Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area

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Little Rock Look Back: FDR

Gov. & Mrs. Roosevelt with Sen. Robinson en route to FDR taking oath as president.

Gov. & Mrs. Roosevelt with Sen. Robinson en route to FDR taking oath as president.

On January 30, 1882, future U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born.  In 1936, he visited Little Rock as part of a statewide tour in conjunction with Arkansas’ Centennial celebration.  While in the state he spent time outside of Hot Springs at Couchwood, the vacation home of Arkansas Power & Light founder Harvey Couch, who was the chair of the Centennial activities.

In honor of President Roosevelt’s visit, a portion of Highway 365 in Little Rock was designated Roosevelt Road. He followed part of that road while in the Capital City before making a public appearance.

President Roosevelt’s address on June 10, recounted Arkansas’ territorial and statehood history. At the end he paid tribute to his Senator Joseph Taylor Robinson.  The Senator was a friend and confidant who often led the charge for FDR programs in congress.  Indeed, it would be New Deal programs which would allow for the construction of a municipal auditorium in Little Rock, which would be named in memory of Sen. Robinson after his death in the summer of 1937.  (As the Democratic leader of the Senate, it had been Robinson who accompanied FDR and Eleanor in the motorcade to the 1933 Presidential inauguration ceremony.)

FDR’s visit to Arkansas had political implications as well.  The late Senator Huey Long of neighboring Louisiana had been arguably FDR’s biggest adversary in Washington.  Long was very popular in rural areas of Arkansas and had campaigned for Hattie Caraway when she ran for re-election to the Senate, to the dismay of many of Arkansas’ Democratic establishment.  Harvey Couch had worked to bring about a detente between FDR and Long prior to the latter’s assassination in 1935.  But between a lingering mistrust of FDR by Long supporters and discontent from some sectors based on New Deal programs, it was important for FDR to shore up Democratic support in Arkansas.  At the time the state had nine electoral votes.

FDR would return to Central Arkansas in 1943 to review troops at the military facility named for Sen. Robinson.  That would be his final visit to Arkansas before his death in April 1945.

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Jazz on Main returns to South on Main tonight with Peter Martin & Romero Lubambo: New Orleans Meets Rio

peter_martin_cropped_2.jpg.190x140_q60_cropJoin the Oxford American magazine for the continuation of their 2014-2015 jazz series at South on Main featuring Peter Martin & Romero Lubambo! This special evening will include a live multi-camera video shoot of the showby AETN – Arkansas Educational Television Network.

The OA jazz series is sponsored by the University of Central Arkansas College of Fine Arts and Communication. Doors open at 6:00 PM with dinner and drinks available at that time. The concert begins at 8:00 PM.

Single tickets went on sale September 1 at $30 for reserved seats at tables and $20 for general admission. Purchasing a reserved seat assigns you to a specific guaranteed seat at a table. However, seating at tables is family-style, and unless you purchase the entire table, you will be seated with other patrons. General admission tickets are good for barstools and standing room, available on a first-come first-served basis.For ticketing questions, please contact Metrotix at (800) 293-5949.

Raised by parents who are both classical musicians, Peter Martin began studying music at the age of three. After graduating from high school, Martin received the Presidential Scholar in the Arts Award from President Reagan. He then attended The Juilliard School in New York on scholarship, studying piano with Martin Canin, until moving to New Orleans in 1990.

While in New Orleans, Martin honed his skills working with key musicians such as Nicholas Payton, Germaine Bazzle, Brian Blade, and Victor Goines. He also embarked on an active solo career and toured and recorded with artists such as Betty Carter, Wynton Marsalis, Dianne Reeves, Chris Botti, Joshua Redman, Christian McBride, Roy Hargrove, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Martin has performed with the Berlin Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and the Sydney Symphony, as well as numerous other orchestras around the world. He’s also played at The White House twice.

Martin performed on and arranged Dianne Reeves’ Grammy winning release A Little Moonlight, as well as co-produced her 2004 Blue Note CD Chrismas Time Is Here. He appeared in George Clooney’s 2005 film Good Night, and Good Luck and was featured on the movie’s Grammy-winning soundtrack. Wynton Marsalis called Martin, “An unbelievable musician with a unique kind of charisma. Not just the technical competence, but a deep kind of penetrating insight into music.”

In 1985, Romero Lubambo came to the United States, and brought with him a new sound in Brazilian jazz guitar. His guitar playing unites the styles and rhythms of his native Brazilian musical heritage with his fluency in the American jazz tradition, forming a distinctive new sound. From the cool, sophisticated rhythms of his native Brazil to hard bop, Lubambo is a guitarist who’s comfortable in any musical setting. He is an uncommonly gifted soloist and musical improviser with a steady stream of unpredictably creative musical thoughts and the virtuosity to deliver them ever so tastefully.

Lubambo has performed and recorded with many outstanding artists, including Dianne Reeves, Michael Brecker, Yo-Yo Ma, Kathleen Battle, Diana Krall, Wynton Marsalis, and Paquito D’Rivera among many others.

“Guitarist Romero Lubambo may be the best practitioner of his craft in the world today… [his] facility, creativity and energy are in a class all their own.”—JAZZIZ Magazine   

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Science of Mixology at this month’s Museum of Discovery Science After Dark

MuseumMixologysmEach month, the Museum of Discovery stays open late for an event geared for adults.  Science After Dark, held the last Thursday of the month, is for the grown-ups. Why? Because, science is fun…at any age!  

