Home and Garden
By Meda Kessler
Photos by Ralph Lauer
Artist and gallery owner Ariel Davis fills her Arlington Heights house, inside and out, with things she loves
Ariel Davis prefaces our visit with the warning that her house is tiny. “But the backyard is big, so come early before it gets too hot, and I can show you where we hang out as much as possible.” Gardening is one of Davis’ hobbies, and she has created an oasis filled with herbs, flowering shrubs, a few vegetables and pollinators beneath the tall trees behind her home in Arlington Heights.
We also want to check out Davis’ personal art collection, which leans heavily toward local talent. This is no surprise given her background.
The gallery manager at Artspace111 and co-owner of the newly opened Love Texas Art gallery, both in downtown Fort Worth, is an accomplished painter herself, specializing mainly in figurative abstracts of people, most of them women. The Fort Worth native got her art degree from the University of Texas at Austin but spent her formative years working in museums and galleries at home.
One position was at Milan Gallery in the downtown Fort Worth space that is now home to Love Texas Art, a happy coincidence for Davis. She has also served on multiple boards of groups such as Fort Worth Art Collective and Art Tooth, both devoted to promoting and showcasing local talent. In addition to being an advocate for artists, Davis learned more about the business side.
In 2015, she took a job as assistant to Nancy Lamb, her neighbor in Westworth Village and one of Fort Worth’s most well-known creatives. Lamb lost her husband in 2013 and was recovering from hip surgery; Davis proved to be a welcome Rx, helping Lamb get back on her feet, literally and figuratively. Davis, in turn, credits Lamb with being a mentor and helping her make more connections in the local art scene.
Stepping back from working at galleries a few years later, Davis immersed herself in her own art. “I turned my living room into a working studio.”
She also went to Paris to visit Hillary Dohoney, a friend and fellow painter. “While there, I got a call from Margery Gossett, founder and owner of Artspace111. She asked me to be the full-time gallery manager as well as oversee an Artspace111 pop-up at The Shops at Clearfork.”
Davis returned from France and immersed herself in her new positions, which included a makeover of the Artspace111 gallery in 2019.
(Opportunities to create art for some big projects popped up in the last few years, too: a pair of 24-foot, five-panel canvases to help christen Globe Life Field when it opened in 2020 and a street mural at the Will Rogers complex for the 2022 Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.)
Today, Davis splits her time between the two gallery spaces, concentrating on consulting work with Artspace111 and getting the residency program up and running at Love Texas Art, where she also has studio space. “Artspace111 is a destination due to its location. I’m thrilled we’re getting another opportunity downtown where we can interact with visitors and locals on a daily basis. There are people who come in here who don’t know anything about Artspace111. There are people in town for conventions and tourists who stumble into the space who leave knowing a bit more about Fort Worth’s art scene.”
While most of the Artspace111 roster also is represented at Love Texas Art, there are rotating shows of contemporary talent, too. And the LTA gift shop is highly approachable with nicely priced small works, cards, jewelry and more. Add to that some comfortable lounge areas and a vending machine stocked with adult beverages, and you have something more than the usual gallery space. On a blistering hot day in July, there’s a family having lunch at the community table, and some visitors from Dallas hang out on the comfortable sofa to talk about the works they’ve just seen. When Davis is working in her studio, passersby can watch her paint through a large wall of glass.
Another of Davis’ recent major milestones was her marriage to Koby Hicks in 2020. It’s only fitting that they bonded at an art show and share similar tastes. Davis became a Heights resident when she moved into his 1941 bungalow.
“Koby found the original plans for the house and added a porch to bring it back to its original design,” says Davis. While she has been collecting pieces from artists she loves and ones she wants to support, Davis and Hicks now purchase a piece together each year on their anniversary. “I’m lucky enough to work with some amazing artists, such as Dan Blagg and Nancy, and to have their work in our house. Every piece in here has meaning.”
With limited wall space, every room is filled with art. A large Blagg painting bought from Heritage Auctions in Dallas and one of her own paintings are the dominant pieces. Notable names such as Melissa Miller, Riley Holloway, Cindi Holt and Carol Ivey are represented, too.
On the fireplace mantel is a piece of pottery from Sarah Colby Levings, who works at Fort Works Art on Montgomery Street. Perched on a stack of books on an antique bar is a box holding a gradiated puzzle, a work of art in its own right. The bold agave painting came from a big-box store, but Davis says it works in the space, so it stays.
A narrow hallway features wedding-gift art and pieces meaningful to her and Hicks. Pieces she claimed from her mother, also a collector, include two featuring birds made from real butterflies.
Davis’ eye for what works together is apparent here. Each wall beckons the viewer to stop, look and get to know each piece a little better.
“There’s only room for small works now,” says Davis, “but they make a big impact, too.”