Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area

Leave a comment

Creative Class 2016: Kathryn Pryor

cc16-pryorWhile she may be a successful attorney by day, Kathryn Pryor, is also an accomplished singer and actor.

Having grown up appearing on stage, it is no surprise she continues to appear in productions throughout Central Arkansas.

Earlier this year she reprised her role of Hillary Clinton in the biennial political spoof Gridiron.   Over the years she has also played leading roles in GYPSY, CABARET, SWEENEY TODD, COMPANY, VICTOR/VICTORIA, SOUTH PACIFIC, and MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG.  

In addition, she has appeared in New York in a cabaret act with her brother Will Trice. For the 2015 edition of the Arkansas Arts Center’s Tabriz, she and Will reprised their act.

Leave a comment

Creative Class 2016: Christen Burke Pitts

cc16-pittsDancer and choreographer only defines two of Christen Burke Pitts‘s involvement with the arts.  She and her family are also active supporters of the Arkansas film industry and are patrons of all of the performing arts.  But it is in dance that Christen probably makes her largest impact.

Since 1996, she has been the founder and director of the NLRHS Dance Program.  In that capacity, she teaches scores of students each year as well as choreographs musicals, plans workshops, and produces dance performances.  She received the 2012 Governor’s Arts in Education Award from the Arkansas Arts Council and was also named the 2012 Arkansas Communication and Theatre Arts Association Teacher of the Year.

Christen holds her MEd from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and a BA in Drama/minor in Dance Performance from the University of Arkansas. She studied ballet, tap, jazz, modern, pointe, and musical theatre with various instructors across the country and trained at workshops/intensives with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, MOMIX, Pilobolus, Luigi, Frank Hatchett, Finis Jhung, Bill Hastings, and many others.

Christen has performed in over fifty shows throughout the South including Damn Yankees at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, the Shoji Tabuchi Show and The Crystal Gayle Show in Branson, and numerous industrial shows. She has appeared in local and national commercials, “The Ernest Green Story” on The Disney Channel, and in television specials on The Family Channel. Christen was a company member of the Memphis Dance Ensemble and the University of Arkansas Dance Company.

She has taught dance workshops for the ARC National Performing Arts Camp, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre (Summer Theater Intensive-Camp Rep), Arkansas Communication and Theatre Arts Association, and Arkansas Dance Network. A co-founder of the Arkansas Dance Network, she has also served been affiliated with ACANSA Arts Festival, the THEA Foundation, Arkansas Festival Ballet, and Argenta Community Theatre, among others.

Leave a comment

Creative Class 2016: Bryant Phelan

cc16-phelanDesigner and scientist Bryant Phelan has no interest in choosing between his two passions. He is devoted to exploring both of them.

In 2014, Bryant launched O’Faolain (Gealic for The Wolf), a line of handcrafted luxury leather goods which combine modern design with classic quality.  He shows his work at New York Fashion Week.

His handbags, cuffs, and other designs have been featured in ElleNylon, and Bleep among others.Sharon Needles, Goapele, Johnny Cassanova, Alaska 5000, and Mel B are among his growing legion of fans and patrons.

In addition to being a PhD student in Epidemiology at UAMS, he currently holds a position as a biostatistician on a private research team.  He is looking to become a professor after his PhD is earned.

Leave a comment

Creative Class 2016: Bonnie Montgomery

cc16-montgomeryA true and multi-faceted artist,  Bonnie Montgomery has an artistic vision that transcends classification and genre.

Following the release of EPs “Cruel” (2012) and “Joy” (2013), Bonnie released her self-titled LP in December 2014 on Nathan Howdeshell’s (of Gossip) Portland/Arkansas label Fast Weapons.

Bonnie’s southern debut album showcases her powerful operatic voice while her music blends elements of classic country with spaghetti western and traditional Ozark folk song.  Backed by a rowdy, virtuosic hillbilly band, Bonnie has toured on her recent album extensively throughout the U.S.  The album’s critical acclaim alongside her wild and law-less live performances have earned Montgomery the title of the Ameripolitan Outlaw Female 2016.

