Date: July 31, 2023 | Story: Stephanie Maxwell Newton | Photography: Bailey Dougan |
An almost 50-year-old arts organization is just one example of the thriving creative community in Northwest Arkansas
Driving into Terra Studios in Fayetteville is like walking through the gates of another dimension. All around, ceramic creatures—birds, dragons, trolls, bears, and children, to name a few—are integrated into the wooded landscape and winding paths that make up the campus. It’s incredible, strange, and wonderful, and it’s free for anyone to experience.
Now a nonprofit organization, Terra Studios’ mission is to support local artists and inspire creativity. It does this through a variety of programs: a gallery that sells work by area artists, live demonstrations, and a monthly “art lab,” which invites people at any skill level to participate in a craft together. And then, of course, there’s the art park, the 4.5-acre sculpture-filled grounds that visitors are invited to explore, all free of cost. “There’s really nothing like us around here, especially in this little nook of Arkansas,” says executive director Emma Fuston.
The story of this unique place began in 1975 with founders Rita and Leo Ward. The two were California art teachers who grew tired of the West Coast, so they bought this property in the Ozarks and moved to Arkansas, Emma explains. Both were potters, and Rita began to install her whimsical ceramics along the grounds. But it was one of Leo’s creations, initially a gift for his wife, that would prove to be life-changing: the Bluebird of Happiness. “In this area we have a lot of bluebirds, and Rita just always really adored them,” Emma says. “He made the glass bluebird as a present for her and then they started making a bunch, and people really took to them.” To date, Terra Studios has sold more than 8 million of their trademarked glass-blown bluebirds all over the world.
In fact, the Bluebird of Happiness is in large part what allowed Terra Studios to grow the way it did, setting it up for success for decades to come. “We have an enormous amount of respect for Leo and Rita and the legacy that they have created for us to carry on here,” Emma says. “People don’t come to Terra Studios in a bad mood. They have fun, they get inspired, they make memories, and that’s what makes us happy.”
For the future, Emma sees the organization continuing its mission to provide arts education and support local artists while growing its event programming and community partnerships. “I’m really excited to see how Northwest Arkansas is growing,” she says, citing places such as Art Ventures NWA and the museums in Bentonville as part of the same microcosm of creativity in her corner of the state. “Even in my short time here, it’s been so beautiful to watch the changes and evolutions that Terra has gone through to match what our community really needs.” Read on for more of our favorite ways to discover Fayetteville and nearby Springdale.
Visit the downtown Fayetteville showroom of Massimo Interior Design (massimointeriordesign.com) to see the design group’s signature contemporary-meets-classic mix of home furnishings and décor. For everything from fine jewelry to everyday looks, shop Romance Diamond Co.’s (romancediamond.com) flagship store on Dickson Street. The French Cottage (thefrenchcottageshop.com) is a must-visit for those who love French antiques. Find the gift and home décor store on Fayetteville’s Main Drive, close to historic Johnson. Casey Sarkin Home (479.530.0686) is the Fayetteville showroom of designer Casey Sarkin, featuring one-of-a-kind furniture, lighting, and accessories. In Springdale, stop by R McClintock (rmcclintock.com), a wood-working studio featuring furniture, dinnerware, and cutting boards all handmade by artisan Rachel McClintock.
Located on School Avenue in Fayetteville, Arsaga’s Mill District (arsagas.com) is loved by locals for its elevated Southern breakfast and lunch menus. You’ll find plenty of vegan and gluten-free items available, too. In Springdale, Fridha’s Mexican Kitchen & Mezcal (479.365.7002) is the place to be if you’re craving south-of-the-border cuisine, and their daily happy hour ($3 house margarita) can’t be beat. Coming soon: Crêpes Paulette (crepespaulette.com), a Bentonville favorite, has announced a Fayetteville location for their handheld sweet and savory creations. Follow along on Instagram (@crepespaulette) for an official opening date 2341 N. College Ave.
While the P&G Broadway Series at Walton Arts Center (waltonartscenter.org) doesn’t kick off until September, you’ll want to reserve tickets now for the six-show season, which includes Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, Disney’s Aladdin, To Kill a Mockingbird, and more. Looking to develop a closer relationship with where your food comes from? Check out Apple Seeds Teaching Farm (appleseedsnwa.org), which offers interactive classes for kids and teens, garden workshops, and the Kitchen Table Dinner Series with visiting chefs—all located in Fayetteville’s Gulley Park.