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story.lead_photo.caption This oil painting by Danny Helms depicts a story from the Book of Isaiah. It's titled "And a Little Child Shall Lead Them." (Submitted photo)

TEXARKANA, Ark. — Local artist Danny Helms would be jumping for joy if he could see that his biblically-inspired art has found a new home at Harding University, says 1894 Gallery owner Georgia Hubnik.

Helms died late last fall, but his artistic legacy remains with an exhibit that drew as many as 2,000 visitors to the downtown gallery when it was displayed. The collection remained up for months, depicting various scenes from the Bible.

Now, Hubnik says, the many oil paintings that are part of Helms' "Led by the Spirit" will be part of the permanent collection at Harding University's Bible department. Harding University officials visited the gallery in April to collect them, which Hubnik announced on a social media post back then.

"It was so exciting. It would have meant a lot to Danny," said Hubnik. Helms was a supporter and frequent visitor to the gallery. The gallery hosted "Led by The Spirit" last summer and on through the year.

The exhibit features 39 paintings, each with a scene based on a book from the Old Testament, ranging from "Daniel in the Den of Lions" to "Condemnation of Baal Worship."

"Some of the subjects are very familiar that people grew up with as kids, like Daniel and the Lion's Den, things like that, but other things are unusual. They're subject matter you might not recognize right off, like the Siege of Nineveh is a big battle scene, and it's 3-foot by 4-foot, or Solomon's ships," Helms said last July for a Gazette article.

From the beginning, Hubnik said, Helms said he didn't want the pieces to be sold. "He wanted it to stay together, and he was looking for a permanent home. Hopefully to inspire people and continue in his ministry."

He wrote about this desire in the book he published about the exhibit, in addition to his will, the gallery owner said. They've been selling other art pieces, but they won't sell these works.

"I knew Danny's desires, to have it in a place that would continue to bless people. Harding just stayed on my mind. It was just one of those things. It just kept staying on my mind, and I called and I felt like it was a God thing," Hubnik said.

She talked with an official at the Bible department, and then more talks ensued. A video presentation impressed them, Hubnick said. An Old Testament professor visited to look at the paintings, said Hubnik.

"He felt like it would be a great fit for Harding," she said. Once the legal aspects were ironed out, a van came down to pick up the collection.

"It's in the permanent collection there in the Bible department. It's supposed to be exhibited, I think, in the summer or the fall," Hubnik said.

For her, it's overwhelming to see her friend's art find a home like this.

"I guess words can't really describe it," Hubnik said, "because I know that's what Danny wanted. He felt in his heart that this was what God wanted him to do and for his legacy to live on. I think he would just be overwhelmed and so pleased."

Danny Helms paints at an 1894 Trade Days event downtown. (Gazette file photo)

What might he say if he saw all this happening?

"I think it would be more of a reaction. I think he would be jumping up and down, and I think if God's allowing him to see it he's jumping through the clouds," Hubnik said, noting Danny was a Church of Christ minister and Harding is a Church of Christ university.

"He would just be overjoyed and thanking the Lord that he allowed him to use his gift, to hopefully bless people in years to come," Hubnik said.

She estimates close to 2,000 people came to see the exhibit. The art moves people and it's a visual connection to the scriptures, she said.

"There's no words to say to really tell how you feel," said Hubnik, her voice full of emotion, talking about being involved in making this happen. "To be just a little part of letting it happen, of getting it together, is tremendous to me."

Added Hubnik, "I can't express how nice all the staff and the faculty were at Harding University. All of them. They felt like it was going to be a great blessing to them and it would fit in with their university and everything, too."

About the people depicted in his paintings, Helms said last year, "They had families, they had trials, they had disappointments. I was trying to depict more emotions than anything else."

(On the Net: Facebook.com/1894Gallery.)

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