Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


14ish Cultural Highlights of 2014

2014 was a busy year.  Here are 14 cultural highlights. In no particular order. Except maybe once in while.

The Rep's Bob Hupp and Catherine Hughes flank NEA Chair Jane Chu

The Rep’s Bob Hupp and Catherine Hughes flank NEA Chair Jane Chu

Dr. Jane Chu visits Arkansas. Former Arkadelphia resident Dr. Jane Chu was appointed as the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. In October, she paid a visit to Little Rock and northwest Arkansas. While in the Rock, she participated in a discussion at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre and toured the new Creative Corridor spaces under construction for the Rep, Ballet Arkansas and Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. Dr. Chu was also the guest of honor at a reception hosted by the Arkansas Arts Council. While here, she had the chance to renew old friendships as well as make new ones.

Carroll Cloar exhibit at Arkansas Arts Center. The Arkansas Arts Center featured the works of Arkansas native Carroll Cloar. Much as the Biblical prophet who is ignored in his homeland, Cloar has long been better recognized outside of his native state.  The Cloar exhibit (which included a painting of future Little Rock mayor J. V. Satterfield playing football, a personal favorite of the LRCV) and the outreach by the AAC staff made great strides towards raising Arkansas’ consciousness about the works by the American treasure.

DSCF0011Robinson Center Music Hall closes for renovation. Opening in February 1940 as the Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium, the City’s prime venue for performances and civic gatherings needed an external and internal facelift at 74. The building closed in July 2014 for a two year renovation which will see the reconfiguration of the performance and audience space in the music hall, the creation of a new special events venue overlooking the Arkansas River, and the restoration of this historic main lobby and front façade to 1940 appearance. During this closure tenants such as Ballet Arkansas, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and Celebrity Attractions have temporarily relocated to other venues including the Pulaski Academy Connor Performing Arts Center and the Maumelle Performing Arts Center.

Ron Robinson Theater opens. Shortly before one Robinson closed, another opened.  The Central Arkansas Library System’s new Ron Robinson Theater opened. This multi-purpose venue has quickly become home to lectures (by the library, the Clinton School and others), films (in partnership with Arkansas Times, Little Rock Film Festival and others) and music (including the Arkansas Sounds series).  Named for famed Little Rock adman Ron Robinson, the public spaces pay tribute to his love of movies and music about Arkansas.

Music Music Music

  • As noted above, Arkansas Sounds has switched from a concentrated music festival to instead offering a variety of music styles and genres throughout the year at the new Ron Robinson Theatre. The music has ranged from Big Band to Klezmer to Country to Rock to Rap.  This is only one of the new music offerings in Little Rock.
  • South on Main completed its first full year of the weekly Local Live free music series sponsored by the Oxford American and Landers Fiat. South on Main also started a Jazz on Main series as well as increased their bookings of other musicians ranging from Rodney Block to Rodney Crowell.
  • Meanwhile, The Undercroft completed its first full year of (mainly) acoustic music offerings at the corner of Capitol and Scott Streets.

New Works of Art.

  • New sculptures were added to the Vogel-Schwartz Sculpture Garden and Riverfront Park as well as the Bernice Gardens.
  • In what may be the first for any symphony in the US, the musicians of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra commissioned a new piece in honor of the ASO board of directors. The work, composed by Christopher Theofanidis, was entitled The Wind and Petit Jean.  It was well-received by audience and musicians alike.
  • Ballet Arkansas sponsored a choreography competition “Visions” which featured five choreographers competing to be selected for a full-scale commission.  The winner was Hilary Wolfley whose work will be seen at the spring Ballet Arkansas presentation.
  • Finally, in conjunction with the 175th anniversary of Christ Episcopal Church (the oldest church in Little Rock to be at its original location), a new choral piece was commissioned. Daniel E. Gawthrop’s “Haste the Day” premiered on December 7.

mod delaneyThe Tonight Show with Kevin Delaney. Because Jimmy Fallon is really just a big kid at heart, he wanted to include periodic “cool” science experiments when he took over the “Tonight Show.”  After being contacted by a producer of Fallon’s show and an audition process, the Museum of Discovery’s Kevin Delaney was booked to appear.  He debuted on May 5 performing experiment with Fallon and returned on November 7. When not a guest of NBC, Delaney performs the same types of “Awesome Science” experiments for tens of thousands of children and adults at the Museum of Discovery.

