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By Glenda Graves | Portrait photo by Keith Branch

Allison Hobbs

The Art of Balance

American artist Edward Hopper once said, “If I could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.” Allison Hobbs has quite a way with words, but it’s her artwork that truly speaks volumes as well as her ability to understand the language of other artists through their work. Allison serves as the director and curator for MIXD Gallery, located in the Pinnacle Heights district in Rogers.


MIXD is a cultural establishment, falling perfectly between Bentonville’s world-class museums and the University of Arkansas’ School of Art in Fayetteville. It was created to offer an equitable opportunity to celebrate and collect the work of artists and creative practitioners across Northwest Arkansas.


Allison was born in Johnson City, Tennessee. After her father graduated medical school, her family moved to Memphis, Tennessee. “My mother’s family resided in Memphis, with a rich history in the Navy,” she said. “I am proud of my family and the background I have grown up in.”


She continued, “Alongside all family members’ great achievements, there was always art around — from actors, painters, screenplay writers and music. I have always had different forms of art surrounding me.”


Allison said hardship came when her parents decided to divorce when she was 7. She was able to experience two different parenting styles and two different ways of life, with her mother’s family being more traditional than the way her father lived and parented.


“But I believe that because of the differences in my childhood, I do well balancing different environments,” Allison said. “I am a believer and feel strongly in the action of listening and loving through understanding someone else’s story and history. This is an innate tool when having conversations with artists and learning about their life. Art has been a form of communication since the beginning of time. The reason for painting is to communicate, and finding out more about the human behind the art is very important.”


She attended Briarcrest Christian School, where she had a wonderful high school art teacher. “She was kooky and wild and would get into trouble for the things she would say in class,” Allison said. “I constantly find these points in my life where I have traditional verses nontraditional. I may have been in a traditional private school setting, but I had this nontraditional art teacher who was saying it was OK to push boundaries.”


Though Allison was always a lover of art, when it came time for college, she said, “I was encouraged to move into a business school or health-related degree.”


Allison started as a business major at the University of Arkansas but realized her brain just didn’t work that way. “I have never felt more unseen than I did in my business classes, though I am thankful for that background now,” she said, laughing.


Allison Hobbs with Jennifer Bentley, Sue Tull and Megan Delco volunteering at the Juvenile Diabetes Research OneGolf Tournament at Shadow Valley Country Club on June 2, 2023

She went on to complete her bachelor’s degree in health sciences, which she said has never been put to use. But she did continue to paint throughout her college career. “There would be times where I wouldn't pay the light bill because I would buy canvases to paint on, but then I would sell the art and pay the bill,” she said. “I learned about timing and patience and being intentional about my next move while keeping the lights on.”


After graduating, she took a job with J.B. Hunt Transport Services as a customer representative and grew into sales. Though she didn’t find a career, she did meet her husband while working there. She and Brock Hobbs were engaged in 2012 and married in 2013, and she left J.B. Hunt when recruited by KNWA, working in digital sales. “It was 100% commission,” Allison said. “It really taught me the sales-oriented side of myself and how to manage that financially, which eventually led to my confidence in running my own commission-based art business, Allison Hobbs Art. With the full support of my husband and family, I retired from corporate America to become a full-time artist.”


She and Brock had their first child, Sutton, in May 2016. “I could not ignore the desire I had as a new mom to be able to show her that I went for my dreams and passions,” Allison said. “Even if I were to fail, I would have something to teach her. I wore her in a baby carrier, and I painted with her every single day.”

She had her first pop-up art sale at a boutique in Fayetteville. When a few interior designers reached out to her, she began to realize there was a gap in the market for original art in design within our region. From there, her career as an artist really snowballed.


Allison eventually realized she was immersed in many different organizations and groups within the art world, but there was nothing connecting each of those different parts and artists. She started asking, “Where are the commercial art galleries?”


Creating her own gallery in Northwest Arkansas happened organically. After having a friend and entrepreneur open an opportunity for a space, she launched Sutton Hylton Gallery, named for her daughter and son, in February 2020.

But as everyone knows, the world changed in March 2020. Allison worked hard to continue the e-commerce side of Sutton Hylton during the pandemic but eventually made the decision to close. “I loved that gallery, but I only had it for a few weeks,” she said. “I wondered if I would ever have that opportunity again, but I did learn some things and knew that I would do it a little differently given the next opportunity.”


In summer 2021, Allison had the opportunity to sit down with area philanthropist Jane Hunt, who wanted to discuss the idea of a local gallery and what it would look like. Jane was ready to make it happen and could see Allison’s vision for a new gallery model clearly.


However, it was also during this time that Allison was dealing with some difficult things at home. Sutton had just turned 5 and was experiencing health issues with no answers. On July 16, 2021, Allison and her husband took Sutton to Arkansas Children’s Northwest emergency room. “We were in and out of doctors for at least five months and praying for some answers,” she said.


Allison explained to the doctor the long road of Sutton’s gastrointestinal issues, frequent urination, unquenchable thirst, severe irritability and significant weight loss. The doctor decided to take Sutton’s blood. Allison said, “And within five minutes, he came back and said, ‘She has Type 1 diabetes.’”


Although they were relieved to finally have a diagnosis, it hit them that their child would be living every day with this chronic, lifelong disease. Fortunately, Allison and her family received amazing support from the community, especially from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which put her in contact with other families who had gone through what she was currently going through. But even with all the support, she wondered whether it would be possible for her to move forward with the gallery project with Jane Hunt at such a difficult time.


Allison Hobbs with her husband, Brock, and children, Hylton and Sutton
(Photo by Amber Utnage Photography

“I realized that I go to art when I need it,” Allison said. “It is my space where I can let go — therapy if you will. Curating this time around felt like that creative outlet that I knew I was going to need to continue to be the best mom I could be and, hopefully, change some lives along the way.”


She made the decision to jump headfirst into MIXD Gallery with Jane as the founder. With an amazing team in place, they worked 18 months on creating MIXD. Allison began visiting studios. “I visited almost 133 studios in 2022, learning that the caliber of work in Northwest Arkansas was high,” she said. “We opened the doors of MIXD in November 2022. We have now already celebrated our first year and have had five exhibitions and over 68 artists that we have shown.”


Allison believes everyone is worthy of having a beautiful piece of art, no matter what the budget. She also loves seeing a brand-new collector’s joy after purchasing a piece as well as adding a regional artists’ work to a collection next to art from all over the world. She is excited about the gallery’s second year and looks forward to partnering with other businesses and platforms.


When it comes to her daughter’s Type 1 diabetes, she is also making a splash. While the JDRF organization was based in Little Rock, the marketing director reached out to her about getting more involvement going in Northwest Arkansas. So, Allison and her friend and fellow T1D mom, wife and JDRF Board President Megan Delco worked hard to bring back a community-driven OneWalk three months later. The continued need for JDRF’s presence to be revamped in Northwest Arkansas post-COVID had increased significantly. Allison and Megan, along with the JDRF team, decided to co-chair and bring back the local gala, which will feature the OneGolf Tournament on May 31 and the OneParty Gala on June 1.


Throughout her life, Allison has found a way to make balance look like an artform. She is doing this in her own life as an artist, as a director and curator for MIXD Gallery, while also navigating motherhood and giving back to the community. 


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