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Northwest Arkansas offers a diverse culture for arts and entertainment. There are a number of organizations that provide theater, music, history and art on a local and national level. The Arts Center of the Ozarks, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Walton Arts Center, Rogers Historical Museum, Arkansas Air Museum, Daisy Museum, Clinton House Museum, TheatreSquared, Rogers Little Theater, local art walks, farmers markets and Terra Studios are just some of the arts organizations in Northwest Arkansas.

Here is a glance at a few gems of arts and culture available locally.


Local Spotlight —
Stand Up & Improv at the UARK Bowl
644 W. Dickson St., No. 110, Fayetteville

Open Mic Stand-Up Comedy Night — Sound like fun? Anyone can show up at the UARK Bowl on a Thursday night around 8 p.m. and sign up for a slot on the bill. Amateurs are welcome to join ranks with local comedians and try out their routines. Some humorists even travel from Little Rock and Oklahoma City to perform. The show starts at 9 p.m., and usually everybody who signs up gets 5-7 minutes on stage.

“We are trying to cultivate comedy in NWA,” says Jocelyn Morelli, a local comic who frequents the Thursday night shows. Morelli has a background with the Groundlings, but left “the scene” to start a business and her family. Now back in action, she loves to meet touring comedians when they come to the UARK Bowl for the knowledge and perspective they bring. Being exposed to various artists helps developing comedians polish their skills and confidence, Morelli said.

The intimacy of the venue fosters connections and opportunities. Morelli was invited to be the opening act for Mike Smith at The Improv in Kansas City recently because of their meeting at the UARK Bowl.

The Open Mic Stand-Up Comedy Night may be moved to Wednesdays in the fall, according to Uarkbowl.com. Nationally touring stand-up comics and seasoned headliners are anticipated to take the stage Thursday and Friday evenings. Potential acts include well-known comedians such as Tom Green and Bobcat Goldthwait.

The UARK Bowl also hosts Phunbags, a local improvisational group. The comedy team plays a series of games that are influenced by audience suggestions. They add scripted sketch comedy, multimedia and music to top off their performances. Some of these activities require volunteers from the audience, so if anyone wanted to go try his hand at improvisation, this is the place to be. Phunbags appear monthly, and the next show is Sept. 15 at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7:15 p.m. for the two-act improv show. Morelli participates in Phunbags as well and is thankful to have something so wonderful for the community especially because it is rare to have both of these creative outlets available to Northwest Arkansas. To stay abreast of these type activities, friend Jocelyn Morelli on Facebook.


Local Spotlight —
Shiloh Museum of Ozark History
118 W. Johnson Ave., Springdale

Even long-term residents may not realize that Northwest Arkansas has a museum dedicated to telling the region’s history. The Shiloh Museum of Ozark History first opened to the public in 1968. The name of the museum pays homage to the history of its location, as the pioneer community of Shiloh changed its name to Springdale in the 1870s.  The collection began with a personal collection of Native American artifacts and continues to maintain an archaeological focus on the Ozark region.

“Shiloh Museum is about the Ozarks,” says Allyn Lord, director of the museum. “We have permanent and changing exhibits, programs for children, adults, and seniors. There are seven historic buildings on site, and a collection of over 500,000 photographs which makes (it) the largest collection of historic photography in the state.”

Patrons and students can purchase reproductions of the photos, do genealogy research, research homes or buildings and study various topics related to Northwest Arkansas. All this is available in addition to just visiting the museum and browsing its permanent and temporary exhibits.

The Shiloh Museum has many annual events. These include the Quilt Fair, which will mark its 35th year 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Sept. 8. There are also events like the Cabin Fever Reliever on Jan. 12, 2013. The Reliever is different each year, and this year it will be a collective forum where anyone who has a collection that they would like to exhibit may do so. Visit www.shilohmuseum.org for more information.


Local Spotlight —
Opera in the Ozarks at
Inspiration Point
16311 U.S. 62 West, Eureka Springs

Northwest Arkansas also offers world-renowned entertainment with Opera in the Ozarks. Founded as a training program and festival in 1950, it is affiliated with the National Federation of Music Clubs. Opera in the Ozarks provides a prominent training program including four weeks of rehearsals with directors and professional staff followed by a month of performances. More than 400 people applied to the program this year, and just more than 40 students were accepted.

“It’s invigorating and fills one with pride to see people on the verge of a professional career,” said Jim Swiggart, general director.
“The performance opportunity gets artists ready to perform in large opera houses, and audience members are always amazed at the professional level of the performances and that something this beautiful is right here.”

Performances are held at Inspiration Point’s Fine Arts Colony Theatre and at the Arend Arts Center in Bentonville. The opera company also features A Taste of Opera, where four singers serenade those enjoying dinner at the 1886 Crescent Hotel. They perform Broadway standards, Neopolitan love songs and popular arias from famous operas.

“This is important for the students because it helps them learn how to react with people and is wonderful professional development,” Swiggart said.

Past performances include Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme, A Little Night Music by Stephen Sondeim, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Die Zauberflute. For more information, go to opera.org or find them on Facebook.

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