In a two-day conference celebrating the culture and industries of the Southern High Plains, one man is embracing a creative approach to telling the story of the plains to the audience.
"Telling the story requires more or different ways of not only looking at the story but relating it to others,” said Andy Wilkinson, a presenter at the Southern Plains Conference.
The story today is “Shaping a Sense of Place.”
"The arts fashion one's sense of place, and my take on that is also, the place fashions the art,” said Wilkinson.
A sense of place is connecting the physical environment with the narratives of those throughout the community, whether it's appreciating the landscape of the plains, the industries of labor here, or even the indigenous history in the area.
"The topic this year is a ‘Sense of Place’ and it is a wonderful place to be this morning,” said Carol Lovelady, Director of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum. “It is a room filled with people who love the High Plains."
The bi-annual Southern Plains Conference, held Feb. 22-23 at West Texas A&M University, is a partnership between the Center for the Study of the American West, Ogallala Commons, the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum and the Tecovas Foundation.
People from all walks of life throughout the plains are coming together to establish that sense of place with the conference, using this unique forum to discuss the past, present and future of the region.
"We have a poet, we have a rancher, we have all kinds of people, and it's important because unless you have a conference like this, there's really no forum to bring those voices and those perspectives together,” said Alex Hunt, Director of the Center for the Study of the American West.
Despite the differences they may have in day-to-day life, those in attendance have at least one thing in common, according to Wilkinson.
"It's a great gathering of people who may differ in some respects and politics and economics, but who are all the same heart,” said Wilkinson.
Even if just for a moment, that gathering of people directs their eyes and ears to Wilkinson, as he brings together music, poetry, and the plains.
"This is the land of endless horizons where the sky and the plains come together,” said Wilkinson, as he read a poem to audience members.
The poetry reflects the conference itself, where the culture and people of the plains can also come together.