About Scott

A cultural thinker with a life long interest in the arts and humanities: theatre, music, architecture, photography, history, urban planning, etc.

Little Rock Look Back: Aretha Franklin with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra at Robinson Center

On November 16, 2004, the rafters of Robinson Center Music Hall were shaken by the vocal prowess of Aretha Franklin.

She shared the Robinson stage with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.  The ASO brought Miss Franklin to town as part of the festivities surrounding the opening of the presidential library.  Long a favorite of the Clintons, Miss Franklin sang at his 1993 inaugural festivities the night before he took the oath of office.

Resplendent in a series of white dresses, Miss Franklin was in top form feeding off the love from the audience.  While backstage she may have been dealing with back and knee issues (which the Culture Vulture saw first hand), when she stepped on to the stage she was giving her all as she rolled through hit after hit from her starry career.  She sang, she played the piano, she entertained!

It was a sold out house and her voice and energy reached the last row of the balcony.

Prior to her appearance, the ASO played a few selections including variations on “Hail to the Chief” and “America.”

Earlier in the day, I had the privilege of picking up several copies of Bill Clinton’s autobiography for her to get signed by him.  I delivered them to her as she was resting between rehearsals. She was preparing for an interview with Craig O’Neill, and I hated disturbing her. But I wanted to be sure she got the books.  She was gracious and very appreciative.

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Little Rock Look Back: Robinson Auditorium Commission abolished; Duties transferred to LRCVB

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On November 16, 1971, the City of Little Rock Board of Directors abolished the Auditorium Commission which oversaw Robinson Auditorium and transferred duties to the Advertising and Promotion Commission.

This was done with the full support of both commissions.  The transfer took place immediately, with all assets and loose ends to be wrapped up by December 15, 1971.

With the adoption of a hospitality sales tax, by state statute, Little Rock had to have an A&P Commission.  By 1971 plans were afoot to use the A&P tax to build a conference center using some of the existing space in Robinson and adding space.  It did not make sense to have two separate commissions overseeing the same building.

For the Auditorium Commission members, it was possibly a relief.  For years, overseeing the building had been a quiet duty.  But with the social changes of the 1960s, they had been confronted ending the policy of segregation as well as changes in content and subject matter of acts booked at Robinson.  Being agents of social change was doubtful what any of them had envisioned when they joined the commission.  Emily Miller had been a member of the body since January 1940 and others had been on it for many years.

Transferring Robinson to the A&P Commission ushered in a new era for the building. It saw increased booking of meetings which led to a better revenue stream.  The use of the A&P tax would mean the opportunity to give the building an upgrade from 1972 to 1974.

Robinson would eventually prove to be inadequate for all of Little Rock’s needs, which led to the creation and subsequent expansion of Statehouse Convention Center.  But the action 45 years ago today set the stage for the transformation Robinson has undergone as it reopened in November 2016.

The Thea Foundation honored as 2018 Outstanding Foundation by AFP

The Arkansas Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals honored the Thea Foundation as the 2018 Outstanding Foundation.

The Thea Foundation’s mission is to advocate for the importance of the arts in the development of youth. This statewide organization awards 36 scholarships to Arkansas high school seniors annually. It also provides grants of $50,000 each year for creative material and artistic supplies to teachers across the state through Thea’s Art Closet.

Through its Art Reconstruction Program, the Thea Foundation creates new and augments existing arts programs in schools.  The Thea Foundation also sponsors the Thea Paves the Way event, student and community art exhibitions in their gallery, and hosts the quarterly Thea Art Department which showcases emerging Arkansas artists.

All of this work is undertaken by a staff of five full-time staff members, an active board, and ardent volunteer base.

The Arkansas Arts Center’s Kelly Fleming honored as Fundraising Professional of the Year

At the 2018 AFP National Philanthropy Day, Kelly Kinard Fleming of the Arkansas Arts Center was honored by the Arkansas Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals as the Fundraising Professional of the Year!

(This honor also garnered her the front cover of this month’s INVITING ARKANSAS – featured with this entry.)

As the AAC’s Director of Development, Kelly is a proven fundraising professional with a commitment to philanthropy.  She leads a staff which continues to surpass annual goals of approximately $2 million, as well as surpassing special event goals, and founded the Townsend Wolfe Society, a planned giving program.

Kelly is an integral part of the AAC’s recent completion of its strategic plan, its re-accreditation, and its aggressive building project and capital campaign.

Prior to coming to the Arkansas Arts Center, Kelly served in fundraising at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre and Heifer Foundation. She is a member of the Little Rock Arts+Culture Commission, and has been an active supporter of many Little Rock arts organizations.

Little Rock Look Back: The City says HELLO, DOLLY! to Carol Channing

52 years ago tonight, on November 15, 1966, Carol Channing opened a six day stint in HELLO, DOLLY! at Robinson Auditorium.  She would play 8 sold out shows over those six days.

