GRATITUDE for ALL
Edited public address delivered at the 25th anniversary
September 17, 2005
My tenure in Fayetteville began in October
of 1977. I was thirty years old and really just at the
doorstep of my artistic career. I had been making art
all my life but I had only in the prior 3 years made
the total commitment that would take me to the present.
Initially, I shared studio space at
the Gregory Center with another sculptor. Here in Fayetteville
I continued work in the direction I had begun in Springfield,
Mo. in the years before.
Here and there I had started exhibiting my work regionally
and as far away as New Orleans and Chicago. I sold some
work but mainly I supplemented my existence with arts
related jobs or any other kind of paying work I could
In the fall of 1978 I was accepted by
the Arkansas Arts Council as the first fine artist to
participate in their Craft's Apprentice Program. It
was largely funded by the Civil Education and Training
Administration, CETA. The program "then" became
the Art's and Craft's Apprentice Program. It afforded
me a 16 to 21 year old apprentice trainee. The idea
was to teach the youth skills for future employment.
The apprentice was allotted a small space in my studio
to facilitate personal work and I tutored her daily
in a variety of artistic skills. The program paid the
assistant a minimum wage and paid me a nominal fee for
the tutoring plus I had a bit of daily assistance in
my studio work.
At the beginning of 1979 the Arts Council devised a
broader plan and implemented a competition for the realization
of public works to be installed in various locations
around the state. This was a first in Arkansas.
I was fortunate enough to win one of the positions for
a design of a grotto to be constructed in a wooded area
just west of where Point 7 castle stands today.
However, in late April the Parks Board
met with me and thought it more appropriate to enhance
an existing spring house on what would be the future
sight of the castle. The springhouse was an eyesore
and the spring fed stream coming from it was choked
with weeds and water cress. It was in an open area next
to the ball diamond and used by the players and their
fans to park their cars and trucks and maybe have a
cool one in between innings. As the city was obliged
to provide me with the land, excavation and hand tools
I was bound to accommodate them if I chose to continue
with the competition, which of course I did.
I had less then two weeks to come up
with an alternative design.
The existing concrete structure over
the spring was reminiscent of small play fort. It was
used by the local kids for just that purpose and I thought
what better solution to this challenge then a fantasy
play castle sculpture garden; in this case to be a little
more interesting then the existing situation.
In concept my idea originally for the
grotto design to the west of here, and then in the subsequent
Point 7 designs was to replicate an architectural relic
of the sort you might see in Europe or Asia.
A friend, Brenda Bullion, taught classes
on the work of Antoni Gaudi at the University of Arkansas
Architecture Department. Ms. Bullion's knowledge and
personal library re-introduced me to Gaudi's fascinating
work which I had studied briefly in art school. His
structures and there natural forms related to my figurative
art work of the time and spoke to me artistically giving
me the idea to work with Ferro-cement techniques and
mosaics even before my arts council involvement.
The city had many budget concerns and
was unable to guarantee any maintenance for my project
other then cutting the grass after its completion. I
was warned of this in my initial negotiations.
I felt that to the best of my ability I would build
something durable; but in "faux" decay!
New, but reflecting antiquity, and hopefully it would
be miraculously enhanced by wear, tear, and vandalism
as it reverted to nature!
Even then, I felt, total ruination would be checked
'IF' the castle became popular!
It did become popular, even before completion.
We couldn't even keep the kids off the site even during
The next meeting on May 14, 1979 was with Don Grimes,
the city manager, and the city council! I was successful
and they all agreed to my secondary proposal.
My Arts Council contact was Community
Arts Assistant Janice Meggers. Janice was paramount
in the persuasion process and supportive from the beginning
to the end of my two year affiliation with the Arkansas
The next two weeks of May were frantic.
The basic design obviously needed realistic concerns
like where the foundations were needed; real physical
locations had to be established as opposed to a vague
idealized model. Relations with suppliers of ceramic
components, construction materials, and native stone
all needed to be organized and plot lines and elevations
all had to be established and laid out.
In addition 5 trainee apprentices had to be hired and
prepared for what lay ahead.
We broke ground the first week of June
I had no idea how difficult it would
be to motivate much less train 5 inexperienced 16 to
21 year old kids; who just needed a job!
All were from varying backgrounds, unemployed and none
processed labor intensive construction work experience;
which is initially what we had to do.
With few exceptions neither did they
have much concern, about what I wanted to do artistically.
Most of it at that point was in my head anyway!
That was how I approached this project. It's how I approached
my art back then and to some extent even now!
