Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area

Arkansas Gives today from 8am to 8pm

If you are like me, you’ve been receiving notifications about Arkansas Gives Day for months.  Well, today is the day!  From 8am until 8pm, you can help grow the love for Arkansas’s nonprofit organizations by making a donation to the charity of your choice.  The event is sponsored by the Arkansas Community Foundation.

As a special incentive to give, each gift made through ArkansasGives on April 6, 2017, will be matched with additional bonus dollars; the more you give, the more bonus dollars your favorite charity will receive.

Nonprofit organizations and other tax-exempt charitable organizations may participate if they:

  • Are headquartered in Arkansas or have a base of operations in Arkansas.
  • Have 501(c)(3) tax exempt status under IRS code AND are qualified as a 509(a)(1), (a)(2) or (a)(3) organization or as a private operating foundation.

The minimum amount is $25; there is no maximum amount you may give. You may designate up to 10 charities per transaction.

Accepted Forms of Payment: Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express credit cards online.
You will receive an email receipt of your gift; please retain it for tax purposes. Unless you choose to remain anonymous, your donor information will be sent to the nonprofits to which you give.

Here is a list of cultural organizations which offer services within the boundaries of the City of Little Rock.


There are MANY MANY MANY other worthy nonprofits which are participating. But since this is a culture blog, only the cultural institutions are listed.  But please consider visiting the website and perusing the entire list.


Little Rock Look Back: Opening of Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium

Robinson Auditorium

Robinson Auditorium

On February 16, 1940, after three years of planning and construction including several delays due to lack of funding, the Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium officially opened. It was a cold, rainy night, but those in attendance did not care.

Searchlights painting arcs in the sky greeted attendees. They were borrowed from the Arkansas National Guard. Newspaper accounts noted that only a few of the men who attended were in tuxedos, most were simply in suits. The work to get the building opened had been so harried, that it was discovered there was not an Arkansas Flag to fly in front of the building. Mayor Satterfield found one at the last minute courtesy of the Arkansas Department of the Spanish War Veterans.

The weather delayed arrivals, so the program started fifteen minutes late. Following a performance of Sibelius’ Finlandia by the fledgling Arkansas State Symphony Orchestra, Mayor J. V. Satterfield, Ewilda Robinson (the Senator’s widow), Emily Miller (the Senator’s sister-in-law and a member of the Auditorium Commission) and D. Hodson Lewis of the Chamber of Commerce participated in a brief ribbon cutting ceremony. Mrs Robinson cut the ribbon on her second attempt (once again proving that nothing connected with getting the building open was easy).

The ceremony was originally set to be outside of the building but was moved indoors due to the inclement weather. The ribbon cutting took place on the stage with the ribbon stretched out in front of the curtain. The opening remarks were broadcast on radio station KGHI.

Mr. Lewis, Mrs. Miller and Mayor Satterfield look on as Mrs. Robinson cuts the ribbon

Mr. Lewis, Mrs. Miller and Mayor Satterfield look on as Mrs. Robinson cuts the ribbon

Though he had previously discussed how he had voted against the auditorium in 1937 before entering public life, the mayor’s remarks that evening were appropriately gracious, statesmanlike and a testament to the effort he had invested to get it open upon becoming mayor. “We hope you have a very pleasant evening and hope further that it will be the first in a long series which you will enjoy in this, your auditorium.”

Tickets for the event, advertised as being tax exempt, were at four different pricing levels: $2.50, $2.00, $1.50 and $1.00.

The estimated attendance was 1700. Following the ribbon cutting, the main performance took place. The headliner for the grand opening was the San Francisco Opera Ballet accompanied by the new Arkansas State Symphony Orchestra (not related to the current Arkansas Symphony Orchestra). The featured soloist with the ballet was Zoe Dell Lantis who was billed as “The Most Photographed Miss at the San Francisco World’s Fair.”

