Today is National Bow Tie Day. Though there is not specifically a sculpture in Little Rock with a bow tie, one of the newest sculptures in Riverfront Park mimics the shape of a bow tie. Valerie Jean Schafer’s Butterfly Banner evokes not only a butterfly but a bow tie. However, the imagery goes beyond that.
This is drawn from a visual vocabulary inspired by Native American artifacts from prehistory. While a banner was originally a small stone or wood counterweight for the atlatl (a weapon predating the bow and arrow) this enlarged representation speaks of the beauty of Native American culture beyond the usual stereotypes. The sculpture embraces tradition, as it reveals Native Americans as inhabitants of the Americas far longer than most people believe. At the same time, the simplicity of the form evokes a sense of elegance with a decidedly contemporary feel.
It is fitting that it is located in Riverfront Park. The Trail of Tears went through the park as Native Americans were forcibly moved west. It serves as a reminder of the heritage of Little Rock. Not all of the City’s past was glorious; but in remembering the past, it helps to look forward to a better future.
It is also appropriate to feature this sculpture today for another reason. A driving force behind the placement of sculptures in Little Rock is bow tie clad City Director Dr. Dean Kumpuris.