Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area

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Little Rock Look Back: Ike in Little Rock

Detail from UPI photo of General Eisenhower following his address.

Detail from UPI photo of General Eisenhower following his address.

If Ike, Little Rock and September are considered, it is usually in reference to his role in the desegregation of Little Rock Central High in September 1957.  But five years earlier, he appeared in Little Rock on September 3, 1952.

General Eisenhower’s speech to 14,000 in MacArthur Park was the final leg in his swing through the South on his campaign for the White House.  He became the third presidential candidate to visit MacArthur Park in 1952 following General MacArthur (in his ill-fated attempt to gain traction as a GOP candidate during the delegate selection process) and Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson.

He visited every southern state except Mississippi on this campaign jaunt.  In comments that neither he nor his audience could have foreseen as prescient, Eisenhower declared that he deplored the government meddling in areas in which it did not belong.  This remark was made in reference to race relations.  His stance was that some rights of minorities should be protected, but it was not necessarily the role of the federal government.

Ike proffered that if white southerners did not protect the rights of African Americans they were in danger of losing their own rights, too.  In the era of the Cold War when people were worried about the imminent loss of rights, this message seems to have crafted to appeal to those concerns.  While Eisenhower did not shy away from addressing civil rights, his Democratic opponent Adlai Stevenson was silent on the issue.  But with Alabama segregationist Senator John Sparkman as his running mate, it put Stevenson in a difficult position to try to bring it up.

In the end, Ike lost most of the South.  He did carry Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee and Florida. The only states Stevenson won were in the South.  Eisenhower’s 43.74% of the Arkansas popular vote was the highest any Republican had garnered since General Grant carried the state in 1868 and 1872.


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Anat Cohen kicks off Oxford American 2015-16 Jazz Series at South on Main tonight at 8

oa jazz AnatTonight at 8pm, the Oxford American magazine welcomes Anat Cohen to the South on Main stage to kick off the OA Jazz Series!

Doors open at 6:00 PM, with dinner and drinks available for purchase at that time. This series is made possible by presenting sponsor, the UCA College of Fine Arts & Communication. Additional partners include The Summer Foundation, Arkansas Arts Council, Capital Hotel, Piano Kraft, Rosen Music Company, and FM-89.1 KUAR.

Tickets are $20 (General Admission), $30 (Reserved), and $32 (Premium Reserved). View the South on Main reserved seating map here. Please take a look at this very important ticketing and seating information before purchasing your tickets.

Clarinetist/saxophonist Anat Cohen has won hearts and minds the world over with her expressive virtuosity and delightful stage presence. Anat was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, and raised into a musical family. She began clarinet studies at age twelve and played jazz on clarinet for the first time in the Jaffa Conservatory’s Dixieland Band. At sixteen, she joined the school’s big band and learned to play the tenor saxophone; it was this same year that Anat entered the prestigious “Thelma Yellin” school, where she majored in jazz. After graduation, she discharged her mandatory Israeli military service duty from 1993-1995, playing tenor saxophone in the Israeli Air Force band.

The Jazz Journalists Association has voted Anat as “Clarinetist of the Year” eight years in a row, and she has topped both the Critics and Readers Polls in the clarinet category in DownBeat magazine every year since 2011. That’s not to mention years of being named “Rising Star” in the soprano and tenor saxophone categories in DownBeat, as well as for “Jazz Artist of the Year.” In 2009, ASCAP awarded Anat a Wall of Fame prize for composition and musicianship, among other honors.

In March 2015, Anzic Records releases Luminosa, her seventh album as a bandleader. Luminosa sees Anat play singing, dancing originals, interpret Brazilian classics by the likes of Milton Nascimento, and even re-imagine electronica as acoustica with an ingenious arrangement of a Flying Lotus tune. Luminosaencapsulates the description Jazz Police offered of Anat in full flight: “She becomes a singer, a poet, a mad scientist, laughing—musically—with the delight of reaching that new place, that new feeling, with each chorus.”

