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In celebration of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art’s first ten years, we collaborated with our friends at Crystal Bridges to feature a few of the remarkable people contributing to the well-being of the Northwest Arkansas community. 
Inspired by Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting Rosie the Riveter, which turns attention to the American women who worked in factories during World War II, these profiles feature individuals in our region who contribute in essential ways to the needs of our community. Each person highlighted works tirelessly, and often without fanfare, to spread hope and healing.
The portraits in this series will be on display in the Community Champions section of Crystal Bridges at 10, which will open to the public from July 11, 2021 to September 27, 2021. Crystal Bridges at 10 is an immersive exhibition with 10 distinct art experiences celebrating the museum’s collection and the local community one decade into the museum’s lifetime.
Photo by B. Watts Photography

Anh Ðào Kolbe (they, them, theirs), Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Springdale, AR

“What makes your heart pump?” asks Anh Ðào Kolbe upon meeting someone new.  Kolbe feels they were put on this earth to be a transitional person for other people, whether it is as simple as walking someone across the road or for purposes on a deeper, emotional level.

Kolbe is a social justice photographer who focuses on educating others about oppressed communities and how to advocate for civil rights. Their photographs and writing have been published in seven countries around the world.

Kolbe has spent the past eight years as a social worker at a residential treatment facility providing therapy and mentorship to adolescents struggling with behavioral disorders and most recently, joined a private practice establishment.

Q&A w/ Anh Ðào

Since you’ve been present in Northwest Arkansas, where are the places you have found community? What are some of the local places, past or present, you go to celebrate?

Any creative spaces, community events, or outside gatherings with like-minded people. A few examples include visiting the special exhibitions at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, attending community events like Northwest Arkansas Pride and going to the local farmers’ markets.

All of the artwork being featured in this exhibition traveled great distances before landing in Northwest Arkansas as part of the Crystal Bridges collection. What distances did you travel to arrive in Northwest Arkansas? When did you arrive? What about this place keeps you here?

I arrived on July 27, 2011 (my ten-year anniversary is coming up!) from the Greater Boston area of Massachusetts where I spent twenty-one years of my life. I was born in Sài Gòn, Việt Nam during the war and my first stop in the US of A was New York City. I have a close circle of friends who I consider my tribe that keeps me here 🙂

You are being recognized as part of this celebration, in part, because of the spirit of caring you bring to your interactions with others. To what and/or whom do you attribute the development of this spirit of caring to?

As an adoptee, I have always known that I was to be other people’s transitional person (meaning help them get from one point to the next) and so that’s the mantra I use to continue this work of being a decent fellow being in this lifetime.

Foto: © Anh Ðào Kolbe/adkfoto.com

Part of this project was about celebrating you in your role as a licensed clinical social worker, what led you to this work?

So many of my fellow community social justice activist friends said I would make a great addition to the profession, so here I am and the rest is herstory.

I have been a mentor and educator to at-risk youth for thirty-plus years so when I got hired as a youth care worker at a group home it was a perfect opportunity to continue in that lifetime role. I was then hired on as a therapist in which I served in that role providing services for adolescent sexually aggressive youth for almost eight years and now working for a private practice establishment providing therapy to all walks of life.

Foto: © Anh Ðào Kolbe/adkfoto.com

Can you tell us a story about one of the favorite/most memorable photographs you've taken?

When I was at Simmons College (now Simmons University) back in Boston, Massachusetts as an undergraduate going for my degree in physical therapy, I had the honor of being assigned to cover Angela Y. Davis speaking for the Public Relations Department. I remember gracefully making my way through the crowd and waiting my turn to visit with her. With just one shot of my 35mm film camera, I capture her essence in black and white and it’s been one of my most prized possessions as a professional shutterbug.

Another is the author of “Stone Butch Blues,” Leslie Feinberg that made the front page of a newspaper in Australia (if memory serves me correctly!) And of course, there is also Maya Angelou singing “This Little Light of Mine” (result not as glorious though).

Foto: Anh Ðào Kolbe/adkfoto.com

What are some of the causes you are passionate about?

Anything that promotes the rights of others and advocates for the healthy sustainability of the human race.

What milestones, moments, victories and/or achievements in your life are you most proud of?

Being published as a photographer in seven countries and being able to help others navigate through the weeds of life.

Foto: Anh Ðào Kolbe/adkfoto.com

What are you current favorite musicians or songs?

I’ve been listening to the XX playlist lately and love bands such as Everything But The Girl, Deacon Blue, Fairground Attraction and Portishead, though I have been listening to more country music influenced by my bff.

Please list 10 things people should know about or do in Northwest Arkansas:


Do you know someone in the Northwest Arkansas community we should feature? Let us know.