Category Archives: Literature

$644,600 from NEA is going to the Arkansas Arts Council

In pursuit of its commitment to advance the creative capacity of people and communities across the nation, the National Endowment for the Arts announces its second round of funding for FY 2018.

This funding round includes annual partnerships with state, jurisdictional, and regional arts agencies as well as the categories of Art Works, Creativity Connects, Our Town, and Research: Art Works.

One of the grantees was the Arkansas Arts Council which will receive $644,600.  This will support arts programs, services, and activities associated with carrying out the Arkansas Arts Council’s NEA-approved strategic plan.  The Arts Council is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

There were a total number of six (6) grants to entities in Arkansas.  These grants are worth $814,600.  As noted yesterday in a post, one of the grantees was the Arkansas Arts Center.

Earlier this year, the NEA announced its first round of grants which included $10,00 for the Arkansas Repertory Theatre to support production of The Call; $12,500 to the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra to support the Canvas Festival, which combined visual arts and the performance of live symphonic music; $10,000 to the Chamber Music Society of Little Rock to support a series of chamber music performances and related educational programming; and $25,000 to the Oxford American to support the publication and promotion of the magazine.

Dr. Jane Chu, who is the Chairman of the NEA, has announced she will be stepping down on June 4, 2018, at the conclusion of her four year term.  A graduate of Arkadelphia High School and Ouachita Baptist University, she has visited Little Rock during her tenure at the helm of the NEA.

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Little Rock Look Back: Rabbi and longtime CALS Trustee Ira Sanders

On May 6, 1894, Ira Eugene Sanders was born in Missouri.  After receiving an undergraduate degree and rabbinate degree in Cincinnati, he was ordained a rabbi in 1919.  He served congregations in Pennsylvania and New York before coming to Little Rock in September 1926.

Shortly after arriving to lead the B’nai Israel congregation, Rabbi Sanders became active in the Little Rock community.  Among his projects were the Little Rock Community Fund, Little Rock School of Social Work (which he founded), Central Council of Social Agencies, and University of Arkansas Extension Department. During the Great Depression, he helped organize the Pulaski County Public Welfare Commission.  Other areas of involvement over his career included the Arkansas Human Betterment League, Urban League of Greater Little Rock and Arkansas Lighthouse for the Blind.  On November 3, 1930, Rabbi Sanders debated Clarence Darrow about the existence of God in front of a packed house at Little Rock High School.

For his many involvements, he received an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree in 1951 from the University of Arkansas.  Three years later he received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Hebrew Union College’s Jewish Institute of Religion.

A lifelong supporter of a Jewish state, he participated in nineteen bond drives for the state of Israel.  In August 1963, he retired as the leader of B’nai Israel after over 35 years. He would remain as Rabbi Emeritus until his deal in 1985.

In January 1978, Rabbi Sanders tendered his resignation from the Central Arkansas Library board of directors.  The City Board of Directors passed resolution 5873 which noted that he had served for 51 years on the Library Board. He was first appointed in 1926.  He served during 19 different Mayoral administrations from Charles Moyer’s first term through Donald Mehlburger’s.

On April 8, 1985, Rabbi Ira Eugene Sanders died of natural causes.  He is buried in the City’s Oakland Jewish Cemetery.  The Central Arkansas Library System honors his memory with an annual distinguished lecture series.

SHORTIE STORIES tonight at Wildwood Park with The Friends & Family Band

Tonight at Wildwood Park for the Arts….

“Shortie Stories” features inspired harmonies, a jet-flying bassist, and bluegrass instruments, along with generational tales by Melissa Thoma and Ron Hughes, the Friends & Family Band brings mountain music to The Studios at Wildwood for a toe-tapping evening of great music and laugh-out-loud family lore that will warm your heart.

When Melissa Thoma hosts her musical family in Little Rock, they are joined by Ron Hughes and Johnny Scroggins, who altogether make the Friends and Family Band.

Mark Bair, banjo and guitar picker, and Russell Bair, fiddle player, both of Pryor, OK; Rex Bair, mandolin player from Maumelle, AR; Ron Hughes, guitar, banjo, fiddle and bass player and lead singer for the Greasy Greens; Johnny Scroggins, bass playing prodigy who has played with the likes of Leon Russell and Jerry Lee Lewis—and he’s a retired jet pilot to boot! Melissa Thoma provides vocal harmony, having sung everything from bluegrass to opera onstage in Central Arkansas.

Together, they are the Friends & Family Band. “And since everyone is probably either friend or family, we welcome any and all who want to make – or just enjoy – mountain music!”

7:30 pm (doors open at 7)
Onstage in The Studios at Wildwood

RIP David McCollum

I was not blessed with athletic ability.  Or coordination.  But I am very competitive.