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Go “Behind the Theme” of Ark Rep’s production of The Scottish Play tonight at 7

11217159_10152962291451105_7983945027521499908_nTonight, the Arkansas Rep launches a our new speaker series for their 40th anniversary season, Behind the Theme.

The programs are designed to enhance audience understanding of the themes present in each of our MainStage productions. For the production of The Scottish Play (‪#‎MacbethatArkRep‬), UALR Professor Michael Heil will discuss the nature of kingship and power in medieval Europe at the time of the historical Thane of Cawdor.

The discussion will begin at 7 p.m. in Foster’s at The Rep. To attend, please RSVP to

The production opens on Friday, September 11 and runs through Sunday, September 27.  There will also be opportunities to learn more about the production at a September 9 brown bag, September 10 Clinton School Speaker Series program, and pre-show director talks on September 9 & 10 prior to the preview performances.

Through these, audience members can “Brush Up Their Shakespeare.”

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Arts & culture advocate, Dr. Joel Anderson to retire as UALR Chancellor

jeasmile-444x668University of Arkansas at Little Rock Chancellor Joel E. Anderson announced today that he will retire following a 13-year tenure as chancellor and a 45-year career at the university. His retirement will be effective June 30, 2016.

Anderson became UALR chancellor in 2003, bringing with him more than 30 years of university and community service. He had previously served UALR as provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs and as founding dean of the Graduate School.

Chancellor Anderson’s announcement comes on the heels of a 1.2 percent increase in enrollment at UALR, including a 19 percent increase in first-time college students and a 7.1 percent increase in first-time transfer students.

“It has been a tremendous pleasure to see UALR grow and mature into the excellent, comprehensive university that it has become,” said Chancellor Anderson. “The faculty and staff of UALR deserve more credit than they will ever receive for their tireless efforts to help students achieve the dream of a college education that will enable students to adjust to a changing future and support themselves and their families.”

University of Arkansas System President, Donald R. Bobbitt will form a search committee in the coming weeks with the goal to complete the search by July 1, 2016.

One of the achievements he was most passionate about was the founding in 2011 of the Institute on Race and Ethnicity, a center designed to move Arkansas forward on the broad front of racial and ethnic justice through education, research, dialogue, community events, and reconciliation initiatives.

As professor, dean, provost, and chancellor, Anderson always related success of the university to success of the students UALR served. As chancellor, he launched numerous initiatives to recruit and retain more students and to reach out to underserved student populations. His signature is on more than 26,836 diplomas and the university’s fall-to-fall retention rate is the highest it has ever been.

“Joel is a true gentleman who cares about the university more than himself”, said Dr. Dean Kumpuris, chair of the UALR Board Visitors.  “He has no ego and has sought our advice and support more than he probably had to,” “His primary goal has been to shepherd the university to a better place, which he has done. We are lucky to have had him as a leader for so many years.”

Anderson, who grew up on a farm east of Swifton in northeast Arkansas, received a BA degree in political science from Harding University, an MA degree in international relations from American University, and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Michigan. He also completed the Institute for Educational Management at Harvard University.

“The university has good momentum. I need time to catch up on a backlog of books and also to see my grandchildren more often,” Anderson said.  “All the while I will watch with pride as UALR grows and changes.”

Highlights of his service as chancellor include:

  • The Windgate Charitable Foundation awarded UALR a grant of $20.3 million for a new Visual Arts and Applied Design center.
  • Since 2003, UALR has purchased the University Plaza shopping center which is now home of KUAR-KLRE Public Radio as well as the current home of the applied design center.

  • As part of the Coleman Creek Greenway project, the Trail of Tears Park was completed in 2011 to recognize the historical significance of the location on the south end of campus where the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes stopped for water along Coleman Creek.

  • Establishment of a Dance major, the only one in the state, within the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance.
  • Much of the campus’s infrastructure has undergone substantial renovations including the Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall. Likewise, there has been an added emphasis on the promotion and maintenance of public art on campus.

  • Chancellor Anderson served as a “Scholar in Residence” in 2010 at the Center on Community Philanthropy at the Clinton School for his work on issues of race and ethnicity.

