June 21, 2010 - Grady Spann
Grady Spann joined Arkansas State Parks in 1993 as the Superintendent of Parkin Archaeological State Park. In 2002, after nine years at Parkin, he transferred to Historic Washington State Park to serve as the Superintendent. In 2005 he transferred to the Ozark Folk Center State Park where he is our Superintendent. Grady also serves as a park ranger after graduating from the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy in 1995.
Prior to working for Arkansas State Parks, he served in the U.S. Army for nine years as a military tactical intelligence and counterintelligence officer. He was stationed at Fort Hauchuca, Arizona; Fort Polk, Louisiana; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and in Washington D.C. He currently holds the rank of major. He has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon and the Pacifist Medal from the Brazilian Army.
May 31, 2010 - Sonny Graves
With a gentle hand and a soft voice, Sonny Graves fits the harness around Tango’s neck. The tan donkey stands quietly, looking at the people lined up in front of the picnic swing gate. Man and donkey walk together into the center of the carousel and Tango stands in the right spot while Sonny hitches the harness to the boom in the center of the swing. The crowd watches quietly.
“Come on in folks,” says Sonny with a wave. “Come ride the Picnic Swing.”
An Arkansas native, Sonny moved to Mountain View 11-years-ago. Growing up in North Little Rock, he raised animals for 4-H projects and worked on a cattle ranch after school. They had horses on the ranch and he learned to work with them, too.Read More
May 24, 2010 - Paula Lane
With a pixie grin on her face, Paula Lane greets visitors to the Doll and Toy Shop at the Ozark Folk Center.
“Welcome to the Doll Shop,” says the woman who looks like everyone’s favorite kindergarten teacher.
Actually, Paula really is a school teacher. She recently retired from teaching in Bakersfield, California and returned to her roots here in Mountain View, Arkansas. In addition to her way with children and the delight she brings to them as she teaches them tie their own dolls, she inherited the Ozark Storytelling gene. Adults love to sit and listen to Paula as she ties whimsical corn shuck dolls and shares tales of her mother’s family.
October 19, 2009 - Dan Thomas
He grew up with music, in Mountain View, Arkansas, its impossible not to. Most every Friday night he remembers being down on the Courthouse Square at the Hootenanny. His dad played guitar and his Uncle Ray played fiddle. Aunt Bertie Thomas joined in with fiddlesticks and they all had a rousing good time.
Danny Thomas went off to Jonesboro to go to college. After he and his wife Debbie graduated, they went to Missouri to teach school. “But we couldn’t stay away,” said Danny, with a grin. After a year they moved back home and have been here ever since.
October 5, 2009 - Erlene Carter
Wrapping the layers of history and legend like the skirts on a corn shuck doll, Erlene Carter has a unique perspective on the Stone County region. An integral part of the Mountain View and Arkansas craft communities and a keen observer of humankind, she quietly perpetuates the traditions and values of the area.
Erlene was born in Stone County, Arkansas. She was born down by the creek, in the same house her mother was born in, a house her grandfather built. Both her brothers were born there, too.
“It was Rocky Bayou, but I didn’t know how to spell it,” said Erlene when she handed me her biographical notes. “I didn’t see it spelled out until I was grown and came back.”
September 28, 2009 - Sherman Anderson
It takes less than five minutes of visiting with Sherman Anderson to realize how important education, teaching and learning are to him. From his station at the foot lathe, right inside the entrance to the Craft Village at the Ozark Folk Center, he greets every person who comes through the door. “Would you like to see the foot lathe run?” he queries a family with 4 children. They respond that they were here several years ago and the children learned how to spin toy wooden tops at that time. They remember the tops and focus on them.
“But I was only, like, seven, then,” said one of the girls. She looked worried that she would have to demonstrate her skill with the tops. Moving over to his top cabinet, Sherman tells how he makes tops from 80 different kinds of wood. He can turn 5 tops on a single spindle on the foot lathe. Spinning tops are one of the oldest toys in the world. He keeps up a running patter as he gets a handful of demonstration tops from the cabinet and hands one to each child and their father.
September 21, 2009 - Mary Gillihan
The woman’s eyes sparkled as she pulled on her young child’s hand toward the cabin. “There’s Miss Mary,” she said. “She taught me to make ink out of pokeberries.”
Many young people have learned the mysteries of pokeberry ink, pinch pots and button games in the Mary Gillihan’s children’s programs at the Ozark Folk Center. Since 1974 Mary has been sharing her curiosity about the world and interest in the ways of the past with visitors. “Now I’m getting the children of children who went through my Young Pioneers program,” said Mary.
In spite of her years of experience sharing the past, Mary Gillihan’s enthusiasm for life often makes her seem as young as the children she works with. Her intensity and appreciation for the drama of life have made her an admired and appreciated interpreter at the Ozark Folk Center.
September 7, 2009 - Martha Laster
Spinning and weaving are naturally quiet and relaxing, but some fiber artists have a grace that outshines their art. Martha Laster is one of those rare, wonderful ladies. In her gentle way, she has supported, encouraged and helped many aspiring spinners and weavers. “It’s hard to put into words,” she said, looking around the Spinning and Weaving Shop. “But this has been the joy of my life the last ten years.”
Martha has always been fascinated with fiber arts, but in the late 1960’s she seemed to be alone in her interest. She couldn’t find any equipment or teachers. “My husband got a spinning wheel kit out of a farm magazine and built me one,” said Martha.
