In 2019, the current WCDH Board President, Peggy Kjelgaard, had a vision for a Sponsor a Suite campaign to commemorate 20 years of hosting writers in 2020. This past summer, The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow completed the first update of the eight writers’ suites turning the former Spring Blossom Suite into the Maya Angelou suite. WCDH Executive Director, Michelle Hannon, said, “The Maya Angelou suite was a stunning renovation and sorely needed. Feedback from writers-in-residence who have stayed in the new suite has been overwhelmingly positive, and now the team has pulled it off again.” Peach Blossom, the second suite to be renovated and refurbished, was completed in December and renamed as the Langston Hughes suite.
The renovation was led by WCDH Board Member, Teresa DeVito, and funded by WCDH Board Member, Charles Templeton, and his wife, Sandra. Charles explained, “Providing a sanctuary for writers and artists to pursue their work has always been the focus of the Colony and upgrading our suites to provide an environment conducive to these pursuits, had to be a priority.” He said he chose Peach Blossom, “because it reminded me of room 217 in Stephen King’s book, “The Shining,” or room 237 in the movie version of the book. It was in pretty bad shape.” The newly refurbished suite includes a fresh coat of paint, new bedding, furniture, appliances, flooring, window treatments, and décor. WCDH is grateful to Cne’ Breaux, James DeVito, Hilka Irvin, Peggy Kjelgaard, Mike and Kelli Ladwig, Linda Lewis, Terra Lewis, True Martin, Ilene Powell, Melodye Purdy, Cheryl Thieleman of the Velvet Otter, and K.J. Zumwalt for contributions of artwork, labor, and materials.
As the funder of the suite re-model, Charles Templeton had the privilege of renaming the suite. Explaining his choice, he said, “I remembered listening to one of my former students read ‘I, too, Am America’, by Langston Hughes. After some thought, it dawned on me, by upgrading our suites, we are initiating a rebirth of The Writers’ Colony, a small ‘Renaissance' of our own. Langston Hughes was a spokesperson for the common man. He has certainly earned his place in the Pantheon of American Authors.”
Teresa explained her vision for the renovation, which was inspired by Langston Hughes. She said, “I wanted the suite to reflect sophisticated masculine luxury with a touch of whimsy. The suite is furnished in an uncluttered, minimalist fashion, completely opposite its original style.” Describing the special touches that make the space perfect for writers, Teresa said, “There’s lots of space and plenty of room to spread out. There are writing desks in the bedroom and writing room, and the views from both are stunning.”
The first writer to stay in the new Langston Hughes suite is Margie Semilof from Boston. This is her first residency at WCDH and her first visit to Eureka Springs. She will be working on a new full-length play that she plans on pitching to a theater company this year. Margie said, “I’m really excited to come and get to work and complete a draft.”
Since opening its doors to writers in 2000, The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow has made a lasting impact on the arts and literary communities, providing uninterrupted residency time for writers of all genres, including culinary, composers, and artists, without discrimination. The WCDH has hosted over 1,500 writers from 48 states and 13 countries. For more information, please visit writerscolony.org or call Michelle Hannon at (479)253-7444.
All images are courtesy of Melodye Purdy, Purdy Art Company