Arnow Conference | SCC

Arnow Conference

**This event has been canceled due to the covid-19 pandemic**

2020 Arnow Conference | Roots & Branches

Thursday, April 2, 2020 & Friday, April 3, 2020

“Arnow 2.0: Roots & Branches” is the theme of this year’s expanded event that will feature more participation from students at the college. Join us for two days of speakers, exhibits, workshops, live music and more! This year’s conference will be held in the auditorium of Meece Hall and in the Community Room in the Harold Rogers Student Commons. All events will be held on SCC’s Somerset Campus, 808 Monticello Street, Somerset, Ky.

The Arnow Conference for the Humanities was established at Somerset Community College to pay tribute to the literary contributions of Harriette Simpson Arnow, who grew up in Pulaski County, and whose work, both fiction and nonfiction, focuses on the rural Kentuckians she knew best. Each year, the conference brings together writers, scholars, academics, and others interested in literature and the arts for academic presentations and brief writing workshops to discuss and honor both the literature of Harriette Arnow and the writers and others whose own work she has inspired and informed. This year’s conference has been expanded to include all disciplines from the Humanities.

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Harriette Arnow: Her inheritance and Her Legacy

by Sharon Whitehead

Harriette ArnowTheories abound concerning the ancestry and character of the early settlers in the Kentucky hills. They have been traced to Scottish chieftains, to English yeoman farmers, and indentured servants. They have been called hardy, self-reliant, and independent, as well as illiterate, uncouth, and undisciplined. Others attribute to these early hill people traits such as individualism and stoicism, but also traditionalism, fatalism, and religious fundamentalism.

Whatever their exact origin and character, the Kentucky hill people proved to be resilient. They managed to survive and flourish in virtual isolation for nearly a century, developing a culture in which utilitarian handcrafts, the ballad, the fiddle, and the recipe for home brew were features of everyday life. During the first half of the twentieth century, however, the outside world came to call in the form of land speculators, mining and lumber operators, road builders, missionary teachers, preachers, and the United States Government.

Harriette Simpson Arnow, born in Wayne County, Kentucky, and raised in Burnside, wrote about the Kentucky hill people as they experienced unprecedented social and economic change in their region from the 1920s through the 1940s. Through a number of short stories and the trilogy of novels for which she is best known, Mountain Path (1936), Hunter’s Horn (1949), and The Dollmaker (1954), Arnow viewed the transformation of hill society through compelling female characters.

This tribute to Arnow’s heritage and legacy begins with a quote from Mountain Path. Arnow’s novel is written from the perspective of a young teacher from Lexington who moves into the Cavecreek community of Somerset County, Kentucky. Louisa Sheridan is intensely curious about human behavior in general and about the folkways of the people among whom she lives and works. Louisa captures the essence of hill society in the following astute observation: “She sat and listened to the music and watched the people in the room—the women sitting quiet in the shadow and the men in the full glow of the lamplight and firelight” (311). While this novel is the earliest of the three novels in a trilogy, it has the same impetus as Hunter’s Horn and The Dollmaker. That impetus is to bring the hill women out of the shadows and to highlight their complexity of character, their genius as well as their ignorance and fatalism, and the extent of their limitations as well as their power.

Through the strong characters in her stories, Arnow explored not just the complicated roles of men and women in the Kentucky hills. She examined with brutal honesty the broader forces shaping the lives of the people in her world: the impact of the natural environment upon the people; the influence, positive and negative, of outside agencies in the region; the outmigration of the people during the 30’s and 40’s, especially to industrial centers of the north, and the subsequent draining of the human resources from rural communities; the religious beliefs and practices of churches in the region that provided comfort from life’s storms or stymied introspection, growth, and change. Harriette Arnow pursued the ancient themes of pride, honor, love, betrayal, envy, hatred, and grief alongside the modern themes of human isolation, alienation, powerlessness, and despair, of urbanization and impersonalization.

For these reasons, we dedicate this conference to Arnow’s genius and to those whom she has inspired.

Sharon Whitehead, Dean of Arts & Science at Somerset Community College, wrote her thesis at Stetson University focusing on Arnow’s Kentucky trilogy: Mountain Path, Hunter’s Horn, and The Dollmaker.


Presenter Biographies

Jeff Worley

Keynote Speaker

Jeff Worley is the current poet Laureate of Kentucky. He has published six books, four chapbooks, and edited a poetry anthology, titled What Comes Down to Us (University Press of Kentucky, 2009). Jeff’s poems have also appeared widely in magazines in the United States and Canada for the past 45 years, and he is the recipient of numerous awards and honors.

Aaron Deter-Wolf

Aaron Deter-Wolf is a Prehistoric Archaeologist with the Tennessee Division of Archaeology in Nashville. He earned his MA from Tulane University studying Maya archaeology, before shifting to become a professional archaeologist focusing on the American Southeast. While his daily work deals predominately with ancient Native American sites in Tennessee, for the past decade Aaron has been a leading researcher in developing the archaeological study of tattooing. That work has included examinations using contextual analysis and microscopic use-wear signatures to identify tattoo tools in archaeological collections, and efforts recreating and testing ancient and historic tattooing implements.

