Thursday, June 27, 2013

draft testimony

This is long and not my usual. It regards the efforts to run a major 345 kV powerline through our community and may explain why I don't have anything specific to say today about hands-on learning.

Q & A Draft testimony for Doug Stowe

Q. Please state your name title and place of residence? My name is Doug Stowe, or to be more formal, Douglas R. Stowe, Jr. I live at 412 Sandrock Road, just outside the city limits of Eureka Springs, 72632

Q. How long you have lived in Eureka Springs? Since the fall of 1975, almost 38 years

Q. What are your experience and qualifications regarding the arts? I have attached my resume at the close of this testimony.

I moved to Eureka Springs as a studio potter and soon thereafter adopted woodworking as my primary art form. I became friends with many of the great predecessors in the arts here, including Tommy Thomas, Louis and Elsie Freund, Ely De Vescovi, Glen Gant, and many more. I found myself part of a growing arts community that had roots going back into the 19th century. I’ve kept active in the arts by participating in local craft shows and serving on the Eureka Springs Arts Council.

 In 1976 I was one of the founders of the Eureka Springs Guild of Artists and Craftspeople and was the organization’s first president. I served again as president in the late 1990’s during the time in which the organization was brought to a close and we used its remaining resources to form the Eureka Springs School of the Arts, ESSA, which was formally organized in 1998.

As a self-employed woodworker I spent years developing my skills and marketing my work and at one time had 30 galleries selling it throughout the US. I was one of dozens of Eureka Springs professional artists producing works for a regional and national market. In 1995 I began writing for publication in woodworking magazines, and began writing books for the woodworking market. Between then and now, I’ve completed seven books, 3 DVDs and published over 60 articles in woodworking magazines in the US and the UK. I am currently working on my 8th book.

During the fall, winter and spring months, I teach woodworking grades 1-12 in an independent school. My program, Wisdom of the Hands is one I started in 2001 to integrate woodworking as an activity to promote hands-on learning in all subject areas. With regard to that I often lecture for educational conferences related to hands-on learning and the arts, and have presented at two international conferences for arts education. During the summer months and on occasional weekends, I teach adult woodworking at various craft schools, and for woodworking clubs throughout the US. In addition, my work is sold through 4 galleries in Arkansas including the Crystal Bridges Museum Gift Store, and the Historic Arkansas Museum and is also sold at Appalachian Spring Galleries in Washington, DC.

I serve on the Board of the aforementioned Eureka Springs School of the Arts and was one of three founding board members. In 2009 I was named an Arkansas Living Treasure by the Arkansas Department of Heritage and Arkansas Arts Council for my involvement in woodworking and the advancement of crafts.

Q. Why did you choose Eureka Springs as a place to live? I moved To Eureka Springs in 1975 drawn by the scenic beauty, the abundant hardwoods, the pristine ecosystem, the quaint galleries, and the wonderful outdoor recreation opportunities this place offers. The town was like no other place I’d visited in my life. I soon discovered Eureka Springs to be a place in which artists and craftsmen were encouraged in their work by a strong network of elders and peers.

Q. How is the natural beauty of the area affecting you in your work as an artist? As a woodworker, much of the inspiration for my work is drawn from the forests that surround my home, and that serve as a buffer toward the harsher realities of modern life. My wife and I live on 11 acres that we regard as land held in preserve and in trust for future generations. I work almost exclusively with woods from Arkansas, as woodworking with beautiful woods is a way I can make known the beauty and value of our native species. I sign the boxes and furniture that I make, not only with my name, but also with the names of the species that have been used, as I regard the woods as being given voice in the creative process through my work and careful craftsmanship.

I can clearly remember the day friends helped me move into my current home and wood shop. As we stepped out of our trucks carrying my tools and equipment I heard the cry of two hawks circling overhead. We all looked up and watched having received such a strong confirmation that I had arrived with my tools and my work to just the right place.

My office and wood shop windows look out on the forest that would be destroyed if SWEPCO and the Arkansas Public Service Commission were to choose route 91, and I can hardly express the turmoil that prospect would cause to my creative life. Each of the windows in my shop and finish room are arranged so that when I look up from my work, I look to the forest inspiration upon which my work depends.

