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Northwest Homegrown 1

Folk School Coming to Fayetteville


The folks behind a beloved Fayetteville tradition have a new project in the works.

Fayetteville Roots Festival founders Jerrmy Gawthrop and Bernice and Bryan Hembree this week announced a plan to take over the Walker-Stone House to create a music space in the historic building just off the Fayetteville square.

The Fayetteville Advertising & Promotion Commission on Monday voted 7-0 to lease the space to the Folk School of Fayetteville for a cost of $1 per year, and to provide $30,000 for the non-profit to help get its programming off the ground.

The commission purchased the building in 2016 from locals Hugh Kincaid, David Horne and Bass Trumbo, who co-owned the house. The A&P has since used the home for art exhibitions and other events, but commissioners have been searching for a long-term use.

The nearly 6,000-square-foot house, located one block west of the downtown square at 207 W. Center St., was built in the late 1840s by Judge David Walker, an early settler of the city who became one of the first justices on the state Supreme Court. The house was later sold to the family of local merchant Stephen K. Stone, where it stayed through most of its history. It was hit by a Confederate cannonball during the Civil War, but was restored and eventually listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Fayetteville Roots Festival has operated under the entity Folk School of Fayetteville since it began in 2012, and the latest project by the group will operate more in line with this name while continuing to focus on what has been the core mission of the organization from the beginning; to connect community through music and food.

Instead of operating a music festival, however, the Folk School will offer music lessons, workshops and weekly jam sessions. It will serve as a collaboration space for musicians and other organizations.

Fayetteville Roots Festival founders Bryan Hembree, Jerrmy Gawthrop, and Bernice Hembree. Photo: Phil Clarkin

Roots Festival organizers in October announced the festival – which had been held annually in Fayetteville for 13 years – would go on hiatus, and that their HQ location on the square would close at the end of 2022.

Bernice Hembree said in an email to the Flyer this week that the Folk School news isn’t an end to that previously-announced hiatus.

“Bryan, myself, and Jeremy are enjoying that much-needed break from the Fayetteville Roots Festival, so we need to be clear: this is in no way recreating or rehousing the Fayetteville Roots Festival,” she said.

Hembree said her vision for the Folk School is inspired in part by the Folk School of KDHX in St. Louis, which is not only a performance venue that the Hembrees played with their group, 3 Penny Acre, but also a school with a mission to pass of skills and traditions in the true folk tradition.

“We also taught workshops there; a vocal harmony workshop, crafting songs workshop, and a guitar workshop,” she said. “Those experiences laid the groundwork for us forming our own Folk School of Fayetteville in 2012.”

Hembree said that she hopes to begin hosting small events like classes, jams, and workshops at the house beginning in the spring. Larger concerts similar to the Fayetteville Roots On the Avenue street concerts held in 2020-21, though not in the immediate plans, are still a possibility in the (possibly distant) future.

“We are taking this project slow and listening intently to the needs of our community,” she said.

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Dustin Bartholomew is the co-founder of Fayetteville Flyer, an online publication covering all things news, art and life in Fayetteville, Arkansas since 2007. A graduate of the Department of English at the University of Arkansas and a lifelong resident of the area, he still lives in east Fayetteville with his son Hudson, daughter Evelyn, his wife Brandy, and his two dogs Lily and Steve. On occasion, he tickles the ivories in a local band called The Good Fear.

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One response to “Folk School Coming to Fayetteville”

  1. Margaret McEntire says:

    The Walker Stone House is a treasure. I walk it frequently, hearing the footsteps of my Walker Stone family members and praying something wonderful would happen. Thank you to the city and all involved. Happy Valentines Day it is!
    Margaret McEntire

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