New Festival of Arts. Acansa, a new multi-discplinary, multi-venue arts festival, debuted this year in September.  Over a five day period, ACANSA Arts Festival brought together audiences and cultural resources to present unique and exciting visual and performing works which celebrate the unique influence of the south and champion excellence and innovation in artistry.  There was theatre, dance, instrumental music, choral music, puppetry and visual art.

14 14 4Gridiron Returns. The talk of the return of the Star Wars movie franchise was not the only welcome news of returns. Gridiron, the biennial attorney fundraiser which spoofs politics, current events, sports and everything that is “sacred” to the general populace, returned after a hiatus.  Once again this effort was under the watchful eye of producer Judge Mary McGowan, the creative leadership of Jana Beard, and the writing prowess of the anonymous committee.  As has been the case in the past, many of the targets of the show good-naturedly showed up and laughed along in the audience.

Sculptures Returned.  Gridiron was not the only welcome return. Earlier this year several sculptures were stolen from the Vogel-Schwartz Sculpture Garden in Riverfront Park. After a media blitz about the theft, some people strolling through the park stumbled across a bag containing the missing sculptures. The pieces are in the process of being restored and will be reinstalled soon.

14 14 3Clinton Center turned 10.  Proving that you can come home again, quite a few of the people who were present for the opening of the Clinton Presidential Center in 2004 showed up again in 2014 to take part in celebratory festivities.  Among events included several lectures; a day of service benefiting the Arkansas Food Bank; a barbecue picnic; and a concert featuring Nick Jonas, Kool & the Gang and others which was hosted by Kevin Spacey.  The Clinton School also celebrated 10 years of lectures and innovative programs.

Preservation Concentration – The Quapaw Quarter Association marked the 50th Spring Tour this year. The event was co-chaired by First Lady Ginger Beebe and lifestyle expert P. Allen Smith.  Later in the year, the QQA hosted its first Mid-Century architecture tour highlighting some of Little Rock’s buildings from this style. They ended the year with the news that they had purchased the William E. Woodruff House in east Little Rock. One of Little Rock’s oldest houses, it was built by the founder of the Arkansas Gazette.  They will shore up the building to try to ensure no further decay as the building is readied for its next phase.

Huzzahs

  • 14 14 2Reese Rowland, architect and principal at Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects of Little Rock, was named a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, awarded to fewer than 4 percent of AIA members.
  • Little Rock native Will Trice earned his third Tony Award in three years, this time for producing All The Way, the Best Play of 2014. His previous Tonys were for Porgy and Bess (Musical Revival-2012) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Play Revival-2013).
  • Arkansas native and frequent Little Rock performer Al Green was one of the 2014 Kennedy Center Honorees.
  • Little Rock’s Creative Corridor continued to rack up honors. The UA’s Community Design Center, which includes faculty and staff members from the school, won a 2014 Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects for its work on the Creative Corridor, on which it collaborated with Marlon Blackwell Architect of Fayetteville. The project also received the American Society of Landscape Architects Honor Award for Analysis and Planning.

Transitions.

  • 14 14Sharon Priest, a longtime cultural advocate as a City Beautiful Commission member, Little Rock City Director, Little Rock Mayor and Arkansas Secretary of State announced her retirement after 12 years as Executive Director of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership.  Over the past dozen years, she has continued her cultural advocacy.
  • One of Priest’s successors as a member of the Little Rock City Board, Stacy Hurst, was named by Gov.-Elect Asa Hutchinson to be his choice to lead the Department of Arkansas Heritage. She will oversee seven agencies including three Little Rock museums: Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, Old State House Museum and Historic Arkansas Museum.
  • Following the closure of Starving Artists Cafe, the weekly Tales from the South program (which originated from there) had to scramble to find a place.  After several weeks of a completely nomadic existence, it is now settling into a rotating list of locations. The Arkansas Arts Center’s Best Impressions restaurant has been designated a “permanent” site for the first Tuesday of each month.
  • The free outdoor Movies in the Park celebrated its 10th season this year. Founders Blake Rutherford, Heather Allmendinger and Ben Beaumont were honored at the start of the season.  A few weeks into the season, the series screened the film Frozen and set a new record for attendance by logging over 7,000 attendees.
  • After the closure of the Riverdale cinema in 2013, the space sat vacant.  In June 2014, Matt Smith moved the Market Street Cinema operations into the Riverdale space. He upgraded the equipment at Riverdale (which was also a vast improvement over the equipment at Market Street).  The new Riverdale 10 shows a mix of first-run blockbusters as well as the independent films for which Market Street had been beloved.
  • The Studio Theatre was launched adjacent to the new Lobby Bar in downtown Little Rock.  In addition to producing its own performances, it is also the new home of the Community Theatre of Little Rock and Precipice Theatre.
  • Weekend Theatre founder Ralph Hyman retired as the Artistic Director of that group. He will continue to direct productions from time to time.

