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Garland Co. artist picked for Beebe portrait

July 8, 2014

LITTLE ROCK — A Garland County art instructor has been selected to paint the official gubernatorial portrait of outgoing Gov. Mike Beebe — the first time in 35 years that a new artist will produce the formal portrait.

Beebe said he and his wife, Ginger, chose Ovita Goolsby to paint the farewell portrait. The previous five portraits have been done by artist Nancy Harris, an Arkansas native who now lives in Williamsburg, Virginia.

"Ginger chose the artist. She wanted an Arkansas artist," Beebe said. "I had been talking about the lady who had painted the ... bulk of the others, but Ginger really prevailed on me to choose an Arkansas artist."

Goolsby, a portrait painter for the past 35 years, teaches portraiture and life drawing at National Park Community College in Hot Springs.

"I won't say it's my swan song, but it's a highlight of my career," she said. "I'm the same age as the governor, 67. And we both grew up in small towns in Arkansas. I'm honored. It's a thrill to be chosen."

Goolsby told the media that she'll use several posed photographs of Beebe to create the portrait. The governor joked that he wasn't patient enough to sit still for the hours needed to paint the portrait.

"He's been an incredibly good sport about all of it," she said. "The first session is for the pose. I ended up taking 154 shots of different poses. I digested that down to six or seven. He had originally talked about a standing pose, but in the end he chose a sitting pose."

Beebe's portrait will likely be unveiled in November or December. It will be hung on the east side of the governor's reception room at the Capitol, and former Gov. Mike Huckabee's portrait will be moved to the second-floor rotunda.

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