  • Dr. Anderson launched the Institute on Race and Ethnicity in 2011 to move Arkansas forward on the broad front of racial and ethnic justice through education, research, dialogue, community events, and reconciliation initiatives.  One of their projects has been the annual Civil Rights Heritage Trail installation.

  • In 2015, as part of its 40th anniversary celebration, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation honored Chancellor Anderson as one of 40 Community Leaders in the categories of community, education, nonprofits, and prosperity.

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New Deputy Director for Arkansas Heritage announced

DAH Dep DirStacy Hurst, director of the Department of Arkansas Heritage (DAH), announced today that she has named Rebecca Burkes as the new deputy director for DAH. Burkes holds an M.S. in operations management from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and a Juris Doctorate from the Baylor University School of Law.

“I am very happy to bring Rebecca on board to help lead and manage DAH,” said Hurst. “Her skills in managing organizations and people will be a tremendous asset to us. Our seven separate agencies, operating under the larger umbrella of Heritage, will benefit greatly from her skills.”

Burkes most recently was an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, Madison. Previous to that, she lived in Northwest Arkansas, where she practiced law in Fayetteville (1993-95), was corporate counsel at Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., in Bentonville (1995-98) and was vice president and chief counsel for the Burkes Company, a diversified real estate development, construction and brokerage company (1998-2011).

The Department of Arkansas Heritage, through its seven agencies, seeks to recognize the state’s heritage and to enhance Arkansas’s quality of life through the discovery, preservation and presentation of the state’s cultural, natural and historic resources. The agencies are Arkansas Arts Council, Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Delta Cultural Center, Historic Arkansas Museum, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center and Old State House Museum.

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Tonight’s Oxford American Local Live – Heather Smith Band at 7:30pm at South on Main

llsom heatherTonight at 7:30pm, this week’s installment of Local Live features the Heather Smith Band!

Presented by the Oxford American magazine, Local Live showcases the best of local and regional music talent and is always free and open to the public. Call ahead to South on Main to make your reservations and ensure a table: (501) 244-9660. Local Live is made possible by the generous sponsorship of Ben and Jane Hunt Meade.

Heather Smith Band, a Little Rock based jazz/pop group, is set to release Stay Away Love, their first full-length album of original songs on May 9. The band originally formed in 2013 and is comprised of Heather Smith (lead vocals), Wythe Walker (keyboard, guitar, harmonica, vocals), Ray Wittenberg, (drums), Bill McCumber (bass), John Gaiser (electric guitar), and Matthew Holland (keyboard).

When asked to describe their genre of music, Smith is hard-pressed. “While we are heavily influenced by jazz of the 1940s and 50s [Rosemary Clooney and Peggy Lee], we also have some definite pop influences; specifically in our contemporary lyrics and the twenty-first century stories we tell in our songs,” Smith said. “It’s sort of a hybrid of jazz and pop that’s timeless with a specifically vintage feel, but also distinctly modern.” Smith and Walker co-wrote all the songs using Smith’s autobiographical lyrics. “All of our songs are based on actual experiences in my life, the good, the bad and the inevitable heartbreaks,” Smith admits sheepishly, “It’s wonderfully cheap therapy.”

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Jazz in the Park returns with the Dizzy 7 tonight

Dizzy_7_groupJazz in the Park is back this fall!  This free, family-friendly event featuring jazz in downtown Little Rock will take place every Wednesday night in September.

The Dizzy 7 plays music that ranges from Motown to Big Band, Latin to Dixie. It features a full rhythm section, a three-man horn section, and female and male vocalists. Dizzy 7 is composed of accomplished musicians who love what they do.

Dizzy7Logo-Small1The event is completely free, but no coolers are allowed. Beer, wine, soft drinks and water will be available for sale, with a portion of the proceeds going to benefit Art Porter Music Education. Lawn chairs and blankets are welcome, and there is some seating in the natural stone amphitheater at the History Pavilion.

This event is sponsored by Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau and the River Market with special thanks to Art Porter Music Education.

Jazz in the Park takes place Wednesday nights in September from 6pm to 8pm. They will take place in the History Pavilion near the Junction Bridge and the River Market.


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