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Delta Symposium XIX: Cultivating the Delta, will Feature Outstanding Speakers, Performers, Panelists and Writers


JONESBORO -- "Cultivating the Delta" is the theme for this year’s Delta Symposium.  The 19th annual conference will bring scholars, students, musicians, and artists from across the nation to the Arkansas State University campus to explore and experience the Delta’s history and culture.

The event is sponsored by ASU’s Department of English and Philosophy and is supported in part with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.  Additional support is provided by the Arkansas Arts Council, KASU FM, West End Neighborhood Association, Craighead County-Jonesboro Public Library, and Arkansas State University.

The Symposium will take place from Wednesday through Saturday, April 17-20.   Most events the first three days will take place in the Mockingbird Room on the third floor of the Carl R. Reng Student Union, 101 North Caraway Road on the A-State campus, with the final day’s schedule unfolding in the West End Neighborhood of Jonesboro.

Admission to all Delta Symposium events is free and open to the public. (Links to news releases with additional details on specific events are included below).


The symposium will commence at 12 noon on Wednesday, April 17, with a panel, "Rooted in Tradition:  Representations of Arkansas Folklife" featuring students from Arkansas State making presentations on a variety of topics, including Arkansas hunting traditions, Rockabilly, The West Memphis Three, and the folklore associated with the "Rocky Horror Picture Show."

At 2 p.m., Arkansas Heritage Sites will be the subject of a panel called "Cultivating the Land:  From Slavery to Tenant Farming and Beyond in the Arkansas Delta."  Staff members from Lakeport Plantation, the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum, the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum, and other heritage sites will make presentations connecting the agricultural history of the region to the historical and cultural interpretation at each site.

At 4 p.m., Jonesboro's West End Neighborhood Association will host a presentation and discussion on ways that local neighborhood associations can foster community connections on the local level.  They will discuss how local initiatives, including tending a community garden and hosting clean-up days, help to cultivate neighborliness in one of the city's oldest neighborhoods.

Renowned folklorist and documentary filmmaker Bruce Jackson will be Wednesday's guest speaker.  As part of ASU's Lecture/Concert series, Jackson will make a presentation called "Inside the Wire:  Photographs from Texas and Arkansas Prisons."  It will be held at 7 p.m. in the Carl R. Reng Student Union auditorium.

Wednesday evening concludes with the Delta Symposium's first musical performance.  A "Blues and Roots Music Showcase" will be held in downtown Jonesboro at "The Arts @ 311," beginning at 7:30 p.m.  Local musicians will perform in a showcase style that highlights the excellence and variety of musicians in the Jonesboro community.  Some of the musicians will also be featured later on in other events throughout the symposium.


Thursday's events begin at 8 a.m. with a session on photography.  Titled "Picturing Delta Heritage" this session will focus on photographic representations of the region's heritage as portrayed by students and faculty associated with ASU's Ph.D. program in heritage studies.  This session will be followed by a panel session on ASU's STAR Herbarium.  Moderated by Dr. Travis Marsico, this session will provide a glimpse into the workings of a unique facility at the university that supports the study of cultivation of herbs that are characteristic of the region.  As are most of Wednesday events, this session will be held in the Mockingbird Room.

At 10:45, a panel on the Delta's musical traditions will focus on regional blues and roots music.  Dr. Alan Brown of the University of West Alabama will present a paper on bluesman R. L. Burnside. Dr. Andrew Scheiber of the University of Thomas will discuss "Blues as (Agri)Culture,"  Daniel Hildenbrandt of Southeastern Louisiana University will make a media presentation called "Keeping the Music Alive:  Reimer's Variety Music Show." 

At 12:30, Professor W. Stuart Towns will give a “book talk” on his new publication “Enduring Legacy:  Rhetoric and Ritual of the Lost Cause.”  Dr. Towns's research focuses on ways that the Confederacy has been commemorated in southern history.  Following his talk, Professor Clyde Milner will make a presentation on the progress made in preserving the V. C. Kays House on the campus of Arkansas State University.

The Delta Symposium will host its keynote speaker in the Student Union’s Mockingbird Room.  Professor Wes Jackson of the University of Kansas and the Land Institute will give his featured address, "Solving the Ten Thousand Year Old Problem of Agriculture."  Dr. Jackson's presentation will offer insights into issues of agriculture, with special focus on sustainability within agricultural history.  His 2 p.m. address also will be held in the Mockingbird Room at the Reng Student Union.

An afternoon session beginning at 3:30 will continue Wednesday's events with "Cultural Conservation in Arkansas Communities."  Susan Probasco of the University of Arkansas will speak on the preservation and commemoration of Delta ephemera.  Following her talk, Meredith Martin-Moats, Marie Williams, and Kelsey Trotter of Little Rock's McElroy House will focus on the community action work of their organization by linking their programming to themes of cultivation and sustainability.  ASU Heritage Studies student Rachel Reynolds Luster will conclude this session with her presentation of a model for maintaining sustainable land-based economy in her region of the Ozarks.

