A fifteen-year project to tell a decades-old true story about one of the region’s most iconic locations will come to fruition this month.
Longtime local artist Sean Fitzgibbon will celebrate the release of his new non-fiction graphic book “What Follows is True: Crescent Hotel” about the strange and tragic buildings from two years ago like Baker Hospital, a cancer hospital in the Depression era with a series of events kicking off with a July 29 book launch event at the Community Creative Center.
The new book features original illustrations by Fitzgibbon to accompany true stories of the building in the late 1930s.
Fitzgibbon said he heard the stories about the old hotel as a child and was captivated by the story.
“As a kid, I used to go with my family on trips to Eureka Springs and the Crescent Hotel,” he said. “We would go on ghost tours and they would tell these haunting stories of when the Crescent Hotel was a cancer hospital in the late 1930s run by a fraudulent doctor. Of course, my mind went wild with nightmarish images of this 1886 American Gothic-style hotel turned into this most unusual cancer hospital.
Fitzgibbon said the book’s release was a long time coming.
“I worked on this book for 15 years,” he says. “Most of the process was research and going through archives, libraries and interviewing people. The artistic side is also very involved, but not as much as research and editing.
Photo: Daniel Quinn
Luckily for Sean, his wife Willow is a librarian at the Fayetteville Public Library and was happy to help with the research.
“My wife Willow was instrumental in helping me with this book,” he said. “She is a librarian and is wonderful at taking all the information gathered and helping me organize it chronologically and separate it according to topic. I couldn’t have done it without her.
Most of the drawings in the book were created in watercolor, pencil, with other mediums such as solvent transfer or small bits of collage mixed in, Fitzgibbon said.
In all, the book is 240 pages and “blends oral histories, newspaper articles, and hospital owner Norman Baker’s own conceited biography,” all featuring captivating imagery from Sean’s imagination.
Several original illustrations from the new book are now on display at the Community Creative Center in Fayetteville as part of a new exhibit called “The Great Beyond – Comic Art in the Ozarks.” In addition to Fitzgibbon’s work, the exhibit also features panels from comic books and graphic novels published by artists Chad Maupin, JL Morris, John Lucas and Gustav Carlson.
Fitzgibbon is planning a book launch event at the Community Creative Center from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, July 29, where he will host a get-together, book signing, and sell some of his original works.
After that, he also plans to give a talk at the Fayetteville Public Library from 6-7 p.m. November 30 in the movement room of the library. His original works from the book will also be on display at the library from October to January, he said.
It will also appear at the Bentonville Public Library at 6 p.m. on October 26.
The books will be on sale at the events listed above and are also available now through the artists’ website, seanfitzgibbonart.com. It will also be available at Pearl’s Books in Fayetteville, he said.
Fitzgibbon said that now that he was done with the book, he planned to continue working on other “The Following Is True” stories intended to “chronicle the eerie stories of various places and objects”.
“I’m currently working on the next book, it will be three different and haunting true stories of very unusual historical places you can visit today,” he said.
“The following is true: Crescent Hotel” signs
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