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Ozarks Studies Symposium will focus on ‘Legacies of the Ozarks’


“Legacies of the Ozarks” is the theme of the 16th annual Ozarks Studies Symposium set for Sept. 21-23 at the West Plains Civic Center.

Hosted by Missouri State University-West Plains, the event celebrates aspects of Ozarks culture and history through a variety of presentations and performances.

Support is provided by the West Plains Council on the Arts; the Department of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at MSU-WP; the Ozarks Heritage Research Center at Garnett Library on the MSU-WP campus; and Carol Silvey, West Plains. Silvey is a longtime history professor and former director of development at MSU-WP. She currently serves on the Missouri State University Board of Governors.

“The 2023 symposium theme is ‘Legacies of the Ozarks,’ and many of the presentations investigate historical and cultural events and movements that resonate in contemporary times,” said Dr. Jason McCollom, associate professor of history at MSU-WP and coordinator of the symposium. “Topics cover an array of subjects, and attendees will be sure to find something that strikes their interest.”

“Attendees will learn about ground-breaking female journalists in the Ozarks, African American history, migration and immigration patterns, architecture, the history of Ha Ha Tonka, as well as listen to Ozark-centered poetry and view beautiful photographs of the wild horses of Shannon County,” McCollom continued.

He noted that connecting the presenters with the community has “always been an important aspect of the symposium,” and to that end, there are two open-invitation events to “enjoy refreshments and discuss all things Ozarks.”

A social hour will begin at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 22 at Wages Brewing Company, 1386 Bill Virdon Blvd. inside East Towne Village in West Plains. A second event, a closing reception, will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Ozarks Heritage Research Center, where attendees can mingle while perusing the Lennis Leonard Broadfoot Collection and the photography of Carr Ward. McCollom added, “I’m excited to see everyone there!” 

WPCA Art Exhibit

As in past years, WPCA will sponsor an exhibit related to the symposium’s theme beginning at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 21.

“A photography exhibit entitled ‘King of the Ozarks,’ by Joyce McMurtrey, will be featured during the opening reception,” McCollom said. “McMurtrey has deep roots in the Missouri Ozarks. Her photographs profile the family of H. King Davis, a multi-generational African American family who’ve farmed in southern Missouri since the Homestead Act.

“Paula Speraneo of WPCA has always been an enthusiastic supporter of the symposium and local and regional artists and photographers, and the exhibit kicks off the symposium in the best way.”

Keynote Address

The symposium’s keynote performance begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22, in the civic center theater.

“Dr. Dawn Larsen, professor of theater at Francis Marion University (South Carolina) and an Ozarks native, will perform her award-winning show ‘Granny’s Fixit: An Ozarks Guide to Healing the Body and Soul,’” McCollom said.

“Dr. Larsen has performed all over the country, combining several historic granny women into one character to tell a story of women in a solo show that features original and historic music, spoken word, comedy, and images to transport audiences to the place she calls home,” said McCollom. “We are fortunate to have such a talent for our keynote.” \For more information about Dr. Larsen, visit DawnLarsenMusic.com. To get a taste of the show, visit DawnLarsenMusic.com/Solo-Shows.

For more information about the symposium and presenters, visit OzarkSymposium.WP.MissouriState.edu or visit the symposium’s Facebook page,@OzarksSymposium.