Your Arts Desire: A Guide to Public Art in Eureka Springs
It’s no secret: Eureka Springs is an arts town. USA Today ranked our quirky hamlet No. 5 in its Best Small Town Arts Scene. Thrillist has us on its survey of 12 Small Towns in the U.S. with Great Art Scenes. And for good reason.
Art is everywhere in Eureka Springs, in large part due to our population — which includes as many as 300 working artists among 2,000 residents.
Here’s an overview of our public art, which includes iconic structures, must-see murals, sculptures and installations, an arts-centric compound, and even the town itself.
By the way, Eureka Springs adds at least one public art installation each year — just in case you were looking for an extra reason for a return visit.
Historic Downtown Architecture
Let’s start big. You might say that Eureka Springs itself is a living work of art. The district has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1970. It contains 596 buildings constructed before 1955, of which 72 percent were built prior to 1910. The dominant architectural style is Victorian. Architectural Digest has dubbed it “Eureka Victorian,” which (for all you architecture fans) includes Queen Anne, Stick, Gothic Revival, Craftsman and Neoclassical — a funky mix, indeed. Homes are built into 20 steep hills divided by 19 ravines and fortified by 200 miles of limestone retaining walls, rendering Eureka Springs a “stairstep town.”
On the west side of Main Street on the northeastern edge of downtown, you’ll find this whimsical, ramshackle compound that includes artist studios and “storefronts” to showcase their work. The irresistible assemblage of funky wooden buildings and stairways has two dozen artists in residence, with disciplines that include painting, glass blowing, scrimshaw, woodcraft, and even nail polish art. You can see artists at work, ask them questions and, of course, buy something. The Colony is open daily from noon to 6 p.m.
A popular gathering spot downtown, Basin Spring Park features a few intriguing pieces of public art. A white “Doughboy” statue, erected after WWI, stands proudly — a memorial to the local men who served their country. A wooden bandshell, built around 1921, routinely features free public performances. Overlooking the park is Adora Zerlina Astra, the 900-pound “Goddess of Basin Springs,” the creation of mosaic artist Bruce Anderson. Aza is a wildly colorful mermaid(ish) statue holding a staff and wearing an elaborate headdress. She has a lot going on, so let’s just say that you have to see her to truly appreciate her.
Celebrating Eureka Springs’ diversity and inclusivity, this long, steep stairway connecting North Main and Center streets was painted as a swirling rainbow mural in 2015 by a group of artists and volunteers. Based on the artwork of two members of the Eureka Springs High School Art Club, this is probably the most Instagrammable spot in town.
Eureka Springs Centennial Mural
Erected in 1979 on the side of Mud Street Cafe downtown, this mural by Louis Freund depicts Eureka Springs history, from its ancient beginnings as a Native American Peace Land to the tourism of the early 20th Century. The mural has been restored four times, most recently in 2015.
This interactive art installation — titled “Eureka Springs: Then and Now” — showcases color photographs and an app by Edward Robison III. Point your mobile device at any of the panels for an augmented experience, where you can change your position and explore the 3D environment inside the image. In addition, Eureka Springs High School Art Club students contributed eight 4×8-foot and 4×4-foot panels.
Historic Wall Advertisements
One of the most readily visible pieces of public art in Eureka Springs is on the side of a brick building at 2 N. Main Street. On the left side is a “billboard” for Onyx Cave — “Famous Since 1891” like the sign says — and still open as an attraction seven miles northeast of downtown. The right side of the wall celebrates the historic Crescent Hotel, which is also still open and better than ever. It’s unknown exactly when these ads were painted, but it’s safe to say these old-timey pieces of Americana have been around for a quite some time.
Sitting atop Magnetic Mountain two-and-a-half miles northeast of downtown, this 67-foot tall, ivory-colored, minimalistic statue of Jesus, arms outstretched, is one of the most iconic structures in the Ozarks region. The piece, created by Montana-born artist Emmet Sullivan and completed in 1966, is made of 24 layers of white mortar on a steel frame. Christ of the Ozarks is part of a larger religious-themed attraction called The Great Passion Play. You can walk right up to the statue, or behold it from afar.
Here are a few more public art pieces that you’d do well to check out:
• Eureka Springs Music Park, an interactive outdoor exhibit.
• Stork on Planer Hill at The Planer Hill Park & Ride.
• Under the Bee at the entrance of the Rainbow Stairs.
• Bronze Eagle Sculpture at the Round House just north of downtown, 77 Hillside Avenue. (The house itself is an interesting artwork.)
• Art Panel at EureKan Arts Studio & Shop, 150 N, Main Street.
• Stone Carvings along Spring Street.
• Bronze Arrow Slinger on the front lawn of a private home at 43 Prospect Ave.
• The life-size Wooden Indian standing outside Judge Roy Bean’s, 29 S. Main Street.
• TreeMan at Rock Cottage Gardens B&B, 10 Eugenia Street.