Category Archives: Museum

Remembering Aretha Franklin at Robinson Center with the ASO

On Tuesday, November 16, 2004, Aretha Franklin showed why she was an unparalleled entertainer.

She shared the Robinson stage with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.  The ASO brought Miss Franklin to town as part of the festivities surrounding the opening of the presidential library.  Long a favorite of the Clintons, Miss Franklin sang at his 1993 inaugural festivities the night before he took the oath of office.

Resplendent in a series of white dresses, Miss Franklin was in top form feeding off the love from the audience.  While backstage she may have been dealing with back and knee issues (which I saw first hand), when she stepped on to the stage she was giving her all as she rolled through hit after hit from her starry career.  She sang, she played the piano, she entertained!

It was a sold out house and her voice and energy reached the last row of the balcony.

Prior to her appearance, the ASO played a few selections including variations on “Hail to the Chief” and “America.”

Earlier in the day, I had the chance to meet her.  The ASO had contacted me to see if I could pick up three copies of Bill Clinton’s autobiography for her to have him sign.  I was out and about on Clinton Library-related errands that day, so I happily obliged.  I picked up three copies and delivered them to Robinson Center.  Miss Franklin was on a break in between rehearsals and was about to be interviewed by Craig O’Neill for KTHV.  I only got to shake her hand and briefly say hello, but I could tell she was thrilled to receive the books.

I obviously did not ask to be reimbursed for the expense. The chance to spend a few seconds with her was payment enough.

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2nd Friday (the 13th) Art Night

For those who do not have paraskevidekatriaphobia, tonight is a good night to stop by several downtown museums and galleries for 2nd Friday Art Night.

It runs from 5pm to 8pm (though times at some individual locations may vary slightly).

Among the locations and their offerings are:

CALS Butler Center for Arkansas Studies (401 President Clinton Avenue) –

A Matter of Mind and Heart: Portraits of Japanese American Identity holds up a mirror to Arkansas and U.S. culture and asks what it means to be an American today. Displaying portraits created by Japanese Americans unjustly incarcerated in Arkansas during World War II, this exhibition invites visitors to reflect on American identity and challenge widely held assumptions about living in a diverse society.

A Legacy of Brewers  – Incorporating paintings from both private and public collections, this exhibition of paintings by Nicholas, Adrian, and Edwin Brewer includes portraits and landscapes featuring people and places in Arkansas, Arizona, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Texas going back to the early 1900s.

Historic Arkansas Museum (200 E Third Street) – Justin Bryant: That Survival Apparatus.  The exhibit will contain pieces from Justin Bryant’s most recent body of work, which was made in response to Maya Angelou’s poem “Mask.” His drawings and paintings show the bottom half of black faces, images pulled from documentary and commercial photographs of famous individuals and civil rights leaders. Each mouth and chin is carefully rendered, while the eyes and other features are left blank.

Old State House Museum (300 W Markham Street) – Erin Enderlin in Concert.  Beginning at 5:30 p.m., Enderlin will perform on the second floor of the museum. Recently named to the CMT Next Women of Country Class of 2018, Enderlin is an Arkansas native and award-winning singer/songwriter currently based in Nashville, Tenn.

Christ Episcopal Church (500 Scott Street) – a selection of small works including paintings and mixed media by a variety of artists from the Little Rock area.

Matt McLeod Fine Art (108 E Sixth Street) – Arkansas League of Artists 2018 Members Show and Sale.

Other participating sites include Nexus Coffee and Creative (301 President Clinton Avenue); The Art Group Gallery in the Marriott Little Rock (3 Statehouse Plaza), Bella Vita (523 S Louisiana), and Gallery 221 (221 W Second Street).

 

Todd Herman departs Arkansas Arts Center

On Wednesday, July 11, 2018, Dr. Todd Herman, announced to Arkansas Arts Center staff that he will be leaving to take a position in North Carolina.  His last day at Little Rock’s art museum will be August 10.

Formal announcement of the new position is expected to be made on Thursday, but local media broke the story on Wednesday evening.

