The hidden gems of Eureka

I walk through the Clear Spring School campus in Eureka Springs as nationally renowned carpenter Doug Stowe tells me how much he has enjoyed teaching here for the past 20 years.

Stowe created the Wisdom of the Hands program at this private school. Over the decades he has become an expert in a Finnish system known as the educational sloyd, which emphasizes education through craftsmanship.

“I have discovered that almost everything in human life is enriched if your hands are engaged in its exploration,” Stowe likes to say.

The school was founded in 1974 by Will and Laurie Fulton and Molly Fulton Seeligson. Will and Molly’s father, Bernard Fulton, founded Greenhill School in Addison, Texas, in 1950. The school, with a campus 12 miles north of downtown Dallas, has nearly 1,300 students. Kindergarten to Grade 12. It started with 62 students.

Bernard Fulton then served as principal of two other schools in the region. In October 1990, Texas Governor Bill Clements declared Bernard Fulton Day. Her children started Eureka Springs School in a downtown home, before moving to this heavily wooded 16-acre campus.

At first, Stowe says, some locals saw it as a school run by “a bunch of hippies” and dispatched law enforcement officers more than once.

“The arts have always been at the center of this school,” says Stowe, who teaches here three days a week. “I find my interactions with the students extremely rewarding. “

The school first served students from kindergarten to sixth grade. It now serves students from Kindergarten to Grade 12. Clear Spring is accredited by the Association of Independent Schools of the Central States.

“The pandemic has turned the proverbial basket of apples upside down, confusing previous policies,” said Jessica FitzPatrick, who heads Clear Spring. “Yet, as a school leader, I took this opportunity to put things back in place in a new vision of school and learning. When will we have this opportunity again? more idealistic approaches.

“In a year of constant change, uncertainty and disruption, we could have collapsed under the pressure. Instead, we have grown stronger as a community. The first three months of the pandemic were the most difficult. make a plan to visualize the school year. Coming back to school, we made sure to meet regularly to discuss the challenges.

FitzPatrick says Clear Spring “looks different than it was before. It’s more practical, more engaged hearts. This past year has allowed us to ask bigger questions. If we could design the school the way we do. wanted, what would it look like? ”

I have visited Eureka Springs all my life, but this was my first visit to the Clear Spring campus. It is a hidden gem, one of many in this small town. I find another on each visit.

Another gem five miles west of town on US 62 is Opera in the Ozarks at Inspiration Point, which attracts opera singers from across the country every summer.

“Four weeks of rehearsals are followed by four weeks of performances of three operas with full orchestra, full costumes and full staging, with operas performed in their original language,” writes Janet Parsch for The Arkansas Encyclopedia from the Central Arkansas Library System.

A German-born engineer and investor, Charles Mowers, came from Texas to hunt in the Ozarks in the early 1900s. In 1928, he purchased land known as Big Rock Candy Mountain and began building it. which he called a castle, using stone quarried from the mountain. When the stock market collapsed in 1929, he abandoned the project and returned to Texas.

The castle was completed by Reverend Charles Scoville of the Disciples of Christ in 1932 and used as a retreat. It was named Inspiration Point. On Scoville’s death in 1938, his widow donated the property to Phillips University, a Disciples of Christ institution in Enid, Oklahoma, which existed from 1906 to 1998. The school relinquished the property afterwards. a decade, but Phillips’ dean of fine arts teamed up with Eureka Springs music teacher Gertrude Stockard to start a music camp.

What became known as the Inspiration Point Fine Arts Colony held its first opera camp in the summer of 1950. Music clubs in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri subsequently provided financial support.

“As the organization grew, it began to offer courses to more advanced students with an emphasis on opera,” Parsch writes. “The facility included male and female dormitories, booths for teachers, a cafeteria, office building, training booths and a historic red barn, which has become a storage facility for costumes and sets. .

Henry Hobart, the dean of Phillips, remained a director until his death in 1966. Isaac Van Grove was artistic director from 1955 to 1978. Until 1986, orchestral training was part of the program.

In 1985, 200 contiguous acres were purchased. Inspiration Point Fine Arts Colony officially changed its name from Opera in the Ozarks to Inspiration Point in the early 1990s. By 2000, much of the undeveloped property had been sold to fund campus improvements. Famous Rogers architect David McKee was hired to design a 750-seat auditorium.

Improvements have continued since then. The Duane and Carole Langley Rehearsal Center opened in 2017. The South Central Region (Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas) of the National Federation of Music Clubs continues to support Opera in the Ozarks, another institution of Eureka Springs which has far too few Arkansans. know about.

Editor-in-chief Rex Nelson’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He is also the author of the Southern Fried blog at rexnelsonsouthernfried.com.