My lack of skill did not stop me from dragging my parents to four years of soccer and a concurrent six years of basketball.

McCollum_David_400x400Because of my lack of talents on the field, and my interest in competition, I have found myself drawn to sports journalism and sports history.  Which, being in Central Arkansas, lead me to the writing of David McCollum.

Disclosure, for several years I attended church with him and his family.  My parents and sister still do.  But he was such an unassuming gentleman, my interest in his writing sprung not from familiarity with him. It came from what and how he wrote.

With a career of over 50 years, David entered the newspaper business as it was starting the transition from hot lead and pecking out a story on typewriters into the world of computers and electronic filing.  Likewise the field of sports journalism was transitioning from the era of colorful, hyperbolic language (which might not always be 100% accurate) into a time of bare facts crammed into increasingly shrinking column inches.

David did not try to be a colorful sportswriter. He was not trying to have the spotlight shown on him through his writing.  In his stories, David sought to serve the sports. But he brought to his writing a sense of history and style that hearkened back to bygone days without sacrificing the facts that he knew his readers wanted.  In serving his sports, he also served his readers.

While often the smartest guy in the room, especially when it came to Conway sports, David never acted like it.  In his prose, he shows his expertise without lording it over the reader.  He used his knowledge to let his readers be more informed. He was like that favorite teacher we all had at least once in high school or college. He wanted to bring us along on the journey.

For a sportswriter, working in Conway must have been a dream job.  Both UCA and Hendrix have active athletic programs.  And the Wampus Cats of Conway have long been dominant. In addition, during his career, David was able to see towns like Vilonia, Mayflower, and Greenbrier grow and develop into powerhouses in their own high school sports classifications.

Over the years, as I’ve been seeking to learn more about a sports topic, I’ve often gone back to his writing on a player, an event, a game.  Whether it was a story or an interview, his trademark understated and engaging prose was on display.  Earlier this year, I was needing background on a Little Rock Touchdown Club scholarship because we were honoring a recipient at Little Rock City Hall.

There it was.

In a column David wrote a few years ago, there were not just the facts, but the emotions. In writing about how some Texas Longhorns had created a scholarship in Little Rock to pay tribute to the memory of one of their own, David touched on the sentiment without being maudlin.  He did not pile on the irony of Longhorns who beat the Hogs in the 1969 shootout creating a scholarship here. He let the story speak for itself.  The kinship the two teams feel for each other now came through in David’s prose.

As David’s son Gavin said in making the announcement his father had died, “there were more stories for him to write.”  Yes, there were.  I feel sorry for future athletes in Faulkner County that they won’t get to be interviewed by him.  I feel sorry for the readers who won’t get his take on a future game.

David had seen enough games to know that the outcome does not always go your way.  As much as he would probably be uncomfortable with the outpouring of emotions that are now going on, I think he would understand we need to do this.  We need to express our sadness.  It helps us to move on to the next challenge.  And part of that challenge is a world without him.  I know he would be very pleased to see, just as a team rallies together, people are rallying together to support his wife and son.

So thank you, David McCollum. For your life and your commitment to excellence.  Though it has fallen out of usage these days, I’m old school enough to pay tribute to your life and career with an old journalism and PR tool to indicate the end.

David McCollum -30-

It is time for the 15th Annual Arkansas Literary Festival

The Arkansas Literary Festival puts the LIT in Little Rock.  (Or does Little Rock put the LIT in the Literary Festival?)

Notable authors, including Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Award winners, filmmakers, singers, and artists are among the diverse roster of presenters who will be providing sessions at the Central Arkansas Library System’s (CALS) fifteenth annual Arkansas Literary Festival, continuing through April 29, 2018.

Events will be held at CALS Main Library campus and many other Little Rock venues. Most events are free and open to the public. More information »

The premier gathering of readers and writers in Arkansas, the Festival offers a mix of sessions, panels, special events, performances, workshops, book signings, and opportunities to meet authors. More than 70 authors, essayists, and illustrators—who have achieved national and international acclaim—represent an array of genres and will discuss topics such as science fiction, fantasy, crime, southern life, social commentary, science, women’s history, young adult and children’s books. Presenters come from a variety of backgrounds ranging from professors at New York University and Yale University to former NBA All Stars. The full list of authors is available at www.ArkansasLiteraryFestival.org.

Special events include:

 

Author! Author!, Friday, April 27, at 7:00 p.m.

A cocktail reception with the authors. Tickets are $40 at the door. Special rates are available for students and groups.

An Evening with Sebastian Junger, Saturday, April 28, at 7:00 p.m.

