ASC’s annual celebration of Southeast Arkansas’s Cultural Heritage
The Crossroad Festival is the Arts & Science Center’s annual event that explores Jefferson County and Southeast Arkansas’s cultural heritage through the interpretive lens of story, music, foodways, and film.
Each year, the festival highlights different cultural groups that have made a lasting impact on the history, culture, and traditions of Southeast Arkansas. A focus on the African American communities of the area and their history and heritage reoccurs each year.
ASC launched the festival in 2018 with a concentration on the region's French, Quapaw Indian, and African American cultural heritage. In 2019, the African American, French, and Chinese communities were the focus.
All festival events are FREE and open to the public.
The 2020 Crossroad Festival is scheduled for Saturday, February 29.
For information on becoming a sponsor, please contact Dr. Rachel Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 2019 Crossroad Festival, held March 1-3, featured programming on the region’s African American, French, and Chinese cultural heritage.
The festival kicked off Friday, March 1, in ASC’s Catherine M. Bellamy Theatre with a night of lore, music, and interpretation. Tricksters, Tall Tales, and Blues Notes highlighted the powerful folklore and music emanating from African American culture with Greater Jefferson County ties. Jimmy Cunningham, executive director of the Delta Rhythm & Blues Bayous Alliance, coordinated the program featuring regional actors and musicians.
“The mood and the feeling of the storytelling combined with the music are unmatched.”
— 2019 Crossroad Festival attendee
The following day, March 2, ASC welcomed featured speakers and scholars Dr. Elista Istre and Kevin Kim to lead programs on the French Creole and Chinese communities.
Dr. Istre, a Heritage Studies and Living History Interpretation scholar from Lafayette, Louisiana, led Folktales Family Fun. She shared traditional French Creole stories of the characters of Bouki (fox) and Lapin (rabbit), which are similar to the African American “Brer Rabbit” tales. She also explore the links between West Africa, the Caribbean, and the American South. Children were invited to make a mask of Bouki or Lapin to take home with them.
Food Studies and Material Culture scholar Kevin Kim and Dr. Istre then expanded the festival theme of cultural diffusion and adaption by co-presenting Foodways & Tales. The program provided a historical context for the foodways of South Louisiana’s Creole people, and Southeast Arkansas’s Cantonese communities. Both scholars shared family stories and recipes. The program wrapped up with a cooking demonstration and tasting. Greens were cooked the Creole way and the Cantonese way, so the audience could compare and contrast the two dishes to sample the similarities and differences between the two cultures’ cooking traditions.
Continuing the exploration of African American folktales, ASC closed the 2019 festival with a screening of the 2006 animated Universal Pictures film The Adventures of Brer Rabbit. ASC welcomed special guest and Jefferson County resident Byron Vaughns, who directed the film. The Emmy Award-winning director, animator, and cartoonist took part in a a question-and-answer session and showing of his artwork following the screening.
The 2019 Crossroad Festival was supported in part by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and sponsorships by the Pine Bluff Advertising & Promotion Commission and Simmons Bank.
The first Crossroad Festival, held February 22-24, 2018, explored 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.
The festival kicked off the evening of February 22 with an exploration of the region's French cultural heritage, through film and discussion with the documentary First Cousins: Cajun and Creole Music of South Louisiana. A panel discussion followed featuring the documentary’s filmmaker, Dr. Moriah Istre, and the film’s producer Dr. Elista Istre, both scholars from Arkansas State University's Heritage Studies Ph.D program; and Dr. Linda Jones, associate professor of world languages, literatures, and cultures at the University of Arkansas.
The following evening on February 23, the festival celebrated the achievements of Jefferson County-associated music legends "Big Bill" Broonzy, Sippie Wallace, Miles Davis, and Bobby Rush, who all shaped the sounds of the Delta. The program included live performances by The Brian Austin Band, Detroit Johnny, and Milt Jackson and friends, with narration by Jimmy Cunningham of the Delta Rhythm & Blues Bayous Alliance.
The February 24 morning program was dedicated to dance performances, traditional crafts and foodways demos by members of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma.
The festival closed out with living history group Voices in the Past presenting a program on prominent African Americans of Jefferson County. The group interpreted stories of many of the area’s prominent artists, musicians, and business people, as well as Works Progress Administration (WPA) slave narratives collected from Jefferson County.
The 2018 Crossroad Festival was supported by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and sponsorships by Go Forward Pine Bluff and the City of Pine Bluff.