Thursday activities conclude with another presentation in cooperation with ASU's Lecture/Concert Series.  Former Jonesboro resident Julia Butterfly Hill of the Engage Network will speak at 7 p.m. in the Reng Student Union auditorium.  Her presentation is titled "What's Your Tree? Having a Life of Purpose, Passion, and Power" as she shares her vision of turning inspiration into action.


Friday morning, April 19, begins with a forum session at 8 a.m. "Biology and Agriculture in the Delta" will be the topic of an interdisciplinary panel made up of faculty associated with ASU and other organizations.  Dr. Kat Lecky will moderate questions for Dr. Fred Bourland, Dr. Jerry Farris, Dr. Erick Gilbert, Dr. Bert Greenwalt, and Dr. Tina Teague.  The panelists represent a variety of disciplines, including agriculture, biology, history, and literary studies, and the conversation will explore interconnections between agriculture and the environment.

"The Arkansas Delta and Development" is the topic of a 10 a.m. panel.  Charles Baclawski will make a presentation on the City Beautiful Movement of Burdette, Ark.  Dr. Sherry Laymon of the College of the Ouachitas will provide a history of the struggle to bring electricity to the state, and Dr. John Toth of the University of Central Arkansas will make a presentation titled "The Delta as an Uncertain Place."

At 1 p.m., a featured panel called "Roots Music and Musicians" opens up the afternoon's events.  Jim Baird of the University of North Texas will share his research on blues legend, Solomon Burke.  Dr. Mitsutoshi Inaba of Eugene, Ore., will make a presentation on bluesman John Lee 'Sonny Boy' Williamson.  Mark Randall will speak on the life history of Delta native Bobby Lee Trammell, and Dr. Thomas Ratliff will give a presentation on Johnny Cash.  Randall and Ratliff are with Arkansas State.

A unique event for this year's Delta Symposium begins at 3:30.  "Writing and Arkansas Roots" will be a roundtable discussion with Arkansas writers.  Dr. Deborah Chappel-Traylor will moderate the discussion of writing with Dr. Ruth Hawkins, Van Hawkins, Janis Kearney, and Philip McMath.  These talented writers come from a variety of backgrounds, and they specialize in diverse topics and genres, including biography, journalism, short stories, memoirs, and novels.

Friday's activities conclude with a reading by another noted writer from Arkansas, Emeritus Professor Margaret Bolsterli of Fayetteville.  She'll be reading from her work during an evening session at the Reng Student Union's Spring River Room.  The 7 p.m. session opens with a special preview of ASU's student literary magazine, “Tributary."  Miranda Jones will introduce student writers who will read their poetry and creative writing prior to Dr. Bolsterli's reading.


Saturday's events will be moved to Jonesboro's West End neighborhood.  At 10 a.m., the Symposium literally moves through the city of Jonesboro.  Jonesboro architects and design professionals will lead an “Architectural Walking Tour” of the historic West End neighborhood.  Libii Fairhead, Jim Little, and John Mixon will meet those who wish to go on the tour at the Jonesboro Public Library.  They will show how the buildings reflect the history and culture of Jonesboro, and they'll invite participants to ask questions about the unique qualities of the city's built environment.  The tour will conclude at 11:30.

On Saturday afternoon, the symposium will conclude with the "Delta Roots Music Festival." This outdoor event will feature roots music in a range of genres at Jonesboro's City Water and Light Park, at the intersection of Culberhouse and Cherry.  The event begins at 12 noon with a Blues and Roots Music Showcase presentation of local talent.

The main acts scheduled to appear throughout the afternoon begin with the acoustic group Sky City of Jonesboro.  The acclaimed bluegrass band 2-Mule Plow from Memphis will take the stage at 1 p.m., followed by the blues player, Cedric Burnside. 

Jonesboro's own, Plain Meanness, will bring its special blend of rock 'n' roll onstage at 4 p.m.  The highly acclaimed recording artists, the New Agrarians, featuring Kate Campbell, Tom Kimmel, and Pierce Pettis, will close out the show with a 5 p.m. performance.

The afternoon festival is co-sponsored by the West End Neighborhood Association with support from the Arkansas Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.  In case of rain, Saturday's events will be moved to the Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library.


Delta Blues Symposium XVIII is sponsored by the Department of English and Philosophy at ASU. For further details, contact Dr. Gregory Hansen, Department of English and Philosophy, Symposium Committee, at (870) 972-3043, or e-mail him at ghansen@astate.edu, or visit the website http://altweb.astate.edu/blues/ or the Delta Symposium's Facebook page.

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