Donna Dunnahoe is a fiber artist and graphic designer who received a BA in art education from California State University, Fullerton, in 1978. She has curated art exhibitions for the Fine Arts Center of Hot Springs (2010 to 2016); Landmark Gallery, Henderson State University, Hot Springs campus (2018 to 2019); and Arts & The Park, Hot Springs Area Cultural Alliance (2014 to present). She was the executive director of the FACofHS from 2012 to 2016. Past work experiences include elementary school teacher, children’s ministry director, graphic designer, and arts program director.
Dunnahoe works and lives at her studio in Hot Springs, Arkansas. She was drawn to the area, inspired by the natural beauty of the forest and the historical architecture. She lived in southern California until 2006 before relocating to Arkansas. Nature in its various environments—coastal, desert, and mountains—has inspired her creative development.
Dunnahoe was first introduced to California Native American baskets as a child when her parents were given artifacts left in an old farm shed in Orange County. The collection also included samples of Native American pottery. The texture of the basket fibers and the play of shadow and light on the pottery inspired her imagination.
Her basic skills in weaving and ceramics were acquired during college, and she continued exploring the traditional method of coiled weaving, the oldest of the weaving techniques, to create contemporary basket forms, combining it with ceramics and fused glass. In 2008, the Arkansas Craft School awarded Dunnahoe an apprenticeship grant to study for one year under master potters Barbara and Jim Larkin. Her artwork direction has evolved into creating abstract sculpture forms that encourage the viewer to observe both with the eyes and the hands.
Dunnahoe was selected to be the September 2009 Artist-in-Residence for Hot Springs National Park and has artwork in the permanent collection. She has been featured in several art exhibitions, including National Park Cultural Center, Ozark Bathhouse (2014), and the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff (2011). Her fused glass cross with coiled weaving was selected to be included in the 2009 Arkansas Governor’s Mansion Calendar. Dunnahoe demonstrates and teaches her fiber crafts at art fairs and community events.
Hot Springs National Park and its surrounding area provide wonderful inspiration for weaving. The natural colors, woodland textures, and light and shadows of the canopy create patterns that I am exploring in textiles. The Gulpha Creek and the natural hot springs spark my imagination when incorporating the weaving with the glass and ceramics aspects of my work. The juxtaposition of woven natural fibers against the hard surfaces of the kiln-fired glass and clay makes an interesting and new interpretation of the natural forest landscape. Weaving is a tactile art, and it is important for the weaver to have tactile experiences of her subject. Walking the trails and living in the Ouachita Mountains provide me with this knowledge.
Social interaction is another important ingredient in my craft making. In past eras, community weavers and spinners performed their craft in the village’s common area, becoming an important focus of social interaction while making the wares for their village. I value the communication that I have with people as I am weaving. I perform and demonstrate my art in public areas such at the local farmer’s market and the Hot Springs nature trails. This allows me to exchange ideas and listen to the visitors who are curious about weaving.
Meditation is the other side of this art form. I find myself thinking of growth, patterns, and shapes because of the repetitive movements required to build a form. Thus, while creating, I become comfortable with being withdrawn and contemplative or with choosing to be social and interactive. The contemporary and organic designs of my artwork are a record of my interaction with people and nature.