As the 2019 look back wraps up, here are items numbered 17, 18 & 19.
17 – A new format for ACANSA. 2019 was the Sixth Annual ACANSA Arts Festival of the South. This edition has a slightly different format taking place on three successive weekends in September.
The event kicked off on Second Friday Art Night. The opening event was a double bill of the Arts+Culture Commission’s Open Studios preview inside the CALS Bobby Roberts Library and Ballet Arkansas’ Art with a Twist. In the latter, the members of the Ballet Arkansas company created artwork by covering themselves in paint and applying the paint to large canvases stretched along walls on buildings in the CALS Library Square campus.
Other highlights of the 2019 ACANSA included: Hot Club of Cowtown, Stewart Fullerton’s Homecoming Queen, Gina Chavez, Bill Bowers: All Over the Map, the first ACANSA produced play production (Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire), American Guitarist & Composer Bill Frisell, Tenors Unlimited, BODYTRAFFIC, Bette Davis Ain’t for Sissies, Tatiana R. Mann and Friends, author & food historian Jessica B. Harris, and the Dallas String Quartet Where Bach Meets Bon Jovi.
The festival ended with an Arkansas Symphony Orchestra collaboration featuring conductor JoAnn Falletta leading the ASO in Ravel’s La Valse, Higdon’s Concerto 4-3 and Rimsky-Korsakov’s colorful musical telling of the Arabian Nights legends, Scheherazade. That evening also included a performance by Time for Three.
18 – Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust gives $2.25 million to UA Little Rock Center for Arkansas History and Culture. On September 10, UA Little Rock announced that the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust (WRCT) had gifted $2.25 million to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Center for Arkansas History and Culture to preserve and educate the public about the history of Arkansas, including the notable contributions of Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller.
The gift will create the Winthrop Rockefeller Archival Fund, a quasi-endowment. It is the sixth-largest cash gift in UA Little Rock’s history. Funds will be used to preserve, house, and catalog historical items of their collections and to support activities related to the Center’s mission.
The Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust donated the Rockefeller Collection to the center in 1980, which was instrumental in establishing UA Little Rock’s archives program. Plans call for CAHC to increase its archives to include collections of underrepresented groups that will complement its collection of records related to state leaders. The Center will also increase efforts to digitize collections housed in the archive, making this historic information more accessible to the public.
Additionally, the Center will offer more educational opportunities for students by granting awards to conduct research and providing experiential learning opportunities. The gift will allow the center to create educational activities, research initiatives, and events associated with the Rockefeller Collection and other collections housed in the Center.
19 – Little Rock’s new Mayor, Frank Scott, Jr. January 1, 2019, marked the swearing in of Frank Scott, Jr., as Little Rock’s 73rd Mayor. Unlike any predecessor, he established a Transition Board to help set goals in a variety of subject areas. One of those areas was Quality of Life. This should not be a surprise since he is a graduate of Parkview Arts and Science Magnet School. The arts, humanities, culture and museums throughout the entirety of Little Rock have been prominent in his first-year initiatives. Additionally, he has:
- Established a Zoo Task Force has been studying the needs and plans for the future of the Little Rock Zoo. It is reviewing the Zoo’s current business model, developing an action plan for future funding and also examining the Zoo’s current facilities Master Plan developed in 2014 to look for new opportunities in animal habitat design, guest amenity and park design.
- Created the R-3 Task Force to discuss ways of revitalizing lands that were previously municipal golf courses. A survey of the public received more than 11,000 responses with ideas for repurposing the land.
- Included arts and cultural entities in discussions of Opportunity Zones as well as recognizing the arts as an important part of education discussions.
- Created the Public Affairs and Creative Economy Office to coordinate, collaborate, and maximize opportunities with arts, culture, heritage, museums, and creative entities and industries in Little Rock. Plans are underway for Little Rock to participate in a national study looking at the economic impact of the arts.
The penultimate look back at 19 Little Rock cultural milestones in 2019 with numbers 14 to 16.
14 – CALS rebrands literary festival as Six Bridges Book Festival. Previously known for 16 years as the Arkansas Literary Festival, this summer, the Central Arkansas Library System announced that starting with the April 2020 event, it would be known as Six Bridges Book Festival.
The four-day event in April celebrates reading, literacy, stories and wordsmithing including musical lyrics. Scores of nationally known authors converge on the city to offer panels on a wide variety of topics, from cooking demonstrations to award-winning comedy to personal stories of tornado-chasing. A slate of programming for children and teens includes hands-on crafts and music, animal visits, poetry contests, and more. Authors also venture out into the community for efforts such as “Writers in the Schools” (WITS), bringing the joy of writing to hundreds of students in the Little Rock area. Concerts, films, readings, and author parties enhance the festive atmosphere across 18 venues in downtown Little Rock.
