CAPC interviews second tourism director candidate

Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission heard from the second candidate interested in the tourism director position on Monday afternoon.

Chairman Jeff Carter introduced Garry Holstein, saying Holstein visited Eureka Springs for the previous two days for one-on-one interviews with commissioners and to get a feel for the city. Holstein, director of the Bradbury Art Museum in Jonesboro, said he is originally from Arkansas and lived in Fayetteville for 10 years at the beginning of his career.

Holstein said he was the personal assistant for artist Donald Roller Wilson while earning a master’s degree in organizational communication.

Garry Holstein

“That’s what really got me into the world of community engagement,” Holstein said. “I was learning how to make organizations work better together, and I realized there was a real lack of opportunity for artists as well as for the community to have cultural experiences in Fayetteville.”

So he started doing pop-up art shows, Holstein said.

“If you’re familiar with Fayetteville Underground, I did the first show that was ever there back when it was in the Bank of America building in the basement,” Holstein said.

That was a while ago, Holstein said, before Crystal Bridges was built.

“I’ve been around a while and I used to come to Eureka as a place to get away … because it was such a magical place,” Holstein said. “Coming here today was me coming back after a decade of being away.”

After he graduated with his master’s degree, Holstein said, he moved to teach college in Arkansas before moving to New Harmony, Ind. Holstein said New Harmony is similar to Eureka Springs in many ways. The community is the former site of two utopian communities dating back to the early 1800s, Holstein said.

“Some of the ideas that were built off of that second community moved out and affected the world,” Holstein said. “The idea for the Smithsonian Institute was generated by someone who became active in politics out of that tiny town of 800 people.”

In the 1960s, Holstein said, New Harmony underwent a revitalization project.

“The wonderful thing about that is that it completely turned the community itself from a place where one of the historic buildings was being used for a gas station … into a place they were conscious of what they were doing with their history,” Holstein said. “They were protecting it and they were developing a new way to use that history to tell a story and draw people in.”

His role at New Harmony was to run a community art space, Holstein said, and he gave tours on the art and architecture there. He was also responsible for public art pieces, Holstein said.

“It’s a way to use contemporary artists … to reflect back on the history and make sure it’s something that’s continuously happening,” Holstein said. “Why I’m so interested in Eureka is it’s the same sort of living community.”

Also while in New Harmony, Holstein said, he received a master’s degree in business administration with a focus on strategic management and marketing.

“I have knowledge of marketing in addition to seven years of lived experience,” Holstein said.

He moved to Jonesboro to run the Bradbury Art Museum, Holstein said, to be closer to family. At the museum, Holstein said, he has two full-time and 14 part-time employees.

“I have extensive management experience,” Holstein said.

Commissioner Melissa Greene said she liked that Holstein has a family and commissioner Bobbie Foster said she was struck by Holstein’s passion for Eureka Springs.

“He really loves this town and I think he’s in love with it,” Foster said. “His unique set of skills and his communication skills and his experience will lead us in a nice direction.”

Commissioner Carol Wright said she liked that Holstein spoke about bringing tourists to Eureka Springs during the week and commissioner Harry Meyer asked what Holstein thought of the art exhibit at Brews.

“It’s a really important way of honoring the members of your community that have built the arts scene here who are so important in laying the foundations of artists that want to move here,” Holstein said. “That kind of space is really amazing because it’s pulling together a space not only for the artists themselves but it’s also a place the community is going to come for the coffee, for the beer.”

Holstein added, “You might not feel as intimidated because some people feel that way going into art galleries or museums. That’s a wonderful model and a wonderful resource.”

Commissioner Greg Moon said Holstein’s resume is “very impressive” and Foster asked Holstein to expand on his experience with focus groups. Holstein said he worked with a tourism-focused group that included influential people.

“When they go back, they tell the story of where they’ve been,” Holstein said. “They do a lot of nice photography as well.”

Holstein said the group is looking to visit the Northwest Arkansas region.

“I know I could bring them here,” Holstein said.

“I like the fact that Garry seems to have some really good connections through his experience,” Foster said.

Carter asked Holstein how soon he could start working if the commission selects him for the position and Holstein said that would depend on how long it takes to find housing.

“I would hope if you feel it’s a good fit, it would be worth waiting for,” Holstein said. “I would reiterate I’m not looking for a job. I have a museum where I enjoy what I do, but I’m curious about Eureka and so I would be willing to come back here even though I’m not looking to find other places to be.”

The commission interviewed its other candidate, Madison Dawson, last week. The commission scheduled a special meeting to hire a tourism director for 4 p.m. Wednesday, July 21.

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