significant role in project planning and development.  SHARE Foundation hired an engineer to develop steel and concrete foundations to support the weight of the sculptures on the ground.  In addition, a construction company provided a plan and budget quote for services to include the removal, relocation/ transportation, and installation at the new locations.  To fund such a large project, SHARE Foundation applied for multiple grants.  However, each proposal was unfortunately denied.  Thankfully, the SHARE Foundation's Board of Directors approved the project to be funded in January 2022.
The removal/installation began in April 2022 and lasted approximately 2-3 weeks.  The sculptures have been relocated to their new locations at the Murphy Arts District (MAD) and the South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society (SAHPS).  Six sculptures are now at different locations on the MAD campus. One sculpture is now located at SAHPS, along with the smaller animal stoneware pieces from the main entrance of the old hospital.
Interior of Warner Brown Hospital - backside of installed sculptures before removal.  
Nabholz Construction team pictured.
New steel and concrete foundations being installed at MAD.  
Nabholz Construction team pictured.
The removal process, a 2-week project.  Nabholz Team pictured.  Hugg & Hall provided equipment rental at no charge as a generous donation to the project.
Cleaning and sealing the sculptures.  
Timber Power Washing pictured.

Why was the artwork worth moving? 

Here's a brief history.

The artwork was initially commissioned by the Artistic Development (Second Phase) with the goal "to create and display artworks that would beautify and share the traditions of the hospital."  The shared vision was "to provide the hospital with a soul" by having beautiful artworks displayed throughout.  The Second Phase was estimated to have commissioned this artwork at the onset of the 1980s.  Many influential and passionate people from Warner Brown Hospital and the community were involved in the Artistic Development phases for many years.  Among these leaders were Lyda Merkle (artist), who served as the committee chair, and Milliard Sheets (artist), who served as the project's artistic director.
The sons of Milliard Sheets, Richard H. Ellis and Tony Sheets, were the artists who created the "History of Arkansas" sculptures.  An art dedication was held in the main lobby of the Warner Brown Hospital on March 7, 1982, after the sculptures were installed.  Both artists were there and described the intensive and challenging installation process due to the large size and weight of the panels (an estimated 20 tons).  Since then, the "History of Arkansas" had been publically displayed and viewed for decades at the old hospital.
Due to the age of the art sculptures (now 40 years old), many questioned how the removal process would go and if the sculptures would crumble.  However, an excellent and passionate team of individuals was involved.
The sculptures now located at MAD.
The sculptures located at SAHPS.  Raccoons are not pictured.

Commemorating the Relocation of the
"History of Arkansas" at MAD

On Wednesday, May 4th, 2022, MAD hosted a reception to commemorate the art sculptures' relocation and honor SHARE Foundation. In attendance were the SHARE Foundation's Board of Directors, Murphy USA's Board of Directors, project leaders and partners, Richard H. Ellis (artist) and his wife, and other community leaders involved with the Artistic Development (Second Phase). The reception was held at the Oil Derrick Park.

Special Thanks to Gay Bechtelheimer.

SHARE Foundation wants to give special thanks to Gay Bechtelheimer for her significant role and leadership in this project.  Her passion and dedication to preserving this artwork kept our team focused and energized.  Gay was involved in every step of the project, including research, contacts, making models and drawings for displays, planning, getting estimates, providing grant ideas, talking with the construction team, and so much more.  Gay is a true advocate for art and the community.

See the list of partners below for those involved throughout the project.

Artwork descriptions:

"History of Arkansas" consists of seven large concrete panels: Caddo - Quapaw, Arkansas - Ouachita, De Soto - Lasalle, De Tonti, Arkansas Post, and El Dorado.  The sculptured mural panels in total measure 108' x 720' x 14."  Artists were Richard H. Ellis and Tony Sheets.

The animal sculptures are glazed stoneware - terra cotta relief - of the following wildlife: deer with fawn, fox and quail, raccoons, bobcat, squirrels, and quail.  Each piece measures 36" x 36" x 8" thick.  Artist was Betty Davenport Ford.

Special Thanks to Our Partners

SHARE Foundation
Board of Directors
Dr. Brian Jones and Amy Sturdivant

Murphy Arts District
 Pamela Griffin and Gay Bechtelheimer

South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society
Steve Biernacki

Nabholz Construction Corp.
James Luyet and Construction Team

Hugg & Hall Equipment Co.
Nick Sewell and El Dorado Office

Timber Power Washing
Eric Pearson

ELDOCOS Real Estate Management and Development
for Warner Brown Hospital
Pete Dunn
Beauford Rash

Harris Engineering Inc.
Al Harris