Virmarie DePoyster to Teach Free Portrait Workshops in April


Jessica Craven

Virmarie DePoyster — a multidisciplinary artist, educator and community leader — will participate in the ARTx3 Campus’ teaching artist residency program in April by leading after-school and public workshops.

The workshops are made possible by the Arkansas Arts Council’s Arts in Education program.

DePoyster will lead students in an after-school mural workshop April 2-5 at The ARTSpace on Main, 623 S. Main St. It is open to any student in sixth grade or above. She will work with the Pine Bluff Community Center and participating students to create a work highlighting famous women of history. Students will learn and explore the process of designing a mural and use those techniques to create a piece of art. 

“Women have always played a role in shaping history, but often, for various reasons, their contributions were ignored or overlooked,” DePoyster said. “In this after-school residency, we will explore the lives of Ruby Bridges, Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks and celebrate their contributions to push our society forward. We will also reflect on the progress toward equality and recognize the work that still needs to be done.” 

ARTx3 Campus’ Programs Director Shakeelah Rahmaan said, “We are so excited and looking forward to this after-school program. Virmarie DePoyster has previously worked with us through exhibitions and a Second Saturday Family FunDay event. Her wonderful talents were well received.” 

Janet Uchendu shows a self-portrait she created during a workshop with Virmarie DePoyster at The Arts & Science Center in November 2021. DePoyster will host another free workshop from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, April 6, at ASC’s sister facility, The ARTSpace on Main. These self-portraits focus on the subjects’ eyes.

Rahmaan continued, “The mural that we will create with our after-school group is history-based and March is Women’s History Month. The great thing about this piece is that it will not be on a wall, but on a drop canvas, so the ARTx3 Campus can put it up anywhere, and use it when we need it. It will be on display in The ARTSpace on Main for a time. We can’t wait to get started.”

DePoyster will also lead a free self-portrait workshop from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, April 6, at The ARTSpace. The workshop is open to the public and for all ages. To participate, register here or call 870-536-3375. 

These self-portraits focus on one part of the face — the eyes.

“Visitors can explore why it is said that the eyes are the windows to the soul — by drawing their eyes,” DePoyster said.

About Virmarie DePoyster

Virmarie DePoyster, who was born in Puerto Rico and now lives in North Little Rock, explores the complexities of identity in her artwork. She primarily works in pastels. Since 2011, she has taught as part of the Arkansas Arts Council’s Arts in Education roster. She was honored March 8 as the 2024 Governor’s Arts Awards recipient for Arts in Education. 

As a practicing artist, she explores the complexities of identity. The Arts & Science Center hosted her solo exhibition Beyond Labels | Más Allá De Las Etiquetas in 2021. In the pastel portrait show, DePoyster explored how in today's world — a melting pot — the labels we assign each other have the power to either divide or connect us. Beyond Labels was recently on view at the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum. The exhibition will be on view later this year at the South Arkansas Arts Center in El Dorado.

Rather than focusing on the boundaries these labels can create, DePoyster's goal with these works was to inspire a sense of community as each subject's intrinsic beauty is illustrated. She hopes to inspire an appreciation in our community for what makes each of us unique so we can learn to look beyond labels and truly see one another. 

As an educator, she develops therapeutic art programs, providing safe spaces for self-reflection. And as a community leader, she advocates for equality and inclusion.

DePoyster speaks on her philosophy as an educator. “Painting and the act of creating can provide valuable life lessons … perseverance, adaptability, and responsibility,” she said. “My most important task as an artist-in-residence is to develop and encourage self-confidence, personal expression, and a rewarding sense of accomplishment in creating visual art in students. My work with students, teachers, parents, and administrators focuses on creating a residency that builds a community feeling. I want students to take the lessons beyond the classroom and apply perseverance, responsibility, and adaptability into their everyday lives.”

Since 2011, DePoyster has taught as part of the Arkansas Arts Council's Arts in Education Roster. For many years, she taught pastels at the museum school of the Arkansas Arts Center — now the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts (AMFA). She has also taught at Park Hill Elementary School in North Little Rock, Wildwood Academy of Music in Little Rock, and at The BridgeWay, an acute care mental health facility. She created a therapeutic art program for at-risk youth in rural Arkansas that ran from 2012 to 2018. 

She lives in North Little Rock with her husband, David. You can find her work at the Art Group Gallery in Little Rock.

Visit her website,, and follow her on Instagram at @virmarie.