At the same time that the gala was going on upstairs in the music hall, a high school basketball double-header was taking place in the downstairs convention hall. North Little Rock lost to Beebe in the first game, while the Little Rock High School Tigers upset Pine Bluff in the marquee game.

The Nutcracker returns to Robinson Center this weekend with Ballet Arkansas and ASO musicians

2016-nutcrackerCelebrate the season with your professional ballet company as Ballet Arkansas continues a favorite Christmas tradition performing The Nutcracker accompanied by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Geoffrey Robson.  After two years in Maumelle, The Nutcracker returns to the gloriously reimaginined Robinson Center Performance Hall!

Under the direction of Artistic Director Michael Bearden, Ballet Arkansas’ Nutcracker will be the highlight of the holiday season.  Join Clara at her family’s home as guests arrive for a festive Christmas Eve celebration where her godfather, Herr Drosselmeyer, gives her a very special present, a Nutcracker doll. As the hour becomes late, the magic in the air begins to grow, along with Clara’s house and everything in it. Suddenly, there is a battle between an army of giant mice and life-sized toy soldiers. When the leaders of the mice have Clara cornered, The Nutcracker appears and with Clara’s help, they defeat the army of mice and escape to the Land of Snow, where the Snow Queen and King are presented to Clara and The Nutcracker amongst the flurries of beautiful dancing snowflakes.

The magic continues as Clara and The Nutcracker take an enchanted sleigh ride to the Land of Sweets where the Sugar Plum Fairy presents Clara with delightful acts by a host of characters such as Spanish Chocolate, Arabian Coffee, and the Dew Drop Fairy in the Waltz of the Flowers. After a spectacular show of grace and athleticism, performed just for Clara, the characters and magical lands begin to fade and like waking from a dream, Clara is returned to her home, under her family’s Christmas tree, in the arms of Herr Drosselmeyer, with the magical story of The Nutcracker forever in her heart

The Nutcracker is the perfect yuletide gift, the ideal means of introducing children to the power and beauty of classical dance, and a delightful way for the entire family to ring in the holiday season. Make Ballet Arkansas’ Nutcracker part of your holiday celebration this December! To purchase tickets for the December 9th, 10th or 11th public shows to The Nutcracker, visit or call 501-666-1761. Tickets range from $25-$70.


Little Rock Look Back: AETN goes on the air

Happy 50th Birthday to AETN!

On December 4, 1966, AETN officially went on the air and launched what has been 50 years of arts, history, and educational programming.

KETS, the flagship station, broadcast only in black and white from 1966 until 1972. The focus was only in Central Arkansas until other stations started going on the air in 1976. Today there are a total of six PBS affiliate stations in Arkansas covering not only the entire state, but also portions of the surrounding states.

In the early days, the programming was focused in instructional supplements to teachers.  From 1966 to 1970, AETN was affiliated with the National Educational Television network.  With the advent of PBS, AETN’s programming expanded as many other public television offerings were available.

AETN has brought the best of Broadway, opera houses, ballet, and symphonic halls into houses in Arkansas.  It has broadcast sweeping historical programs which have educated, enlightened and entertained audiences.  The educational programming has nurtured creativity in budding artists.

Quite simply, without AETN, the cultural landscape of Arkansas would be vastly different.

RobinsoNovember: First Dance at Robinson Center


Jan Garber and his orchestra

Tonight the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra hosts its annual Opus Ball inside the new William Grant Still Ballroom at Robinson Center.  That the first public event in this space will be a dance is only appropriate.  The first public event in the original Robinson was also a dance.  It was held four months before the building even opened.

On October 4, 1939, the convention hall on the lower level was the site of a preview dance.  The pecan block flooring had been installed just the week before.

