Category Archives: Holidays

Easter Bunnies on Parade

Little Rock has at least four different sculptures of rabbits.  Since today is Easter Sunday and the Easter Bunny is making his rounds, it seems a good day to highlight these sculptures.

RB MonThe newest sculpture is Dan Ostermiller’s R. B. Monument.  A gift to the citizens of Little Rock by the Little Rock Garden Club, it was dedicated in 2017.

Located at the southeast corner of Kavanaugh and Pierce, this rabbit has quickly become a landmark. It is a favorite for kids and adults as they walk or drive by.  The rabbit is situated so that people can easily pose for photos with it, without the photographer having to stand in the street.  At Christmas and Easter, the rabbit has been bedecked with an appropriate wreath to add to its festive nature.

Bun BumIn the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden, Laurel Peterson Gregory’s Bunny Bump has been providing whimsy since 2010.

After she sculpts an animal in wax or oil-based clay, traditional lost-wax casting processes immortalize the design in bronze. One aspect of particular interest to me, and one for which I plan early in the sculpting phase, is the complex and rich patinas that constitute another hallmark of my limited-edition sculptures. Multiple layers of chemicals and oxides are applied to the heated bronze to achieve a range of unique effects, both translucent and opaque, that complement each design.

Two stylized rabbits make for an interesting piece of artwork when they are not only dancing, but also doing the butt bump while dancing. The smooth surface and color of the bronze add to the illusion. This small piece has been placed on a pedestal to elevate more to eye level.

LopsA few yards from the bumping bunnies, James Paulsen’s Lopsided presents a much more laconic rabbit.

Paulsen is a self-taught artist. Alternately studying the wilds of the northern forest, and the open beauty of the American Southwest, he concentrates his work on natural subjects he has grown up with, and is heavily influenced by his family’s artistic background, being raised by an artist-illustrator and an author. In his work, he explores merging the beauty he sees in the natural world with the expressiveness of clay and bronze.

While having most of his work in galleries or private collections across the country, he has recently completed two public commissions

And at the corner of President Clinton Avenue and Sherman Street, Tim Cherry’s Rabbit Reach welcomes visitors to the River Market.

The sculpture is located at the corner of Sherman Street and President Clinton Avenue across from the Museum of Discovery.

The sculpture is a gift from Whitlow Wyatt and the Carey Cox Wyatt Charitable Foundation. It was given in memory of George Wyatt and Frank Kumpuris.  Those two gentlemen were the fathers of Whitlow Wyatt and Dean & Drew Kumpuris.

Cherry’s sculpture was selected for this spot because of its proximity to children at the Museum and in the River Market district.  The design and size of the sculpture encourages children to climb on it and to play around the rabbit.  While some public art is situated so it cannot be touched, this one is situated to be touched as part of the appreciation experience.

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Rock the Oscars: John Legend

john-legendOn September 26, 2009, future Oscar winner John Legend headlined a concert at Robinson Center.

Born in Ohio, he graduated from high school at age 16 ranked number two in the class.  He attended college at the University of Pennsylvania. In Philadelphia during college, he started performing shows–eventually playing gigs up and down the eastern seaboard.  In 2001, he started performing with Kanye West.  His debut solo album was released in 2004 and was certified gold.  It won the 2006 Grammy for Best R&B album.

In addition to his own work, he has been a much-sought after collaborator.  Between both ventures, he continued to pick up accolades and release hit songs and albums.  At the time he visited Little Rock, he was promoting the album Evolver.

Since his time in Little Rock, he has toured extensively, released more albums, and continued to tour.  He won the Oscar for Best Song for “Glory” from Selma.  At last year’s Oscars, the film La La Land in which he appears, was nominated for several Academy Awards.  It won six but NOT Best Picture.

Year of the Sculpted Dog

Today marks the Chinese New Year (sometimes called Lunar New Year).  As part of the twelve year cycle, this is the Year of the Dog.

To mark this occasion, here are four sculptures found in Little Rock which feature dogs.  Two are in the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden, one is in the Bill Clark Wetlands, and the other is at the Little Rock Animal Village.

Ken Newman’s FOREVER READY was donated in 2009 by the Sculpture at the River Market.   It is sited in the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden.  Mr. Newman is a member of the National Sculptors’ Guild.  One of Mr. Newman’s specialties is animals.  Cast in bronze, Forever Ready depicts a Labrador.  Here is Mr. Newman’s artist statement on the piece.

