Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


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LR Cultural Touchstone: Cheryl Griffith Nichols

C NicholsCheryl Griffith Nichols is a historian, with an emphasis on historical structures, who has lived and worked in Arkansas since 1978.

She was born and raised in Indiana and graduated from Hanover College in 1974. After working for three years as the executive director of the Bartholomew County Historical Society in Columbus, Indiana, she enrolled in George Washington University in Washington DC, majoring in American studies with a concentration in historic preservation. While living in Washington, she worked for the National Register of Historic Places.

She moved to Little Rock in 1978, where she married attorney Mark Nichols and completed her Masters degree by writing a thesis on the Pulaski Heights community; the thesis was accepted in 1981. Meanwhile, Nichols became acquainted with Charles Witsell (a prominent Little Rock architect and historic preservation advocate) while he was working with F. Hampton Roy (a Little Rock ophthalmologist, historic preservation advocate and Little Rock City Director) to write a book about the history of Little Rock. Nichols did extensive research for the book, which was published in 1984 by August House as How We Lived: Little Rock as an American City.

Nichols then became a free-lance researcher, operating a business in Little Rock which she called History, Inc. This business did research and documentation of historic structures in Arkansas, mostly but not entirely in Pulaski County. Nichols also worked for the Museum of Science and History (now the Museum of Discovery) in Little Rock, served as the Executive Director of the Quapaw Quarter Association from 1984 through 1987 and again from 1991 through 1997, and wrote several books for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (Little Rock: Driving Tour of Three Historic Neighborhoods, 1989; MacArthur Park Historic Tours, 1993, Governor’s Mansion Area, 1993; Historically Black Properties in Little Rock’s Dunbar School Neighborhood, 1999, The Arkansas Designs of E. Fay Jones, 1999, Hillcrest: The History and Architectural Heritage of Little Rock’s Streetcar Suburb, 1999, and Construction of the Military Road Between Little Rock, Arkansas, and Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, 2003.)

She has remained active in historic preservation efforts.  She has served on the board of the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  She also served on a task force to determine the best use of Curran Hall.  Much of her research has been donated to the Arkansas Studies Institute.


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Opera in the Rock at South on Main for Local Live – presented by Oxford American and Landers Fiat

OperaInTheRock_logo-singleskylineThe great thing about Local Live at South on Main – each week is a different kind of music.

Join the Oxford American and Landers FIAT in welcoming Opera In The Rock to Local Live. This debut venture includes a varied program of vocal entertainment with standards from Opera as well as well-known and beloved Music Theater selections.

OITR is proud to present sopranos, Stephanie Smittle and Maria Fasciano Di Carlo, mezzo, Kelley Ponder, tenor, Matt Newman, and baritone, J. Daniel Altman. At the keyboard is Kristin Harwell. We hope you will come and enjoy our program which runs the gamut of sad, humorous, dramatic, and poignant songs loosely connected to the theme of Love Is Folly.

Call ahead to reserve your table for this classic event.

It starts at 7:30 pm.


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THE GREAT NEW ORLEANS KIDNAPPING CASE focus of Clinton School lecture this evening

nola kidnapTonight at the Clinton School, a discussion by Michael Ross of his new book, The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case.

An associate professor of History at the University of Maryland. Ross offers the first full account of one of the events that electrified the South at one of the most critical moments in the history of American race relations. The book covers the kidnapping, where two African American women kidnapped seventeen-month-old Mollie Digby in front of her New Orleans home. From the moment it happens through the highly publicized investigation and sensationalized trial that followed, Ross paints a vivid picture of the Reconstruction-era South and the complexities and possibilities that faced the newly integrated society.

Ross’s book also serves as a reminder that a fascination with sensationalized trials is hardly an invention of the last twenty-five years.

The program begins at 6pm at Sturgis Hall.  Following the comments, Ross will sign his book.


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LR Cultural Touchstone: Marguerite Pearce Metcalf

MP MetcalfMarguerite Pearce Metcalf was the dean of speech and drama education in the state of Arkansas.  She taught speech and debate, first at Central, then Hall and later at Parkview from which she retired.  As a teacher and mentor, she influenced most of today’s speech, drama and debate teachers working in Arkansas today.  Though most of her colleagues and former student-teachers have now retired, the students they taught have taken Mrs. Metcalf’s influence to the third, fourth and fifth generations.

Mrs. Metcalf was nationally known for leading Little Rock and the nation in speech education and theatre.  She served as the national president of the speech organization during the 1967-68 school year.  The organization was scheduled to have their meeting in Memphis, TN but it was called off because of the assassination of Martin Luther King.  She also held many leadership roles in statewide and regional speech and education organizations.

Many of Little Rock’s political and business leaders were taught the proper ways to write and deliver speeches by Mrs. Metcalf. To start listing them all would be an exercise in futility.  It is, however, not uncommon to still hear her former students speak of her with a hushed, reverential tone.

She was also an expert in Parliamentary Procedure. As such, it is fitting that the Arkansas Student Congress award for outstanding use of Parliamentary Procedure (which includes not only knowledge about it, but also the grace and skill to be polite) is named in her honor.


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An Arkansas Made Tales from the South tonight at Historic Arkansas Museum

talesfromsouthWith a theme of “Arkansas Made,” where better to find Tales from the South than the home of the “Arkansas Made” exhibits – Historic Arkansas Museum?

The featured storytellers are Haley Villines, Alan Hale, and Denise Parkinson.  Live music is provided by Amy & Brad Williams and bluesman Mark Simpson.

“Tales From the South” is a radio show created and produced by Paula Martin Morell, who is also the show’s host. The show is taped live on Tuesday. The night is a cross between a house concert and a reading/show, with incredible food and great company. Tickets must be purchased before the show, as shows are usually standing-room only.

“Tales from the South” is a showcase of writers reading their own true stories. While the show itself is unrehearsed, the literary memoirs have been worked on for weeks leading up to the readings. Stories range from funny to touching, from everyday occurrences to life-altering tragedies.

Doors open for dinner, socializing at 5 pm; Live music at 6 pm; Dinner available for purchase from Southern Salt Food Truck.  Show starts at 7 pm Tickets $10

You MUST purchase your ticket before the show.

Previous episodes of “Tales from the South” air on KUAR Public Radio on Thursdays at 7pm.  This program will air on November 13.


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“Really Cool Digs” is topic of tonight’s Architecture and Design Network lecture

ADN Cool DigsIn his talk, Carl Matthews will examine the ways in which the media – television, film, advertising among them – use architecture and design to develop and project a particular image or mood. Examples abound and Matthew will share a generous sampling of them with his audience.

As head of the Fay Jones School of Architecture’s Interior Design Department, Matthews currently oversees the education of a hundred and ten students. Of that number, a majority, following graduation, will likely pursue careers in commercial design. As an educator, Matthews strives to create a link between academia and practice. Prior to his coming to the School, Matthews taught at the Universities of Texas and Kansas. He earned his Master’s degree from Pratt Institute.

The lecture starts at 6pm at the Arkansas Arts Center.  A reception will start at 5:30.

ADN lectures are free and open to the public. Supporters of ADN include the Arkansas Arts Center, the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture and the Central Arkansas section of the Arkansas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. For further information contactardenetwork@mac.com.


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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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