Bella Vista Arts Council recognizes area artists

The Bella Vista Arts Council is pleased to honor three artists for the winter 2023 Artist Spotlight program: Woodworker Tom Judson, potter Beth Anderson, and jewelry artist Vicki Thurber.

The group will be recognized in a ceremony with Bella Vista Mayor John Flynn at a public reception at 5 p.m. Thursday, December 14 at Bella Vista Bar and Grill, 98 Clubhouse Dr. in Bella Vista.

JudsonTom Judson, locally known as the CEO of the Bella Vista Property Owners Association, has a passion for the craft of woodworking. Judson was first introduced to woodworking in junior high school shop class. Over many decades since then, he has refined his skill to create many beautiful works.

Judson primarily builds furniture, such as live-edge tables, benches, river tables, jewelry cabinets, coffee tables, and dining room tables, with equal focus on enhancing the beauty of the wood and functionality. He will often use exotic hardwoods, such as Sapele (sourced from West Africa), Purpleheart (sourced from South American), and Honduran Mahogany (sourced from Latin & South America), while also using hardwoods that originate closer to home, such as American Cherry, Walnut, and Ash. He does not stain the wood he uses, but instead allows the natural beauty and grain of the wood to take center stage.

“Working with my hands is the most effective way for me to reduce stress,” Judson said, adding he often clears his mind in his workshop and allows his creativity to help recharge his system. 

The Bella Vista Arts Council members became aware of Judson’s woodworking and impressive skill due to the many custom-built tables he has donated to support Bella Vista charity auctions. If it were not for these donated tables, only his family and a few friends would be aware of his hidden talent.

AndersonBeth Anderson was taken arrowhead hunting by her mother as a little girl in the freshly plowed fields outside her hometown of Concordia, Kan. Their finds invariably included pottery shards, which sliced by a plow blade still showed intricate designs. On their way home, when her mother wasn’t looking, Beth would dig globs of clay from the soles of her shoes and form her own mini pottery. She was hooked.

It wasn’t until a two-day pottery workshop in 2016 led by Becky Christenson that she next put her hands into clay. That workshop left her wanting more, but she had to wait until 2019 to enroll in her first formal hand-building class at the Studio at Wishing Spring Gallery. Hooked at the age of 10, she was reeled in at the age of 66. This spring, alarmed at his space in the garage being taken over by clay, her husband and some friends built a tiny studio in the backyard, where Anderson now spends hours listening to audiobooks and playing with clay. To her, heaven on earth.

Vicki Thurber’s
 love for jewelry making started in the 1960s when she and a good friend Rosie were exploring bead shops to make some cool bohemian earrings. They explored the media of materials and colors and invested in tools such as twisting wires. 

When Thurber became busy with college there was no time to make jewelry. Her love for unique pieces was replaced with collecting jewelry, especially Native American jewelry including Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni. Occasionally she would design and make a necklace or earrings to go with an outfit. It wasn't until the 1980s when she moved to Oregon and got involved with an American Indian cultural center that she returned to her love of beading. It was like the sleeping Ojibwe part of her had awakened. What had started out organically developed into new inspirations. 

 “I learned bead embroidery, peyote stich and beaded earrings. But my favorite was working with leather. There's something about the feel of leather and the forgiveness of the material that I love. I made drums, dance sticks, moccasins, and pouches with beaded designs,” Thurber said. “Being Ojibwe (Chippewa), I developed into my own Anishinaabe culture.”

Thurber’s enthusiasm for beading leather spread into copper and silversmithing. She found all of this to be her creative and emotional outlet and is self-taught. She gets her inspiration from the jewelry she finds. Her growth in knowledge comes from studying new techniques.

“I'm inspired by the beauty of nature, lush with color, texture and movement,” she said. 

Thurber’s present love is working with metals. She finds it a new challenge as she creates while soldering, melting, and learning the chemistry between metal and heat. 

Each artist will have examples of their work for a talk about their process and experiences in developing their unique style of craftsmanship. Join us to celebrate three of Bella Vista’s many creative talents. 

The Bella Vista Arts Council, an advisory board to the City Council, was created by the City Council in February 2016 to help promote the arts in Bella Vista. Board members are Demara Titzer (president), JB Portillo and Gina Porter. The board established an Artist of the Month program in 2018, in which selected artists and their work were showcased and recognized monthly for their achievements. That program has become a quarterly recognition called Artist Spotlight, and three separate artists are featured each quarter.

A committee will choose each quarter from qualified artists, who must be residents of Bella Vista. Events will be held in a location around the city. Submit nominations via email to