Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area

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LR Cultural Touchstone: Louise Loughborough

louise_loughborough_fLouise Loughborough could be called the mother of historic preservation and history museums in Arkansas.

Born Louisa Watkins Wright in Little Rock 1881, her ancestors included many early Arkansas leaders. At age 21 she married attorney J. Fairfax Loughborough.  She became active in several organizations including the Little Rock Garden Club, Colonial Dames and Mount Vernon Ladies Association.

Her involvement in historic structures in Little Rock began when the Little Rock Garden Club sought to improve the appearance of the War Memorial Building (now known as the Old State House Museum) in 1928. The grounds were littered with signs and monuments, and the roof of the Greek Revival building sported figurative statues of Law, Justice, and Mercy, which had been installed above the pediment after being salvaged from the Arkansas exhibit at the Philadelphia Centennial of 1876. To take the façade of the edifice back to its original 1830s appearance, Loughborough had the statues removed—without the permission of the War Memorial Commission, which had legal authority over the building.

In 1935, Loughborough was appointed to the Little Rock Planning Commission, and it was in this role that she first heard about the plan to condemn the half-block of houses that she had grown up admiring on Cumberland and East Third streets. Although the neighborhood had fallen on hard times, becoming a red-light district and slum, Loughborough feared the loss of several historic structures, including the Hinderliter House, the oldest building in Little Rock and thought to be Arkansas’s last territorial capitol. She mobilized a group of civic leaders to save these buildings. She enlisted the aid of prominent architect Max Mayer and coined the term “town of three capitols” to try to capture the imagination of potential supporters, grouping the “Territorial Capitol” with the Old State House and the State Capitol.

In 1938, Loughborough secured a commitment from Floyd Sharp of the federal WPA to help with the project, on the condition that the houses be owned by a governmental entity. She persuaded the Arkansas General Assembly to create and support, with general revenues, the Arkansas Territorial Capitol Restoration Commission (Act 388 of 1939). This satisfied Sharp’s condition, and the WPA provided labor and material for the new historic house museum. A private fundraising campaign brought in the remaining monetary support necessary for the completion of the project.

The Arkansas Territorial Restoration opened on July 19, 1941. The project was the first Arkansas agency committed to both the restoration of structures and the interpretation of their history, and it served as a model and inspiration for historic preservation in the state. Around the same time, she was a moving force behind the creation of a museum at the Old State House as well.  Today both Historic Arkansas Museum (as the Territorial Restoration is now known) and the Old State House Museum are agencies of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

As founding Chairman of the Arkansas Territorial Restoration Commission, Louise Loughborough provided daily direction for the museum house complex through the first twenty years of its existence, yielding her authority to architect Edwin B. Cromwell only as her health began to fail. She died in Little Rock on December 10, 1962 and was buried at Mount Holly Cemetery.

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Quilts, Women in Ads focus of exhibits at Historic Arkansas Museum

In addition to the exhibit on 40 years of the Arkansas Times, Historic Arkansas Museum features several other exhibits.

The Great Arkansas Quilt Show 3 is a juried quilt show that celebrates contemporary Arkansas quilters and features more than 30 quilts from across the state. You’ll be surprised by the variety in size, technique and composition. These quilts are works of art.

Prizes were awarded for Best of Show, Best Hand Quilting and Best Machine Quilting, as well as awards in the following categories: Pieced, Appliqué, Mixedand Group.

The Great Arkansas Quilt Show 3 continues in the Horace C. Cabe Gallery through  May 3, 2015.

Group Category
1st Place Group, Buttons and Beads on a Winding Road, Bonnie Kastler, Hot Springs Village
2nd Place Group, My Carolina Lily, Phyllis Holder, Mabelvale
3rd Place Group, Reminiscence, Gail Zukowski, Hot Springs
Mixed Category
1st Place Mixed, Irish Knots and Golden Coins, Jaynette Huff, Conway
2nd Place Mixed, Feathered Friends, Darlene Garstecki, Hot Springs Village
3rd Place Mixed, Rose Cottage, Terrie Newman, Hot Springs
Pieced Category
1st Place Pieced, Forest Primeval, Karen Harmony, Eureka Springs
2nd Place Pieced, Starry Starry Bright, Donna Toombs, North Little Rock
3rd Place Pieced, Old Military Road, Victoria Kauth, Mountain Home
Appliqué Category
1st Place Appliqué, Victorian Elegance—Newel Posts and Wrought Iron, Jaynette Huff, Conway
2nd Place Appliqué, Just a Little Snack, Linda Tiano, Hot Springs Village
3rd Place Appliqué, If Only it was that Easy, Karen Harmony, Eureka Springs
Best Machine Quilting, Winter Sky, Wilma Richter, Little Rock
Best in Show, Irish Knots and Golden Coins, Jaynette Huff, Conway
Viewer’s Choice Award, Chinoiserie, Pamela Davis, Edgemont

