Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area

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Ben Nichols in concert tonight at the CALS Ron Robinson Theater

ben_nichols2Fans of gritty alt-country band Lucero may flock to the Central Arkansas Library System’s (CALS) Ron Robinson Theater, 100 River Market Ave., to see the band’s front man Ben Nichols perform for the Arkansas Sounds concert series on Friday, August 29, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20, general admission, and available at and Butler Center Galleries, 401 President Clinton Ave. The Ron Robinson Theater’s entrance may be accessed from the Main Library’s parking lot, 100 Rock Street.

Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Ben Nichols has earned critical praise for his emotive, whiskey-soaked vocals. The Austinist has described him as “a blistering diesel train of a singer and a songwriter of rare versatility.” During breaks from Lucero, Nichols has recorded acoustic-based material, including an EP featuring Nichols on acoustic guitar, Rick Steff (of Cat Power) on accordion and piano, and Todd Been (of Glossary) on pedal steel and electric guitar. This EP, The Last Pale Light in the West, comprises songs based on characters and situations from Cormac McCarthy’s novel, Blood Meridian.
This concert is presented by Arkansas Sounds, a project of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies focusing on Arkansas music and musicians both past and present. For more information, call 501-918-3033 or visit


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Arkansas Vietnam War Project launched by Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

cals_int_sponsor_butlerDuring the Vietnam War over 58,000 Americans were killed, including 592 Arkansans. The Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, a department of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS), has launched the Arkansas Vietnam War Project to gather and share personal stories of Arkansans from the war.

The project collects letters, photographs, and diaries from Arkansans who served during the conflict, from family members of veterans, and from civilians who want to share memories of the war. The Arkansas Vietnam War Project seeks to record oral histories, allowing veterans, family members, and civilians to voice their recollections of the war. More information may be found at, where participants’ contributions will be highlighted in coming months.

Thursday, August 7 marked the 50th anniversary of a significant incident, the passing of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. This congressional resolution gave President Johnson the power to continue to escalate United States military involvement in Vietnam without a formal declaration of war.

The Arkansas Vietnam War Project follows the award-winning FORGOTTEN: The Arkansas Korean War Project, accessible at, and demonstrates the Butler Center’s continued commitment to collecting Arkansans’ military history. For more information about the project, call 501-320-5700 or email Brian Robertson, project director, at

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Ballet Arkansas kicks off 2014-15 with VISIONS

BA_VISIONS_600x300ad_25july2014Ballet Arkansas kicks off the season tonight with their first annual Visions Choreographic Competition.  It will take place in the CALS Ron Robinson Theater in the River Market at 7:00 pm.

Thirty-six emerging choreographers from around the country competed for five spots in this competition. The winner will receive a commission to create a complete new work on Ballet Arkansas’s company dancers for their 2015 spring show.

The five choreographers  selected for the competition are:

  • Sayoko Knode,  former principal dancer with Idaho Dance Theatre;
  • Jerry Opdenaker, former principal dancer for ballet companies such as Milwaukee Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Kansas City Ballet and Ballet Florida;
  • Brandon Ragland, dancer with the Louisville Ballet;
  • Christopher Stuart dancer with Nashville Ballet;
  • Hilary Fullmer Wolfley who graduated in 2013 from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s degree in Ballet.

The five pieces will be judged by Adam Sklute, Artistic Director of Ballet West, Rhythm McCarthy with UALR’s Theatre and Dance Program, former Ballet Arkansas Principal Dancer Michael Tidwell with the Tidwell Project and the audience will be the fourth judge.

“I am very pleased with the talent level of our five guest choreographers” said Artistic Director, Michael Bearden “Their abilities in collaboration with our beautiful dancers will make for an evening you won’t want to miss.”

Sundays in the Library with Hillary (Starting in September)

READSunday can now be one more fun day with extended library hours at the Central Arkansas Library System’s (CALS) Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center, 4800 West 10th Street.  Beginning September 7, the Children’s Library’s operating hours will include Sundays from 1-5 p.m.

The interior of the Children’s Library includes a computer lab with fourteen computers, teaching kitchen, large activity area, individual and group study rooms, theater, and community room in addition to a collection of more than 21,000 books, DVDs, and CDs.   The grounds are on a six-acre site which includes a greenhouse and teaching garden, walking paths, and an amphitheater. The surroundings reflect the topography of Arkansas’s ecosystems, from the native hardwood trees in the highlands to vegetation of the wetland areas, which are both planted and original to the site.

The Children’s Library hours are Monday – Thursday from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. The Main Library, 100 Rock Street, is also open on Sundays from 1-5 p.m.

The Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library & Learning Center is one of fourteen CALS branches serving Pulaski and Perry counties. For more information, call 978-3870 or visit

Little Rock Look Back: Plans for new City Hall go on trial

The 1906 plans for City Hall with the Municipal Auditorium on the left portion.

The 1906 plans for City Hall with the Municipal Auditorium on the left portion.

The Little Rock City Council approved Charles Thompson’s plans for a new city hall, auditorium and jail on July 9, 1906, by the adoption of Resolution 281 and Ordinance 1,295.  This did not set well with the powers that be at the Arkansas Gazette.  A lawsuit was filed against the City. The lead plaintiff was J. N. Heiskell, the owner and editor of the Gazette.  From July 24 through July 27, the Arkansas Gazette featured stories and editorials on its front page decrying the action.  (It most likely stems from the fact that the editor was trying to get the City Council to construct a public library.  He ostensibly felt that money spent on a new city hall and auditorium would divert funds from construction of a library.)

