Novelist Rilla Askew & Chickasaw Artist Dustin Mater to Speak at SSC’s Annual Howlers & Yawpers Creativity Symposium 24-25 April 2014

The Language Arts and Humanities Division at Seminole State College is hosting their Fourth Annual “Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium: A Showcase of Oklahoma Artists, Musicians, Actors, Writers, and Dancers” on Thursday, April 24 and Friday, April 25, 2014. The free Symposium will begin at 8 am both days in the Jeff Johnston Fine Arts Center on the SSC campus. The event is open to the public, and area high schools and middle schools are welcome to bring their students to enjoy two days filled with an eclectic mix of varied musical performances, creative writings, dramatic readings, artistic presentations, and dances by both professional and emerging Oklahoma artists and scholars. This year’s featured presenters include Keynote Speaker Rilla Askew, award-winning novelist, and Special Guest, Dustin Mater, acclaimed Chickasaw visual artist.     

Rilla Askew will speak at 9 am on Friday, April 25.


Askew, born and reared in Oklahoma around the Tulsa and McAlester areas, writes about the Oklahoma experience as well as the American experience.  Askew received a 2009 Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.   Her essays and short fiction have appeared in a variety of journals, and her story, “The Killing Blanket,” was selected for Prize Stories 1993: The O. Henry Awards.  Askew’s first novel, The Mercy Seat, was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Dublin IMPAC Prize, was a Boston Globe Notable Book, and received the Oklahoma Book Award and the Western Heritage Award in 1998.  Fire in Beulah, her novel about the Tulsa Race Riot, received the American Book Award and the Myers Book Award from the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights.  She was a 2004 fellow at Civiella Ranieri in Umbertide, Italy, and in 2008, her novel Harpsong received the Oklahoma Book Award, the Western Heritage Award, the WILLA Award from Women Writing the West, and the Violet Crown Award from the Writers League of Texas. Askew received the 2011 Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book. Her new novel, Kind of Kin, was published by Ecco Press in January 2013 and in the UK by Atlantic Books in August.

Dustin Mater, award-winning artist and Graphic Arts Coordinator for the Chickasaw Nation Arts & Humanities Division, will also speak on Friday, April 25 at 11 am. 


Mater grew up in Ada, Oklahoma, and is a member of the Chickasaw Nation.  He studied art and design at Santa Monica College and the Multimedia Institute of Hollywood from 2000-2004.  He first became an active illustrator and graphic designer in Los Angeles, and he continued his career as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer in 2007 in Dallas, Texas.  In 2009, Mater began work on illustrations and designs for the Chickasaw Nation’s world premiere performance of Lowak Shoppala’ (Fire and Light), a multi-movement theatric work depicting different aspects of Chickasaw history and culture.  Included in the original script of that production was the story of Spider Brings Fire.  As a result of that project, he began to create numerous artistic images that brought Spider Brings Fire to life, rekindling a close connection with his tribal heritage and his love for visual arts.  In November of 2011, his mixed media sculpture, Birdman Rising, and his etched glass vase, Nesting Eagle, were showcased in the Chikasha Poya exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.  In 2012, Pendleton Blankets selected his design, Spring, as the 2012 Legendary Blanket.  Mater is the first southeastern tribal member to be a part of this prestigious collection.

The Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium was established by the faculty of the SSC Language Arts and Humanities Division in the Spring of 2011 as a free, fully accessible celebration of Oklahoma creative expression, in all of its diverse forms.  “We hope this symposium will encourage all those who attend and participate to continue to find passion in their creative arts and appreciate the role the fine arts play in education and in Oklahoma culture,” said Jessica Isaacs, Symposium Director and Professor of Language Arts and Humanities at SSC. 

High school and middle school teachers or counselors wishing to bring students to the event, or anyone wishing to bring large groups to enjoy the Symposium, should contact Jessica Isaacs for information about bus parking and other necessary arrangements at (405)382-9209 or email at, or they may call or email SSC Language Arts & Humanities Division Secretary, Toni Wittmann at (405)382-9561 or email at The complete Symposium Schedule is available on the website at