I know that artists can work under the worst of circumstances, and will find ways to proceed with their translations of physical and cultural realities despite what other folks choose to do to the natural environment. But artists serve as canaries in a coal mine. We tend to be more sensitive and more quickly disturbed when massive disruptions take place in the visual realm. Folks come to Eureka Springs in part because they hope to find something more than concrete and power lines. And those of us who’ve come to love this place, take very seriously our responsibility to preserve it for others to enjoy long after we’re gone.

We were not the first to feel this way about this place. Louis Freund was an early friend of mine here in Eureka Springs. He and his wife Elsie purchased the old Carrie Nations home and founded the first Eureka Springs Summer School of the Arts. Louis was also the tireless driving force for our entire city of Eureka Springs being put on the national Historic register and his work as a social activist led to the founding of our historic district, protecting the architectural integrity and beauty of Eureka Springs. Elsie Freund and I worked with the Guild of Artists and Craftspeople education committee planning programs to enhance learning opportunities for local artists.

Q. Do you know other artists who choose to live and work in Eureka Springs because of its natural beauty? I can give a long list of artists I know personally and each can tell the same thing. Beauty of the natural environment is the first hook connecting us to Eureka Springs. First, and as I mentioned, Louis Freund was well known as an advocate for the protection of our city’s visual resources. His friend, famous Arkansas writer, John Gould Fletcher, had written to him in the 1940s, “not much happening in Eureka, but it sure is laid out pretty.”

Even before that, when the city was founded, spring preservations were established to protect our city’s springs in perpetuity, considering the quality of water, but also the protection of their scenic beauty. Nearly every day of the spring and summer visitors will find artists set up with easels and watercolors, sketching the beauty of this place. Plein Air painting where students and professionals join in outdoor painting exercises is one of the favorite activities at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

Q. What types of artists or art institutions and establishments are present in Eureka Springs and surrounding areas? In addition to the Eureka Springs School of the Arts, our neighboring community of Holiday Island has an art guild, painting competitions and an active group of amateur and semi-professional artists. In the City of Eureka Springs, we celebrate May Fine Arts Month and have an active Eureka Springs Arts Council with participation of the Mayor, city government, the chamber of commerce and tourist promotion commission in addition to an appointed group of active professional artists and gallery owners. We have dozens of galleries, and gift stores specializing in the arts, some of which specialize in locally produced work. In 1998, following years of planning by the Eureka Springs Guild of Artists and Craftspeople, two friends and I founded the Eureka Springs School of the Arts to offer weeklong classes to adults and children in various forms of artistic expression.

The location of the school near Inspiration Point in Eureka Springs was chosen because of its beautiful setting. The school is between two of the proposed routes. These routes may or may not be visible from school, but they will impact the overall impression as one arrives on campus. The school currently serves about 250 part time students annually, 58% of whom come from outside the local area. We recently purchased 60 adjoining acres for expansion and have new studios under construction.

The president of our ESSA board noted the following in regard to SWEPCO’s plan: “The proposed routes by SWEPCO would also adversely affect part of a beautiful horizon that draws millions of tourists to Eureka Springs and the surrounding area. Such a landscape-altering project would have a distressing effect on the regional economy and our School’s viability. Tourists, some of whom are our students, generate vital revenue that allows the School to be able to serve the public. "
In November 2011, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened in Bentonville, AR, founded by Alice Walton, heir to the founder of Walmart. It is a several billion dollar venture and has from the outset sought a relationship with Eureka Springs as its partner in regional promotion of the arts in Northwest Arkansas. I was personally involved early at the start of the museum’s construction following a conversation with Alice Walton when we were introduced at a local arts and craft fair. She asked me to serve as a consultant in the processing and use of the timber harvested from the site. I helped the museum director in that task and was invited to make a bench for the museum from walnut that is on display in the administrative office of the museum.

In September of 2012, I was asked to make boxes for the first year staff from woods harvested from the museum site. When those 300+ boxes were completed, Alice Walton asked me to make another 500 boxes for the first year volunteers. All of the artists in Eureka Springs are excited about the promising future of the arts in the region that the presence of this major museum offers, and most particularly about potential collaboration with the museum on projects of importance to the arts. If anything, the presence of this new museum will increase, rather than decrease, the economic importance of the arts for Eureka Springs.

