If Arkansas was included in a piece of music or a film, Ron Robinson wanted it represented in his collection. The Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) will house and begin to catalog Robinson’s vast collection of sheet music, film posters, and other memorabilia connecting those industries with Arkansas’s history and culture.
The Ron Robinson Theater in the Arcade Building on the Main Library campus, the newest performance space in the River Market district will bear Robinson’s name. Programming in the 325-seat multi-purpose event venue will be designed for all ages and will include films, music performances, plays, readings, lectures, speakers, and children’s activities. Equipped with a state-of-the-art projection system for films and a separate sound system for spoken word and music, the theater will receive the highest rating from the Digital Cinema Institute.
The Ron Robinson Collection includes a large number of pieces of sheet music of songs about Arkansas or with the state’s name in the song’s title, containing everything from Tin Pan Alley tunes describing the state to hits by Arkansas musicians such as Patsy Montana and the Browns to would-be state songs. The collection also includes a number of vintage recordings-including Edison disks of the “Arkansas Traveler”-and other materials depicting the state’s music. It will include Robinson’s huge collection of Arkansas-related movie posters, from which the Butler Center co-produced with him an exhibition last year called “Ark in the Dark,” as well as a vast number of pieces of Arkansas political memorabilia.
A native of Little Rock, Robinson has been an avid collector of all things Arkansas for the past fifty years. He is past chairman and chief executive officer of Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods, a full-service advertising, marketing, and public relations firm. He has served on numerous boards and committees including the Friends of Central Arkansas Libraries (FOCAL), Arthritis Foundation, United Way,American Red Cross Public Information Committee, Arkansas Arts Center, and Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
Other organizations using the theater space include the Clinton School for Public Service and the Little Rock Film Festival. As with other CALS meeting space, the theater may be used by the public, based on availability.
Little Rock voters approved a bond issue in 2012 that provided funding for the Arcade Building. Through a public-private partnership between CALS, Clinton-Commerce LLC (which includes Moses Tucker Real Estate), and Monroe Cache, retail stores, offices, and a restaurant will fill the Arcade Building, a three-story, 60,000 square foot structure.