Keeping Cultural Arts Alive

Ozark Folkways copyStaff Report

In the early 1900’s, the exact date unknown, the Muxen family traveled to Iowa through the Boston Mountains on their way to Hot Springs. Clara Muxen and her brother were taking their elderly and frail mother there for a famous mineral bath to improve her health.

On the top of Mount Fayler, Did you mean Mount Gaylor?jbacross from the highway where Ozark Folkways now sits, the family spent the night. It was here that Clara became entranced with the mountain scenery.

Shortly after, the Muxens purchased acreage that was to be known later as Muxen Heights. Both Clara, who was a retired educator, and her brother had their own home on the property where they began Catholic services in a converted service station. Eventually, a portion of the property was given to the Catholic Church where the Shrine of Our Lady of the Ozarks still sits today. By the early 1940’s, construction had begun on what would become Ozark Folkways, and what then was to be a Craft School of the Ozarks.

Muxen hoped to train hill folk, locked in poverty, to value their traditional crafts and hopefully one day make a living from them. She even completed hand-drawn plans for the building, complete with labels for each room according to what she envisioned for their purpose. What is known of the property is mainly from Clara’s letters to family and friends.

Clara was no stranger to hard work and did whatever it took to keep construction of the building going, even pouring her own cement. Despite all of her hard work, supporters and resources, she did not live to complete the building.

After her health failed, Clara gave the property to the order of nuns that cared for her in her last days. After a short stint as a nun’s retreat and parochial school, the building sat vacant for many years, until the 1970s when it was acquired by a nonprofit organization named the Ozark Native Craft Association.

Sited on 10 acres of mixed oak and maple trees, the huge building of Arkansas sandstone was perfect for their needs. Members volunteered their time and resources to remodel, repair, repaint and refurbish the building. Over the years, a variety of classes in traditional crafts have been taught. It seemed Clara’s dream might finally be coming true. In the early 1990s, times had changed so much that people in the region had little difficulty finding well-paid work, and no longer needed the association to help them with their living expenses. It was at that time that the mission was devoted to teaching and preserving cultural art, craft and traditions.

Today, Ozark Folkways stays true to this mission, in the same building constructed by Clara and her team of mountaineers in the 1950s, and that still sits somewhat incomplete to this day. Buchanan and other supporters are dedicated to still completing the building and seeing Clara’s vision become a reality. To help accomplish this goal, they hold regular classes, exhibits and now even concerts at their outdoor stage.

Separate Box:

Ozark Folkways will hold its 21st annual Heritage Day, Saturday, May 10, from 10-4 p.m. Heritage Day is their annual celebration of local culture, past, present and, if we teach our children well, future. There will be demonstrations of spinning, rug-hooking, basket-making, quilting, lacemaking, local crafts, music and a raffle of high-end arts, crafts, musical instruments, services and of course, good food.

This year The Hutchison Sisters will be serving homemade beans with ham (also a vegan option for beans) sizzling skillet cornbread, homemade fruit cobblers, served with tea, coffee or water for only $5.00. For more information about Heritage Day or to make a donation to Ozark Folkways, contact Rebecca Buchanan at or call 479-634-3791


Categories: Family Friendly