A 15-year project to tell a decades-old true story about one of the region’s most iconic places will come to fruition this month.
Longtime local artist Sean Fitzgibbon will celebrate the release of his new graphic non-fiction book “What Follows is True: Crescent Hotel” about the Eureka Springs hotel’s strange and tragic two years as The Baker Hospital, a Depression-Era cancer hospital, with a series of events that kick off with a book launch event on July 29 at Community Creative Center in Fayetteville.
The new book features original artwork by Fitzgibbon to go alongside true stories about the building during the late 1930s.
Fitzgibbon said he first heard the stories about the old hotel as a kid, and became captivated by its history.
“As a kid I would go with my family on trips to Eureka Springs and the Crescent Hotel,” he said. “We would go on the ghost tours and they would tell these haunting tales of when the hotel was a cancer hospital in the late 1930’s run by a fraudulent medical practitioner. Of course, my mind went wild with nightmarish imagery of this 1886 American Gothic style hotel transformed into this most unusual cancer hospital.”
Fitzgibbon said the release of the book has been a long time coming.
“The majority of the process has been research and coming through archives, libraries and interviewing people,” he said. “The artwork side is also very involved but not nearly as involved as the research and editing.”
Photo: Daniel Quinn
Luckily for Sean, his wife Willow is a librarian at Fayetteville Public Library who was happy to help with the research.
“My wife has been instrumental in helping me with this book,” he said. “She is wonderful at taking all the information collected and helping me organize it into a chronological fashion and break it apart according to subject matter. I couldn’t have done it without her.”
Most of the drawings in the book were created with watercolor, pencil, with other media such as solvent transfer or small bits of collage mixed in, Fitzgibbon said.
In all, the book includes 240 pages and “blends oral histories, newspaper articles, and hospital proprietor Norman Baker’s own vanity biography,” all featuring captivating images from Seans imagination.
Several original illustrations from the new book are now on display at Community Creative Center as part of a new exhibit titled “The Great Beyond – Comic Art in the Ozarks.” In addition to Fitzgibbon’s work, the exhibit also features panels from published comic and graphic novels by artists Chad Maupin, J.L. Morris, John Lucas, and Gustav Carlson.
Fitzgibbon is planning a book launch event at the center from 5-8 p.m. on Friday, July 29 where he will conduct a meet-and-greet, sign books, and sell some of his original works.
After that, he plans to give a talk at Fayetteville Public library from 6-7 p.m. on Nov. 30 in the library’s movement room. His original works from the book will also be on display at the library from October through January, he said.
Fitzgibbon will also appear at the Bentonville Public Library at 6 p.m. on Oct. 26.
The books will be for sale at the events listed above, and is also available now through the artists’s website at seanfitzgibbonart.com. It will also be available at Pearl’s Books in Fayetteville, he said.
Fitzgibbon said now that he is finished with the book, he plans to continue to work on other “What Follows is True” stories intended to “chronicle the strange histories of various places and objects.”
“I’m actually working on the next book right now it will be made up of three different haunting true stories of very unusual, historical places you can visit today,” he said.
Panels from “What Follows is True: Crescent Hotel”