A classically trained singer whose southern roots run deep, Bonnie has taken her raucous, high-art spin on golden-era country/western music through the U.S. and Europe.

Bonnie’s composition of the modern folk opera “Billy Blythe”, about the childhood of Bill Clinton, previewed in New York, and has earned her the attention of publications such as The New Yorker, The Economist, The Huffington Post and the London Daily Telegraph.  The opera had its official world premiere by Opera Ithaca in April 2016 in Ithaca, NY.  In September it was staged by Opera in the Rock, and an upcoming production is to be staged at Ouachita Baptist University.

Leave a comment

Creative Class 2016: Korto Momolu

cc16-momoluInspired by her African roots, Liberian-born fashion designer and stylist Korto Momolu is stamping her global brand on fashion forward women’s wear and accessories that celebrate the essence of her rich heritage while based in her new home of Little Rock.

After a coup in Liberia in 1989, she relocated to Canada in 1990.  A graduate of the L’Academies des Couturiers Design Institute in Ottawa, Ontario, Korto also studied at the renowned Parsons School of Design in New York City while working as an independent fashion designer. Advancing her field experience, she earned a spot on the fifth season of Bravo TV’s hit show, Project Runway. Throughout the season, Korto’s primary signature for high color and diversity in style and presentation, in addition to her feisty spirit, resonated well with audiences, earning her the prize of “fan favorite” and ultimately, a placement of first runner up at the season’s close.

As the Korto Momolu brand expands, so do her accomplishments and opportunities to include designing for Miss Universe (Leila Lopes) and the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf; creating an accessory line for Dillard’s; producing an eco-friendly jewelry line for the Smithsonian museum stores; designing the uniforms for the Crystal Bridges; serving as the Cheerios’ ambassador for the Shoprite Partners in Caring “Knock Out Hunger” campaign; and contributing her time and talents to countless charitable and philanthropic endeavors.

Highlighted in the ‘Top 5 Designers to Watch’ in New York City this season, Korto has been featured in many international and national publications and has appeared on numerous television shows, including two seasons of Project Runway AllStars.

Leave a comment

Little Rock Look Back: Miss America comes to Little Rock

miss america axumToday, Miss America 2017 Savvy Shields comes to Little Rock as part of her official homecoming to Arkansas after winning the crown.  In honor of that, we take a look back to the first visit to Arkansas by Donna Axum, who was the first Miss Arkansas to win the title of Miss America.

A native of El Dorado and a student at the University of Arkansas, during her reign as Miss America Miss Axum (or simply Donna as the newspaper headlines referred to her) made four public visits to Little Rock.  As the first Miss Arkansas to become Miss America, the state’s Capitol City was very interested in giving her a warm welcome.

After being crowned on September 7, 1963, her first visit to Arkansas was November 1 through 3.  In addition to stops in Hot Springs and El Dorado, she appeared in Little Rock to attend events including an Arkansas Razorback football game at War Memorial Stadium.  Her entourage included the top four runners up from the Miss America pageant.

In February 1964, she made a brief appearance in Little Rock which included a press conference.

Donna Axum spent nearly two weeks in Arkansas in May 1964 attending several pageants as well as spending time with family.  During that visit she appeared in Little Rock twice.  The second time she headlined a concert with the Arkansas Symphony (not related to the current Arkansas Symphony Orchestra) and the Arkansas Choral Society. It took place at Robinson Auditorium.

Leave a comment

Creative Class 2016: Kiril Laskarov

cc-laskarovKiril Laskarov is currently in his 17th season as Concertmaster of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.  Earlier this year, he was also the featured soloist for the ASO playing  a 300-year-old priceless Stradivarius violin .

A native of Bulgaria, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the State Academy of Music in Sofia and Master’s degree from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Kiril was the winner of the 1995 Bulgarian National Competition.  He  has appeared as a soloist with the Arkansas Symphony, Las Vegas Philharmonic, Southern Illinois Symphony, Abilene (TX) Philharmonic, and Texarkana (TX) Symphony, and also presented recitals in Little Rock, Memphis, Kansas City, and Dallas.

For over a decade, he has taught orchestral music at Episcopal  Collegiate School, in addition to his busy symphonic and chamber music schedule.