Renowned author, journalist, and documentary filmmaker Sebastian Junger (TribeWarThe Perfect StormRestrepo) will discuss his coverage of multiple wars along with his literary and film work, as he gives the CALS J. N. Heiskell Distinguished Lecture for journalism. An Evening with Sebastion Junger is free, but reservations are required. Tickets are available at www.ArkansasLiteraryFestival.org

Festival sessions for children will take place in Youth Services and Level 4 at the Main Library, 100 Rock Street, and at the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center, 4800 W. 10th Street. Events at Children’s Library are hosted in partnership with Junior League of Little Rock/Little Readers Rock.

In addition to programming at CALS locations, the Festival provides presentations by several authors for Pulaski county elementary, middle and senior high schools, and area colleges through the Writers in the Schools (WITS) initiative.

This year’s Festival authors have won an impressive number and variety of distinguished awards and fellowships such as the Pulitzer Prize, Grammy Award, Coretta Scott King Honor, NAACP Image Award, National Magazine Award, SAIS Novartis Prize for Journalism, National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, TIME’s 100 Most Influential People, Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame, Wizard World Hall of Legends,  Eisner Award for editing,  National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, CantoMundo Poetry Prize, Dzanc Books ILP International Literature Award, Bard Fiction Prize, Autumn House Fiction Prize, Guggenheim, Cullman Center, FONCA, DAAD, Michener Copernicus Society, Callaloo Creative Writing, The Francis Writer-in-Residence at Yale, artist in residence at the University of Pennsylvania, Breadloaf Writer’s Conference, the MacDowell Colony, Capote, Mississippi Arts Commission, Bronx Council on the Arts, Tennessee Arts Commission, and Iowa Writers Workshop.

The work of this year’s Festival authors has been featured in notable publications including:

  • New York Times
  • The Los Angeles Times
  • Psychology Today
  • USA Today
  • The Atlantic
  • Parade
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • Esquire
  • Grantland
  • TIME
  • The New York Daily News
  • New York magazine
  • ELLE
  • Rolling Stone
  • Vanity Fair
  • The New Yorker
  • Entertainment Weekly
  • Harper’s
  • National Geographic Adventure
  • Outside
  • Men’s Journal
  • Slate
  • Travel + Leisure
  • Newsday
  • San Francisco Chronicle
  • Smithsonian
  • Best New American Voices
  • Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy
  • VICE
  • The New York Times Book Review
  • New York Review of Books
  • Wimmin’s Comix
  • Yale Review
  • Best American Nonrequired Reading
  • The Guardian
  • Backstage
  • McSweeney’s
  • Huffington Post
  • Granta
  • Best New Poets
  • com
  • Texas Monthly
  • Tin House
  • Oxford American
  • Southwest Brewing News

Support for the Arkansas Literary Festival is provided by sponsors including the Arkansas Humanities Council, National Endowment for the Humanities, Friends of Central Arkansas Libraries, Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau, Rebsamen Fund, Department of Arkansas Heritage,  ProSmartPrinting.com, KUAR FM 89.1, Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Clinton Presidential Center, UA Little Rock Department of English, Windstream, Wright Lindsey & Jennings LLP, Whole Foods, Museum of Discovery, Capital Hotel, O’Looney’s Wine and Liquor, Oxford American, McMath Woods P.A., Hall High School, Parkview Arts and Science Magnet High School, Mabelvale Elementary School, Terry Elementary School, ESSE Purse Museum, Historic Arkansas Museum, Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center, University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, Mick Wiggins, Christ Episcopal Church, Literacy Action of Central Arkansas, Celebrate! Maya Project, Hampton Inn Downtown Little Rock, Residence Inn Downtown Little Rock, Argenta Reading Series, University of Arkansas for Medical Science, Pyramid Books/Hearne Fine Art, Arkansas Times, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, The Root Café, Humane Society of Pulaski County, Bob Razer, Mollie Savage Memorial, Four Quarter Bar, and partner Junior League of Little Rock/Little Readers Rock.

Shake a Spear, or As Will Likes It at 454

Today is the traditionally observed birthday of William Shakespeare. It is known he was born in 1564, which makes this the 454th birthday.

The Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre earlier announced the lineup for the 2018 season.   The dates have now been announced.

The lineup for the June 8-July 8 season, which explores the theme of transformation, includes Shakespeare classics The Winter’s TaleHenry IV, Part One; and a family adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, as well as Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady. All four 2018 shows feature characters who undergo major changes — some for the better and others, perhaps, for the worst.

The season will open at 7:30 p.m. June 8 with The Winter’s Tale outdoors on the lawn of McAlister Hall on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas. Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady will open in Reynolds Performance Hall on June 15, and Henry IV, Part One, will open on June 22. AST’s family-friendly adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing will open June 28 in Reynolds and will also tour across the state in June and July.