In 2009, Aaron organized the first American academic symposium to examine ancient and early historic Native American tattooing. That meeting culminated in the 2013 volume Drawing with Great Needles: Ancient Tattoo Traditions of North America. He has participated in international symposia on ancient body modification, and authored multiple publications on the identification of tattooing artifacts. In 2016, Aaron was lead author on a study confirming that the European ice mummy Ötzi exhibits the world’s oldest preserved tattoos, and that same year appeared in the PBS/NOVA documentary “Iceman Reborn” discussing Ötzi’s marks. Aaron is co-editor of the 2018 volume Ancient Ink: The Archaeology of Tattooing, the first-ever book dedicated to the global archaeological study of tattooing. He was recently part of research teams which identified and published a 2,000 year old cactus spine tattooing tool from southern Utah, and 5,000 year old turkey bone tattooing tools from Tennessee. He shares information about ancient and historic tattooing and body modification on his Instagram account, @archaeologyink.


Caitlin Likens

Caitlin Likens is a freelance illustrator, sequential artist, and photographer from Memphis, TN. Her projects include logo design, cover art, character design, scientific illustration, comic book illustration, and commissioned art. Her work as been featured in two gallery shows in Lacoste, France and she has published work with The Pink Palace Family of Museums Department of Philanthropy.

Caitlin received her BFA in Sequential Art with a concentration in Scientific Illustration from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2013. Her works include Storyboarding and Character Design for Animation, Photography and Dynamic Visualization for Scientific Illustration, Constructive Dinosaur and Animal Anatomy, Conceptual Illustration, and Electronic Illustration. She is currently enrolled in the Solstice MFA Creative Writing program at Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, MA, concentrating in Graphic Narratives.

In addition to her degree from SCAD, Caitlin has four years of classical fine art training in the European academic tradition.

Caitlin lives with her fur children, Hank and Daisy, and, when not working, enjoys rock climbing, hiking, and recreating dinosaurs from the inside out.

Venus Evans

Venus Evans (Mi’kmaq) is an SCC Alumni and tribal member of the tribe Aroostook Band of Micmacs (Presque Isle, Maine), one of five federally recognized tribes of the state of Maine. A lifelong resident of Kentucky, Ms. Evans was born and raised in Laurel County. Ms. Evans currently presides as Commissioner at Large with the Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission (KNAHC), a position appointed by the governor. Established in 1996, the KNAHC was formed specifically for education and preservation of Kentucky’s Native American heritage and history. In addition to the KNAHC, Ms. Evans serves as Vice President with Kentucky Indigenous People (KIP). KIP is a non-profit that addresses issues and concerns facing Indigenous residents of Kentucky today, a cause near and dear to her heart. Ms. Evans is a mother, grandmother, fitness enthusiast.

Sandra Ballard

Sandra Ballard is a professor of English and a faculty member in the Center for Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. Since 2000, she has been the editor of Appalachian Journal: A Regional Studies Review. Her scholarship and teaching focus on Appalachian literature. She has written introductions for new editions of four of Harriette Simpson Arnow's novels, Mountain Path, Hunter’s Horn, Weedkiller’s Daughter, and Kentucky Trace, and two of Arnow’s award-winning nonfiction books Seedtime on the Cumberland and Flowering of the Cumberland—all published by Michigan State University Press. She was guest editor for Appalachian Heritage’s special edition on Harriette Arnow. She is coeditor of the anthology Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia and The Collected Short Stories of Harriette Simpson Arnow. She is active in the Appalachian Studies Association—and has enjoyed attending and participating in the Arnow Conferences sponsored by Somerset Community College.

Martin Smith

M. Earl (Martin) Smith is an Instructor of English and creative writing at Somerset Community College, in Somerset, Kentucky. His scholarship includes work in the fields of rare books, material texts, the history of the book, writing for children and young adults, and local/regional history. He has authored 11 books, with volumes on local history, the history of sports, children’s nonfiction, and literary fiction. Martin graduated from Chatfield College in 2015, the University of Pennsylvania in 2017, and Pine Manor College in 2019. He currently resides in Somerset with his two children (Nicholas and Leah) and his two Shetland Sheepdogs (Che and Berry).

Audria Byrd

Audria Byrd (she/they) is a Black transfeminine filmmaker and poet hailing from Greenville, SC, and currently based in Durham, NC. She graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2017 with B.A.’s in Media Arts and African American Studies.

She approaches her art with the belief that the personal and the political are inextricably intertwined. It is often said that art reflects culture, but Audria tackles her pieces with the objective that culture should reflect the art she creates. She primarily centers the voices and experiences of marginalized individuals in her work, which she views as “for us, by us.” Audria’s work can be found at

Kat Vann

Kat R. Vann (they/he) is a white Transgenderful Magic worker, Writer, Community Organizer, and Mischievous Agent of Joy.