 


Through the Looking Glass to be dedicated today in Riverfront Park

Through The Looking Glass prior to installation

Through The Looking Glass prior to installation

Today at 11:30 a new piece of sculpture will be dedicated in Riverfront Park.

The City of Little Rock, Little Rock Parks and Recreation and the Sculpture at the River Market Committee will install and dedicate a new monument-size sculpture in the Vogel-Schwartz Sculpture Garden, directly behind the Little Rock Marriott.

Titled “Through the Looking Glass,” the sculpture stands at 12-feet wide and eight-feet tall. The stainless steel piece by sculptor Mark Leichliter features complex hexagons with a mirror finish. The ceremony will also feature the dedication of a new playground area,


LR Cultural Touchstone: Jane Rogers

Jane RogersJane Rogers is a Little Rock native who has had a hand in developing two different cultural entities in her hometown.  She helped organize the first Riverfest to be held in Riverfront Park in 1983.  Continuing her involvement, she later served as the first full-time executive director of Riverfest.  Under her leadership the festival experienced significant growth.  This, in turn, brought more people down to the banks of the Arkansas River and the new Riverfront Park.  Because of this, more people were familiar with the area which helped the fledgling River Market take hold in the mid-1990s.

Shortly after he became Governor, Mike Huckabee tapped her to lead the Department of Arkansas Heritage.  In that capacity, she oversaw the Arkansas Arts Council, Old State House Museum, Historic Arkansas Museum, Delta Cultural Center, Arkansas Historic Preservation Program and Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission.  She served as Director for two years.

In 2003, she was appointed to the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees.  In that capacity, she has been involved in efforts to strengthen cultural offerings and facilities at the various campuses in the University of Arkansas system.

Her most recent cultural endeavor has been as a founder of Sculpture at the River Market.  In 2007, she helped recruit volunteers to create Little Rock’s first nation-wide sculpture invitational show and sale.  Since that time, Sculpture at the River Market has built a $2,000,000+ collection of public sculpture placed in beautiful surroundings along the banks of the Arkansas River in downtown Little Rock.  As a result of pieces of these efforts, the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden was created in Riverfront Park.


On Labor Day – Enjoy the Fruits of Sculptors Labors in the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden

Little Rock 2011 040Located along the banks of the Arkansas River in the heart of Riverfront Park, the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden has more than 70 pieces of public sculpture.

This premiere sculpture garden is made possible through the support of the Vogel Schwartz Foundation. The art in the sculpture garden is acquired annually from proceeds of the Sculpture At The River Market Show and Sale held each April.

Little Rock 2011 044The sculpture garden features natural terraces and walkways designed by City of Little Rock’s Leland Couch, Mark Webre and John Kinkade of the National Sculptors’ Guild. The design creates a more intimate space to view smaller works within the Riverfront Park and is ideal for hosting receptions, as well as allowing visitors to enjoy the sculptures in solitude. This dynamic sculpture garden is located north of the Little Rock Marriott Hotel and east toward the River Market.

Sculpture at the River Market will present its next annual Show and Sale on April 24-26, 2015.  The Preview Party, a ticketed event held on Friday night (April 24), will introduce hundreds of sculptures from internationally recognized artists chosen for the 2015 Show and Sale in a party setting in the River Market Pavilions.  This exquisite evening, featuring food, libations, live entertainment and more, allows party guests the first opportunity to meet and visit with the artists while viewing and purchasing works.  Additionally all patrons at the Preview Party will vote for their favorite proposal from the semi-finalists works.

On Saturday and Sunday (April 25-26) admission to Sculpture At The River Market Show and Sale is free. Thousands of visitors populate the Pavilions to see and purchase works of all media, style, subject matter, and size. The sculptures will be on display in the River Market Pavilions and in the adjacent area of Riverfront Park.


