Photo courtesy of Carr Ward Photography

Ozarks Studies Symposium to focus on 'Creation in the Ozarks'


WEST PLAINS, Mo. - "Creation in the Ozarks" is the theme of the 14th annual Ozarks Studies Symposium set for Sept. 23-25 at the West Plains Civic Center. 


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


Funding is provided by the West Plains Council on the Arts (WPCA); the Department of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at MSU-WP; and Carol Silvey, West Plains. Silvey is a long-time history professor and former director of development at Missouri State-West Plains. She currently serves on the Missouri State University Board of Governors. 


"After missing a year due to the pandemic, we are excited for the 2021 symposium," said Dr. Jason McCollom, associate professor of history at MSU-WP and coordinator of the symposium. "Scholars, writers, and poets of the Ozarks have apparently been busy, because we received the highest number of submissions this year and look forward to three days packed with fascinating studies of our region. 


"Presenters will discuss all types of 'creation' in the Ozarks, including cryptozoological myths, Jewish settlements, interest in flying saucers, bohemia communities, Ozark representations on TikTok, university music, and even a presentation on the creation and history of the Ozarks Studies Symposium itself," McCollom explained. 


"We also have a cadre of student presentations and a planned tour of the Ozarks Heritage Resource Center at Garnett Library, alongside book signings for Curtis Copeland and Tom Koob (Ozarks Hillbilly: From Stereotype and Reality) and Thomas Michael Kersen (Where Misfits Fit: Counterculture and Influence in the Ozarks)," he added. 



WPCA Art Exhibit 

As in past years, WPCA will sponsor an art exhibit related to the symposium's theme beginning at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 23. 


"West Plains resident Carr Ward produces breathtaking landscape and nature photographs and will present some of his best work and discuss his craft," McCollom said. "Paula Speraneo of WPCA has always been an enthusiastic supporter of the symposium and local artists, and the art show always kicks off the symposium in the best way."  



Keynote Address 

The symposium's keynote address begins at 5:30pm on Friday, Sept. 24. 


"Native Ozarker Kaitlyn McConnell, founder of the popular OzarksAlive project and website, will share her efforts towards local cultural preservation and the stories and people she's encountered traveling the Ozarks," McCollom said. "We anticipate a big, eager crowd to hear about her work." 



Other Presentations 


Other presentations during the symposium include: 


  • "An Overview of Select Cryptozoological Myths Created in the Ozark Imagination" by Prof. Mark Spitzer, associate professor of creative writing, University of Central Arkansas 
  • "Creating New Congregations: The Cases of Jewish congregations in Bentonville and Eureka Springs" by Dr. Mara W. Cohen Ioannides, Department of English, Missouri State University  

  • Poetry reading by Dr. James Fowler, professor of English, University of Central Arkansas 

  • A reading from the novel 1971 by author Matt McGowan, science and research writer, University of Arkansas 

  • "Harold Bell Wright's Otherization of Ozarkers: That Printer of Udell'sThe Shepherd of the Hills and The Re-Creation of Brian Kent" by Dr. John J. Han, professor of English and creative writing, Missouri Baptist University 

  • "Buck Nelson's Mountain View Flying Saucer Convention" by Dr. Thomas Kersen, associate professor of sociology, Jackson State University 

  • "The Trials and Tribulations of War, on the Battlefield and the Homefront of the Ozarks" by Jordyn Smith, student at Missouri State University-West Plains 

  • "Beekeeping in the Ozarks: A Madman's Pursuit of Happiness" by Faith Collins, student at Missouri State University-West Plains 

  • "Ozarks Bohemians: How A Circle of Creative Friends Established a Culture of Nostalgia in the Early 20th Century Ozarks" by Curtis Copeland from The Society of Ozarkian Hillcrofters  

  • "Twenty-five Years and Counting: A Look Back at the Symposium" by Dr. Brooks Blevins, Noel Boyd Professor of Ozarks Studies, Missouri State University 

  • "More Than Just Fun Dances: The Influence of Rural Representation and Identity Conversations on TikTok" by Leslie Reed, Instructor of English, Arkansas State University 

  • "Capt. Henry Sheldon Taber: Leadership, Conflict, and Insight for the Ozarks from the U. S. Corps of Engineers Little Rock, Arkansas, District" by Vincent S. Anderson of the Baxter County Library, Mountain Home, Arkansas 

  • "Composing School Spirit: A Special Session on the Composer, Composition, and Musical Culture of Martin C. Schricker's 'State Normal March' (1908)" by Dr. James S. Baumlin, Department of English, and William B. Stacy, Department of Music, Missouri State University 

  • Video Presentation of "Lover's Leap Legends: A New Book from Lens & Pen Press" by Crystal and Leland Payton, Founders of Lens and Pen Press 

  • "There Are No Bootstraps for the Blind: Considering Representations of Disability in The Little House on the Prairie Series of Books" by Dr. Kristen Ruccio, assistant professor of English, Arkansas State University 

  • "The Creation of Biodiversity Post-Drying in Intermittent Ozark Streams" by Jaxson Priest, Stream Ecology Laboratory, Missouri State University 

  • Reading of Scattered Lights by author Dr. Steve Wiegenstein, author of Slant of LightThis Old World and The Language of Trees  

  • "Liver Squares and Fake Cures: The Promotion of Quack Medicine in the Ozarks" by Tim Nutt, director of the Historical Research Center, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences 

  • "Poetry Reading: Tornado Drills and Hitchhiking Skills" by local poet and author Dave Malone 

  • "Poetry Reading: Return to the Buffalo River, and Other Poems" by Dr. Ken Hada, professor and poet, Oklahoma East Central University 


More information about the symposium, including a complete schedule of presentation times, can be found at


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