Updated: Jul 2, 2021
"Xu has dedicated his life to refining his art and is a wonderful addition to our Living Treasure program," Stacy Hurst, director of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, said in a news release.
"Xu is a talented sculptor, painter and teacher who has been instrumental in perpetuating and developing art and artists in Hot Springs and throughout the state. Arkansas' creative legacy is indeed richer due to Xu's many contributions."
The Arkansas Living Treasure program annually recognizes an Arkansas artist who excels in the creation of a traditional craft and who preserves and advances their craft through community outreach and by teaching others, the release said. Xu will be honored during a ceremony in May.
"I'm glad to share knowledge with the people and to keep art alive," Xu said in the release.
Most recently, Xu exhibited "The Soul of Arkansas," a series of 40 paintings at the Hot Springs Convention Center. The exhibit opened in October and drew to a close on Monday.
Xu told the newspaper in September 2018 that he chose to display his work in the convention center because the art belongs to the community. By choosing to feature it outside of a gallery, Xu said he feels more people in the community and people visiting the area would have access to it and not be constrained by a gallery's typical operating hours.
The collection of 40 paintings features scenes he observed while traveling throughout the state. Unlike other works of art that focus on society's definition of beauty, Xu told the newspaper he worked to bring out the natural beauty of the community and feature real people of all ages, shapes and sizes.
An independent panel chose Xu as this year's Living Treasure based on his wood carvings. The panel picked Xu based on his quality of work, contributions to traditional crafts fields and efforts in the community, the release said.
"Xu has studied and practiced art all of his life. He emigrated from China to the U.S. in 1989 and settled in Hot Springs in 1990. He has taught in prestigious schools worldwide and in the U.S. When he moved to Arkansas, Xu taught at Henderson State University and at a local community college. He retired from higher education instruction in 2001 but continues to teach talented students in his private studio," the release said.
Xu has advocated for arts education and individual Arkansas artists for nearly 30 years. In 1990, he and his wife published "A Gathering of Artists: Hot Springs -- Arkansas, Volume 1," a book that featured 13 artists' works and raised public awareness of the artists in Hot Springs. He meets regularly with other artists to share his knowledge of arts, the release said.
Xu was commissioned in 1992 to produce "Mother Nature," a sculpture that dominates the median at the intersection of Central Avenue and Fountain Street, near the Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa. The release noted his art is in parks, schools, hospitals and private collections statewide.
"Xu said he loves to blend artistic techniques and mediums to more fully express his artistic vision. As a young artist, he was classically trained in Eastern and Western woodcarving and blended those techniques to create his own style. He said he wants to use different mediums to capture something new in his work," according to the release.
His techniques include everything from stone carving to painting.
Xu said his work is inspired by the people of Hot Springs. "I've been moved by the people because they love each other," he said in the release.
He said he wants to capture and reflect the loving environment through his artworks. That includes sculptures and paintings of children and animals, mothers and children and Arkansans celebrating together.
"To me, art comes from life," Xu said.