August 31, 2009 - Gresham McMillion
Visitors to the Ozark Folk Center know him as the “Best Bass Player in the Known Universe,” but that’s not how Gresham McMillion describes himself. “I don’t like to brag,” said the blushing red-headed young man who started playing music at the Ozark Folk Center in 2000.
His music career started when he was 10-years-old. Gresham and his brother were going to bluegrass festivals in Louisiana with their mother. She plays guitar, piano and sings. “My brother and I were bored,” said Gresham. “So I started playing bass and my brother played mandolin. Most parents have to push their kids to practice, but with us, it was the opposite.”
August 24, 2009 - Charles and Linda Widmer
From the humblest of beginnings – a cheese burger and wood carving – came the elegance and beauty that is Widmer’s Jewelry Shop in the Ozark Folk Center craft village.
Charles and Linda Widmer met when she was working as a waitress. “He walked in and ordered a cheeseburger,” she said. “We left town together three days later.”
“I had to get back to Silver Dollar City,” said Charles, who worked there carving wood. “That was 30 years ago.”
He smiles across at Linda. “I’m getting old, she’s not.”
August 10, 2009 - Larry and Josephine Dowell
Josephine Dowell sits with a big pretty pillow in front of her. Threads run from the top of it to what looks like hundreds of uniquely beautiful little rods. It looks like it could be a musical instrument, but it’s not. It’s for making bobbin lace.
A reel at the top of the pillow holds the spool that the lace pattern is on. As Josephine weaves the lace, pins mark and hold it to the spool. Colorful bobbins hold the threads that she is working. The bobbins are made of glass, wood, metal, bone and ivory. They are arranged in pairs to help the weaver track her threads. Some of the pairs clink together and others sound like tuned bells.
August 3, 2009 - Jeff Glover
Jeff Glover turns forty this week, but he is as enthusiastic as a kid when he talks about the Candle Shop at the Ozark Folk Center. “Candle making is a lot like cooking, and I love cooking,” said Jeff. “It’s a mix of art and science. You can experiment and create new things with simple ingredients.”
With his wife Traci, and their children, Fox, 9-years-old and Rori, 7-years-old, Jeff has added a new light to the ancient art of candle making. The family has transformed the little shop into an interesting blend of color and scent. “We have cool candles that look like food,” said Rori.
July 27, 2009 - Apprentices
People apprentice at the Ozark Folk Center for a variety of reasons. Some young people are searching for what they want to do when they get out on their own. Some retirees are looking for a fulfilling hobby. Some mothers are looking for a way to relax and do something for themselves. Some college students are looking for a unique elective to add to their portfolio.
This summer’s craft apprentices cover all these reasons. From each of these different perspectives, the apprentices agree that they have learned a lot and worked hard all summer.
Melody Conatser is a nurse from Jonesboro who has wanted to work at the Ozark Folk Center since it opened. Now that she is getting near to retirement, she has some time to learn the skills that she hopes will allow her to expand her fiber arts abilities and work more as a crafter at the Center. Already an experienced spinner, Melody apprenticed this summer with master weaver Dana Shaeffer. Dana’s tapestries have been commissioned to hang in the John Deere corporate headquarters and many other nationally known buildings.
July 20, 2009 - Judi Munn
When Judi Munn was young, she told her mother that she wanted to be an artist when she grew up.
Her mother told her that artists have holes in their socks.
So Judi went to college, got her teaching certificate and her master’s degree. But Art has a strong voice. When Judi had a chance to apprentice with potters Becki and David Dahlsted at the Ozark Folk Center, she took it.
Now Judi Munn is an award-winning potter – and her art is so beautiful no one will notice if she has holes in her socks.
July 12, 2009 - Sharon Fernimen
When I needed a unique basket to hold yarn for my wall loom, I knew exactly where to go. Sharon Fernimen watched my hands as I described what I needed. "It has to be rectangular, with a handle on the back,” I said, “and about this big.”
Sharon measured my hand spread and jotted a few notes. Two weeks later, I had the perfect basket for my weaving studio.
That ability to work out ideas, patterns and designs serves her well at the basket maker at the Ozark Folk Center. Sharon has been interested in crafts most of her life. She taught herself crochet and cross stitch early on. She worked for eight years at the Flat Creek Dulcimer and Craft Shop, in Hardy, Arkansas. Read More
July 6, 2009 - Tom Weir
Crossing the threshold into the Knife Shop at the Ozark Folk Center takes you out of today’s world. Civil War uniforms and Indian leathers hang on the wall. Glass cases hold knives that date from the 1700’s on up to ones made yesterday. Strange animals, antlers and skulls are tucked into crannies.
It might be a bit spooky, if it wasn’t for the broad grin on the face behind the counter. Tom Weir looks like a mountain man, just come in from his cabin on the creek. In fact, he is, in many ways, and that’s the name of his business – On the Creek.
June 28, 2009 - Steve Folkers
Watching Steve Folkers explain carving spoons is like watching a dancer interpret trees in the breeze.
“Look what I’ve got here,” said Audrey Gilliam to the young man leaning on her counter. “Let’s do some origami.”
The youngster’s expression changed from tired boredom to concentration as he watched Audrey’s deft fingers fold the white sheet of paper.
“What is this?” she asked.