Alva Review-Courier -

In 2008 Marg Hayward recalled origin of Nescatunga Arts Festival and organization


(A WORD ABOUT THIS ARTICLE – In 2008 Yvonne Miller interviewed Marg Hayward who was 100 years old at the time. She was married to acclaimed local artist Jack Hayward who was the first Nescatunga Arts and Humanities Council President. Marg named the festival herself. Read her article below.)

In September of 1972 the Nescatunga Arts and Humanities Council was founded thanks to the vision of Alva area artist Jack Hayward, his wife Marg and a few other interested artists.

Those few gathered simply for their love of art. Jack was the first president of the organization. A respected artist, Jack’s works still grace the walls of the VFW, and can be found in the Cherokee Strip Museum and in homes across the area. His art typically depicts scenes of this sprawling rural cowboy area dotted with hills and canyons.

“Jack grew up in Elk City, Kansas,” Marg said. “He was a football hero and liked drawing and art. He attended art and design school. He liked to fish and hunt and worked for a sports magazine four or five years, then it was back to drawing. It was just part of the joy of his life. He loved history. His murals told the history of this area. There are stories in his paintings.”

An artist herself, Marg said, “Painting was such a satisfying thing to do. You get lost in painting and forget all your troubles. It’s therapy.”

Marg actually named the organization Nescatunga. Turning 100 years old last Oct. 22 (2007), Marg recalls naming the group Nescatunga, which is an Indian name meaning “bitter water.” This term describes the taste of the water in the Salt Fork River that meanders through Woods County.

“Maybe it’s just folklore, but that’s what I was told,” Marg said in a 2004 interview.

Sharing her birthday with Oklahoma’s statehood centennial in 2007, the past year Marg moved to Bartlesville to an assisted living facility to be closer to family – specifically her granddaughter Jennifer “Nipper” Leu. “Alva will always be in my heart because I lived there so long,” Marg said, and added, “Being close to family is wonderful – being close to my grandchildren, great and great-greats!”

Describing the facility at Bartlesville as similar to The Homestead where she resided in Alva, Marg said, “I’ve met some very dear people here.” A telephone call to her for this interview found her busy chatting with friends in her apartment. Marg said she does very well except for her deteriorated eyesight, which keeps her from playing her beloved game of bridge.

Speaking of her current apartment, Marg said, “I have the walls covered with mine and Jack’s artwork. Anywhere I have a space I have a picture.” She’s given away many pieces of their art to family, friends and the community. “I have no idea how many pieces of art he did.”

Nescatunga's Earliest Days

Recalling the days when the Nescatunga Arts and Humanities Council formed, Marg said the group held their first meeting at the VIP restaurant and held monthly gatherings. She mentioned names of local artists she remembers who were part of the group. They are: Hazel Dixon, Bill Pitts who was with NWOSU at the time, Mrs. Roger Sterns and Priscilla Demaree.

Those artists began displaying their works in the windows of Alva’s downtown businesses around the square. They held an exhibit at the Redbud Grocery Store.

“It was good for the artists and merchants because it brought people into their stores,” Marg said.

The displays sparked the interest of locals who weren’t artists and the arts festival was born. She recalled that talented groups of artists from Waynoka and Coldwater, Kansas, became involved.

In charge of the first festival, Marg said it started on the courthouse lawn, just as it is today. However, the festival simply showed the work of fine artists. There was no entertainment, crafts or food booths.

Marg credits Alva woman Gerree Smith with involving a diverse group of Alva women to make the festival grow into what it is today. This year, 2008, marks the 36th Annual Nescatunga Arts Festival.


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