THE STORY OF OZARK FOLKWAYS
1940s AND 1950s: Clara Muxen’s Dream
Moving from Iowa to Arkansas in the early 1940s, former schoolteacher and Catholic nun Clara Muxen stopped on Mount Gayler to spend the night and dreamed of opening a community training school for arts and crafts. Helen Keliher, a school teacher from Detroit, shared the idea of building a craft school for boys and girls and contributed the first funds to start the work.
Over the next three years, the Muxen Building slowly grew to its two-story height. Sadly, Clara did not live to see the ultimate fulfillment of her dream before she died in 1966.
1960s and 1970s: The Dream Returns
By 1972, the Muxen Building had stood idle for more than 20 years. The Ozark Native Craft Association bought and renovated it and began holding semi-annual arts and crafts fairs on the grounds to showcase Ozark craftspeople. The fairs, which featured more than 300 consignors, attracted thousands of visitors to the area.
Irene Donahue ran the Ozarks Native Craft Outlet during the day and did all the bookkeeping at night. She hosted a steady stream of customers, never tiring of explaining how and why the outlet was originally organized.
1980s and 1990s: Times Change
In 1994, the craft association was reformed as a charitable organization called Ozark Folkways. A new jury system ensured that only the highest-quality crafts were accepted for exhibit in the sales outlet. Ozark Folkways sought volunteers to run the shop and weekly workshops and to serve as class instructors.
However, employment opportunities in the area had increased. As the region developed, crafting declined. Attendance at the fairs dropped off and they were discontinued in 1997. Highway 71 experienced a significant decrease in traffic after an interstate bypassed the area in 1999.
2000s: Keeping the Dream Alive
As Executive Director from 2009 to 2017, Rebecca Buchanan oversaw projects that breathed new life into Clara’s building including interior renovations, an outdoor stage, a demonstration kitchen, and a pottery kiln. The Muxen Building is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today, we remain devoted to the preservation, development, instruction, and celebration of Ozark arts, crafts, and music by hosting workshops, concerts, film screenings, art shows, crafts displays, and much more. With the help of tireless volunteers, generous investors, and our energetic board of directors, we are Keeping the Dream Alive!
Ozark Folkways is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, operated by a Board of Directors. The current board is composed of individuals from the local community with ties to Folkways and its artists and craftpeople; many of the board members are themselves artists. The 2019 Ozark Folkways Board of Directors is:
President: Daniel Dean, Winslow (Member since 2017)
Secretary: Kylee Kidder, Winslow (member since 2018)
Board Member: Cindy Arsaga, Winslow (member since 2016)
Board Member: Terry Bumgardner, Winslow (member since 2019)
Board Member: Amy Leisure, Winslow (member since 2018)
Board Member: Alice McKee, (member since 2019)