80 years ago today, Robinson Auditorium construction was deemed “Substantially Finished”

Many months behind schedule, it was 80 years ago today (December 8, 1939) that the construction of the Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium was declared “substantially finished.”

On December 8, 1939, the work of the general contractor was complete. The building’s utilities were all fully connected as the steam line and electric transformer were hooked up. While the work of the general contractor was through, there was still much work to be done.

Though there were still unfinished portions of the structure, the exterior was complete and finished surfaces had been installed on the interior. Until the building was officially turned over to the City, the federal Public Works Administration still had to give approval for any uses of the building.Mayor J. V. Satterfield, Jr. told the press that he wasn’t sure when the City would formally accept the building. The connection of the utilities had used up the remaining funds, so there was uncertainty as to when the final tasks would be completed.

When it was built, Robinson Auditorium was the first municipal auditorium in the south central United States to be air conditioned. However, the air conditioning unit was not sufficient to cool both the music hall and the convention hall at the same time. In warm weather months concurrent events would not be able to take place on the two levels.

Birth of Diego Rivera

Today is the birthday of Diego Rivera.  He is one of my favorite artists, so any excuse to discuss him and his relationship with the Rockefeller family is greatly appreciated.

One of Rivera’s masterpieces is 1914’s Portrait of Two Women which is part of the permanent collection of the Arkansas Arts Center. Once the AAC reopens in MacArthur Park in 2022, I look forward to seeing it again!

The official name is Dos Mujeres.  It is a portrait of Angelina Beloff and Maria Dolores Bastian.  The former was Rivera’s first wife.

This oil on canvas stands six and a half feet tall and five and a half feet wide.

Influenced by cubists such as Picasso, Rivera adopted fracturing of form, use of multiple perspective points, and flattening of the picture plane.  Yet his take on this style of painting is distinctive.  He uses brighter colors and a larger scale than many early cubist pictures. Rivera also features highly textured surfaces executed in a variety of techniques.

The painting was a gift to the Arkansas Arts Center by Abby Rockefeller Mauzé, sister of Arkansas Governor Winthrop Rockefeller.  At the 1963 opening of the Arkansas Arts Center, James Rorimer, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, remarked several times to Arts Center trustee Jeane Hamilton that the Met should have that piece. Jeane politely smiled as she remarked, “But we have it.”

Of all her brothers, Abby was closest to Winthrop. The other brothers, at best ignored, and at worst, antagonized the two.  Given the complicated relationship of Rivera with members of the Rockefeller family, it is not surprising that if Abby were to have purchased this piece, she would donate it to a facility with close ties to Winthrop.

(Though the Rockefeller brothers had Rivera’s mural at Rockefeller Center destroyed, he maintained a cordial relationship with their mother Abby Aldrich Rockefeller — well as cordial as an anti-social but eminently charming Communist could be with the doyenne of capitalist NYC Society.)

Arkansas Governor’s Mansion Christmas Open House today

Image result for "arkansas governor's mansion" christmas"The annual Arkansas Governor’s Mansion Christmas Open House takes place today (December 8) from 1pm to 4pm.

The event provides the opportunity to view the decorations, meet Santa, enjoy cookies and experience holiday music.

The Mansion will be an official Toys for Tots dropoff location.  Please bring new, unwrapped, toys to donate.  Please Note: Strollers will not be allowed inside the Mansion.

Park in the neighborhood and enter through the front gates at 18th and Center Streets.  Or you can take a free trolley from Historic Arkansas Museum, Old State Museum and Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.

Holiday Open House this afternoon at Old State House Museum

It’s the most wonderful time of the year … to visit the Old State House Museum! Celebr ate the holidays with the museum during Holiday Open House on Sunday, Dec. 8, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The museum will look its best with plenty of holiday décor, and local music groups, like the Sweet Adelines and Little Rock Central High Madrigals, will create a festive atmosphere. Visitors can participate in hands-on holiday activities and enjoy yuletide treats.

Admission is free, and a trolley will be available to take visitors between Old State House Museum, Historic Arkansas Museum and Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, as well as the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion, at no charge.

Holiday Open House and Sweet Potato Pie contest at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center

Celebrate the season with Mosaic Templars Cultural Center at the Holiday Open House!

The main attraction at Holiday Open House is the Say It Ain’t Say’s Sweet Potato Pie Contest. Both amateurs and professionals can compete to see whose pie is worthy to be in the same category as Robert “Say” McIntosh, a popular Little Rock restauranteur known for his generosity and his tasty sweet potato pie.

Those who can’t bake … eat! Guests get to sample the entries and vote for their favorites to win the People’s Choice Award.

There’s even more to enjoy at Holiday Open House, like musical performances and a family craft room!

Holiday Open House is free, but visitors are encouraged to bring a toy to donate to local children through Say’s Stop the Violence, a local nonprofit organization.

Hours are from 2pm to 5pm.

For more information, please call (501) 683-3593 or visit mosaictemplarscenter.com.

(A free trolley can take you to the Historic Arkansas Museum, the Old State House Museum and the Arkansas Governors Mansion.)

FROZEN SCIENCE at the Museum of Discovery today!

Don’t “Let It Go” when it comes to the opportunity for Frozen Science at the Museum of Discovery.

The fun (and learning – but don’t tell the kids they will actually learn things) is today (December 7) from 10am to 3pm.

Suit up for a wintry science adventure full of icy experiments, liquid nitrogen demos and chilly hands-on activities!

Tickets are included in regular museum admission or free for members. Purchase tickets at the door or online.

Studio Gang was announced as Arkansas Arts Center architect on Dec. 6, 2016

On December 6, 2016, the Arkansas Arts Center (AAC) announced the selection of Studio Gang as design architect for its upcoming building project.

The five firms selected as finalists were Allied Works (Portland, Ore./New York), Shigeru Ban (New York/Paris/Tokyo, Japan), Studio Gang (Chicago/New York), Thomas Phifer (New York) and Snohetta (Oslo, Norway/New York/San Francisco).

Studio Gang was deemed the best fit for the project due to the firm’s elegant and smart approach to architecture, their understanding of the issues posed by the AAC’s current facility, their vision for the center as a cultural beacon for Central Arkansas and their commitment to sustainability and strength as urban planners.

Founded by MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang is an award-winning architecture and urbanism practice based out of Chicago and New York. A recipient of the 2013 National Design Award, Jeanne Gang was also named the 2016 Archiitect of the Year by the Architectural Review and the firm was awarded the 2016 Architizer A+ award for Firm of the Year.

Studio Gang is recognized internationally for a design process that foregrounds the relationships between individuals, communities and environments. The firm has extensive knowledge in museum, theatre and artist studio spaces, with projects ranging from the Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Ill. to the Aqua Tower in Chicago to the expansion of the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Since their selection, Studio Gang has brought on a variety of other members of the consultant team including:

In February 2018, Studio Gang released their first designs for the project.  On October 1, 2019, ground was broken and construction officially commenced.