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story.lead_photo.caption Yasir DeGrate poses for a portrait next to his logo in his new art studio, Yasir's Art World on 3420 N. State Line Ave. in Texarkana, Arkansas. Photo by Hunt Mercier / Texarkana Gazette.

TEXARKANA, Ark. — Texarkana's homegown art scene has another gallery in the creative, DIY art mix here: Yasir's Art World.

A gallery project of local artist Yasir DeGrate and his wife Jasmine, Yasir's Art World held a grand opening this month with lively and colorful work gracing the walls at this small space adjacent to Illusions Tattoo on State Line Avenue.

The DeGrates anticipate an eclectic mix of events for the gallery to engage the community and establish, as Yasir put it, a safe space for artists.

The opening included paintings by Lonnie Thompson, one of many artists who contributed his artistic vision to the park-like art project at Bringle Lake, and Yasir's Art World is managed by Jasmine, whose artistic creativity is reflected in pursuits like makeup and body painting.

It's Yasir and Jasmine's first gallery, but they've participated in art-themed events in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

The grand opening was simply meant to tell the community that Yasir's Art World is here — "and we're going to be here a minute," said Yasir, who was happy to see children attend with their families. Some of their paintings are still at the gallery, which reflects the Yasir's Art World attitude.

"It was a really good feeling. The purpose of us opening this whole gallery is we wanted a lot of people to have a safe space to create," Yasir said. "A lot of people don't even know that they have those artistic qualities and that they can relieve stress by doing art."

Specifically, he'd like people with post-traumatic stress disorder to use the gallery space to create art and alleviate stress. Art has, after all, helped him. He joined the military out of high school.

"It has helped a lot. I've filled sketchbooks up. I've done a lot of canvases, and when I was in Las Vegas we went to an art show where at the last minute I was asked to come and I ended up selling 11 pieces," he said.

Yasir and Jasmine want to engage gallery visitors with art classes and similar opportunities — "knowing that it's not just a come-in-and-view gallery but you can also engage," Yasir said.

Jasmine is the one who evaluates art submissions. They encourage artists to come talk with them. To that end, they will organize cohesive exhibitions with specific themes.

"Based on the type of art that they do, so the showcases flow well, as opposed to it being a bunch of different types of art that maybe one crowd wouldn't understand or appreciate," Jasmine explained. "We'll put together the showcases where it pulls in the crowd that would appreciate the type of art, so that the artist has a better chance at selling prints and actually it becoming a lucrative experience for them, as well."

Feb. 13 brings a "Bittersweet Show" with an anti-Valentine's Day theme. "We'll have bitter in one room, sweet in the other room," Jasmine said. Feb. 6 is a kid's craft day for tots to teenagers — art for any age, food and supplies included.

Yasir DeGrate poses for a portrait with his family at their new art gallery.
Photo by Hunt Mercier/Texarkana Gazette.

They strive for a supportive environment with children's art. They'll even create special, kid-height shelving for a kid's exhibition. "I want them to feel the joy of creating, and that usually happens where you're able to create without any judgment," Yasir said.

When Yasir talks about his own work, it's infinitely apparent that he feels that joy. He has backstories about his paintings that help a viewer appreciate their overall design.

About one piece, titled "Who Is the Art Really?," he said, gesturing to different spots on the painting, "So who is the art and who is the artist on this painting? A lot of people instantly go, oh, that's the art. No, that's me. This beautiful thing is the art. I'm abstract, messy, ugly, don't even blend with everything else, but I fit well because I created it."

Seeing his art, his works seem to combine stylistic elements seen in Cy Twombly and Jean Michel Basquiat.

With another work, Yasir says of the whole face and the eyes in it, "If you're trying to focus on fixing you and not them, you'll probably see a little bit better. And if you let those go and you come to an understanding with this, then you'll be a little more wise. You'll be able to breathe a little easier. Your colors get a little lighter."

With most paintings, he won't know what it is until it's finished. He's inspired by artists me meets in person, feeling the energy they have. "And I know what your paintings mean to you," he said.

Listening to other artists discuss their work also brings him great joy. Artists appreciate being able to tell their story. "And I'm happy because you chose me to talk about it with," he said, noting his military experience includes combat photography.

Yasir DeGrate talks his past experiences in the military and influences for his art pieces in his new art studio, Yasir's Art World.
Photo by Hunt Mercier/Texarkana Gazette.

"One thing that I love more than anything is communication," Yasir said. He relates this to the simple act of holding the paint. "Staying connected to you just works, and that's how I feel about art."

He's self-taught, but when he worked at an art college in Massachusetts, he learned from all the books that students complained about. "I would read them," he said. He worked security there but received an education in this way.

"I want Texarkana to start caring a little more about art," said Yasir, who's also read his poetry at Zen Artists Emporium, another DIY, eclectic art gallery new to town.

Both Yasir and Jasmine hail from Texarkana but came together when he lived in California. "The word kismet represents us," he says. Together, they brought something unique and fresh to art shows. Jasmine plans to bring body paint shows to the gallery, and she wants an art battle with nail technicians.

"We've seen a lot of different ways to incorporate art and make it interactive. Because it impacted us so well, we're ready to have that here," Jasmine said, noting the look of the gallery may change from event to event.

She's done makeup for runway shows, painting faces. They've curated events. They've participated in art battles. Community is important to them.

"We know a lot of creative artists who are out of town who we could get to come and do showcases here. Their art, it's going to blow y'all's minds," Yasir said.

(On the Net: Follow the Yasir's Art World page on Facebook.)

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