The Thirteenth Annual Eclectic Collector Series

A Beauty on It Sells: Advertising Art from the collection of Marsha Stone

Women have been used in modern advertising since its inception.  Marsha Stone’s vintage collection of advertising materials from the late 19th and early 20th century showcases a rare glimpse into the world of advertising in days gone by.

The exhibit continues in the Study Gallery through  January 1, 2015.


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LR Cultural Touchstone: Agnes Loewer

Photo from Arkansas History Commission

Photo from Arkansas History Commission

Agnes McDaniel Loewer was a driving force and the first curator of the Old State House Museum.

Born June 26, 1893, in Searcy, she moved to Little Rock with her family in 1900.  After turning 18, she began her business career working for the Underwood Typewriter Company, Mayor Charles Taylor, and the Little Rock YWCA.  In 1919, at age 26, she married Charles F.W. Loewer.

Throughout the years, Agnes McDaniel Loewer was active in numerous civic organizations, devoting her business and organizational skill to a great many causes. She served as secretary, treasurer, and president of various organizations, and filled leadership roles in accomplishing goals and missions. Loewer was a member of the Arkansas Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Business and Professional Women’s City Club, the Women’s Division of the State Fair, the Arkansas Conference of Welfare Legislation, the National Youth Association, the Canteen Corps of the American Red Cross, and the Arkansas Federation of Garden Clubs, among others.
Around 1939 Loewer and Louise Loughborough lobbied daily in the halls of the State Capitol for the preservation of the Old State House. Successful in this endeavor, Loewer was appointed a member of the Arkansas Commemorative Commission of 1947, which was formed that year to oversee the restoration of the Old State House and create a future museum of Arkansas history. She served as secretary to the commission, a position that later evolved into director.
When the restoration was completed, Loewer was hired as the first curator of the Old State House, beginning July 1951.  Utilizing a small paid staff and an army of well-instructed volunteers, she oversaw the museum.  Throughout her curatorship, she promoted the Old State House as a historic shrine and tourist attraction, and continued to battle threats to its preservation.

Her interest in history extended beyond the Old State House, she was a member of the Quapaw Quarter Association, Arkansas State Historical Society, Pulaski County Historical Society, and Arkansas Landmarks.

In March 1972, she retired at age 78, after 21 years as curator.  Among the honors she received were a commendation from the Arkansas Legislative Council in 1971 for her public service; a certificate of appreciation from the Arkansas Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission in 1974; and an award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1974, presented by former first lady Lady Bird Johnson.
Loewer died on September 18, 1975 and is buried in Roselawn Memorial Park.

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See SPOKES at Old State House as Car-Free Week Concludes in Little Rock

spokes-small-wideA good way to mark the conclusion of the Mayor’s Car-Free Challenge Week is to visit the exhibit Different Spokes at the Old State House Museum. The exhibit looks at the history of bicycling and places cycling in Arkansas within a worldwide historical context. Visitors will be able to view galleries of artifacts, historical pictures and video to learn the history of bicycles.

As cities and towns begin dedicated services and trails for cyclists, it’s important to note that the enthusiasm for bikes in Arkansas has roots that go back over 100 years,” said Old State House Museum Director Bill Gatewood. “The interest at the turn of the 20th century in bicycles was very similar to the one that we are seeing at the turn of the 21st century.”While the exhibit mainly explores the technological advances of cycling in the past 130 years, Different Spokes also tells the story of competition, economics, and social life. The history of trail systems, cycling communities and history in Arkansas is explored in videos produced by the Old State House Museum. From an 1880 wooden bicycle built from white oak and agricultural implements to the world’s first carbon-fiber bicycles made by Brent Trimble of Berryville, Different Spokes contains artifacts that show this history from past to present. Gatewood says the Museum relied on contributions from the cycling community to present this story. The exhibit will remain on view to February 2016.

