The Ozark Story Project, explains Springdale artist Amber Perrodin, was created as an extension of Looking for America, an "initiative exploring immigration and American identity in dynamic communities across the United States through public art, storytelling, and dialogue." After a visual arts project involving 13 Northwest Arkansas artists earlier this year, Perrodin is "continuing the conversation by working to archive recorded stories, poetry, recipes and photographs contributed by people that have a relationship to the Ozarks."
Here, she answers six questions for What's Up!
Q. How was the Ozark Story Project idea born?
A. This spring, I picked up the book "Ozark Magic and Folklore" by Ozark historian and folklorist Vance Randolph. As a fourth generation Ozark native, I can't help but to be curious about these stories, wives' tales, recipes and legends of the Ozarks. I was telling my friend and colleague [Washington, D.C.-based social sculptor] Philippa Hughes about this book and how I was fascinated with Ozark folklore. With Philippa's extensive curiosity around immigrant stories, she asked if I knew of any immigrant folk stories being told in the Ozarks. This sparked a conversation about how the two might intersect. We decided to embark on a journey of creative storytelling that would collect stories, recipes, poetry, photographs and recorded stories from anyone that has a relationship to the Ozarks in order to explore this intersection.
Q. What is the goal of the project?
A. Our goal is simple: We're hoping to collect as many voices from across the Ozarks as possible in a four-week period. No matter where you born, where you live today, or how long you've lived here, if you have a relationship to the Ozarks, your story matters.
Q. How can people participate?
A. Each week until Oct. 26, we're introducing a new way for people to participate online, and we've made it very simple. By visiting ozarkstoryproject.com, people can answer the question "What makes the Ozarks home for you?" in less than 100 characters to contribute to our community poem. You can also upload a photo of a family recipe that reminds you of home. Next week we'll be collecting family photos, and the final week, we will be asking people to record themselves or a loved one telling an Ozark story. You can choose to participate in just one part of the project or all of it. No strings attached.
Q. How can people access the project and see what's happening?
A. On our website, ozarkstoryproject.com, there is a button at the top that says "Collections." If you click there, you will see everyone's contributions so far. You can also click around and learn more about the project and some of our brilliant community partners like Brandon Weston of Ozark Healing Traditions, local poet Noelia Cerna, and Ashley Sutterfield of The Local Table NWA.
Q. Is it all going to be online or will there be events where people can participate and listen and see?
A. Currently The Ozark Story Project is 100% online. We have some exciting plans for the future including a partnership with Erika Wilhite and the Artist's Laboratory Theatre, a community-based, site specific theater group right here in Northwest Arkansas. They will be taking all of the submissions from the Ozark Story Project and compiling them into a theater experience for the public to see. We've also partnered with local poet Noelia Cerna. She's going to gather all of the submissions to the community poem and artfully combine them into one large poem. She will then recite the poem for us to record and share later this year.
Q. How are you reaching out to minority communities to invite them to become involved? Is the project going to be available in multiple languages?
A. We are so excited to say that the Ozark Story Project website is available in English, Spanish and Marshallese. We have worked closely with community members, including Judy Tatios, who helped us tediously translate the website into Marshallese. We genuinely mean it when we say that we want to hear from everyone that makes up the Ozarks today. All of our stories interwoven together make up the spirit of the Ozarks; we're just hoping to be a small vessel that houses as many of these stories as we can.