Seven sculptures to be added to Riverfront Park


Sculpture at the River MarketAt the recent Sculpture at the River Market show, seven “2014 Show Purchases” were made.

Space Race – Merle Randolph

Vixen – Pati Stajcar

Retro Trees – Dale Rogers

Hula Hoop – Janie DeDecker

Liberation – Charles Strain

Old Ringneck – Valerie Schafer

Textured Torso – Timothy Roundy


Look for these pieces to be added to the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden soon.

2014 SaRM purchases 12014 SaRM purchases 22014 SaRM purchases 3


2014 Sculpture at the River Market this Weekend

Sculpture at the River MarketHundreds of sculptures and thousands of visitors will again populate the River Market Pavilions when Sculpture at the River Market returns for the seventh year on April 26 and 27.

The sculptures will be on display in the River Market Pavilions and in the adjacent area of Riverfront Park. The works featured will include all types of media, style, subject matter, and size.

Admission to Sculpture at the River Market is free. Sculpture at the River Market Market will run from 9AM to 5PM on Saturday, April 26 and from 10AM to 4PM on Sunday, April 27.

This evening there will be a preview party where patrons will get the first chance to see the artwork, visit with the sculptors, and purchase sculptures. Tickets for the preview party are $100.   The entertainment will be provided by Dizzy 7.  Following the preview party, “Bronze and Brewskis” will take place beginning at 8:30.

On Saturday at 1PM and 3PM and again on Sunday at 2PM, Segway tours of the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden will be offered.  There will also be food trucks set up in a special Food Truck Plaza next to the River Market pavilions.

The sale and show is sponsored by the City of Little Rock and the National Sculptors’ Guild. Proceeds from the sale of artwork will fund upgrades in Riverfront Park and the River Market.

Among the artists are Lori Acott, Virginia Annett, Terry Bean, Gregory Beck, Hunter Brown, Shelly Buonaiuto, Kathleen Caricof, Tim Cherry, Dee Clements, Merrilee Cleveland, Darrell Davis, Jane DeDecker, Clay Enoch, Steve Frank, Jim Green, Denny Haskew, Damian Jones, Rollin Karg, Ana Lazovsky, Bryan Massey, Ryan Mays, Julie McCraney-Brogdon, Ken Newman, James Paulsen, Ed Pennebaker, Merle Randolph, Kevin Robb, Dale Rogers, Timothy Roundy, Emelene Russell, Wayne Salge, Ted Schaal, Valerie Schafer, Adam Schultz, John Sewell, Stephen Shachtman, Kim Shaklee, Gene Sparling, Pati Stajcar, Charles Strain, Tod Switch, Darl Thomas, Michael Warrick and C.T. Whitehouse.


Easter Bunnys in the River Market

For those who are around the River Market today, there are two “Easter” bunny sculptures they can visit.

Rabbit Reach 004

Rabbit Reach

In honor of that, today’s Sculpture Vulture features Tim Cherry’s Rabbit Reach.

The sculpture is located at the corner of Sherman Street and President Clinton Avenue across from the Museum of Discovery.

The sculpture is a gift from Whitlow Wyatt and the Carey Cox Wyatt Charitable Foundation. It was given in memory of George Wyatt and Frank Kumpuris.  Those two gentlemen were the fathers of Whitlow Wyatt and Dean & Drew Kumpuris.

Cherry’s sculpture was selected for this spot because of its proximity to children at the Museum and in the River Market district.  The design and size of the sculpture encourages children to climb on it and to play around the rabbit.  While some public art is situated so it cannot be touched, this one is situated to be touched as part of the appreciation experience.

Laurel Peterson Gregory’s Bunny Bump is featured in the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden.  Two stylized rabbits make for an interesting piece of artwork when they are not only dancing, but also doing the butt bump while dancing. The smooth surface and color of the bronze add to the illusion. This small piece has been placed on a pedestal to elevate more to eye level.

IMG_3987

Bunny Bump

The sculpture was completed in 2009 and installed in 2010.  Gregory has been featured at the Sculpture at the River Market show.  (The photo was taken during a December snow. Hopefully there will be no more of that this year.)

This upcoming Saturday and Sunday (April 26 & 27), the next Sculpture at the River Market will take place in the River Market pavilions. There are preview parties on Friday, April 25. For more information, visit the website.

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