The event takes place from 6pm to 9pm tonight at the Museum of Discovery.

Science After Dark provides visitors the opportunity to have fun and learn about science in a unique setting. Museum educators pick a science-related topic and build an entertaining, interactive evening around it. You never know what will sprout, pop, fizzle, or glow. We invite you to discover the science of having fun.

This month, just in time for Super Bowl and Oscar parties – Explore the science of cocktails and mixology at the first Science After Dark of the year!

This month’s Science After Dark will include mixology with Louis Uzcategui of Big Orange Midtown, molecular mixology with Chef Stephen Burrow of  Forty Two, distilling with Rock Town Distillery, the history of prohibition with Old State House Museum, density columns and more!

Cash bar by Juanita’s, beer sold by Stones Throw Brewery and pizza sold by the slice by Damgoode Pies

Admission: $5 per person; members FREE

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Little Rock Look Back: Rev. W. W. Stevenson, LR 2nd Mayor

Mayor StevensonOn January 29, 1797, future Little Rock Mayor William Wilson “W. W.” Stevenson was born in South Carolina.

In 1811, he came to Arkansas when his family settled in Batesville.  An ordained Presbyterian minister, he married Ruana Trimble in 1821 and had two children. After she died, he married Maria Tongray Watkins in 1831 and had two more children.

In 1831, he ran for Little Rock Mayor in the first election for the office but was defeated by Dr. Matthew Cunningham.  The next year he ran to succeed Cunningham and was elected.  After leaving the Mayor’s office on December 31, 1833, he continued public service.  He was State Commissioner for Public Buildings in 1839.

In 1849, he delivered the funeral oration at the ceremony for Hon. Ambrose H. Sevier.  Later that year, he was hired as a geologist for the Little Rock and California Association which was created to take advantage of the gold rush.  He and his two oldest sons moved to California and never returned to Arkansas. He died in 1888.

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Brown Bag Series today at Old State House features Cris Slaymaker discussing LR’s Union School

OSH logoThe next edition of the Old State House Museum’s continuing Brown Bag Lunch Lecture series takes place today.  The Museum’s staff member Cris Slaymaker shares the story of Little Rock’s Union School.

During the American Civil War and into Reconstruction, Christian missionaries from the North took up the mantle of educating the newly freed former slaves. In Little Rock, missionaries accepted the roles of both teaching and administration for the already existing black school, the Union School. Their efforts over the next few years paved the way for the public education of African Americans in Arkansas.

Cris Slaymaker joined the Old State House Museum education staff in 2012. She earned a BA in Spanish from Lyon College, and has studied in the Public History master’s program at UALR. Cris has previously served on the staffs of the Old Independence Regional Museum, Arkansas History Commission, Arkansas State Parks, and Historic Arkansas Museum.

The Old State House is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.


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Violinist Randall Goosby at Mosaic Templars this morning, presented by Arkansas Symphony Orchestra

ASO GoosbyToday at 10 a.m., the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, in partnership with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra (ASO), presents Randall Goosby.

A young African American violin prodigy, Goosby won the prestigious Sphinx competition at age 13. Goosby is currently enrolled at Juilliard under the instruction of world-class violinists, Itzhak Perlman and Catherine Cho. Goosby is the January guest violinist for ASO and will perform Mozart Violin Concerto No. 5 with the orchestra January 31 and February 1.

For more information, call Elvon Reed at 501-683-3592 or email

Mosaic Templars Cultural Center is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

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Little Rock Look Back: President William McKinley

William_McKinley_by_Courtney_Art_Studio,_1896It doesn’t appear that William McKinley ever visited Little Rock.  He does, however, have a street named after him.  In the list of Presidential streets, he is the last President to be the namesake of a street.  It would not be until Roosevelt was named for FDR in the 1930s and Clinton Avenue was named in the 1990s that more Little Rock streets would be named for the Commander in Chief.

William McKinley, Jr., was born on January 29, 1843. He would be the last US President to have served in the Civil War, entering as a private and exiting as a major.  After the war, he returned to his native Ohio, was married and became an attorney.  From 1877 until 1883 and again from 1885 until 1891, he served in Congress.  Defeated for re-election in 1890, he ran for Governor of Ohio in 1891 and was elected. He was re-elected in 1895 but by the next year would be on the ballot for President. Famous for campaigning from his front porch, he was elected in 1896 over William Jennings Bryan.  In 1900, he was re-elected again over Bryan.  On September 6, 1901, in the Temple of Music at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY, he was shot.  He died on September 14.

President McKinley is responsible for the name Fort Logan H. Roots for the federal military installation located in Little Rock on the north side of the Arkansas River (now part of NLR). It was named for a former GOP Congressman from Arkansas.  As a civic leader, Roots had been involved in the negotiations for the land swap which led to the establishment of the military installation north of the river and the creation of City Park (now MacArthur Park) on the site of the former military outpost. He died in 1893 shortly after the deal had been executed.

Arkansas voters never gave McKinley their electoral votes. But when he was assassinated in September 1901, there was a public memorial service held for him at the Kempner Theatre in downtown Little Rock.  At the time, it was the largest indoor structure in the City for events.


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