-A basic visual and thematic concept
-with lots of development in process
- working to an end result
It was a typically hot Arkansas summer and no one was
in any shape for the work and the heat.
Attrition became predictable and frequent in the first
It wasn't any kind of art we were doing!
It was back breaking labor at 95 degrees Fahrenheit
My first lead apprentice was 19 years
old, and he turned out to have heart trouble which was
demonstrated in a seizure he had during a concrete pour.
Lawrence Beatty had been a really great help! He was
very responsible; a married student with a child but
didn't inform anyone of his heart problem when he started
He survived of course but it scared me to death and
his health issue forced him to quit!
It scared off a couple of the other apprentices too.
One brand new replacement walked off
less then an hour after starting one morning in the
midst of another concrete pour leaving us short handed
with a few cubic yards of wet stuff to move around.
I felt like an ogre sometimes for pushing the kids but
we had a 3-4 month deadline to meet.
The deadline would prove totally unrealistic.
By the end of the summer into October
and November I was almost out of apprentices and no
where near completion.
Jeff Carr went into the service.
Jim Key went back to the University of Arkansas in September
to study architecture. Jim did however work part time
and weekends for the remainder of the project. He did
very exacting rock work and was indispensable.
I worked alone on some days doing as
much as one hand can on a project like this. It was
at times very lonely here in this Corner of Wilson Park.
After the loss of Lawrence to the project I was additionally
funded under another CETA program and allowed to hire
one older helper (21-26) to act as first assistant.
I went through one or two of these as well; age, it
seems, did not insure devotion.
By the Christmas holidays of 79 I needed
I was able to hire Johnnie Ward an "older fella"
maybe 25. This was a turning point in the progress of
the project because his energy was great and he had
basic construction skills that no other assistant to
that point possessed. Just as importantly he brought
in Leo and Rita, his parents, who eventually in their
generosity donated their skills and the resources of
their professional ceramic studio to fulfill my mosaic
In the first months of 1980 the crew
expanded to include the core of helpers that would remain
to the end of funding; except for one young gentleman
who was shipped off to prison for prior offences in
At this point we were working out of
the dirt and in the air.
We had a very mild winter with few or no freezes and
I could see what was really coming and so could everyone
Motivation was less of an ordeal and spirits were generally
high. Even the neighbors slowed down on their criticism
that we had destroyed the water cress in the stream,
which of course came back and is still here today.
On rain days we worked in my studio at the Gregory Center
on a variety of projects. The support columns and roof
cap for the tower began there. The lamps at the bottom
of the ramp were fabricated there. The Ferro-cement
roof cap was also used as the direct form for the tiles
that cover it today.
We did the tiles for the floor of the castle there and
I let the assistants do their own designs for the small
unglazed tiles that cover a portion of the lamps on
the ramp and at other locations throughout the site.
There were one to two hundred of these small tiles and
I chose the ones I felt best worked in the various locations.
Some of these were dubious quasi functional little details,
others humorous or topical or just interesting abstract
designs. There were assigned designs and others chosen
from small competitions I devised within the crew.
The materials and the firing of the ceramic work was
to my best recollection all donated or at least minimally
priced by Leo and Rita Ward. And Johnnie's years of
working with his folks at their studio made the tile
work run smoothly.
But, I was fast running out of time.
I had been initially told I would be funded for 3 to
4 months. As mentioned all concerned realized that was
impractical very early on and I was simply periodically
refunded as long the project showed serious progress
and demonstrated that I was actually training these
CETA arts apprentices employable skills.
An outside independent survey group
gave my CETA project a 95% efficiency rating in the
spring of 1980. Many other CETA projects, nationally,
were financial disasters!
But the powers that be were ready for
other options and I was given a 1st of June deadline
for the end of funding.
That was one year from the actual date of start up.
I had plans for landscaping and plantings
that had to be scraped. At least two bronze sculptures
I had designed were dropped. And untold options and
possibilities were ditched due to the practical concerns
of time and money.
I pushed and we hurried but when the
money was out helpers had practical choices to make
and some had to find other paying jobs.
Ruth Teague and Sophia Estes stayed a week without pay;
Johnnie and Rob Boyd worked on for a couple weeks!
But ultimately it was me alone cleaning up and trying
to plant a few purchased and donated plants and trees
with the donated aide of a local landscaper.
Most of the plants were cooked in the record setting
heat of the summer of 1980.
Two weeks running prior to the grand opening on July
20th, NW Arkansas recorded temperatures of 100 degrees
plus, every day.
