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Friday, May 6, 2016

Calico Rock Museum and artists attracting tourists

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The fully renovated, newly opened Calico Rock Museum offers the work of area artists and craftspersons on the first floor and exhibits depicting Calico Rock history on the second level. The museum, in an historic building on Main Street at Highway 56, is open from Tuesday through Saturday. Photo by Richard Irby
Calico Rock fishing services, campgrounds, cabin and motel owners and restaurants are ready and waiting for the start of the summer tourist season, which is just around the corner.

Each year, thousands of people visit the city for trout fishing and other activities centered on the beautiful White River.

This year, visitors will see another beautiful sight: the newly opened Calico Rock Museum and Visitors Center.

"We've made a lot of progress over the winter and people will be surprised to see the changes," said Museum Foundation Board member Wayne Wood.

In 2010, the board bought the historic building on Main Street at Highway 56, and began planning a major renovation to house the city museum.

Even board members are surprised at how much has been accomplished. The 1903 building has been totally renovated, from repairing and painting the large front doors and windows to upgrading plumbing and electrical systems, and building a railing around the second floor walkway, which looks down into the first level, to totally cleaning and painting the interior.

"It's got all this natural charm," said Rhonda Doerr, a water color painter from Norfolk, who is one of 26 artists and craftspeople who display and sell their work on the first floor. "The building is beautiful and there is a dedicated group of people working to help it succeed."

A stairway and chair lift in the rear corner of the building take visitors up to the second floor, where the museum is housed.

In addition, a city-owned building next door has been transformed into a Visitor's Center, providing a second entrance to the museum and lots of information about area attractions and events.

The renovation is way ahead of schedule, thanks to a special crew of inmates from the Calico Rock Corrections facility.

The inmates, with experience in carpentry, painting and other construction skills, worked on the building from January through March.

"We didn't expect the kind of help we received; the abilities they brought to the job," said Wood.

The inmates took great pride in giving a face lift to the historic structure, while providing an estimated $30,000 worth of free labor.

The second floor museum offers displays and information about Calico Rock's early settlers, the Civil War, and the city's "boom" years in the late 1800s and early 1900s, as riverboats and, later, trains made Calico a trading center and arrival and departure point for residents and visitors.

"The museum came to be because so many residents wanted to donate documents, antiques, and all kinds of artifacts from Calico Rock's early days," said Wood.

Board members see the museum in a very early stage with plenty of room for growth, eventually including professional, museum quality exhibits.

"We have had a great early response. Artisan's Cooperative members are selling their work and more and more people are discovering us," said Gloria Gushue, who directs Museum and Visitors Center operations.

Each Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., artists and craftspeople who display their work in the museum are on hand to demonstrate their talents and interact with visitors.

Gushue is planning a big event on July 16 to celebrate the progress downtown.

The Museum and Visitors Center will be open on "Old Fashioned Day," but activities will also spill out on to Main Street.

Museum supporters will dress in period costumes, there will be horse drawn wagon rides and other "old timey" activities.

"We believe the museum will be popular with our summertime visitors and, as word gets out about us, we will draw residents from all over the area," said Gushue.

The Museum board expects up to 20,000 people a year to visit the museum, visitors who will boost the local economy while they are in Calico Rock.

There is no admission to the museum, although donations are welcome.

The board is seeking grants and planning fundraisers to pay off the museum debt and continue to upgrade the facility.

The Calico Rock Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, visit www.calicorockmuseum.com.

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