In no particular order, here are 13 cultural highlights of 2013 in Little Rock.
1. The 73 year old Joseph Taylor Robinson Municipal Auditorium received a new lease on life when Little Rock voters approved an extensive, two-year plan for renovation, remodeling and expanding the new facility.
2. Speaking of Robinson, the new Ron Robinson Theatre was constructed in the Arcade Building. It will be the flagship home of the Little Rock Film Festival as well as a site for events hosted by the Clinton School of Public Service and the Central Arkansas Library System.
3. The Little Rock Film Festival came downtown with all of its films being shown in downtown Little Rock and Argenta. Among the highlights of the festival were Short Term 12, Bridegroom and Don John which have received plaudits at other festivals and are appearing on Best of 2013 lists as well as receiving award nominations.
4. As Main Street continues to redevelop, plans were announced in 2013 for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and Ballet Arkansas to each move their offices and rehearsal spaces downtown. Joining them will be an expansion of educational space for the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.
5. A few blocks south on Main Street, the new South on Main restaurant and performance space opened. Weekly performances of live music accent the food and drink under the leadership of Chef Matt Bell.
6. Further down Main Street, Little Rock’s newest museum opened. The Esse Purse Museum honors women and their struggles, accomplishments, hopes and dreams through highlighting the purse.
7. Fashion also took center stage at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center as well with an exhibit on Oscar de La Renta. In addition to showcasing his contributions to design, the exhibit attracted many boldfaced names from the worlds of fashion and politics to an event in Little Rock.
8. George Washington was the focus of two separate exhibits in Little Rock during 2013. Historic Arkansas Museum showcased his inaugural Bible as well as his family Bible. At the Clinton Presidential Center “A Tribute to George Washington” was on display. It featured George Washington’s personal copy of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights from Mount Vernon, and a portrait of George Washington painted in 1797 by artist Gilbert Stuart on loan from the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
9. The amphitheatre in Riverfront Park received a new name (First Security Amphitheatre) and a new roof just in time to kick off its 26th year and to play host to musical acts during Riverfest.
10. Rembrandt and Rothko were just two of the artists featured in exhibits at the Arkansas Arts Center through 2013. The Arts Center featured the exhibit Treasures of Kenwood House which highlighted the works of Rembrandt, Van Dyck and many other world class artists. Earlier in the year, exhibits highlighted Bauhaus architecture and relics of the Japanese internment camp at Rohwer. The Arts Center was also the site of the world’s second largest yarn bomb installation.
11. The Little Rock Zoo welcomed two new elephants: Sophie and Babe. The Zoo also was the site of the birth of Bugsy the penguin and four new tiger cubs. The tigers were born as the result of the Zoo’s new tiger exhibit which facilitated not only easier mating but also allows for the separation of the mother and cubs from the father.
12. The Central Arkansas Library System opened its new Children’s Library. A few months after the building opened, a name was bestowed and it is now known as the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center.
13. As 2013 drew to a close, the holiday decorations at the Capital Hotel received international recognition as Forbes named them one of the ten best hotel Christmas trees in the world. The nearly 30 foot tree was decorated by Tipton Hurst.