I quite like the idea of having some people's art put on a spotlight forum. But I also think it can be executed even better.It might be something that you already are thinking or doing something about,but here it goes:

Have 5-6 thumbnails of the latest 5-6 featured artworks displayed on the main page of the forum, in the way that zbrushcentral forum does:

A shiny thumbnail is 10 times better than text links. In that direction of thinking, why not also turn the display of threads on the ambient spotlight forum into a gallery with thumbnails that link to the threads containing the images, the way that zbrushcentral does:

I can tell that it works out pretty well in their case. I find myself constantly checking that "featured" gallery of the forum, and I know for a fact that everyone else around there does too.