Meet Eureka Springs, Arkansas Artist Zeek Taylor

In each of our lives, there are huge events that shape the people we become. There are milestones, like graduations, weddings, and births. There are crossroads, like deciding between two majors at university, or deciding whether or not to move across the country for the person you love. There are moments of serendipity, and times of exquisite joy and heart-wrenching grief that change the course of our lives in an instant.

Alongside all of these huge events, however, there are smaller, quieter moments that shape our lives in disproportionate ways. Like the encouraging words from a history teacher that helped you flourish at school, and that you remembered when you picked history as your major at university. Or, that time when you were nine and acting careless and broke an expensive vase, but, instead of yelling at you, your mom reminded you that everyone makes mistakes, and to give yourself a break; words that you still repeat when you’re stressed today. We carry these gentle moments of kindness with us, and repeat the stories to ourselves when we need them, and slowly they shape the trajectory of our personalities and our lives.

Meet Eureka Springs, Arkansas Artist Zeek Taylor - Our Global Adventures

“There’s a whole big world out there that I don’t understand, and you do, you need to do and to be whatever you want to be that will make you happy”

Celebrated Eureka Springs, Arkansas artist Zeek Taylor has a story like this. It takes places while Zeek was a student at the Memphis College of Arts, and visiting his small hometown on the Arkansas Delta. While Zeek was home alone one day, he decided to pierce his ear. He had seen other young men at art school with a pierced ear, but it was still a controversial choice at the time, especially in a small Southern town of only 650 residents.

Zeek was worried about what his parents might say when they got home. His Mum only asked “how come you only pierced one ear?”, but his Dad stayed quiet. A few days later, still worried about his Dad’s response, Zeek asked him if he had noticed the piercing. His Dad replied, “it’s your own damn ear you can do as you please.” He continued, “There’s a whole big world out there that I don’t understand, and you do, you need to do and to be whatever you want to be that will make you happy”. This was a powerful moment in Zeek’s life. In his words, “When he told me that, life got better ‘cos I knew everything was alright”.

Young Zeek Taylor on Motorcycle.

One of the things that Zeek Taylor needed to be was an artist. It was something that he dreamed about as a child, and something he has worked for nearly his entire adult life. Today, Zeek is an award-winning watercolorist known for his distinct dry-brush technique, intense use of color, and sense of pattern. He is best known for his paintings of clothed chimpanzees; all with different stories and personalities. He decorates all of his paintings with intricately patterned borders which have become part of his signature. Zeek’s work has been displayed four times in the Arkansas Arts Center, and twice in the prestigious Delta Exhibition. He has also been the recipient of a number of awards, including, most notably, the Arkansas Governor’s Art Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Another thing that Zeek needed was to not just create art, but to be surrounded by art and other artists. This is something that he found in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Zeek first discovered the city when he visited it on vacation. It was a place that was filled with hippies and artists and people from all over the world. In Zeek’s words, Eureka Springs reminded him “of being in art school. Everyone was so free and accepting and creative.” At the time, moving to Eureka Springs wasn’t financially viable, so Zeek and his partner (now husband), Dick Titus, moved to Fayetteville – the nearest city that the couple could live and still support themselves. Zeek and Dick lived in Fayetteville for 13 years until they were able to finally move to Eureka Springs.

Zeek Taylor and Dick Titus hold marriage certificate.
Zeek Taylor and Dick Titus get married in Eureka Springs Arkansas.
Zeek Taylor and Dick Titus get married in Eureka Springs Arkansas.

Zeek and Dick have now lived in Eureka Springs for over 30 years, and they have become part of the fabric of the city. It was in Eureka Springs that Zeek and Dick were finally able to marry after 42 years of being together, when, in 2014, a judge ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The ruling came down on a Friday, and the Eureka Springs courthouse is the only one in Arkansas open on a Saturday. After Zeek and Dick fought to be issued their marriage license on the day, along with other same-sex couples, they were married by a friend right there at the courthouse. They were the first male couple in Arkansas or any other Southern State to marry, and their wedding day was documented by the Human Rights Campaign. Zeek and Dick have talked about their wedding day and their life together for the StoryCorps Out Loud initiative, and a segment of their interview aired on NPR’s Morning Edition.

In Eureka Springs, Zeek has found his community of artists who support each other. In his words, “I can walk out my door and look in any direction and see a working artist’s residence or studio”. In 1990, Zeek Taylor started the White Street Walk with fellow artists Mary Kellog and Eleanor Lux, an annual event in which artists on the city’s historic White Street invite tourists and residents directly into their homes and studios.

Today, the White Street Walk is one of the most popular events in Eureka Springs’ annual May Festival of the Arts. This year, the event will take place on Friday, May 18, from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m., and the White Street resident artists will be joined by more than 40 guests artists from the Eureka Springs area.

Shenanigans the Chimp by Eureka Springs, Arkansas Artist Zeek Taylor