Ozarks Deep: StoryTour/Artist Showcase Screenings Announced
West Plains Council on the Arts (WPCA) will hold two public screenings of the new virtual Ozarks Deep: Story Tour on Thursday, March 24, 7:00 p.m., and again on Saturday, March 26, 1:00 p.m. in the Theater at the West Plains Civic Center, 110 St. Louis St., in West Plains. The Artist Showcase, featuring musicians at the Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival in 2021, will be screened for the first time to the public on Saturday, March 26, 10:00 a.m. till noon.
WPCA continues to invest in our region’s infrastructure for folk and traditional arts. In spring 2020, they were awarded a grant from the West Plains Community Development Grant Program to develop a program of art and culture trails based in West Plains. The Ozarks Deep: Art & Culture Trails combines successful projects with new resources to expand the cultural tourism capacity of the Ozarks region and improve the vitality of our own community. The project will allow the city and regional organizations to promote current assets and be a gateway for future cultural journeys.
The first trail created is called Ozarks Deep: Story Trail – where the community stories link with artistic traditions passed down generations, to turn a place into a destination, an experience, for both local residents and visitors as well.
The Story Trail is a combination of history, imagination, and creative use of the community stories that have been passed down through generations. They are the stories that make us unique as well as universal.
WPCA began with existing material that was part of the Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival. The “West Plains Story Tour” is a guided bus tour of downtown West Plains, which was created for the festival by local residents deeply connected to the history and stories of the region. Building on that foundation, WPCA worked with local artists, historians, tradition bearers, and storytellers to combine existing material with new narratives and additional tour sites, to include more depth, more voices, and more stories.
In fall, 2020, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded WPCA a grant to support the production of the West Plains Story Tour and simultaneously create an Artist’s Showcase, a sampling of musicians, dancers, occupational artists who have been selected in the past to perform, demonstrate, or exhibit at the Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival. WPCA worked with approximately 30 artists to create this Artist’s Showcase. “Both the West Plains Story Tour and the Artists’ Showcase are virtual elements of Ozarks Deep: Story Trail, intended to increase accessibility throughout the year, bringing economic benefits to the artists and greater visibility to the creative community,” says WPCA President and project coordinator Kathleen Morrissey.
The route of the tour is featured in this preview page. https://westplainsarts.org/?page_id=3056
The entire tour will be uploaded and available on multiple websites after screening. Tour sites include historically significant locations. The stories demonstrate continuity through context.
People often ask, “What did people do before they had television?”
They brought the fiddle out of the closet, rolled up the rugs and started the music. If they were called to dance, they danced. If there were biscuits and hot cane sorghum around, they headed for the kitchen table, with requests for more. They went to the deer woods, called up the wild turkey. They caught sucker fish with iron gigs, long poles, and flat-bottomed boats, then cooked them up on the sand bars of the river, sharing stories, secrets, and recipes for green tomato relish, served up with a big helping of music around the bonfire that held caldrons of fish, potatoes, onions, and corn dodgers (hush puppies). Growing up in a small town is itself a story, but when you can see the incandescence of the wild azalea bloom that inspired the song “Fire on the Mountain” and hear the bluegrass-style rendition of that song in the same day, it is more than a story. It is an experience.
The Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival has become a vehicle for dissemination, transmission, and conservation of those experiences. Culture is an important part of every-day life, yet we are finding more and more things taking the place of the front porch, the kitchen table, the riverbanks, the country churches. The stories however are more vital than ever because we live in an age of access to instant information, and sensory overload.
Perhaps we long for the kind of connection that comes from listening to something genuine. The new digital mediums have become necessary vehicles for sharing and conservation at the same time. It is different from the live performance, the multi-sensory experience, but our virtual world can offer benefits and opportunities –sharing and listening to people, visiting places that were unimaginable or inaccessible in the past. And it reminds us that we are not only the living descendants of this unique culture, but we hold and embody the living remnants of an otherwise disappearing part of American life.
WPCA expects this effort will generate more community involvement in the planning, organizing and administration of the Ozarks Deep, Art and Culture Trails, and to inspire a group of “Friends of Cultural Tourism”. This group will focus on long range sustainability, growth, creating additional “Trails”, and reaching into the Ozarks Deep for other diverse voices to include.
WPCA are grateful for the collaborations that made these productions of the West Plains Story Tour and the Artists’ Showcase possible. In addition to the City of West Plains and the National Endowment for the Arts, Missouri State University – West Plains provided resources of the Ozarks Heritage Resource Center, and University Communications to the production efforts, along with their University/Community Programs department which has provided support each year to the artists performing at the Festival. We are also indebted to all those who gave us time, encouragement and trust with their stories, their photos, their memories, and their conversations.
Both the Story Tour and the Artists Showcase will be featured at the Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival, June 3 & 4, 2022. Partial funding was provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.