Even in my most jaded and cold-hearted moments, if there’s something that can put me in a lighter mood, it’s the thought of Terra Studios.
Just a few miles southeast of Fayetteville, Terra’s sprawling, inviting grounds full of open-air sculptures, art installations and more are a paean to creation. And Jamie Ulick, the artist and musician who operates Terra, believes creativity is crucial.
“My whole thing is, as a culture if we’re going to survive and we’re going to prosper, we really have to focus on art, and we’re really missing it by taking it out of our schools, our children’s lives” Ulick said. “If you can’t think creatively, you can’t think out of the box. And that’s what America’s known for – for being out of the box.”
As with all creative ventures, Terra is evolving with the emphasis on local, local, local, Ulick said – from the 70 regional artists represented in the gallery to the food served in the coffeehouse. And this unique local jewel is bargain because it’s still free to visit, powered solely by the sales in its gallery.
“That’s our survival, because I don’t want to charge admission. We need things that are free. I look at all the mothers that come out and meet with the other young mothers, kids hang out and have a great day …” Ulick said. “The key is if we can encourage people and get them to realize it’s about those three gifts you buy a year. Come support local arts; come support Terra.”
In addition Terra is now hosting live music every Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. along with a two-day music festival slated for Oct. 13-14. An event center will soon open in the building that once housed Terra’s glass blowing operations where its original Bluebird of Happiness works were created. The glass blowing now takes place in an addition to the gallery and coffeehosue, which allows the excess heat from the glass furnaces to be piped in to help warm the 7,000-square-foot structure.
Although the once very well-known Terra had fallen off many people’s radars – Ulick said a recent demographics study showed only about 10 percent of people in the region knew about or had visited Terra – the volume of visitors is now climbing upwards. Ulick said he expects 75,000 to have visited by the end of the year.
“It’s about sustainability over a long period of time. It’s not about Terra but about local art,” Ulick said. “I think we’ll hit that sustainable mark where it becomes part of the culture of Northwest Arkansas.”
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