The Ozark Story Project 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. From December 2019 thru March 2020 Arkansas-based artist Amber Perrodin, in partnership with DC-based social sculptor Philippa Hughes of CuriosityConnects.us, curated an art exhibit entitled “Looking For America: Northwest Arkansas.” Thirteen Northwest Arkansas artists were invited to answer the question “What does it mean to be American in your community?”
The exhibition travelled to Rogers, Springdale, Fayetteville, and Bentonville. With each of the 13 artists offering a different perspective, voice and medium, the results were stunning. Visitors to each exhibition were invited to have their photo taken, record their voices, contribute to a poem written by Noelia Cerna, and meet the artists.
The “Ozark Story Project” is continuing the conversation by working to archive recorded stories, poetry, recipes, and photographs contributed by people that have a relationship to the Ozarks. This project is curious about the intersection of immigrant and traditional Ozark folklore and how the two intersect in today’s world to create modern day folklore.
Artist Fellow + Project Curator
Inspired by the Ozark region she was born in, Amber Perrodin is a community organizer, artist, curator, mother, and wife. Perrodin is the Artist Fellow and Curator of the Ozark Story Project.
A full-time artist living in Springdale, Arkansas, Perrodin received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Printmaking from the University of Arkansas. In 2020 Perrodin became a certified Northwest Arkansas Master Naturalist. For Perrodin, art, nature, and community go hand in hand. Often found foraging for wild mushrooms, swimming in creeks, and searching for tumbled creek glass, Amber brings the essence of these quiet moments into her artwork and community-focused projects.
Brandon Weston is a healer, writer, and folklorist living in the Arkansas Ozarks. He is the owner and operator of Ozark Healing Traditions, a collective of articles, lectures, and workshops focusing on traditions of medicine, magic, spirit mediumship, food, culture and folklore all from the Ozark Mountain region. As an active healer, his work with clients includes everything from spiritual cleanses to house blessings and all the weird and wonderful ailments in between. He comes from a long line of Ozark hillfolk and works hard to keep the traditions that he’s collected alive and true for generations to come.
When Ashley Sutterfield started her first job as a Food Scientist, it was a dream: developing food products for the restaurants where she loved to eat. Founding The Local Table and hosting clients in Northwest Arkansas gave her the chance to show off the region’s culinary hot spots.
Ashley has a passion for supporting local businesses — a compulsion of sorts to see local entrepreneurs thrive. She also believes in a world where we care for one another, celebrate with each other, and grieve with one another; a world where we do life together.
Ashley founded The Local Table because she knows one basic truth: food brings people together.
Noelia Cerna is a Latina poet and speaker based in Fayetteville, AR. She was born in Costa Rica and immigrated to the United States in 1994 at the age of seven. She received a Bachelor’s degree in English from Westminster College in Missouri. Her poems have been published in audio form in Terse. Journal, The Revolution [Relaunch], The North Meridian Review, and the Plants & Poetry Journal. Noelia is a reader and poetry feedback editor for Tinderbox Poetry Journal, an assistant poetry editor for Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, an associate editor for Sibling Rivalry Press, a writing mentor for Pen America’s Prison Writing Mentorship Program, a writer for Powerful Latinas Rising, the Board President for Ozark Poets and Writers Collective, a community partner and reading host with Plants & Poetry Journal and an editor for Nomadic Press.
Jonathan Perrodin is a self-taught multi-disciplinary artist, who resides & works in Downtown Springdale, Arkansas with his wife Amber Perrodin. Jonathan was one of thirteen featured artists in the “Looking for America” art exhibition. He is also the developer that built this wonderful Ozark Story Project website.
Perrodin graduated from the University of Arkansas, with a B.A. in Philosophy and was recently awarded the NWA Business Journal’s 40 under 40 success stories.
Themes of nature and the human environment run throughout Perrodin’s artwork. He is currently working on a large scale permanent sculpture that will be installed at Lake Bentonville in late 2020.
Philippa P.B. Hughes
Philippa P.B. Hughes is a social sculptor and creative strategist who produces art-fueled projects that spark humanizing and authentic conversations across political, social, and cultural divides. She is an evangelist for dismantling the polarization industrial complex, one conversation at a time. Hughes has designed and produced hundreds of creative activations since 2007 for curious folks to engage with art and one another in unconventional and meaningful ways.
She leads CuriosityConnects.us, a partner in Looking For America, a national series inviting politically diverse guests to break bread and talk to each other face-to-face using art as a starting point for relationship-building conversations. Hughes has engineered numerous public-private collaborations that have been funded by the Kresge Foundation, New American Economy, Center for Inclusion & Belonging, and the DC Office of Planning. She has served as a commissioner on the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities among numerous other boards throughout Washington, D.C., where she is based. Hughes has spoken at TEDxAmericanUniversity, Creative Placemaking Week 2018 in Amsterdam, Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit, TomTom Festival, Smart Growth America’s Intersections. Her work has been featured by CNN, PBS Newshour, CityLab, and The Washington Post, among numerous other media outlets. Her formal training took place at the University of Virginia, which launched her into a six-year legal career that ended with the Washington City Paper declaring 2007 “The Year of Philippa.” Deep curiosity about the world and the people in it provided the education that mattered most.