Kat grew up between Maine and Boston then moved to Asheville, North Carolina in their late teens and is now starting a new adventure in the Pacific Northwest.

Kat firmly believes in the transformative power of the heart and imagination and that through collaborative imaginings we can write new futures that apocalypse current systems of oppression. It is this belief that drives Kat in his metaphorphic writing, teaching, and work with survivors of sexual violence.

Kat received his MFA in Creative Writing Fiction from Solstice MFA Program at Pine Manor College and has work featured in the recently released Bible Belt Queers Anthology. You can also read about their journey in the Vice Article Five People on Their Favorite Things About Being Nonbinary.

Ron Salutsky – Drinking Alone Under the Moon:

Dr. Ron Paul Salutsky, a native of Somerset, Kentucky, is author of the poetry collection Romeo Bones (Steel Toe Books) and translator of Uruguayan poet Karen Wild Díaz’s Anti-Ferule, winner of the Toad Press International Chapbook Series. Ron attended Somerset Community College, Western Kentucky University (BA), the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (MFA), and Florida State University (PhD).  Now a realtor in Tallahassee, Florida, Ron enjoys rock climbing, home repair, and playing guitar in the punk/rock band Subversive Overdrive.

He describes his workshop as follows: With crickets for French fries, we’ll see what surprises poetry in languages other than English may hold for our own poetic exploration and discovery.  You’ll never again have to suffer from writer’s block as we learn to experiment with the roots and branches of literary translation, including less faithful forms of phonetic translation, the use of crib sheets & Babelfish, and even meaningful writing partnerships with native speakers of languages other than our own.

The Local Honeys

Linda Jean Stokley and Montana Hobbs, the Local Honeys, have dedicated themselves to the preservation of old music and the creation of new music. Their songwriting often reflects subject matter that little girls ought not talk about. This element played a strong impact in the production and creation of their debut album, “Little Girls Actin’ Like Men.” The first women to receive Bachelor of Arts degrees in Traditional “Hillbilly” Music from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, the Honeys have toured extensively in the Southeast, including the Master Musicians Festival held annually on Somerset Community College’s campus, and recently returned from a tour in the UK. They won the 2017 Chris Austin Memorial Songwriting Contest at Merlefest in Wilkesboro, North Carolina for their anti-strip mining song, “Cigarette Trees” out of more than 1,000 entries.

Their music has been filmed for the series SomerSessions, directed by Nathan Isaacs, a Somerset resident, and is available on YouTube. Reviewing their performance at Gateshead, England, Mark Johnson in Americana-UK said, “The Local Honeys are from Kentucky, and they make sure their audience know it, repeatedly. They are not just proud, they are bursting with it, and a gig with them is both a history and geography lesson as much as a musical event. The music itself is sublime, old-time Appalachian from a very thoughtful, traditional base.”


Registration Information

Full Conference Pass - $30
Day Pass for either Thursday or Friday - $15 
Tickets to individual events - $5 

Students, Faculty and Staff of SCC – Free with pre-registration
Please send in pre-registrations by April 1, 2020.

Online Pre-Registration Form

Or you can send registration information to:
Erin Johnson
808 Monticello St.
Somerset, KY 42501 

Include your name and contact information. Payment can be sent by mail with a check made out to Somerset Community College, or can be collected at the door for email registrations. SCC Box Office will be open beginning March 20th Monday through Friday from noon to 3:00pm to assist with registration.

To Complete Your Registration.
Send a personal check. Make check payable to "Somerset Community College." Mail check for full amount to Erin Johnson, Somerset Community College, 808 Monticello Street, Somerset, Kentucky 42501. If you have questions, you can contact Erin Johnson at 606-451-6763, or by email at


Thursday, April 2, 2020
Time Session Location
9:30 a.m. - 10:45 a.m.  Aaron Deter-Wolf Meece Auditorium
11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Caitlin Likens Meece Auditorium
12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Booths in the Community Room / Lunch on your own  
2:00 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. Venus Evans Meece Auditorium
Friday, April 3, 2020
Time Session Location
9:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.  Welcome Meece Auditorium
9:15 a.m. – 9:55 a.m.

Arnow Friends of the Humanities Award Presentation Recipient: Sandra Ballard

Meece Auditorium
10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Keynote: Jeff Worley

Meece Auditorium
11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

Workshops: Local History – Martin Smith
Fiction – Kat Vann and Audria Byrd

Meece Auditorium
12:15 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Lunch on your own

1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Workshops: Children’s Literature – Martin Smith
Poetry – Ron Salutsky

Meece Auditorium
2:45 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.

Local Honeys

Meece Auditorium
4:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Open Mic

Meece Auditorium

Registration Information

Full Conference Pass - $30
Day Pass for either Thursday or Friday - $15 
Tickets to individual events - $5 

Students, Faculty and Staff of SCC – Free with pre-registration
Please send in pre-registrations by April 1, 2020.

Online Pre-Registration Form