CONWAY, Ark. (Arkansas PBS) – Arkansas PBS and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will present “Southern Storytellers: An Arkansas Storytelling Event” featuring two well-known, native Arkansans: songwriter/Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning actor Mary Steenburgen and Academy-nominated and Emmy Award-winning screenwriter Qui Nguyen, Sunday, July 30, at 3 p.m. in the museum’s Great Hall. Registration is required for this free event at myarpbs.org/crystalbridgesevent.
“‘Southern Storytellers’ comes from our desire, as native Southerners, to show the South in an authentic light,” Courtney Pledger, CEO of Arkansas PBS, said. “And, we can think of no better way to do that than through the experiences of the region’s writers and creators who are able to engage us, move us and take us to a deeper understanding of such a dynamic place and its people.”
The event celebrates the premiere of “Southern Storytellers,” a new three-episode docuseries from PBS, Arkansas PBS and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Craig Renaud that follows some of the region’s most compelling and influential contemporary creators to the places they call home – the communities that fertilize the stories they tell in books, songs, poems, plays, and on screens large and small. The documentary series airs weekly on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on PBS from July 18 until Aug. 1, and can be seen via livestream and on demand on PBS.org and the PBS App.
“There are so many tired stereotypes about the South,” filmmaker Renaud said. “I wanted to get past those – and the romanticizing – and present the complexity of this place.”
In addition to Steenburgen and Nguyen who will attend the Crystal Bridges event, two other high-profile Arkansans are featured in the series: songwriter/Academy Award-winning screenwriter/actor Billy Bob Thornton and Academy of Country Music Award-winning singer/songwriter Justin Moore.
Following a one-hour “Southern Storytellers” screening, Steenburgen, Nguyen and Renaud will join a panel discussion moderated by Pledger. The event will also feature local Arkansas storytellers sharing their stories of calling The Natural State home.
“At Crystal Bridges, we are committed to telling broad and inclusive stories that expand our understanding of art and the American experience,” Moira Anderson, director of public programs at Crystal Bridges, said. “Partnering with Arkansas PBS to shine a spotlight on the stories of some remarkable Arkansans furthers this mission, and provides a wonderful opportunity to bring the community together in our space.”
Registration is required for this free event at myarpbs.org/crystalbridgesevent. Doors will open at 2 p.m.
“Southern Storytellers” traverses the South, from the mountains of Appalachia to the Gulf of Mexico, revealing a vivid patchwork of diverse American stories that celebrate the resilience and joy of Southern people – and the magnitude of gifts from the region’s writers. Other featured creatives are some of the most recognized storytellers from the worlds of literature, music, television and film, including authors Jesmyn Ward, Michael Twitty, Angie Thomas, and David Joy; poets Jericho Brown and Natasha Trethewey; songwriters Jason Isbell, Thao Nguyen, Lyle Lovett, Tarriona “Tank” Ball, Adia Victoria and Amanda Shires; and screenwriter Michael Waldron.
Major Funding for “Southern Storytellers” was provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding was provided by the Rosalind P. Walter Foundation, the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation, Inc., and Moses Tucker Partnership.
About the Panelists
Originally from south Arkansas, Qui Nguyen is a Vietnamese American filmmaker, playwright and co-founder of the New York-based theatre company, Vampire Cowboys. Notable works include his plays “Vietgone” and “Poor Yella Rednecks,” which centered on his parent’s love story. “She Kills Monsters,” which continues to be one of the most produced plays in colleges and high schools across America, and the Disney films “Strange World” and the Oscar-nominated “Raya and the Last Dragon.”
Mary Steenburgen is an Academy Award and Golden Globe winning actor best known for her work in the films “Melvin and Howard,” “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” “Stepbrothers” and “Book Club” and television shows “Justified,” “Orange is the New Black,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “The Last Man on Earth.” She is also a songwriter for Universal Music Publishing Group and was recently shortlisted for an Academy Award for Best Original Song for a song she co-wrote, "Glasgow (No Place Like Home)," featured in the film “Wild Rose.” "Glasgow" received the Critics' Choice Award and the Hollywood Critics Association Award for Best Original Song.
