#3 The More, The Merrier

#3 The More, The Merrier

Courtesy photo
PotLuck Arts hosted Triciclo Rojo, a modern circus troupe from Mexico, this fall.

Northwest Arkansas arts organizations celebrate diversity

Be It Resolved

Northwest Arkansas’ population boom shows no signs of slowing, and the area’s burgeoning multicultural arts scene is working hard to represent the myriad cultures, races and ethnicities that call this community home.

The Past

While the multicultural arts scene is expanding, there is a robust history of diverse arts offerings in Northwest Arkansas. The Arts Center of the Ozarks, founded in 1967, has responded to the increasing diversity in its hometown of Springdale by providing a wealth of multicultural programming. Bentonville’s Museum of Native American History opened in 2006, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in 2011, and both the Hispanic Heritage Festival and the Latin Art Organization were established in 2013 — to name just a few.

The Present

A 2016 study conducted by New American Economy, EngageNWA and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation found that immigrants accounted for 42 percent of the region’s population growth between 2009 and 2014, and arts organizations are responding accordingly. Crystal Bridges has made a goal of increasing diversity in both its exhibitions and attendance, and dedicated efforts like this spring’s first bilingual exhibit, “Border Cantos: Sights and Sounds from the Mexican-American Border,” helped fuel an increase in Hispanic attendance at the museum from 30 percent in 2012 to 62 percent in 2015. TheatreSquared artist-in-residence Kholoud Sawaf received a $250,000 grant from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art to develop an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” set in contemporary Damascus. And a recent production of a new work this fall, says T2 Executive Director Martin Miller, opened up some additional doors to collaboration.

“We were particularly proud of our collaboration around the production of ‘The Champion’ with the African-American Studies program at UA, as well as the Northwest Arkansas chapter of the NAACP and the African-American Business Resource Group at Walmart (among other partners),” says Miller.

Springdale’s Arts Center of the Ozarks’ bountiful multicultural programming expanded to the holiday season with La Gran Posada, the bilingual retelling of the traditional story of Joseph and Mary’s search for lodging the night before Jesus was born, that was a collaboration with the Artist’s Laboratory Theatre. ACO also partners with a variety of theater companies and community organizations that provide diverse programming — like the Latin American Ensemble at the University of Arkansas and Potluck Arts, a new company founded by Jenni Taylor Swain, who says that they’re a “convener of communities and artists for the purpose of strengthening and creating new community bonds.”

Latinx Youth Theatre Project, a collaboration between Springdale performance group Stitches and several Northwest Arkansas area academics, writers and arts professionals, produced its first show, “Follow Me @TioSam” in the fall, comprising original material that was the result of six weeks of storytelling and improvisation workshops.

And the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History is making sure that in each of its reimagined galleries, everything is in English and Spanish.

The Future

Northwest Arkansas arts organizations say they are intent on continuing — and expanding — both their multicultural programming as well as their outreach.

“We are planning significant outreach to the Northwest Arkansas Vietnamese-American community around our production of ‘Vietgone,’ by Qui Nguyen, this spring,” says T2’s Miller. “We’ve already been in touch with former residents of the Fort Chaffee camp who were relocated in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, and we’re very excited about the community conversations that will arise from that regional connection.”

“We will continue our multicultural programming because we hear appreciation for the experiences — for the traditional Hispanic festivals produced in authentic ways; for making art and entertainment accessible with regard to cost, language and location; for offering educational and thought-provoking arts experiences that address cultural barriers,” says ACO executive director Kathleen Trotter.

Categories: Family Friendly