Eagle's Nest Celebrates Opening

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For artist Annellenson, the Main Street building where her newly opened Eagles Nest Art Gallery and Healing Center is located is the perfect spot.

"This was Payson's first drug store," she explained, displaying an early photo of the building. "So it started out as a healing place. How appropriate that it is a healing place once again."

Built in 1949, the structure at 216 West Main Street across from Sawmill Crossing originally housed Payson Drugs. Most recently it was occupied by The Teapot.

Henson and her husband Hal are hard at work preparing for this Saturday's grand opening, an event that will feature carnations for the ladies, champagne, caviar, hourly door prizes, a raffle, and a live remote with KMOG's Tina Myers. The event runs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

But Eagles Nest is already open for business, and when customers walk past the purple porch posts and through the bright red front door, they'll find all the trappings of an art gallery paintings, sculpture, ceramics, scratch board, and jewelry by some 20 of Payson's best artists, including Donn Morris, Alan and Carole Snyder, Conrad Okerwall, Melissa Peters, Linda Baker, and Jay Kemp.

But as its name suggests, there is much more to Eagles Nest. Off in one corner of the gallery is a reading nook where visitors can enjoy hot tea, coffee, pastries, and conversation.

"It also has a spiritual library, so people can just come here to read," Henson said. "Study groups and spiritual discussion groups can also meet here. This corner is for the community."

Walk around the building, past the living quarters occupied by the Hensons, and you come to the Healing Center located in a room at the back. This is where a variety of healing practitioners will offer healing touch therapy, spiritual mind treatment and counseling, massage therapy, tai chi chih, and reiki energy healing. Hensen, who has a doctorate in metaphysics, is also a certified tai chi instructor and reiki master.

Behind the main building is a converted garage that will house art classes, and where full moon drummings will be held. "Our drummings sometimes attract 45 to 50 people," Henson said.

"Drummings combine prayers and spiritual discussion with the drumming," she said. "We've been doing them for about five years.

Henson, who is also an ordained minister, believes all churches and religions have something to offer. "I respect them all," she said. "They are all pathways to God. They all have something to offer. People have the free will to choose."

Hal, who does ceramics and also teaches tai chi, spent 31 years in the Air Force. While stationed at Williams Air Force Base in the Valley back in the 50s, he bought some land behind Kohl's Ranch and built a cabin.

"We first moved here in 1986," Henson said. "We remodeled the cabin and I had a studio there. But it was too far out for people to come to.

"We were very happy out there, and people ask why we gave it up and moved into town," Henson said. "I tell them when it's time to let go and move on to something new you know it."

She believes there is a reason that Payson and the Rim country are attracting more and more spiritual people. "How else do you explain the fact that so many people come through here and can't get this place out of their minds.

"People would not be drawn here like that if Payson were not a power place. There are many, many people here who are on spiritual paths.

"We are going from a place that was, if you will excuse the term, close-minded, to a place for spiritual work. People want to know who they are and why they are here."

An art gallery and healing center is the right combination, Henson believes, to maximize that trend. "Art is a medium of creativity," she said, and within the microcosm of our humanity, we have the right to choose and create. Within that context, we can co-create with God."

Henson also believes Main Street is the right place for their new venture. "Main Street is going to bust wide open," she said. "There are a lot of wonderful things coming here, including Gollipops."

But despite her spiritual orientation, Henson doesn't want Payson to become another Sedona.

"It has become so commercial there," she said. "There are so many people there who are not serious about their work."

A lack of sincerity and seriousness will never be a problem for Henson, according to local artist Donn Morris, whose work is on display at Eagles Nest. "Not only is she an excellent artist," Morris said, "but she is also a fascinating woman.

"She is very sincere, and she believes in what she can do to help people. With Annellenson, what you see is truly what you get."

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