Forever Ready is based off my 30 years experiences with and my love of the Lab. The sculpture was created during the absence of a lab in my life, this was important, because I wanted to reflect on all the past labs, not a present companion. So, ‘Forever Ready’ is that reflection of the breed (hunter, companion and teacher)…Capturing its intense nature with discipline and loyalty, I have set the lab on edge so intense, that if not given the command to go, it will just fall off. But, it is able to maintain balance – wet and ready to go again. The lab’s shadow is cast in the water below, for a I cannot think of a lab without water.

A few yards from Forever Ready, another dog stands inquisitively.  Commissioned in 2010 and unveiled in 2011, Dan Glanz’s BORIS is a likeness of Boris Kumpuris, the dog and companion of Mary and Dr. Dean Kumpuris.

Glanz captures the friendly and inquisitive nature of Boris in this work, which can be found in the Vogel Schwarz sculpture garden. Most weekends Boris can be seen with Dean as the two walk through Riverfront Park and the River Market. Boris explores and inspects the park along with Dean. Each year during the Sculpture at the River Market show, Boris visits with Dean and meets all the sculptors.

The sculpture was donated by longtime Kumpuris family friend Margaret Clark. She and her late husband Bill were two of the earliest supporters of sculpture along the Arkansas River. They donated another piece in honor of their grandchildren. A sculpture in memory of Bill was unveiled last year and stands in the wetlands park which bears his name.

 

The Bill Clark Wetlands is actually the location of the third dog.  It is Chloe, Bill Clark’s faithful hunting dog.  She and Bill are part of Clay Enoch’s sculpture STEADY.  Dedicated in 2011, it was a tribute to the man who helped build the Clinton Presidential Library.

This tribute to Clark shows Bill and Chloe in an early morning duck hunt scanning the horizon.  It is also positioned so that Bill is also gazing at the Clinton Presidential Center. His firm was the contractor on that building, and he spent thousands of hours walking in the area looking at the building during the construction.

A portion of the ground he trod during construction has been set aside as the Bill Clark Wetlands, and STEADY is placed in the wetlands as a memorial to Bill.

 

In 2015, the Little Rock Animal Village unveiled Lorri Acott’s WHO RESCUED WHO.  Located at the entrance to the Little Rock Animal Village, it depicts a person and dog looking at each other. They are sharing a bond of respect, admiration and love.

The human figure has Acott’s trademark extended length legs. These represent the ability to overcome obstacles and rise above adversity.  This is even more apt when considering the role that pets can play in our lives, as well as the role humans play in “adopting” rescued pets.

The sculpture is dedicated to the memory of Jack Adcock. It is given by his family, which includes longtime City Director Joan Adcock, their two children, eleven grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Little Rock Look Back: Ash Wednesday Valentines

Today marks the sixth time since Little Rock was permanently settled in 1820 that Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day fall on the same day.  The previous years are 1866, 1877, 1923, 1934, and 1945.

The 1866 Arkansas Gazette for February 14 contains no mention of it being either Ash Wednesday or Valentine’s Day.  Eleven years later, the paper carried a history of Valentine’s Day, but no mention of the religious observance on that day.  The story in the Gazette discussed the hard work of the designers, lithographers, lace makers, and other artisans who created the cards and other tokens which were sent.  The writer noted that none of that work was romantic. It was tasks those people undertook every day.  What made it romantic, the writer continued, was the intent of the person who sent it.

In 1923, only one ad in the paper mentioned Valentine’s Day – the Exchange National Bank.  There were no stories on Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras or Ash Wednesday.  The stories that pertained to churches discussed revivals and new clergy, but no services for penance.

In 1934, the only mention of Ash Wednesday was in the regular Saturday religious feature. It previewed the various churches Ash Wednesday services in addition to discussing Sunday sermon topics.  Again, there was no mention that Ash Wednesday fell on Valentine’s Day.  Camay Soap and Pfeifer’s Department Store were the only ads on February 14 which made mention of the romantic holiday.

The 1945 newspaper coverage was very similar to eleven years earlier. Previews of Ash Wednesday on Saturday the 10th dominated the religious section on Saturday – but no mention of the other holiday.  The days leading up to Valentine’s Day saw quite a few advertisements from various national companies and local businesses regarding the holiday.  On February 14, however, the only Valentine’s ads were for Pfeifer and for several of the local movie theatres.  Blass Department Store, which had been focused on Valentine’s Day through February 13, used the 14th to switch the focus to springwear.

Little Rock Look Back: Mardi Gras in the Rock–1870s edition

In the post-Civil War era, Mardi Gras was a major event in Little Rock.  By the 1870s, newspapers would have stories for several days about preparations for parties and parades which would be followed by coverage summarizing the events.

