Love Birds: Craftivist musicians support nature scholarship

Love Birds: Craftivist musicians support nature scholarship
MONICA HOOPER
mhooper@nwadg.com

Their music is for the birds — and Still on the Hill is proud to make it. Kelly and Donna Mulhollan, known for their prolific catalog of Ozark music, will perform their “Words on Birds” set 6 p.m. May 7 at the Bailey Center at Mount Sequoyah in Fayetteville. It’s a fundraising event for Arkansas Audubon Society Halberg Ecology Camp and Northsong Wild Bird Rehabilitation, and the evening will also include a silent auction for the needle-felted birds Donna started creating during their pandemic hiatus.

“When we were quarantined here and couldn’t go anywhere, do anything. I wanted to learn how to do this needle felting, and so I watched YouTube videos and got all this stuff,” she explains. “I was concerned about the homeless population during that, because for years Kelly and I have done a lot of stuff with 7hills Homeless Shelter.” She started a project called “Give Us This Day, Our Daily Bird,” during which she would auction off a needle-felted bird she created and then donate the proceeds to 7Hills. Her needle felting also led her to do a project with the International Crane Foundation where she made felted cranes and donated 15 of them to friends around the world to help educate people about the foundation’s mission. She then turned her focus to endangered birds.

“I like to call myself a ‘craftivist,” she explains. “I like to use my craft for a cause. And since I wanted to find a bird cause and since we are so involved with the Audubon camp, it just seemed like the natural fit.”

“Donna is, first of all, an incredibly prolific artist in so many ways. She is constantly making art and writing songs, and writing poems, and it just never stops,” Kelly Mulhollan beams about his wife.

“That’s just part of a folk musician’s job is to be valuable in the community, and we like doing that sort of thing,” Donna adds. Before the pandemic, Donna says that they had begun work on a “Words on Birds” concert, but they were only able to perform it a couple of times.

“It had a lot to do with the unveiling of Audubon statistics on declining bird populations,” Kelly explains. He says that a report from the organization showed that bird populations had decreased by a third in the last 50 years. “So part of our motivation in doing the bird show was to raise awareness to that. So some of the songs list endangered birds, or it has an environmental angle.”

“But we didn’t want it to be depressing,” Donna interjects. “We didn’t want to leave people bummed out after the show!” Kelly picks up the conversation with a laugh, saying that’s “not a good tactic for an artist.” The Words on Birds show will be one of the first performances by Still on the Hill in the last two years. “We’re just starting to wake up again and do things, which is really fun,” Donna says. “Brush ourselves off,” Kelly adds.

The duo recently played an Earth Day show and an “early birding day” show. This summer they are planning to perform their songs about the Buffalo River for its 50th anniversary. Kelly adds that they also plan to sing their songs at rural schools over the spring and summer, which ties into their mission to educate the next generation about being good stewards of the environment — a cause near to their hearts and the purpose of the Arkansas Audubon Society Halberg Ecology Camp.

“Kelly and I have been teaching at Halberg Audubon Ecology Camp for 18 years. It’s a week-long camp for 11- and 12-year-olds, and we teach the bird watching part of it,” Donna explains. Held at Camp Clearfork near Hot Springs each June, it teaches campers about a variety of subjects including ornithology, aquatic biology, mammalogy, entomology, geology and herpetology from college and high school natural science teachers along with self-taught naturalists. Donna says she and Kelly want to raise money to give scholarships to kids who can’t afford to go to the camp.

“The goal of camp is to basically, hopefully, harvest a generation of children who are aware and concerned and prioritize the environment, and reconnecting them with the environment,” Kelly adds. “Some of these kids have become disconnected since technology is so prevalent in their world. It takes time, and kind of just getting away from it, and just immersing themselves in a week of intensive non-technological activities. It’s really good for kids.”

There will be a presentation about Halberg Audubon Ecology Camp during the May 7 event. Kelly says that the camp, like most organizations, was shut down by the pandemic and is experiencing some hardships. A donation jar will be available at the event to give it some financial help.

A speaker with Northsong Wild Bird Rehabilitation will also give a talk that evening. Donna explains that the rescue group seeks to establish a bird rescue facility to aid in their mission to save raptors and other birds of prey. They will also have a donation jar set up at the event.

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FAQ

Music on the Mountain:

Words on Birds

WHEN — 6 p.m. May 7

WHERE — The Bailey Center at Mount Sequoyah, 150 N. Skyline Drive in Fayetteville.

TICKETS — The event is free. Check https://bit.ly/3vEc13b for seating availability.

INFO — For more information on Still on the Hill, visit stillonthehill.com; on Halberg Ecology Camp, visit arbirds.org/EcologyCamp; or for Northsong Wild Bird Rehab, northsongbird.org.

Categories: Music