“I have not participated in any other exhibit that has had this kind of immediate response from the community,” Gatewood said. “The passion these people have for their pursuit is overwhelming, and I believe it will be reflected well in this exhibit.”

The Old State  House Museum is a division of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

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Little Rock Look Back: Donald Mehlburger, LR’s 62nd Mayor

Mayor D L MehlburgerOn October 19, 1937, future Little Rock Mayor Donald Lee Mehlburger was born in Little Rock.  His parents were Max A. Mehlburger and Mary Lou Covey Mehlburger who also had another son Max C. Mehlburger.

Mehlburger’s first run for the City Board of Directors was in November 1968 when there was an open seat.  At the time he was 30, the youngest one could be and be elected to the City Board.  He lost that race, but eight years later ran again.  This time Mehlburger won the race.  At his first meeting on the City Board, Mehlburger was selected as Mayor of Little Rock by his colleagues.

Prior to running for the City Board the second time, Mehlburger had been appointed to the Planning Commission.  Planning and growth were two important emphases for Mayor Mehlburger, in addition to public safety.  He stressed the importance of quality growth in the edges of the city and a push for a revitalized downtown.  Mayor Mehlburger was also an advocate for public mass transit.

Due to business interests taking up too much of his time, he resigned from the City Board a few months before his term was up.  But he remained engaged in civic affairs.  Historic preservation was important to Mehlburger.  In addition to owning historic properties, he was a founding board member of the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas.  He had graduated from the University of Arkansas and was a member of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.  He had also been active with the Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) and Rotary Club 99.

Mehlburger died on May 25, 1992 and was buried at Mount Holly Cemetery.  His grave marker features an engraved sextant which pays tribute to his career as an engineer.  It also notes that he was Mayor of Little Rock.  Mayor Mehlburger was survived by his wife Susan and his three children – Donald Lee Jr., Harry and Katherine.

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LR Cultural Touchstone: Kaki Hockersmith

KakiKaki Hockersmith creates art as a designer. In addition, she promotes arts and heritage through her tireless efforts on behalf of numerous cultural institutions.

In 2010, she was appointed to the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts for The Kennedy Center.  In that capacity, she serves as a national ambassador for The Kennedy Center. She has also brought programs from The Kennedy Center to Arkansas to help established and emerging arts organizations. She also serves as a commissioner on the cultural committee of UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

In 1993, she redesigned the interior of The White House during the Clinton Administration. She was also appointed a member of the Committee for the Preservation of The White House.  Her work on this American landmark was featured in Hillary Clinton’s book An Invitation to the White House: In Celebration of American Culture.

Locally, she serves on the Board of Trustees for the Arkansas Arts Center and the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion Association. She is an active supporter of many cultural organizations in Little Rock.  She and her husband Max Mehlburger open their home to host receptions and fundraisers for numerous cultural institutions and organizations.  Earlier this year she was recognized for this support at Ballet Arkansas’ Turning Pointe gala.

Professionally, she has been honored by the national ASID organization as well as the Washington D.C. chapter. Her projects have won 16 regional ASID awards, including seven gold awards.

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Little Rock Look Back: Little Rock becomes Capital of Arkansas

Arkansas TerritoryOn October 18, 1820, Territorial Governor James Miller signed legislation designating Little Rock as the new capital for Arkansas.  This was a mere 10 months after the first permanent settlement was established in Little Rock.

The Act provided that after June 1, 1921, the sessions of the Legislature and the Superior Court would be held at Little Rock.  This caused Arkansas Post, the first territorial capital, to fade from prominence.

The move was made based on the lobbying of Amos Wheeler, Chester Ashley and William Russell.  These men all owned land in the Little Rock area and would benefit from the move of the Capital to Little Rock. The official reason given was Little Rock’s geographical center to the Arkansas Territory and that it was elevated land less prone to flooding.

But as important, Messrs. Wheeler, Ashley and Russell promised to donate land for a capitol building and a guarantee of $20,000 for construction of a suitable building. (That would be the equivalent of $408,000 today.)

Around the time the legislation was approved, several members of the Territorial legislature purchased land around Little Rock.  When a subsequent effort to relocate the Capital upstream was launched, it failed due to the financial ties of these legislators to land in Little Rock.


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