New museum showcases Eureka Springs artists past and present

New museum showcases Eureka Springs artists past and present
Special to The Free Weekly

A long imagined art museum featuring the works of Eureka Springs’ artists, both past and present, has become a reality, thanks to a handful of local business owners, artists and art patrons. The Museum of Eureka Springs Art, a 3,500-square-foot space located at the Eureka Springs Community Center complex, features works by more than 150 artists dating from the 1890s to the present.

Eureka Springs is always at the top of “Best Small Town Arts Destination” lists, and the museum will help cement that designation, along with the already established Eureka Springs School of the Arts, The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow, the Eureka Springs Historical Museum and Opera In The Ozarks, which is getting a new $34 million opera house scheduled to open mid-2025.

The eight-member board of the Museum of Eureka Springs Art, chaired by local ceramic artist Steve Beacham, secured a six-year lease, with an option for six more years. Beacham, the longtime owner of Spring Street Pottery, is a prolific artist and art patron who has donated many important works he collected over the years to the museum.

Early works by Fred and Glenn Swedlum, Louis and Elsie Freund, Glenn Gant and Miriam McKinnie are on display next to more recent works by the late Ken Addington, John Willer, Zeek Taylor and Mary Springer.

All of the museum’s funding has come from private donors so far, but Beacham is optimistic that once the museum gets on its feet and running, grant money will come along to help fund operational costs.

“Corporations and foundations are cautious as to what organizations to help fund,” he says. “They want to see that you are a serious entity that has a committed mission statement and are doing right by the community before handing out large sums of cash.”

Currently, the museum’s board of directors is calling the shots, but they hope to hire a full time museum director.

Also planned are seasonal, rotating exhibitions for current working artists. With gallery space at a premium in downtown Eureka Springs, gallery owners find it difficult to commit the time, space and energy to promote solo or group shows lasting a month or more. These exhibitions will showcase different local talent in a professional setting. The works will be for sale and benefit both the artist and museum.

The museum, a one-time high school cafeteria, came with some aesthetic challenges. The beat-up 1960s linoleum flooring was removed, revealing a concrete floor that was stained and polished. Track lighting was installed to light the art and to offset the fluorescent ceiling lights, and large wooden panels were attached to hide the painted concrete blocks.

Beautifully crafted birch wood wall panels, designed by board member and visual artist Jim Nelson, fill the space. On wheels, the L-shaped walls can easily be moved. The well-placed panels create a labyrinth-like effect as you walk around the gallery, offering surprises at every turn. The panels were designed to fold completely up, even with artwork attached, for easy and space saving storage. Works not on display will be stored in a climate-controlled facility.

On view is an exquisite collection of Elsie Freund’s jewelry. Elsie, aka Elsa, and her husband, Louis, were art pioneers in the 1940s and ’50s who created Eureka Springs’ first art school, which attracted artists and craftsmen from all over the country.

Elsie created her unique, modernist pieces by first constructing stones of fused glass backed by clay, which she fired in a small kiln. The stones were then wrapped or supported by hand-turned wire made mostly of sterling silver but also copper and aluminum. Her efforts resulted in innovative and distinctive pieces, some of which are in the permanent collection of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

Nelson was a good friend of the late artist Max Elbo, dating back to the 1970s.

“Max was a master, simply the best graphic artist I’ve ever witnessed,” Nelson says. “I would watch Max working on these meticulous, pointillist pen and inks and just be amazed. Just one tiny slip of the pen, and it would all be ruined. I was lucky enough to purchase many of his originals way back then when they were affordable, and am happy they are on display here for the general public.”

“While many museums celebrate particular eras or styles of art, the Museum of Eureka Springs Art offers a unique perspective showing how interrelationships between artists have the power to create and nourish community,” says master woodworker and board member Doug Stowe. “One thing visitors will likely notice is how artists going back generations have sustained, inspired and encouraged each other, building one of the finest arts communities in the U.S. Besides seeing the high quality work visitation offers, a story we hope to tell is how the arts build community.”

“For many in the community, the museum has become a dream come true. The response has been overwhelmingly positive from the moment we first opened our doors,” said Beacham.

Discussions of an art museum date back to the 1940s with the Freunds. The museum is also the fulfillment of a dream of the late Martin Roegnik and his wife, Elise, who began building a collection of local art in the early 2000s.

That dream was put on hold after Marty’s tragic death in 2009. Elise, now a museum board member, has donated numerous works to the collection and is thrilled that the dream has come to fruition. “I know that Marty would be so proud, and is smiling somewhere,” she said.

For now, hours of operation are very limited. The museum is open only on Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m. during the months of December, January and February. It will launch its official opening sometime in March. Like all nonprofits, the museum is in need of money to carry on its mission.

A preview of the museum’s collection can be viewed at Anyone interested in donating funds or artwork should email Donated works are screened and carefully curated by the eight-member board.

John Rankine is a longtime Eureka Springs artist, photographer, photojournalist and proprietor of the gallery at Brews. Email him at



Museum of Eureka Springs Art

WHEN — 1-5 p.m. Saturday

WHERE — Eureka Springs Community Center complex, 44 Kingshighway

COST — Free




On Show

Early works by Fred and Glenn Swedlum, Louis and Elsie Freund, Glenn Gant and Miriam McKinnie are on display next to more recent works by the late Ken Addington, John Willer, Zeek Taylor and Mary Springer at the newly opened Museum of Eureka Springs Art.

Categories: Galleries