It got very dry even around this little
But we did have the opening over that
I would say I was a bit less prepared to deliver a talk
that July 20th Sunday in 1980. We had reveled in our
success for two days prior to the opening and my speech
turned into an inarticulate emotional blur of the previous
year's ups and downs.
I left out allot of "thank you"s but would
like to say many thanks now for all the help and support
for what I began here in Fayetteville in 1979. I could
not have done it without the help and support of the
following folks and organizations:
-The Arkansas Art's Council and Janice
-The Civil Education and Training Administration of
Jimmy Carter's administration
- Mrs. Elizabeth Reagan, Don Grimes, and the 1979 Parks
Board and City Council of Fayetteville
-Dale Clark my construction liaison with the parks department
-Meredith Boswell of Calabash Pottery and
Maryann Wilson their accountant who kept all the books
for the project
-Brenda Bullion who taught the class on Gaudi at the
-George Shelton and Leo Davis for their initial donations
of stone and
George's continued support and help throughout the project
-Dr. Suggs my landlord at the Gregory Center who let
me stay on even when I couldn't make rent!
-Daniel and Linda Marquardt now of Chicago, who ran
White River Iron Works, back then, for the use of their
facility, friendship and advice. Linda's string quartet
also supplied ambience at the opening ceremony
-A Stone Mason named "Butch" who gave me a
lesson or two in laying rock and mixing mud
-Leo and Rita Ward and Terra Studios for their help
and generous support in production of the vast majority
of the ceramic work
-The photographers of the Arkansas Arts Council
-Photographer and friend Drew Kilgore of Fayetteville
-Photographer and old friend Jim Mayfield, of Springfield
-Photographer and good friend the late Frank Martin,
of Houston TX
-Frank Sharp of Ozark Smokehouse for his good words
at the opening event in 1980
-The neighbors who dropped in with lemonade or cute
-My Mom the late Betty Williams of St. Louis who was
prone to help me when things were short in the Ozarks
-My friend Suzanne Stoner who still lives up the street
-Our son Garth who played here along with his friends
as a child.
-My daughter Terra Williams Salinas, of Springfield,
for her dance performance as an eight year old with
a dance troupe none can recall, at the opening in 1980
in the 103 degree heat; and for her allowing me to escape
the festivities my newest grandson's birth to be here
-Gary Stoner, for his donation of a 350 lb. sow for
the pig roast celebration the night before the opening.
-Chef Elmo Hicks for roasting the porker on a spit outside
my studio for some 24 hours.
-Much gratitude and thanks to Connie
Edmonston the current director of the City Parks Department
and Horticulturist Lisa Netherland for allowing me back
in and putting up with my artist sensitivities for the
last few years in preparation for this anniversary and
hopefully for our future co-operations.
It was nineteen years after the dedication, in 1999
that serious maintenance and restoration began when
city funds were available for Lisa Netherland, City
Parks Department horticulturalist, to take on the large
task of restoring the castle. Securing and enhancing
the landscape around the site and beautifying the whole
area with her wonderful plantings.
It also seems that there was still a fair amount of
my original imagery to build on. That might be due to
the fact that from the foundation to the top of the
tower I saw to it that everything was over structured
and built for strength and durability.
The only structural regrets I have are that I did some
very sculpturally interesting rock work that should
have been double walled or pinned together to endure
the amount of wear and tear the castle gets from little
hands and feet.
Experience, time and finance were not on my side.
Naturally, I regret that I wasn't included
in the restoration and expansion begun in 99 but maybe
that can be remedied in any future plans.
`-I do still have many ideas and old
plans to pursue here. Some of which I have in digital
illustrations here today. If you like them you may want
to consider involvement in there funding? The proposed
sculptures are here for your viewing and consideration.
-I would like to give special thanks to the 25 or 30
young people who walked in and walked off with a memory
of a castle named Point 7 that they helped build in
this valley called Wilson City Park!
Many of their names I don't recall nor could we find
It would have been impossible without the involvement
of your young hearts and hands.
Some explanation about the mysterious long lost name
of the castle:
"7' is, universally, a lucky number!
-It's certainly is one of my lucky numbers.
-7 delineates my position in my family genealogy,
My given name was Francis Marion Williams the 7th.
-I was born in the 7th month of 1947
-And I shortened my name to Frank Williams
when I was 7 years old,,,,,,,for obvious reasons!
So what about Point?
-A POINT,,,, can be a place or position in time and
-You can make a point as in projecting
a concept or idea.
-You can take the point and be the first
and lead the way.
-You can point at something of significance
-A point should be sharp.
-A point can be earned for good work.
-So, what is the point?