Donna Sternja And Artsong

By Ginny Masullo

Donna Sternja has dreams and the vigor to see her imaginings come to fruition.

As a member of the dynamic musical duo Still on the Hill, she and her partner, Kelly Mulhollan, write and perform their distinctive music around the world.

For the last several years, Sternja, who is a prolific songwriter and visual artist, has hosted a silent auction of her collages, which are visual representations of songs she has written.

Along with the auction, Sternja and Mulhollan perform the songs that match the art pieces. Each art piece is displayed as the song is played for the audience. The proceeds raised have gone to various causes such as Seven Hills Homeless Shelter.

This year Sternja is adding a new component, the community art poem.

From eight of what Sternja calls her “absurdist collages,” inspired by the Dada movement, she sent out a call to community members to write poem lines for the art pieces which she displayed on the Internet. She then wove the lines into community poetry.

Ozark Poets and Writers Collective will feature Sternja this Tuesday at Nightbird Book on Dickson Street, where she’ll perform some of these community art poems and show the artwork that represents the poems.

One of the art pieces will not yet have a poem created for it. Sternja will encourage OPWC participants to write a line or lines on a piece of paper and then put them in a box. The collage piece has, among other components, a vintage Michael Jackson candy bar adhered to it. So start thinking about Michael, who just well might be a striking representative of the sadly absurd.

The OPWC performance is a preview for a larger Artsong concert that will occur at the Omni Center at 7 p.m. April 23. In past years, Sternja’s artwork showed for only one night. This year the artwork will hang in the Omni Center, 3274 Lee Ave. in Fayetteville, for the entire month of April. Bidding for the silent auction will take place all month until the concert. Sternja will be present at the Omni Center the first four Fridays in April from 2 to 5 p.m.

All the money that is raised from the concert and auction goes to the Joy Center (an orphanage in Kenya) and Restore Humanity (which supports two other Kenya orphanages) for basic needs and to establish a relationship that may pave the way for another one of Sternja’s visions to come true. That dream, which is already finding firm footing in reality, builds a musical bridge between the Ozarks and Kenya.

Sternja and Mulhollan are teaming up with art therapist Budhi Kling, photographer Kirk Lanier and area elementary schools to create a “Full Circle.”

Leyah Lanier from Spring International, Sarah Fennel from Restore Humanity, Joanna Pollack from the Omni Center are also onboard to help Full Circle’s cultural exchange in Kenya in 2011.

Acting from the belief that “a sense of well-being not only comes from having necessities met, but also from nourishing the creative spirit and the human connection,” the group will go into our area schools with an “in-class” program about the historical connections between the folk music of the South and Africa. The students will listen to songs of the South with African roots, and with Kling, will create paintings based on the songs. These will be brought to the children of Kenya as a gift for their schools. Kirk Lanier will document the process in photos.

Still on the Hill will teach simple Ozark folk songs to the children. In turn, the Kenyan children will teach the team songs and create art to bring back to the schools here in the Ozarks. Sound like a pipe dream? It’s not with Sternja at the helm!

Come dream a little with Donna Sternja, her absurdist art and vibrant song on Tuesday. Contribute a line or two to a community poem and put your name in the hat for a free drawing for a University of Arkansas Press poetry book. An open mike with a four-minute time limit per person precedes and follows Sternja’s performance.

Categories: Legacy Archive