Craig Renaud is known for character-driven, cinema verité approach to documentary filmmaking. His work has aired on PBS, HBO, NBC, The Discovery Channel, The New York Times, ESPN and VICE. Renaud has won a Peabody Award, two Columbia DuPont Awards, two Overseas Press Club Awards, an IDA Award, a Webby, an Edward R Murrow Award, an Emmy Award, and has received a DGA nomination and multiple Emmy nominations.
Courtney Pledger currently serves as CEO of statewide public broadcaster Arkansas PBS. Prior to entering public media, Pledger worked as a producer and senior film and television executive in Los Angeles and London where she shepherded or produced multiple award-winning projects. She served as executive director of Oscar-qualifying Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and is a recipient of the Women in Film Lillian Gish Producing Award.
About Renaud Brothers Films
Renaud Brothers Films is led by Craig Renaud, best known for his character-driven, cinema verité documentaries such as “Dope Sick Love,” “Last Chance High,” “Off to War” and “Meth Storm.” In 2018, Renaud Brothers Films produced “State of the Art” for PBS. Renaud’s work has often been in partnership with his brother Brent Renaud, who died in 2022 while documenting the refugee crisis in the Ukraine, the first American journalist killed in that conflict. The Renaud Brothers’ work has won a Peabody Award, two du-Pont-Columbia Awards, two Overseas Press Club Awards, an IDA Documentary Award, a Webby Award and an Edward R. Murrow Award.
About Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
The mission of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is to welcome all to celebrate the American spirit in a setting that unites the power of art with the beauty of nature. Since opening in 2011, the museum has welcomed over 6.2 million visitors, with no cost for admission. Crystal Bridges was founded in 2005 as a non-profit charitable organization by arts patron and philanthropist, Alice Walton. The collection spans five centuries of American masterworks from early American to current day and is enhanced by temporary exhibitions. The museum is nestled on 120 acres of Ozark landscape and was designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie. A rare Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house was preserved and relocated to the museum grounds in 2015. Crystal Bridges offers public programs including lectures, performances, classes and teacher development opportunities. Some 300,000 school children have participated in the Willard and Pat Walker School Visit program, which provides educational experiences for school groups at no cost to the schools. Additional museum amenities include a restaurant, gift store, library and five miles of art and walking trails. In February 2020, the museum opened a satellite contemporary art space in downtown Bentonville called the Momentary (507 SE E St.). For more information, visit CrystalBridges.org. The museum is located at 600 Museum Way, Bentonville, Arkansas, 72712.
About Arkansas PBS
Arkansas PBS, Arkansas’s only statewide public media network, empowers learners of all ages by educating, informing, entertaining and inspiring communities. Arkansas PBS serves as a daily and essential resource for Arkansans by creating, sharing, celebrating and driving conversation around Arkansas stories and classic, trusted PBS programs through multiple digital platforms, including livestreaming at myarpbs.org/watch, on-demand services and YouTube TV, and the distinct channels Arkansas PBS, Arkansas PBS Create, Arkansas PBS KIDS, Arkansas PBS WORLD and Arkansas PBS AIRS on SAP. Members with Arkansas PBS Passport have extended on-demand access to a rich library of public television programming. Arkansas PBS depends on the generosity of Arkansans and the State of Arkansas to continue offering quality programming. Additional information is available at myarkansaspbs.org. Arkansas PBS is broadcast on KETS (Little Rock), KEMV (Mountain View), KETG (Arkadelphia), KAFT (Fayetteville), KTEJ (Jonesboro), KETZ (El Dorado), KETS (Lee Mountain), KETS (Forrest City), KETS (Yancy) and KETS (Gaither).