The Cross overlook at Mount Sequoyah / Courtesy
A non-profit organization located on one of Fayetteville’s famous Seven Hills is working to reinvent itself a bit lately.
Mount Sequoyah Center, the 32-acre retreat and conference facility established by the Methodist churches in the region nearly a century ago as a location for church camps and retreats, split from the church in 2016 and has been independently operating since then.
The organization recently hired local design firm Archetype Productions to help with a rebranding effort, along with local consultants The Velocity Group to help create a new vision for its park-like grounds and dozens of multi-use buildings built over the years. The hope is to encourage more locals to spend time enjoying the campus.
As part of that process, Mount Sequoyah officials are also working to develop new programming, starting with a recently announced artist residency program created in partnership with the University of Arkansas School of Art.
Christina Karnatz, Director of Development and Communications for Mount Sequoyah, said the program aims to address a specific need in the artist community.
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“What we found was, despite all the growth of the art culture in NWA, that there was something missing,” Karnatz said. “We needed a place where artists can come to retreat and work, but also a place that can connect with artsts from other disciplines.”
The organization and UA last month announced a new program called “Creative Spaces at Mount Sequoyah,” which is designed to support artist residencies, studio spaces, and public arts programming on the mountain. The program was created through the work of an advisory board made up of members from the UA’s program in Creative Writing and Translation, the Department of Theatre, the School of Art, and the Walton College of Business, along with local artist community representatives Danny Baskin and Kathy Thompson.
“Via multidisciplinary public events, the residency program, and the studios, Creative Spaces at Mount Sequoyah will serve as a connector for all who engage the arts in northwest Arkansas. Ideally, we’ll convene to appreciate, to cross-pollinate, and even to co-create,” said Adrienne Callander, assistant professor of both the School of Art and the Walton College of Business who will be involved in the program.
Mount Sequoyah last year hired Kansas City artist Lisa Marie Evans in a part-time role to organize exhibitions and public art events, and to build the artist residency program.
“Creative Spaces at Mount Sequoyah will thrive as a gathering place for artists to build connections with peers and community through panels, workshops, residencies, studios, and other art related events,” Evans said in a news release about the program. “Something magical happens when a space is dedicated to fostering creativity and learning. Collaborations and connections have the potential to weave their way from our doorstep to other countries and continents.”
In addition to the residency program, Mount Sequoyah also recently hired chef Justus Moll, formerly of River Grille in Bentonville, to help create a new culinary program.
“We are planning a series of events that will focus on his great food, but will also tie into our mission as an educational non-profit,” Karnatz told us this week.
Moll started in his new position on Jan. 7, and the first public culinary event is a brewmasters dinner in partnership with Fossil Cove Brewing Co. set for Feb. 23.
After that, Moll will conduct regular farm-to-table dinners, beer and wine tasting dinners, pop up dinners, educational classes, and other events focused on food.
“Justus will also be here if you have a wedding, for in-house catering, meetings, or any other event,” Karnatz said.
As the program develops, information on the various culinary events will be announced via the Mount Sequoyah Facebook page.
Photo: Meredith Mashburn
On top of the programming additions, some of the historic buildings on campus are also receiving upgrades at the moment. Clapp Auditorium has a coat of paint, and will get new flooring, for example. Parker Hall, one of the first buildings built on the campus, also has new paint, a new ceiling, and will soon get new flooring as well.
And all of this is just the beginning.
Karnatz said the organization is about half way through the first phase of six-phase plan, one that could one day include amenities like enhanced landscaping, more renovations and improvements to the lodging areas, and even a restaurant at Vesper Point overlooking the city.
In all, the organization just wants to see more people taking advantage of one of the city’s most serene, picturesque locations.
“We found in our research that people love Mount Sequoyah. They love knowing it is here, but they didn’t necessarily know you could come up here, and walk around. That it was open space,” Karnatz said. “That is one of the things we need to communicate with people. That you can come up here and enjoy it.
“We want to be a community resource for NWA and for Fayetteville,” she said.