The continuing success of the festival and its mission to encourage the enjoyment of reading and literacy have led CALS leadership to envision an even larger and more widely appealing festival for the future. By actively soliciting community input from all demographic groups and throughout the region, CALS plans to draw more people to experience the rich atmosphere of the festival and to see for themselves that the Six Bridges Book Festival offers something for everyone.
CALS Executive Director Nate Coulter noted, “The label ‘literary’ doesn’t describe the wide variety of festival offerings available to our community members. And the word can be off-putting to those who associate it with books they were made to read in school, rather than books they like now. The Six Bridges Book Festival is a diverse, energetic celebration of all kinds of stories and topics, both literary and mainstream, and we feel the new name reflects the festival’s nature more accurately. Our goal is to draw a wider audience by removing any barriers of perception that this event is only for highbrow tastes.”
The 17th annual festival now known as the Six Bridges Book Festival will take place April 23-26, 2020. Community organizations and community members at CALS branch libraries will soon be involved in the planning process.
15 – Museum of Discovery “Shocked the Rock” with 40 feet tall Tesla Coil. Thousands of fans of famed inventor Nikola Tesla (or of the Museum of Discovery) flocked downtown on July 20 to witness the world’s largest Tesla Coil in action at “Shock the Rock!,” a Tesla-themed, free event on the grounds of the Clinton Presidential Center. “Shock the Rock!” was powered by Entergy and presented by the Museum of Discovery.
Greg Leyh, a California electrical engineer and scientist, completed construction of the 40-foot Tesla coil tower in October 2018 and displayed its awesome capabilities in Little Rock after his world-record device is featured at a Nikola Tesla birthday party celebration July 13 at the Tesla Science Center in Wardenclyffe, NY.
Leyh’s latest world-record coil was centered on the large concrete pad at the western edge of the Clinton Center grounds cordoned off from the crowd, ensuring zero danger from being on-site to watch the awesome power of 60-foot bolts of lightning.
Pre-“Shock the Rock!” festivities included electricity-related demonstrations and host hands-on, interactive activities with guests.
16 – Artspace Rocks. Over 300 people gathered in July at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center for the Artspace Rocks first public event. It was part-description of what Artspace does, part-celebration of the vibrant Little Rock arts scene, part-networking event, and part-performance. It was all fun!
Artspace is the leading non-profit developer of live/work artist housing, artist studios, arts centers and arts-friendly businesses in the U.S. They specialize in creating, owning, and operating affordable spaces for artists and creative businesses. These spaces include live/work apartments for artists and their families, working artist studios, arts centers, commercial space for arts-friendly businesses, and other projects.
The Windgate Foundation invited Artspace to Little Rock to conduct a feasibility study during the first several months of 2019. They assembled a core committee made up of a diverse group from a variety of facets from the creative economy. The feasibility study process involved tours, focus groups, interviews, and the aforementioned public event. The name given to the Little Rock project was Artspace Rocks.
In September, a Creative Space Needs Survey was launched. It sought specific input from creative people, especially those interested in affordable space. Several hundred responses were received. In October, the preliminary feasibility study was released.
Artspace will be back in The Rocks at the end of January 2020 with more updates. Stay tuned….
This Christmas season give your family the gift of Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker!
Step into a simpler time filled with sweet dreams and Christmas magic. With world-class artists, over 200 dazzling costumes, stunning sets, towering puppets and soaring birds, don’t miss your chance to ring in the holidays with this acclaimed Christmas extravaganza.
The New York Times, “Hot Ticket!” Celebrate this cherished holiday tradition and relive the dream with Tchaikovsky’s timeless score. Get tickets for the whole family now!
MOSCOW BALLET’S GREAT RUSSIAN NUTCRACKER will perform at 3:00 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Thursday, December 26, 2019. Platinum tickets include Premium Nutcracker Ornament, a Moscow Ballet Book, and a pre-show Meet and Greet. Gold Circle tickets receive a Premium Nutcracker Ornament and the official Moscow Ballet Book. VIP ornaments and books can be purchased at the merchandise table. Meet and Greet will begin 45 minutes prior to the showtime and will meet at the merchandise table.
New York Times, Chief Dance Critic, “Knockout… Brimful with feeling…Expansive… Kids…were wide-eyed with delight”
In December 1968:
- the final stretch of Interstate 40 between Little Rock and Memphis was completed. (Little did anyone know that milestone merely meant work would change from construction to non-stop reconstruction.)
- Talks were underway about merging private Little Rock University with the University of Arkansas system (which would be finalized in the summer of 1969).
