Once-in-a-lifetime experiences can call for out-of-the-way road trips. Since Pasaquan is like no other, prep the kids for bold visions to peer into the mind of the fortune-teller artist in Georgia’s piney woods Chattahoochee Valley. This can’t be done anywhere else.
Apparently time travel of a sort is possible so taking the kids to the oh-so-colorful Pasaquan in Georgia is a fine idea and a must-stop on a southeast US road trip.
This is a visionary art environment of buildings, totems, pathways and stairways, murals, sand pits and expansive lawns.
Use those grassy spaces to distance yourself for staring at the art. Most every painted wall demands long gazes.
Let little kids run like crazy on those lawns because the colors everywhere spill out energy.
Eddie Owens Martin created Pasaquan from 1957 to 1986 in the little town of Buena Vista, Georgia. Peer into his mind as you roam the seven acres because the art reflects visions he started receiving in 1935.
That gets to the time travel.
Where in the Universe?
Pasaquoyans — people from elsewhere in the universe – brought him cosmic instructions, Eddie said. He also said he should be known as St. EOM.
Meet some Pasaquoyan people in paintings and as totems. They’re tall. And sometimes naked except for power suits which are basically straps to assist with powers of levitation.
Why in this spot in Georgia, 140 miles south and a tad west of Atlanta?
St. EOM grew up in Buena Vista, in a sharecropper family. He said he was born at the stroke of midnight on the Fourth of July in 1908.
Pasaquan tour guide Charles Fowler considers this one of many “claims” that can’t quite be substantiated.
Like visitors now and then who say they are Pasaquoyans.
TravelingMom Tip: Tweens and teens could hunt for pre-Columbian images on the 900 feet of elaborately painted masonry walls. African and Native American cultural and religious symbols and designs too.
“I Was Always Eccentric”
Local folks who remember him agree with Eddie’s claim, “I was always eccentric. I was different from other people.”
Cathy and Fred Fussell are among them, and they admire the art so much they played a key — and continuing — role in in restoring the concrete walls, major structures and folk art.
That work led to the creation of the Pasaquan Preservation Society. One little way to support their work is to buy the Pasaquan coloring book for $10. Re-experiencing St. EOM’s designs on the rest of the road trip, or at home, might cement some visions.
Know when you go, the land of Pasaquan may seem mythical, but solid research and support make it real.
Columbus State University oversees the operations and art professor Mike McFalls curates exhibitions to travel to major museums and galleries nationwide.
The art site is a lived museum, McFalls says, not a gallery of changing exhibitions. Visiting artists and CSU students study the art of Eddie Owens Martin. Visitors can look for those influences in years to come.
The Kohler Foundation headquartered in Wisconsin — yes those faucets — has been a key factor in Pasaquan restoration and preservation.
Listen for real-time tales about the restoration of Pasaquan if you tour with Charles Fowler. Not only does he live on the art site, he worked full time with the two-year restoration after graduation from Columbus State University.
Yes, he’s an artist too.
Wander Sure, But Take a Tour Too
Tours are not mandatory; families can wander on their own. But Fowler’s stories are priceless.
He’ll tell about St. EOM’s life in New York City as a hustler. And his acclaim with fortune-telling. Some say the cosmic visitation happened in the city; some say in Buena Vista.
In 1957 he returned to his childhood home in Marion County for good, although Fowler says he had visited his mother often. That’s when the visions began to fill original house walls, and new ones he built.
Big pay for the time attracted helpers who followed his specific instructions for $10 an hour. Curious area residents came up the long access road into the woods to take a look.
They also encountered Nina and Boo, reportedly ferocious German shepherds protecting St. EOM.
“The dogs could sense people; they could read bad intentions,” Fowler says.
In the Sikh religious tradition, St. EOM kept his hair long but in his own Pasaquoyan style, he treated his hair with rice starch so it would point up to heaven.
TravelingMom Tip: Suggest the kids listen to St. EOM speak in a minute and 20-second link on the Pasaquan website. “There is a new way … Keep kindness in your heart. Keep in the rhythm and keep in the song.”
Most of the walls and pagodas, medallions and totems are outdoors, seen from the lawns. This is a walking and standing, or lounge in the grass, kind of place.
Strollers and wheelchairs will have to accommodate a couple of steps or step-over concrete thresholds. Do not expect paved paths for wheels.
Bold, colorful scenes are visible immediately, even before parking on a grassy yard. Pasaquan is an experience simply because you arrived.
The short walk into the entry building could take 30 minutes if every single painting got a close look. A modest exhibit room of photographs, printed words and a video share some history.
Benches here or the picnic table outside are the only seating spaces.
Pasa meant past and Quan meant future to Saint EOM. That’s the cosmic direction, he said, so Pasaquan became his visionary art environment with the past meeting the future.
Mandalas Expand Energies
Immerse in energizing mandalas in the meditation room. They are big as an adult arm spread and fill the walls and ceiling. Concrete stairs required to climb to reach this space.
If doing steps is not possible, stay at the bottom and plan to feel the energies with intention. Theory here is energy from the mandalas expands out to the universe and then returns.
Think that’s why a raised sandpit welcomes dancing at the base of the steps to this roomful of mandalas?
Imagine the creation time going in to the work building for the art of Eddie Owens Martin. Walls are painted with bamboo scenes, totems in partial formation lie still on work tables—and a mystical window opens into an adjoining gallery space.
Why mystical? I couldn’t tell at first if it was a hologram or opening or maybe a portal to another dimension.
Savor this moment as one of the many possibilities Charles Fowler considers an essence of Pasaquan: “Exposing people to something different.”
Extend the Visit, Stay Overnight
Thirty miles is the drive to Columbus, Georgia, with many overnight accommodations, restaurants and attractions.
Americus is 25 miles from Pasaquan, with the handsome and historic Windsor Hotel. Cafe Campesino Cafe, across the street, is an excellent place to pick up lunch for a picnic on the visionary art site grounds.
Or sleep in Buena Vista at the Sign of the Dove. This inn is a 1903 neo-classical revival home, on the National Register of Historic Places with three bedrooms and spacious bathrooms on the second floor.
On site restaurant open Wednesdays through Saturdays. Cottage includes four bedrooms and baths, with full kitchen.
A side trip into nearby Alabama offers another visionary art environment. This time the artist is Butch Anthony and the new folk art vocabulary word is “intertwangleism.”
He says that’s his theory on making stuff and mixing it up — a way of speaking, thinking, behaving and assessing.
The Museum of Wonder in Seale began as a taxidermy shop in the 1970s and now holds art, artifacts, antiques and oddities Anthony started collecting as a child.
If the appointments-only museum in his barn isn’t open, no problem. Stay in the car and experience the drive-thru version 24/7.
Seale is 50 miles from Pasaquan.
Sensory experiences are possible elsewhere in this region known as the Chattahoochee Valley. Richland Rum 22 miles from Buena Vista is a field-to-glass distillery experience run by an interesting creative family that also rescues wild horses from the west.
Omaha Brewing Company 40 miles west of Pasaquan considers itself pet and family friendly. BYOFood when visiting the taproom, grills available. Food trucks for special events.
Pasaquan Basic Visiting Facts
Friday, Saturday, Sunday open 10 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
$10 admission donation recommended, seniors $5 and students $3
238 Eddie Martin Road, Buena Vista GA 31808
TravelingMom Tip: Absolutely no signage! Keep alert for the simple street name standard sign.
Read Before You Go
“St. EOM in the Land of Pasaquan: The Life and Times and Art of Eddie Owens Martin” by Tom Patterson.
Fun fact: Eddie refused the interviews unless Patterson agreed to print everything he said.