Essie Treat Ward didn't look anything like a big city artist -- and it's likely a big city artist wouldn't have considered her paintings "art." Born in the Searcy County community of Nubbin Hill in 1902, Ward was drawing, painting, sculpting and making toys from the time she was a child, but her life as an adult was that of a "traditional Ozark woman," says Susan Young, outreach coordinator for the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History.
It wasn't until she was diagnosed with cancer in 1959, that Ward "put down the plow and picked up a paint brush" full time.
"After working hard to raise a family and maintain a farmstead, as well as overcoming personal obstacles in her life, Essie found fulfillment and satisfaction in creating artwork that people admired," says Kimberly Hosey, an education specialist at the Springdale museum. "Susan said it best, ' ...to be the caretaker of Essie Ward's artwork, and to share Essie's life story with the public and preserve her story for the future, for us here at the museum, is such a great satisfaction.'"
Hosey has found a new way to share Ward's legacy -- online, via a Shiloh Saturday program at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 16.
"For the museum's monthly Shiloh Saturday programs, we choose topics that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and help represent the history and culture of the Arkansas Ozarks," Hosey says. "This February, we are re-introducing a temporary exhibit on Essie Ward. Essie's folk art has been featured in previous Shiloh Museum exhibits, as well as educational programs and is always popular with visitors of all ages. We felt a fun and unique way to start off the year's Shiloh Saturday programs, as well as to get people excited for the upcoming Essie Ward exhibit, would be to plan a 'hands-on' -- virtual -- program discussing her life and work.
"Essie's work is incredibly inspiring," Hosey goes on. "The more I learn about Essie, the more I admire her for who she was and the lasting impact she had on the culture of the Ozarks. The same goes for her art. Each Essie Ward piece is unique, adding originality and heart to her work. When looking at an Essie Ward painting, or sculpture, you see a representation of her passions, personality and/or life experiences. Looking at Essie's art is like diving into a memory of her life story."
Hosey says she doesn't consider herself an artist, but she will help participants create a painting using Ward's work as inspiration.
"We wanted those who view the program to learn about Essie's practices and artistic style in order to showcase her uniqueness but to also add in their own creative aspects to the piece they work on and bring out their artistic individuality," she says. "... Viewers can follow along during the program and paint as I do if they'd like, or they can paint whatever they feel inspired to create at the time while also learning more about Essie's style, life, and artistic works."
Shiloh Saturday: Folk Artist Essie Ward
WHEN — 10:30 a.m. Jan. 16
WHERE — Shiloh Museum of Ozark History via Facebook
COST — Free
INFO — 750-8165 or shilohmuseum.org