- On the TV on December 19, “The Little Drummer Boy” TV special was being shown for the first time. Also, Arkansan Glen Campbell was one of the guest stars on Bob Hope’s Christmas TV special.
For those who did not sit at home watching TV, at Robinson Auditorium on December 19 and 20, 1968, the nascent Little Rock Civic Ballet (a forerunner to today’s Ballet Arkansas) presented its first production of THE NUTCRACKER.
Under the direction and choreography of D. Cater Cranford, this production featured 135 performers, a fifty piece orchestra under the direction of Vasilios Priakos, and the largest number of stagehands in Robinson Auditorium’s history. The production cost $25,000 to mount. That would be the equivalent of just over $184,775 in 2019.
A large portion of the money went to renting sets from Dallas for the production. The costumes were designed and sewn by Cranford. He also appeared as Drosselmeyer in the production. His wife Lorraine, assisted with the choreography and also appeared on stage.
Though most of the dancers were local, the leading roles were danced by Bill Martin-Viscont, Nathalie Krassovak, Linda DiBona, Margo Dean and Carl Tressler. Some of the dancers who had rehearsed for the production were unable to participate due to several cast members coming down with flu in the days immediately prior to the production.
The production sold out both public performances as well as the daytime matinee for school children. The dress rehearsal on December 18 was opened up for children with disabilities to attend.
Though The Nutcracker has not been presented in Little Rock every year since 1968, it has certainly been on stage most of the years since then. The overwhelming response to this production set the stage for it to become a much-loved holiday tradition in the city.
Ballet Arkansas’ Nutcracker Spectacular is the largest holiday production in the State of Arkansas, and a beloved holiday classic that is perfect for all ages.
Featuring recently updated choreography, Ballet Arkansas’ production has been a holiday tradition for families across the state for 41 years. The production features the talents of the 15 professional dancers of Ballet Arkansas, and a community cast of more than 225 children and adults from every corner of the state.
The community cast rehearses for 11 weeks to prepare for the performances and consists of multiple generations of cast members – with many cast members participating in Ballet Arkansas’ productions for more than 20 years.
All public performances feature live music by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Geoffrey Robson, and either The Mount Saint Mary Concert Belle’s, directed by Chelsea Frazier, or the Episcopal Collegiate Choirs, directed by Stephen Vano, who will sing during the infamous snow scene at the end of Act I.
Take a journey with Clara Stahlbaum to the “Land of the Sweets” this Holiday, and enjoy the magic of the Nutcracker Spectacular, set to Pyotry Illyich Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score.
The Nutcracker Spectacular takes the stage at the Robinson Performance Hall on December 13-15, 2019. Ballet Arkansas will present four public performances, Friday, December 13, 7:30 pm, Saturday, December 14, 2:30 pm and 7:30 pm, and Sunday December 15, 2:30pm. Purchase ‘sweet seats’ to sit in the best seats in the house, and receive a gift, for $99. Tickets range from $18-102 and are available here or by calling Celebrity Attractions Box Office at (501)-244-8800. Tickets on sale June 3, 2019.
Learn more about Ballet Arkansas’ 2019/20 Season at www.balletarkansas.org.
Ballet Arkansas, the foremost professional ballet company of the State of Arkansas, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Through a roster of talented artists and dancers, Ballet Arkansas presents vibrant and diverse repertory featuring classical, neoclassical, and contemporary works by world renowned choreographers. A driving force in the State, Ballet Arkansas is committed to creative collaboration, community outreach, high quality dance education, the evolution of arts programming across the region, and is devoted to making high quality professional dance performance accessible to all. The productions of Ballet Arkansas promise to enrich the lives of all in attendance.
One of the sure signs of the Christmas season is the return of The Nutcracker to ballet companies across America. Though the Little Rock Civic Ballet had first presented this ballet in 1968, by the mid-1970s, it was no longer performing the complete ballet.
In 1978, the Little Rock Civic Ballet was reorganized and re-christened Ballet Arkansas. That first year, it did not perform The Nutcracker. But on December 11, 1979, the tradition returned as Ballet Arkansas presented its first production of The Nutcracker. It was once again at Robinson Center Music Hall.
The production was directed and choreographed by Lorraine Cranford, Ballet Arkansas’ Artistic Director. The music was provided by musicians from the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra under the baton of guest conductor David Schimmell. This was the first time in several years that the ballet had been accompanied by the ASO.
The guest artists were Anne Burton and Tanju Tuzer, both from Dallas. The local dancers including David Twillie, Mirana, Peggy Howard, Carol Campbell, Jeffrey Stuart, Haven Cooper, Buddy Harris, Chris Clarke and Jeff Johns.
Tickets were $3.00 for the matinee. Evening performances ranged from $5 to $10 a person.