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GRATITUDE for ALL
Edited public address delivered at the 25th anniversary celebration
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 get.

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 construction!


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 Arts Council.

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 1979.

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 months.
It wasn't any kind of art we were doing!
It was back breaking labor at 95 degrees Fahrenheit without shade.

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 the job.
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 help desperately.
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 fantasies.

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 the spring.

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 else.
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 spring.

But we did have the opening over that hot weekend.
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 Meggers
-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 university
-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 MO
-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 little criticisms
-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 today.
-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 in record!
It would have been impossible without the involvement of your young hearts and hands.

Lawrence Beaty
Jeff Carr
Richard Karnatz
Jim Key
Elizabeth Reagan
John Ward
Ruth Teague
Sophia Estes
Steve Wagnon
Rob Boyd

Lastly,
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 space.

-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 or importance.

-A point should be sharp.

-A point can be earned for good work.

-So, what is the point?

POINT 7

 

25th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION, 2005

PRESS:
Northwest Arkansas Times:
Artist Frank Williams recalls construction of Wilson Park Castle, BY SARAH K. TERRY
Designer returns to celebrate 25th anniversary of Wilson Park castle, BY KATE WARD
The Morning News:
Artist, Community Celebrate 'Point 7', BY AMY M. COTHAM

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© 2004. Frank Williams. All Rights Reserved.