In response to the lawsuit, a temporary restraining order was issued on July 24 stopping the City from any further action on the new building plans until the trial had taken place.  The plaintiffs’ four main points were that state law did not authorize a city government to construct an auditorium, that the contract exceeded the amount authorized by the City Council, that the City did not own the land on which the city hall and auditorium would be built, and that “the city of Little Rock now has a city hall sufficient for all necessary purposes.”

The trial started on Friday, July 27, 1906.  Among the legal team for the plaintiffs were J. H. Harrod and former Arkansas Governor Daniel Webster Jones.  The City’s legal team included City Attorney W. Burt Brooks joined by three attorneys from prominent Little Rock families: former City Attorney Ashley Cockrill, John Fletcher and Thomas Mehaffy.

The trial began on a Friday, continued on Saturday (!) and concluded on a Monday.

Architect Frank W. Gibb (who had applied for but not been selected to design the new city hall and auditorium) was called as a witness by the prosecution.  He stated that, based on his review, the capacity for the auditorium would be between 1,700 and 2,000.  This was used to bolster claims by the plaintiffs that the auditorium, if built, would be insufficient to the meet the needs offered by proponents.  Mr. Gibb also estimated that the auditorium wing was about forty-two percent of the cost for the entire project.  He was asked by the defense about the adequacy of the existing City Hall.  The architect replied that the current seat of municipal government was not large enough to meet all the present needs.

Mayor Lenon was the only defense witness; in his testimony he addressed the inadequacies of the current City Hall which echoed the points raised by Mr. Gibb. The mayor also detailed the purchase of the land for the new project.  While the plaintiffs charged the city had not purchased the land, Mayor Lenon pointed out the land was under contract.  He further stated that the work was done through a third party for fear that if the land owners had known the city was the interested buyer, the price might have been inflated by the potential sellers.

Next up were the closing arguments.  More on those and the verdict next week.

Arkansas Sounds music series hosts Dave Rosen Big Band tonight at 8

dave_rosen_big_bandJazz lovers may jump at a chance to hear a 17-piece big band in July. Arkansas Sounds’ concert series will host the Dave Rosen Big Band on Saturday, July 26, at 8:00 p.m., in the CALS Ron Robinson Theater. Tickets are $10, general admission, and are available online and in person at Butler Center Galleries, 401 President Clinton Avenue. The theater’s entrance may be accessed from the Main Library’s parking lot, 100 Rock Street.

The Dave Rosen Big Band is a 17-piece jazz band who will play favorites from the 1930s to the present, including music by Arkansas composers such as Louis Jordan.

This is part of Arkansas Sounds’ concert series.  Arkansas Sounds is a project of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, a department of the Central Arkansas Library System. Focused on Arkansas music and musicians both past and present, Arkansas Sounds presents concerts, workshops, and other events to showcase Arkansas’s musical culture.

Last weekend for Young Arkansas Artists exhibit at Ark Arts Center

This weekend is the last chance to see the 53rd Young Arkansas Artists exhibition in the Alice Pratt Brown Atrium and the Sam Strauss Sr. Gallery at the Arkansas Arts Center.

“At the Arkansas Arts Center, we believe that the arts have the ability to educate and empower our children while cultivating a positive form of self-expression,” said Arkansas Arts Center executive director Todd Herman. “We strive to promote quality arts education initiatives and achievement in the visual arts and through this exhibition, we are offering a wonderful platform to celebrate artwork created by our very own Arkansas youth.”

First presented in 1961, the 53rd Young Arkansas Artists exhibition is a celebration of both the creative achievements of young artists and the youthful spirits of Arkansans. Now in its sixth decade, this annual children’s art exhibition showcases artwork by Arkansas students from with hopes to ensure learning, inspiration and creative expression are occurring in our state’s classrooms. In 2013, teachers from 127 schools across Arkansas submitted 508 works for consideration. Of those, 102 works were selected for inclusion in the exhibition.

The exhibition is open to all Arkansas students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Art must be original and completed within the current 2013-2014 school year. Original works in all media including drawings, paintings, prints, photographs, collages, crafts, and sculpture are eligible. Teachers may submit only one artwork per grade level per school or program. Entries must be made through a public, private or home school teacher or instructor of an art program. All artists whose works are selected will receive notification on March 18 and the deadline for delivery of all selected entries is April 11.

arkartsWorks will be selected for the exhibition by the Arkansas Art Educators Association. A juror selects one Best of Class and two Honorable Mentions for each grade, and each winning artist’s school receives a monetary award to supports its art program. Selected works from the exhibition travel to schools and other venues around the state as part of the Arkansas Arts Center’s State Services Program. The juror will also select the following awards: one Middle School and one High School level Art and the Written Word Award, the Ray Smenner Best in Show Painting Award and the Mid Southern Watercolorists Best in Show watercolor award.

The 53rd Young Arkansas Artists exhibition is sponsored by Barbara and Steve Bova, Dale and Lee Ronnel, The Philip R. Jonsson Foundation and The Central Arkansas Library System. Awards for the exhibition are sponsored by Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

Today there will be a Family Festival and Awards Ceremony in celebration of the 53rd Young Arkansas Artists exhibition on May 10 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Activities for kids of all ages will be offered and awards will be presented at 1 p.m. in the Lecture Hall. The events are free for members and exhibition artists, $5 for a non-member individual and $20 for a non-member family. Guests are similarly invited to enjoy a matinee performance of Sleeping Beauty at 2 p.m. in the Children’s Theatre that will also be held on May 10.

For more information, visit or call (501) 372-4000.


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