It’s art of all types. Jewelry of every design. Booths with all types of artist lined up to display artwork in downtown Russellville. There’s free food, live music and enough opportunities to window shop at the annual Russellville Downtown Art Walk and to Shay Arnold, it’s one of her favorite events that Russellville holds.
Shay Arnold, a graduate assistant from Salem, is currently pursuing a master’s degree in teaching, learning and leadership. This September was her second year participating in the art walk.
ww“The Russellville Downtown Art Walk is an opportunity for artist of all kinds to display their work to the public,” Shay said. “Local artist set up booths in stores and other vendors in the downtown area.”
Shay heard about the event from other local photographers and she said she wanted to give it a try. Her first year of participating in the art walk was spent with a group of other photographers set up in the train depot location. “It was great to get to mingle with people and talk photography for the evening,” she said.
“I enjoy the opportunity to get to display my work to individuals who may not typically get to see it and to mingle with fellow artist,” Shay said. Aside from the social media route, Shay said that it can be great to connect with others and display your work through social media, “but the human connection that’s made when meeting other’s in person can’t be beat.”
Shay’s career in photography began when she was a sophomore in high school. “I had an old film camera to begin with, and eventually bought a second-hand DSLR when my interest continued to grow,” she said.
Hands down her favorite type of photos to take are landscape. “There is just something so rewarding about getting the perfect shot after waking up at two a.m. and driving for hours to catch the sunrise coming up over the horizon or getting lucky and catching an amazing sunset reflecting into the lake,” she said.
Growing up on a farm on the outskirts of the Ozark National Forest she said she’s always had the appreciation for nature. “It was just so much fun to take pictures of friends and classmates,” she said. But once she was in college, she started to explore the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains and, “of course I took my camera along.”
“I don’t think that there was ever a defining moment that I decided ‘I’m going to turn this into a business,’” she said. “It was really just a natural progression. I want other people to be able to see how beautiful the area around us is.”
As for turning her passion for photography in a career, West Photography came to life during her freshman and sophomore years of college. “I had, and still have, this passion for going out and capturing all these moments, and I wanted to share it with other people,” West said.
She said it all started with the name. “I had always been proud of my maiden name and felt that, in an essence, it captured my personality and passions. It seemed right that someone with a passion for traveling and exploring would have a cardinal direction for a last name.”
She says that she started diving into portrait photography these last few years and loves to see the look on people’s faces and their excitement when they finally get to see the result of the session. “Capturing those emotions and feelings and freezing a moment in time for them is just addicting,” she said. Though she admits as much as it is addicting, it can be nerve-wracking at times.
It’s been a learning experience these last few years, she admits. Learning how to use social media to her advantage, when and how to post and what engages the audience. “I still have a lot of learning and growing to do, but I’m pretty proud of how far it’s come,” Shay said. She also said that her main goal is to never let the business aspect outweigh her passion. “I do this because I love it and couldn’t image doing anything else and it’s only the better if I can bring joy or laughter to others along the way,” Shay said.
One to enjoy nature and traveling, Shay expressed that she’d love to get to take the time to drive and photograph the Pacific Coast Highway as her dream project. But then, “Honestly, there are so many beautiful places in the United States alone you could spend a lifetime trying to capture and still not get it.” But she says that she just loves the rugged coastline and the variety of landscapes that she would have the opportunity to shoot along that highway.
Until Shay gets the opportunity to travel to the west she’s hoping to teach middle-level science after graduating next December.
Photography is her passion. She’s made it into a career, but she said that there’s no doubt that you have to put in the work to get good shots, but she admits that there’s also an element of luck involved.
“And,” Shay said, “I think that’s what makes it so special.”