Q. What is the economic importance of the arts for this area? Zeek Taylor who manages the Eureka Springs Artist Registry* estimates the number of visual artists at over 200, which is almost 10 percent of the city’s population, and the number doesn’t include other types of artists.

Eureka Springs ranks number 8 in the 2012 American Style survey of the Top 25 Arts Destinations (small city category, under 100,000) Eureka Springs whose population hovers around 2,000 is one of the smallest cities on the list.**

With the arts, outdoor recreation and the scenic beauty of the area to draw tourists, Richard Davies of Arkansas Parks and Recreation Commission reports Eureka Springs as one of the most important players in a 5.7 billion dollar statewide tourist industry.

There are two primary industries in Eureka Springs, the arts, and tourism, and if you’ve read any studies you know that arts and tourism are deeply entwined. The West Virginia Craft Study *** 2003, explaining the economic impact of craft noted the following: “There is also a very strong linkage between crafts and tourism. Recent studies indicated that thousands of individuals come to craft communities or destinations each year. This includes artists, instructors, students, collectors and craft enthusiasts as well as traditional tourists. The constituents of each group contribute to the local economy in a variety of ways from the local purchase of arts, crafts and supplies to the purchase of retail items, gasoline, groceries, food and lodging. It appears that crafts can be a major travel attraction that generates tourism and overall economic development.”

In addition to the arts and crafts sold through local galleries many of the artists are involved in regional and national sales through travel to craft shows. They bring money home to spend in the local economy. A typical artist may make as little as 10-15 % in local sales with the balance of his or her income derived from out of area sales, wholesale sales to galleries, direct to customers , through craft show sales or over the internet. The arts culture of Eureka Springs draws new artists each year, and for every new artist, there seem to be more who want to move here. I don’t have statistics on this phenomenon. People inclined to participate in the arts recognize the beauty of the area and are inspired to move here to become more deeply involved in the arts. And this is a thing that I’ve been able to observe during my 38 years as a participant in the artist community of Eureka Springs.

Q. How would your work as an artist, and the work of other artists in this area, be affected by the construction of the powerline? The clear-cut right of way would be within 75 feet of the deck at the back of my home. A 150 foot tall pole would tower almost directly overhead. Presently a forest buffer exists between my home and the noises from Spring Street in Eureka Springs. That buffer would be gone. In the summer, leaves on the trees isolate us visually and acoustically from town. The power line would remove all that and replace it with a hostile environment kept perpetually sterile of normal forest growth. Instead of the wind rustling through leaves, we would hear the hum of wind over wire and possibly worse.

At the present time, I live and work in a state of sanctuary… That sanctuary would be lost and never come back. Artists throughout Carroll County who live within view of one or more proposed routes face the same threat, the same potential loss. We are a close-knit community of artists who care deeply for each other. The losses sustained by one, affects others and we have a long-standing tradition of charitable art auctions used to help those in need and to raise money for worthy projects and for each other. We have a well established sense of obligation and responsibility to stand up for each other in times of personal crisis. With this powerline proposal, I have never known a pending crisis to be more widespread.

As an author and well-known woodworking teacher, I frequently have visitors wanting to visit my shop and to purchase some of my work or some of my books and see where I live and work. I’ve had busloads of visitors from the Arkansas Art Musuem, the Oakland (CA) Art Musuem, and the Los Angeles Folk Art Museum. Visitors always comment on the beauty of this place. That beauty would be gone.

The simple mechanism is this: Artists choose to live and work here because they are attracted by the natural beauty. They’ve formed a thriving art community that spurs creativity, attracts other artists to move and work here. The arts are the bedrock of our community. And the visual beauty of this place is the foundation for the arts. It’s why we gathered here in the first place. For SWEPCO to take our visual landscape so lightly is a sacrilege and a shame that the artists of Eureka Springs would not forgive. The danger that SWEPCO poses to our economy is not just a loss of tourism, but also a loss of artists and the arts.

Q. Have you read the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) for this powerline project? Yes.

Q. Did the EIS address possible impacts on the artist community of Eureka Springs and their livelihood? No. Not at all.

Q. In your opinion, did the EIS adequately describe and analyze, the impact of the powerline on the artist community and its economic impact on the region? It did not. By failing to address the arts, it failed to address the vital economic concerns of this community.




Make, fix and create...

No comments:

Post a Comment