Heading down Arkansas’ Highway 16 toward the White Rock Wilderness Management Area on what Rand McNally considers a scenic byway, Ruth and I passed a sign. Turn here, it invited, to see the ‘world famous’ Terra Studios. World Famous? Neither of us had ever heard of it.
By the time we questioned each other on this, we had passed the entrance. So, curiosity aroused, we turned around and headed up the road.
For the next hour we took a tour of a place best described as whimsical, as in spontaneously fanciful or playful, unusual, fantastic. One seldom meets 2 people as enthusiastic about what they do and dedicated to a project as Jamie Ulick and Val Gonzalez.
Their self-described wonderland of art! opened in 1975 as a restaurant and potter and glass studio. The restaurant lasted 2 years. Jamie became owner and resident artist 5 years ago, and he and Val have steadily added to and expanded Terra’s facilities and offerings. This summer there are 15 classes amid 10 acres of sculpture park. A lot of what they’ve done appeals to children and the child in any adult–a small door within a regular sized entry, a troll under a bridge, trash bins with gnomish faces, etc. In the art-for-sale, appropriately named Muse Gallery, 90 artists are featured. Ruth and I were told that Terra is the “largest gallery in northwest Arkansas of regional art.” That’s easy to believe but personally untested.
As we viewed many workshops and the room where 3 glass blowers toil to produce the product that allows Terra to make its ‘world famous’ claim, Ruth and I became more and more impressed with Jamie and Val’s energy-levels. 362 days a year, glass bluebirds of happiness come flying out of Terra’s kilns. Some end up in its retail shop, many more land on shelves in Hallmark stores. Terra also creates pink birds of hope for the Susan G. Koman Foundation. Ruth bought several.
Then she borrowed my notebook and disappeared. When she returned it, there was a new entry, a Chinese proverb: Renew thyself completely each day; do it again and again and forever again.
This is not only good advice but it’s also clearly being demonstrated 14 miles southeast of Fayetteville, Arkansas, where each year 70,000 people stop by and find inspiration and, surely, a souvenir that appeals to their taste to take home as a reminder of the human spirit & talent on display at Terra.