The Arts & Science Center Southeast Arkansas hosted the Crossroad Festival: Exploring Jefferson County’s Cultural Heritage on Feb. 22-24. According to a press release, the festival is a three-day event exploring the region’s French, Quapaw Indian, and African American cultural heritage from its historic roots to contemporary iterations through the interpretive lens of film, music, dance, and living history.
“This history that we are exploring is new to a lot of people,” said Rachel Miller, executive director of the Arts & Science Center. “This is a great opportunity for the community to get to know what makes Pine Bluff and Jefferson County distinctive from other counties across the state.”
Through film and discussion on Thursday, the festival explored the region’s French cultural heritage from colonial era Arkansas Post, along with the immigrants from Arkansas’s first European establishment who settled in Jefferson County and the evident cultural influences early immigration to the Mississippi River Valley region had on the diversity and development of contemporary Cajun and Creole music.
A screening of the recent documentary ”First Cousins: Cajun and Creole Music of South Louisiana” was shown, followed by a panel discussion featuring Dr. Linda Jones, Associate Professor of World Languages, Literatures & Cultures at the University of Arkansas, Dr. Moriah Istre (filmmaker) and Dr. Elista Istre (film producer) from Arkansas State University’s Heritage Studies PhD Program.
On Friday, the festival celebrated the achievements of Jefferson County-associated music legends “Big Bill” Broonzy, Sippie Wallace, Miles Davis, and Bobby Rush, who all helped shape the sounds of the Delta. The festival featured live performances by the Brian Austin Band, Detroit Johnny, Dianne Parker, and Milt Jackson & friends, narrated by Jimmy Cunningham of the Delta Rhythm & Bayous Alliance.
Saturday morning was dedicated to dance performances, traditional crafts and food ways demos by members of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma in the Catherine M. Bellamy Theatre at ASC. Throughout the morning, traditional crafts demos were set -up in ASC’s galleries, and traditional foodstuff was prepared for attendees outside on the patio. Additionally, exhibit panels detailing the Quapaw’s presence in Jefferson County were on display during the entire Saturday event.
Saturday afternoon was dedicated to a living history program on prominent African American residents of Jefferson County by the Arkansas based, living history group, Voices in the Past, in the Bellamy Theatre. The group interpreted the stories of several of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County residents from the past, as well as WPA slave narratives collected from Jefferson County.
The festival is a free event and is supported in part by a major grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and National Endowment for the Humanities. The event is locally sponsored by The City of Pine Bluff and Go Forward Pine Bluff.
For additional information about the Arts & Science Center and to sign up for upcoming event announcements, visit www.asc701.org.