“Booming prosperity accompanying a tremendous increase in the area’s population has made Northwest Arkansas a nationally recognized economic success… A thriving housing market, booming business development and retail growing faster than nearly imaginable, the once quiet area has been a sea of construction sites for the past several years. And the results are some of the nicest neighborhoods and shopping venues anywhere.”
- Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. March 13, 2007
“Not everyone is enjoying the prosperity of Northwest Arkansas.”
- “Quality of Life in Northwest Arkansas,” KNWA. October 29, 2008
In August 2007, I began interviews with a sampling of the homeless population currently residing in local shelters, makeshift campsites, and transitional housing in Northwest Arkansas. With consent of the interviewees, the testimonies were recorded in their current place of residence using high quality audio and video equipment. In total, twenty-seven testimonies were collected. Each interview has been edited down to a five-minute video portrait accompanied by audio testimony which offers a glimpse into each interviewee’s private life. These testimonies reveal memories and personal meanings associated with the term “home.” On a more obscure level, the testimonies also offer insight into the fundamental human need for security (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) and psychological consequences experienced as a result of displacement.
These video testimonies were presented as a touring public art project, entitled The Homeless Project beginning in early 2010. As the project originates in Northwest Arkansas and most of the interviews were
recorded in Fayetteville, The Homeless Project was on view at four different locations on the downtown Fayetteville square from March 1-31, 2010. Four 40” LCD flat screen televisions were mounted on the interior of four different storefront sites in downtown Fayetteville and faced out towards the street through large windows. Weatherproof speakers, mounted on the exterior of the buildings, allowed viewers to experience the voices of the interviewees at street level. The project toured several locations regionally in 2010.
The Homeless Project examines how territory changes over time, and more specifically addresses how one’s sense of place, security, and ownership is established and lost. The purpose of this research is to raise social
awareness of the issue of displacement and to encourage an understanding of the commonalities that link the sheltered and unsheltered by giving a public visual and aural presence to persons whose identities are less evident.
Benton and Washington counties experience double-digit growth rates each year, yet from 1990 to 2006, the percentage of owner-occupied housing declined in Northwest Arkansas (1). As the landscape of Northwest Arkansas continues to develop, it is important to address the needs of all community members, especially those whose presence is less visible. It is my hope that these conversations, presented in public space, will encourage open dialogues to address the necessity for stable and affordable housing amid extensive growth in Northwest Arkansas. This project also examines how development is affecting individuals within the community and transforming regional identity as a whole.
1 Reed, Brad, “Quality of Life in Northwest Arkansas,” KNWA News, 29 October 2008.