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
Charles “Kuri” Heam (he, him, his), Retired Pastor, Seventh-day Adventist Church, Springdale, AR
A wise elderly lady once told Charles “Kuri” Heam, “If you use somebody’s things, make sure to return them.” That lady was his grandma, and her advice about kindness and helping others had a big impact on Charles.
Charles is a retired Marshallese pastor who regularly volunteers his time to help fellow community members in areas of need. For example, he accompanies patients to their medical appointments as an interpreter and takes them to the local food banks. When asked why he works so tirelessly for the community, Charles cites Mother Teresa, who said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
Q&A w/ Charles
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?
Springdale, Paragould, and Pocahontas. The Marshallese community, atmosphere, welcoming environment, and nature makes these places special to me.
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 traveled the ocean and lived in Hawaii, Oregon, and Nebraska before reaching Arkansas in 2011.
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?
My wife and grandma (“iar bitok/betbet bein jibu”).
Part of this project was about celebrating you in your role as a former pastor, what led you to become a pastor? What did you enjoy most about this work?
A sense of servant leadership led me to answer the call and go to school to become an ordinary minister. I enjoy being able to meet the needs of people.
Who are some people or groups locally you are inspired by? Why?
My church, wife, family, and our elders because of their love, care, and support of one another and for me.
What are some of the causes you are passionate about?
Equal rights, climate change, education for all, healthcare, equity, and diabetes education.
What milestones, moments, victories and/or achievements in your life are you most proud of?
When the Community Clinic at the Center for Nonprofits in Springdale was built after our advocacy and concerns were heard. We held gatherings to raise our community’s concerns and now we know it was not in vain.
Let’s lighten it up a bit: What are some of your favorite places to eat in Northwest Arkansas?
Golden Corral. I also enjoy bringing home vegetables from the garden.
What are a few of your favorite songs?
“Idrebel” Buk in Al and songs from the Marshallese church choir.
Finally, Crystal Bridges at 10 was designed to both mark the museum’s first 10 years and set the precedent for the decade to come. Looking out into the future, what do you hope for our region and community?
For our youth and future generation to preserve culture and language, work with others, for their parents to be more involved, and for families to be more involved in activities together as a people.
”He is full of IAKWE. IAKWE is the Marshallese word for Love. It also it our greeting and our goodbye. If you break it down, IA = Rainbow and KWE = You. “You are the Rainbow.” Pastor Charles is all that. A Rainbow to many.Dr. Sheldon RiklonUAMS