The Winter’s Tale will be directed by Nisi Sturgis, an AST artistic collective member, Conway native and UCA graduate who was a part of the critically acclaimed tour of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Disgraced at the Goodman Theatre, Berkeley Rep and Seattle Rep.

One of Shakespeare’s late romantic plays, it follows the story of King Leontes, who grows jealous of his wife, leading him to make a series of terrible mistakes. “This is a rarely produced Shakespeare gem,” said Rebekah Scallet, AST’s producing artistic director.

Robert Quinlan, who directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream in AST’s 10th anniversary season, will return at the helm of Henry IV, Part One. This adventurous tale is centered on the young Prince Hal, who prefers spending his time in the tavern with his fat and jolly friend Falstaff to time in castle with his father, the king. When rebellion stirs in England, he must make a choice as to where his true loyalties lie.

Scallet will direct My Fair Lady. This multiple Tony Award-winning musical premiered in 1956 and will be given fresh life in this intimate new production. A musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, My Fair Lady tells the story of Eliza Doolittle, a flower girl who wants to transform her status by changing the way she speaks, and so goes to curmudgeonly speech professor Henry Higgins for assistance.

Enrico Spada will make his directorial debut with AST for the touring Family Shakespeare production of Much Ado About Nothing. With a cast of just eight people telling a reduced version of this classic tale, Much Ado is a romantic comedy with the great Shakespearean couple of Beatrice and Benedick at its center. This hour-long adaptation is perfect for families to enjoy together and will be performed on stage at Reynolds along with stops at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Winthrop Rockefeller Institute on Petit Jean Mountain, Hot Springs Farmer’s Market, The Joint in Argenta and The Griffin in El Dorado, among others.

Audiences will again be seated onstage for the three productions in Reynolds Performance Hall. AST’s 12th season will close on July 8 with a final performance of The Winter’s Tale.

For those who want a Shakespeare fix in the actual winter, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre will present As You Like It from February 6 to 24, 2019.

Containing some of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches, As You Like It is a comedy about love, exile, wit, and disguises all set in the Forest of Arden.  Orlando loves Rosalind. Rosalind loves Orlando. But Rosalind is disguised as Ganymede – who’s a boy! And Phebe loves Ganymede – who’s really Rosalind. Yet Silvius loves Phebe. And Rosalind’s best friend Celia loves Orlando’s brother Oliver. But Oliver hates Orlando. And Touchstone lusts after Audrey. Unfortunately, no one much cares for Jacques.

Celebrate romance as Shakespeare’s timeless comedy takes center stage at The Rep!  Directed by Giovanna Sardelli, it runs from February 6 to 24, 2019, with an opening night of February 8, 2019.

On Pulitzer Day, prizing Mount Holly Cemetery

The Pulitzer Prizes are to be announced today.  This year marks the 101st anniversary of the prizes, though not all of the current categories have been around since 1917.

Mount Holly Cemetery not only touts that it is the site of a whole host of elected officials, it is also the only place in Arkansas where two Pulitzer Prize recipients are buried. The cemetery is open every day, but a special visit to these two prize winner gravesites can be made on Sunday, April 30, during the Mount Holly Cemetery Association’s annual “Rest in Perpetuity” fundraiser picnic.

In 1939, John Gould Fletcher became the first Southern poet to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.  He was born into a prominent Little Rock family in 1886.  Fletcher was awarded the prize for his collection Selected Poems which was published by Farrar in 1938.  Two years earlier, he had been commissioned by the Arkansas Gazette to compose an epic poem about the history of Arkansas in conjunction with the state’s centennial.

Fletcher is buried next to his wife, author Charlie May Simon and his parents (his father was former Little Rock Mayor John Gould Fletcher).  Other relatives are buried nearby in the cemetery.

The other Pulitzer Prize winner buried in Mount Holly is J. N. Heiskell, the longtime editor of the Arkansas Gazette.  It was Heiskell, in fact, who asked Fletcher to compose the poem about Arkansas.  Heiskell served as editor of the Gazette from 1902 through 1972.  He died at the age of 100 in 1972.

Under his leadership, the Gazette earned two Pulitzer Prizes for its coverage of the 1957 desegregation of Little Rock Central High.  One was for Harry Ashmore’s editorial writing and the other was for Public Service.

Heiskell remained in charge of the Gazette until his death in 1972.  He is buried alongside his wife with other relatives nearby.  Also not too far from Mr. Heiskell are two of his nemeses, proving that death and cemeteries can be the great equalizer. In the early days of his Gazette stewardship, he often locked horns with Senator (and former Governor) Jeff Davis. Later in Mr. Heiskell’s career, he vehemently disagreed with Dr. Dale Alford, who had been elected to Congress on a segregationist platform.