'Freedom mural' challenging downtown's confederate monument cut through for new restaurant
Little Rock Artist Perrion Hurd completed his "Freedom Mural" Nov. 21, 2021. The mural depicting Harriet Tubman leading a group of people to freedom neighbored downtown Hot Springs's Confederate Monument.
Today, less than two years after the mural's creation, it was cut through to place windows in what will be an upscale southern cuisine speakeasy restaurant named DONS Southern Social.
DONS Director of Operations Fatima Alvirde said being a Black-owned business, the decision to transfer the mural of Harriet Tubman to be displayed in the foyer and introduce large windows was not taken lightly.
"DONS Southern Social has a keen desire to pay homage to the mural and the significance behind the beautiful artwork and maintain true to the vision of an upscale Southern cuisine restaurant," Alvirde said. "We strive to create an atmosphere that guests will come to enjoy at DONS that invokes the charm of southern hospitality."
Without being in Hot Springs's Historic District, the only requirement from the city of Hot Springs for approval is having engineer and architect drawings up to the laws and standards of the state, HS Chief Building Official Mike Scott said.
Hurd was astounded upon hearing the news his mural was being cut through.
“I wish someone would have kept me in the loop about it and given me a head’s up,” Hurd said when The Post told him of the construction.
“That’s unfortunate. ... I'm sorry. I'm in shock right now.”
Hurd added that he hopes there is some way the piece's integrity can remain.
"The basic premise of the mural is, in my opinion, we all get to freedom together," Hurd told The Post in November 2021. "And I hope that by me doing this mural in the community of Hot Springs, right across the street where there is a Confederate Statue, I hope it gives people an opportunity to talk.
"Talk about what freedom means, and talk about what Harriett Tubman did for her people and what that means. What freedom actually means, and the sacrifices we make for each other to guide ourselves toward a better and more free-er and just society. But we gotta do it together, though."
For the full article uncovering the meaning of Hurd’s mural, click here.
The mural was commissioned by the Hot Springs Area Cultural Alliance, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “celebrate, advocate and promote the Arts in Hot Springs, Arkansas.”
The Post reached out to the alliance’s executive director Mary Zunick but has not received a response.
As for the future of DONS, Alvirde said it will introduce elevated dishes and cocktails influenced by French techniques and southern cuisine.
"Joshua Garland, proprietor of Best Cafe & Bar and now DONS Southern Social, has curated a team of passionate and eccentric characters with individual knowledge gained from various backgrounds, establishments and regions," she said.
"At DONS, they gather to offer dishes and ambiance to invoke southern hospitality. DONS’ culinary and service team will be dedicated to providing an atmosphere of fellowship amongst friends, family and loved ones."
This story will be updated as needed.