The first four people to enter the building as paying guests were Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Wilheim, Frances Frazier and Bill Christian.  Reports estimated 3,200 people attended and danced to the music of Jan Garber and His Orchestra.  By happenstance, Garber and his musicians had also played in Little Rock on January 26, 1937, the date of the election which approved the auditorium bonds.  Since Little Rock then did not have a suitable space, that appearance had been on the stage of the high school auditorium.


RobinsoNovember: Election Days in 1937, 1940 and 2013

Since today is Election Day, it is appropriate to look back at the three different campaigns to build, furnish, and restore Robinson Center Music Hall.  (Note, there have been at least two other General Capital Bond elections which contained money for Robinson, but those were not stand alone elections about the auditorium and have thus been excluded.


On January 26, 1937, Little Rock voters were asked to approve three bond programs which would build a municipal auditorium, expand the City library, and construct a park for African Americans.  Each issue had its own group of supporters, though they all encouraged “Yes” votes for each question.  The “Forward Little Rock Committee” (sometimes referred to as the “Little Rock Forward Committee) was headed by W. H. Williams and led the charge for the auditorium.   The bonds for the auditorium would be $468,000 in general obligation bonds which would be paid off between 1940 and 1971.  This was toward a total cost of $760,000 for the entire project.

The campaign stressed the economic benefits from all the conventions which would be held in Little Rock after an auditorium was constructed.  The focus was as much, if not more, on the exhibition hall space as it was about the music hall space.   The Municipal Auditorium had the lowest level of support of all three issues, but it still passed overwhelmingly.  It is interesting to note that the design featured in the campaign ad bears little resemblance to the project which was actually constructed.

The final vote total was 1,518 for and 519 against. The project passed in each of the City’s 23 precincts.



Because the project ran out of money, Robinson Auditorium opened in February 1940 with out any landscaping, furnishings in the meeting rooms, and a lack of equipment in various areas throughout the facility.  To remedy this, additional bonds for the auditorium were added to a request put to the voters on April 2, 1940.  The dollar amount was $30,000 for the completion of the project.  The other two issues were additional fire equipment and establishment of an administrative building at the municipal airport.

The campaign for the new bonds used a similar structure and message as the 1937 election to build the auditorium.  There were newspaper ads by the steering committee (this time simply called the Citizen’s Committee and led by Omar Throgmorton) and support from civic organizations.  One thing very different from the 1937 campaign was the presence of an actual building.  On Sunday, March 31, just two days before the election, there was an open house for the public to explore the edifice.  From 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., members of various Little Rock Boy Scout troops led 4,000 visitors on tours of the auditorium.  Visitors were shown all over the building; one scout calculated that the walking tour equated to two miles.  Though most people were from Little Rock, the guest registry indicated visitors from California and Pennsylvania

On election day, the Auditorium bonds passed with a vote of 1,413 to 423.  Every precinct in every ward of the city voted in favor of the new bonds.



In an effort to bring Robinson Center Music Hall into the 21st Century, the Advertising and Promotion Commission (which took over administration of Robinson in 1971) leadership decided to dedicate the renewal of their bonds to the renovation of Robinson.  What had been built as a 1940 civic auditorium did not meet the artistic or convention needs of the 2010s.  The Restore Robinson Committee was led by former LR Mayor Jim Dailey, civic leader Charles Stewart and A&P Commissioner Capi Peck.  In campaign literature Mr. Stewart noted: “An upgraded Robinson will allow thousands of children and residents from Little Rock to enjoy future dance recitals, graduations and community gathering in a spectacular new performance and events center.”

Plans called for taking the historic building down to its exterior walls (except for the front lobby which remained).  The music hall level was to be dropped 30 feet to street level.  A new conference center would wrap around the northern facade of the structure.

The referendum passed with 5,183 For vs. 1,800 Against.

The building closed on July 1, 2014 with a ceremonial breaking of the stage flooring.  On July 1, 2015, the reconstruction “topping out” ceremony took place.  The ribbon cutting for the new structure will take place on November 10, 2016, at 10 a.m.

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.