When it comes to the Ozarks, perceptions don’t always reflect the truth. Presenters at this year’s Ozarks Studies Symposium shed some light on these differences during the free, three-day event Sept. 19-21 at the West Plains Civic Center.
The event opened with a reception Sept. 19 at the civic center for area art teachers whose work was highlighted in an exhibit hosted by the West Plains Council on the Arts. An estimated 60 people attended to see the symposium’s theme, “The Ozarks in Reality and Imagination,” expressed in visual form.
Missouri State University System President Clif Smart briefly addressed those attending the reception about the importance of studying Ozarks culture, organizers said.
The remaining two days of events featured presentations by authors and academics who have investigated the contrasts of the region through a variety of studies related to history, literature, poetry, geography and even comic strips such as Li’l Abner.
The symposium’s keynote address on Sept. 20 was given by Dr. Jared Phillips, assistant professor of international studies at the University of Arkansas. Phillips discussed aspects of his book, “Hipbillies: Deep Revolution in the Arkansas Ozarks,” with approximately 50 attendees, organizers said.
The book examines the history of the “back-to-the-landers” who made their home in the region during the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s and shows how their ideas on rural development, small farm economy and education helped a traditional region come to terms with the modern era.
Joining Phillips in a panel discussion were David Haenke, Brixey, from the Bryant Creek Watershed in Ozark County, and Denise Vaughn, Mtn. View, a journalist who has covered cultural and environmental issues of the region for several years.
Another highlight of the event was the presentation of original poetry about the Ozarks by three Missouri State University-West Plains students — Lauryn Jett, Paige Priest and Kylee Woodward, all of West Plains.
Jett’s piece was entitled “Auburn,” Priest’s poem was called “Cicada’s Song” and Woodward’s poem was entitled “Nostalgia in the Present Tense.”
Organizers said they received positive feedback from attendees on the diverse range of topics and “welcoming, friendly atmosphere” of the symposium.
For more information about the symposium, contact Dr. Jason McCollom, assistant professor of history and coordinator of the symposium, at JasonMcCollom@MissouriState.edu or visit ozarksymposium.wp.missouristate.edu.