Northwest Arkansas is the best place for Robin Atkinson to accomplish her mission as CEO of Interform — helping creatives professionalize their work.
“There’s a creative-expansive movement from the business community here that isn’t as advanced elsewhere,” she said.
Atkinson founded Interform, best known for producing Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week, in 2016 — and now has 10 employees. The company offers programs to help creatives develop business skills and mindsets.
“We want to build a professional creative community, particularly for things you can’t go to school here for, such as fashion, music, curating. It’s a mechanism for whatever medium you work in,” she said.
Atkinson grew up outside Siloam Springs, then moved to Fayetteville at age 11. After graduating with an art history degree from the University of Arkansas, she “lucked into” a last-minute job with an elite team installing art for the first Prospect New Orleans concept in 2008.
“I had to move to New Orleans over a weekend,” Atkinson said. “I didn’t know what I was doing, but every day was a new adventure.”
She eventually earned a master’s degree in curatorial studies at Bard College before returning to this area for rehab, she said frankly.
“I would never have come back to NWA if I hadn’t had to,” she reflected. “But the change between when I left and came back was astounding. A whole cultural economy arose.”
She launched Arkansas Arts and Fashion Forum, later rebranding it as Interform and taking over fashion week. The company will launch a music program late this year, and she hopes for a film program in 2022.
“The goal is to make each program self-sustaining,” she said. “Because of our location and proximity to blue-chip companies, we have a real chance to do that.”