Four different, completely separate, initiatives arts/entertainment-related initiatives are the talk in certain sectors Little Rock this week. And because they are hitting public consciousness at around the same time, there seems to be some confusion – or at least the need for some explanation.
1 – On Tuesday (7/23) evening, the Little Rock City Board of Directors is slated to consider the adoption of rules for the creation of an Entertainment District. Once this is adopted (providing it is), there is an ordinance to create one in downtown Little Rock, specifically a few blocks in the River Market. This is an initiative which has been studied and promoted by the Downtown Little Rock Partnership and the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau as well as some business owners and property owners in the River Market. It is essentially to allow for open containers in public spaces. Creation of such a district was authorized by the Arkansas General Assembly earlier this year.
2 – On Wednesday (7/24) evening at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, there is a public meeting about the possibility of Artspace coming to Central Arkansas to establish one or more artist live/work spaces. Artspace has already created more than 40 of these throughout the US. They work with local entities to create them but maintain ownership of them in order to ensure that they continue to be affordable spaces in which artists and other creative practitioners can live, work, and have a place to display or perform. This public meeting is being sponsored by several entities including the Windgate Foundation and the Arkansas Arts Council. They have been working with local governments and local cultural leaders to explore spaces and to get a better understanding of the needs and desires of the Central Arkansas creative community.
3 – Recently a “Little Rock Arts District Neighborhood Association” was announced. It is not related to either of the above initiatives. Just as with other neighborhood associations, it is a grassroots effort by a group of Little Rock residents. They have defined their own boundaries, which as a private group is their right. The expressed desire is to support “the arts of all kinds and small business as well as beautification of our district.” This has gone through the same process at the City as any neighborhood association does, but is not a corporate entity or a program of the City. Organizers of the district have promised more information is forthcoming about their plans. The timing of the announcement within the same few days as the two previously mentioned endeavors has caused some confusion.
4 – On Monday, July 22, a collaboration called Rock the Arts was announced. It involved Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Celebrity Attractions, Ballet Arkansas and Opera In The Rock offering the opportunity to purchase a sampling of the performing arts offerings in central Arkansas in a special season sampler package. This limited opportunity to get tickets to specific offerings from these five entities is not related to anything previously mentioned.
The takeaway is this: much exciting possibilities abound in Little Rock and Central Arkansas. There are many ideas and much passion for the creative economy. Add to this the Zoo’s new task force looking at the future of that cultural institution. More possibilities are on the horizon.
As they say, Stay Tuned…..