Channing, who had won the 1964 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role in this show, had recently returned to the national tour.  She had just wrapped filming THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE (for which she would receive an Oscar nomination). She had specifically requested that Little Rock be added to the tour.

Her breakout role was in 1949’s GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDS. In that show she introduced the song “Little Girl from Little Rock.”  Since it had helped make her a star, she had long felt an affinity for the Arkansas capital.  Therefore when she rejoined the tour, she required that LR be one of her stops before she left the tour.

While in Little Rock, Channing was entertained at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion and feted at parties.  She was made an honorary citizen of Little Rock, as well.

But she was here to perform. And perform she did. She was rarely known to miss a performance and always gave her utmost.  Bill Lewis, in his review in the ARKANSAS GAZETTE, stated “To hear Channing sing ‘Hello, Dolly!’ Is one of the great experiences of all musical theater to date…”

In assessing the show’s run in Little Rock (which would be seen by more than 20,000 people), Lewis summed up what many felt at the time — and to hear the reminiscences from a half century later, it still is a heartfelt sentiment — “A week’s too little.”

Expanded partnership between Arkansas Arts Center and Central Arkansas Library System announced

The Arkansas Arts Center and the Central Arkansas Library System are launching a long-term partnership to build valuable creative connections between two Central Arkansas cultural institutions.

This collaboration with CALS is the first of several community partnerships the Arkansas Arts Center will offer as its building in MacArthur Park undergoes a transformational renovation. Beginning in the fall of 2019, arts patrons will find Arts Center collection works and programming at a variety of locations around Arkansas, including 15 Central Arkansas Library System locations. More details about additional partnerships will continue to be announced throughout 2019.

“CALS has always served as a partner and host for our regional arts institutions. Our many branch locations provide a perfect venue to share with local neighborhoods the cultural richness of the Arkansas Arts Center’s collection,” CALS Executive Director Nate Coulter said. “We are also delighted to enable the continuation of the Arts Center’s educational programs during their construction process, thanks to our many community classrooms and meeting spaces. It is our pleasure to collaborate with the Arts Center to support our arts community, and we know CALS patrons will greatly enjoy these classes as an addition to our regular library programming.”

Beginning in early 2019, patrons of CALS branches will see works from the Arkansas Arts Center’s extensive collection of contemporary craft objects as they browse their neighborhood libraries. Nearly 10% of the craft collection’s 1,500 works will be on view at all 14 CALS branches, as well as the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, with each installation carefully curated to the environment, history and mission of each individual library branch. These installations in communities across Central Arkansas will show off the incredible diversity of the Arts Center’s collection of contemporary craft objects.

Beginning in September 2019, CALS patrons will also find some of their favorite Arts Center youth and adult programs at their neighborhood libraries, with programs carefully placed to fit the communities already present at each library.

“Partnerships within our community have always been critical to our mission,” said Laine Harber, Arkansas Arts Center interim executive director. “As we look toward the future, we want to continue to build the Arts Center into a true community gathering space. During our construction process, we look forward to building community with our many partners across the state.”

Food for Fines this December at CALS

Shed unwanted library fines this holiday season. The Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) is continuing its tradition of helping those in need by holding its annual Food for Fines event from Sunday, December 2, through Saturday, December 8.

Food for Fines gives patrons an opportunity to help others in central Arkansas and to reduce fines for overdue library materials. During Food for Fines, patrons may bring in donations of non-perishable food items to offset overdue fines on their library accounts. Each non-perishable food item will offset $1 in fines up to $10. Fines accrued for billed items or replacement fees are not eligible under the program.

Food collected in Pulaski County during the drive will be donated to the Arkansas Foodbank. Donations collected at Milam Library will be donated to Partners for Progress in Perryville.

CALS libraries in Little Rock:

  • Main Library, 100 Rock Street
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center, 4800 W. 10th Street
  • Dee Brown Library, 6325 Baseline Road
  • Fletcher Library, 823 North Buchanan Street
  • Terry Library, 2015 Napa Valley Drive
  • McMath Library, 2100 John Barrow Road
  • Thompson Library, 38 Rahling Circle
  • Oley E. Rooker Library, 11 Otter Creek Court
  • Williams Library, 1800 Chester Street

For more information about Food for Fines, call 918-3000 or visit http://www.cals.org.

The Central Arkansas Library System includes 14 branch libraries located in Little Rock, Perryville, and throughout Pulaski County. CALS has the largest research collection in central Arkansas. Most of its more than one million items may be reserved online and picked up at any branch that is convenient to the patron. Library Square, the library system’s downtown Little Rock campus, includes the Main Library, as well as the Ron Robinson Theater, the Bobby L. Roberts Library of Arkansas History & Art, and the Bookstore at Library Square.