For instance, the Ash Wednesday 1877 edition of the Arkansas Gazette carried a front page story that discussed Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Memphis.  Inside the paper there were a series of stories about the downtown Little Rock Mardi Gras parade.  It started at Markham and Rock Streets.  Because of the crowd assembled for it, organizers had to reroute the parade that afternoon.  Among the entries were the Fat Men’s Club, Butchers’ Benevolent Association (which rode on horses), the Mystic Krewe, and several trade groups.  In addition there were many people who marched along in masks.  The unnamed writer bemoaned the fact that the masked revelers’ clothing had no theme.

On Thursday, February 15, 1877, there were stories about some of the Mardi Gras balls which had taken place two nights earlier.  The paper’s deadline probably was earlier than the parties ended, which is why they were not in the paper until two days later.  Among the various events were the Knights of Pythian Ball at the Grand Opera House, the aforementioned Fat Men at a special pavilion set up in the Main Street Cotton Shed, the Mystic Krewe at O’Haras Hall, and the Cosmopolitans at Concordia Hall.  There were other events that the writer was not able to attend due to lack of time.

Some of the venues also played host to balls in advance of Mardi Gras.  The February 10 Gazette previews some events set for Friday and Saturday night.

By the start of the 20th Century, Mardi Gras was no longer a major social event in Little Rock.  But while it lasted, it was quite the production.  It appealed to all classes and races of Little Rock’s citizenry. Though most of the events were segregated, the parade did allow for African Americans to participate as well as the white revelers.

A Lincoln Viaduct Portrait

Photo courtesy of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program

Since today is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, it is a good day to pay tribute to the Lincoln Avenue Viaduct.  This arched bridge is traversed by thousands of cars each day, with most having no idea the name of the structure.  The Lincoln Avenue Viaduct is the arched bridge connecting LaHarpe with Cantrell Road which (literally) bridges downtown with the west along Highway 10.

The Lincoln Avenue Viaduct is a reinforced concrete rainbow arch bridge. It was opened at 2:05 p.m. on Friday, December 28, 1928, and, despite later alterations, it remains particularly well-preserved. The Missouri Pacific Railroad Company, considered the most important railroad company in the state, constructed the bridge amid a series of improvements in Little Rock made necessary by the damage wrought by the infamous spring floods of 1927.

Though the bride was constructed by the railroad, the City had to give authorization to do so, this was accomplished by the passing of Ordinance 4,335, at the May 28, 1928, City Council meeting.

Lincoln Avenue was one of several names for stretches of Highway 10 in Little Rock. By the 1960s, the areas west of the Lincoln Avenue viaduct were all renamed Cantrell in honor of the man who had developed much of the area west of the Heights. The longest stretch of the road already carried that name. There had been an effort to rename Highway 10 (including sections named Lincoln, Q, and Cantrell) in Little Rock for Senator Joseph Taylor Robinson in 1930. He declined the offer because he did not want to diminish the contributions of Mr. Cantrell.  Over time the entire stretch bore the name Cantrell.

The stretches east of the viaduct which involved a couple of names were renamed La Harpe Boulevard in honor of the French explorer who first saw the Little Rock. (La Harpe was originally an extension of Riverfront Drive. But with changes to development along the Arkansas River and the coming of I-30, the streets were reconfigured significantly in the 1950s and early 1960s.)

Though the street has been renamed, the bridge still carries the name of the 16th President of the United States.

Little Rock Look Back: First meeting of Central and Hall in football

lrchs-lrhhsHall High opened its doors and started playing football in 1957. As a new school with a largely younger student body, it only played smaller schools that initial season.  The first Hall vs. Central game was set for Thanksgiving 1958 (November 27).

During the 1958-1959 school year, Little Rock’s high schools were closed for the ill-conceived, ill-advised reason to keep them from being integrated schools.  Though classes were not in session, football teams practiced and played.  The Arkansas Gazette noted that most of those games that season drew only 1,000 spectators, which was down from the usual 5,000 to 8,000 a game.

With the future of Little Rock’s high schools in doubt, there was some hand wringing about whether the 1958 Thanksgiving Day game would be not only the first meeting between Hall and Central, but perhaps also the last.

In only its second year of playing, Hall was undefeated and poised to win the state championship heading into the Thanksgiving game.  Central surprised the Warriors by winning 7-0 before a crowd of 5,000, which cost Hall the undefeated season and the championship (El Dorado became state champs).  This game set the tone for the high stakes of the rest of the series.