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story.lead_photo.caption Courtesy Photo "Topo Map for School Avenue" is a public art installation in south Fayetteville on display throughout Artosphere.

Art, nature, music, community, sustainability, conservation... The Artosphere Festival combines and celebrates these elements each summer to raise awareness, as well as provide opportunities for people to experience them in nontraditional settings. Entering its ninth year, the annual festival created and hosted by Walton Arts Center blooms across Northwest Arkansas for the next two weeks.

A New Theme



WHEN — Today through June 23

WHERE — Fayetteville to Bentonville

COST — Prices vary; many events free



There are 24 events taking place over Artosphere’s two weeks. These events are evenly split between free and ticketed programs, but WAC public relations director Jennifer Wilson points to a few “can’t miss” experiences she is sure will sell out. Reserve your spot for the unique programs on the Artosphere website.

Still on the Hill: Water Music — 6:30 p.m. June 10 at Sassafras Springs Vineyard in Springdale. $10.

“Still on the Hill is doing this based on their albums ‘Once a River’ and ‘Still a River,’ which of course has an nice water tie to it for us,” Wilson shares. “They kind of curated this performance focusing on the importance of water, especially in Northwest Arkansas because that’s where they’re from. And Sassafras is a great venue for something like this, especially that folksy roots [style of] music.”

Arx Duo: Percussion Re-imagined — 7 p.m. June 13 at Hunt Chapel in Rogers. $15.

“This is our first time to have anything at Hunt Chapel, and the venue is gorgeous. I think getting to see a chamber percussion group, which is a little unusual, in Hunt Chapel, which is an area that a lot of people can’t get into, is a really great performance.”

Bill Frisell Trio — 7:30 p.m. June 14 at Starr Theater, Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville. $30-$40.

“We actually have a jazz show as part of Artosphere this year, and this may be the first one in a while. I thought that would be an interesting piece — not [music] that is traditionally chamber or classical, but still a really interesting performance.”

An Evening of Music with Roberto Diaz and Friends — 7 p.m. June 20 at Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville.

“It is not only [Diaz], who’s a world renowned musician, but you’re also going to have Dover Quartet performing, and then the Zora Quartet, which is the Curtis [Institute] quartet in residence. So really a large number of world class musicians just like [Artosphere Festival Orchestra] is, but that don’t come in on a regular basis.”

Diaz will also perform at the AFO finale concert “The American Spirit,” at 8 p.m. June 23 at Walton Arts Center.

For a full schedule of events, times and locations, visit the Artosphere website and download the smartphone app.

Though the festival has been centered around a thread or idea in the past -- recently, reduced paper use, sustainability and encouraging bicycle use -- Scott Galbraith, vice president of programming and executive producer at WAC, reveals a thematic through-line has never been so encompassing as "water" will be for the ninth installment of the festival.

"At the same time as we were thinking about how we might want to theme Artosphere, in the national headlines was Flint, Mich., and the Dakota Access Pipeline and the water implications that might hold for the reservation, and things of that nature," he shares. "So water was very present in our national conversation as we were going down this road, and it just became very evident there was already a theme there, we just needed to recognize [it] and then curate and craft it a little bit."

That's not to say every single event and concert will necessarily involve water, but Galbraith admits the theme has extended to nearly every element of the festival -- even those that may be unexpected.

"As much as we could, we wanted to push ourselves in that direction. And actually Maestro Corrado Rovaris with the [Artosphere Festival] Orchestra, was looking for opportunities to incorporate water themes or more natural things into the orchestra," he demonstrates. "So the idea has really permeated the whole festival."

Building around one theme also opened the door to festival organizers for new opportunities and expansion. A one-day film festival on this year's schedule grew out of Galbraith's awe at locally produced, Emmy-nominated documentary "The Buffalo Flows." Now, four films all relating to water and conservation issues will be presented as the Artosphere Film Series, which will be promoted on an episode of KUAF's "Ozarks at Large" program, recorded live during the festival.

"We're staying out of the politics of" water, Galbraith shares. "We want to create that kind of connection of the dots for folks so that more people will be able to walk away going, 'Got it. I understand why water conservation in the middle of country makes sense.' It's getting into layman's terms the challenges we face regarding our water resources and what we can do here in Arkansas about it."

Arts and Community

Though the festival only begins June 10, those in south Fayetteville have likely noticed a significant piece of the water and art conversation taking shape the past month. "Topo Map for School Avenue" is an art installation examining the terrain of the area, encouraging the viewer to consider the relationship between nature and urban landscape.

"We've had a history of doing public art installations; it just speaks to access and giving the community access to works of art," says Laura Goodwin, WAC vice president of learning and engagement. "The wonderful thing about public art is that everyone gets to experience it, and you get to experience it whenever you want, however you want. There are no tickets; there's no cost of admission."

The topographic map will last as long as weather permits -- potentially years -- and serves to make visible the path that water takes in our urban environment. But the piece also provided an access point to the festival for local volunteers, artists and students. Through a partnership with Fenix Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas, local artists got to participate in the installation, and students with the sustainability program at the UA included their research and context on the geography of Fayetteville.

"I think that was a really great way [to incorporate] community involvement" in the festival, Goodwin says. One of the elements Goodwin is most looking forward to this year is another addition utilizing community involvement: Jane's Walks. "How many tours have you been on led by somebody in your community? [The walks are] a way of fostering [citizen involvement] by encouraging people to learn from one another about the issues that are important to them."

The series of free walks ties into a global initiative honoring writer and activist Jane Jacobs, who encouraged people to connect to their neighborhoods and to each other through walking and sharing stories.

Also curated for Artosphere and free to the public is the opening of the new exhibition in the Joy Pratt Markham Gallery inside the Walton Arts Center. The exhibition, "The Bleak and the Burgeoning," brings nature indoors in asking the viewer to examine the extremes that can exist in landscapes and even personal geographies.

"Diversifying the audience and creating a more all-encompassing approach to what we do," Galbraith offers, "across the board with everything, not just Artosphere -- is something we're very much attentive to."

Courtesy Photo "We've decided to expand [AFO Off the Grid] to two nights and now three different locations so that we can impact more lives with that music, with those internationally renowned artists -- to be able to bring more awareness to the festival and the orchestra, yes, but [also to] help break down the barriers between the artists and the community," Scott Galbraith says of the beloved Artosphere program that brings musicians out into the community for pop-up concerts. Off the Grid expands this year from Fayetteville to include Springdale and Siloam Springs.
Courtesy Photo Renowned musician Roberto Diaz will perform twice during the Artosphere festival.
Courtesy Photo Still on the Hill's performance at Sassafras Springs Vineyard in Springdale is a "can't miss" performance, says WAC public relations director Jennifer Wilson.

NAN What's Up on 06/10/2018

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