Herman, who joined the AAC in 2011, succeeded Nan Plummer as director, who served from 2002 to 2010. She was preceded by longtime director Townsend Wolfe, who led the AAC from 1968 to 2002. Between 1961 and 1968, the Arts Center had a revolving door of directors and acting directors including Muriel Christison (1961), Alan Symonds (1962-1964), William H. Turner (1964-1965), and Louis Ismay (1966-1968).  William Steadman (1958) and George Ware (1959-1960) lead the museum as it transitioned from the Museum of Fine Arts to the Arkansas Arts Center.  Irene Robinson was the director of the original Museum of Fine Arts from its opening in 1937 until her retirement in 1957.

T. Laine Harber, the Arts Center’s Chief Operations Officer/Chief Financial Officer will be Interim Director while a search is conducted for Herman’s replacement.

Work continues on the planning for the expansion and enhancement of the Arts Center which is currently slated to be completed in 2022.

Little Rock Look Back: LR City Council authorizes expansion of Museum of Fine Arts

Twenty-two years after authorizing the creation of the Museum of Fine Arts in City Park, the Little Rock City Council was asked to consider expanding the facility.

By 1957, the existing structure was felt to be inadequate.   There was a desire for more gallery space as well as for more space for educational programming.

On July 8, 1957, the Little Rock City Council passed an ordinance authorizing the Board of the Museum of Fine Arts to be able to raise the funds for an expansion.  This was merely the start of the process which would eventually lead to the creation of the Arkansas Arts Center.

The ordinance allowed for the expansion or extension of the building. It also authorized the museum’s board to accept gifts for the project and to invest those gifts for the purpose of the museum.  Since the museum only received City funds for maintenance and salary, the ability to raise funds for the expansion was key to the future of the institution.

Lastly, the ordinance gave the museum’s board the ability to increase its membership by up to six positions without having to get additional approval by the City Council.  With a fundraising drive underway and a larger facility planned, these additional board members could certainly prove to be key.

The ordinance passed with nine Ayes, zero Noes, and one absent.

125 years of MacArthur Park

On July 4, 1893, Arsenal Park opened in Little Rock.  This was the City’s first municipal public park.  Though it predated the establishment of a formal Parks and Recreation Department by several decades, it is the oldest part of that department.

The land now known as MacArthur Park had originally served as a horse racetrack in the early days of Little Rock.  By 1836, the federal government purchased the land for construction of a military arsenal.  The flagship building, the Arsenal Tower building, is the only remaining structure from that time period.

The land served as a military outpost until 1892.  On April 23, 1892, a land swap took place where in the City of Little Rock was given the property with the stipulation that it would be “forever exclusively devoted to the uses and purposes of a public park.” (Never mind that the federal government took part of the land back for the construction of the Wilbur Mills Freeway.)  Congressman William L. Terry was active in negotiating the land swap.

In return for giving the City this land, the federal government took possession of land on the north side of the Arkansas River (then part of Little Rock) – that 1,000 acres became Fort Logan H. Roots.

The park officially opened on July 4, 1893, with the name Arsenal Park. Since it was the City’s first and only park at the time, residents started referring to it as City Park. In time, the designation Arsenal Park fell from use.  In fact, it is referred to as City Park exclusively and officially in City documents throughout the first 42 years of the 20th Century.

On March 9, 1942, Little Rock’s first public park was renamed by the Little Rock City Council.  By a vote of fourteen ayes, zero nays and four absent, the alderman approved Ordinance 6,388 which renamed the park in honor of General Douglas MacArthur.

In 1952, General MacArthur (contemplating a run for the GOP nomination for President) visited Little Rock in March.  Later that year, the eventual GOP nominee (and 34th US President) General Dwight Eisenhower visited the park.

Today, MacArthur Park is the anchor of the burgeoning MacPark district as well as the MacArthur Park Historic Distric.

Happy Fiscal New Year to many LR Cultural Not-for-Profit Organizations

July 1 marks the start of a new fiscal year for many (if not most) cultural organizations in Little Rock.  The previous year has ended, hopefully in the black.

Just as a new calendar year does not automatically wipe away past problems (oh, if only), a new fiscal year does not erase past issues. But it does provide a new framework and new opportunities for moving forward.

So HAPPY FISCAL NEW YEAR. May FY 2018/2019 be the best year ever!

Commemorate Juneteenth today at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center

Each year the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center hosts a free community Juneteenth festival as a celebration of African American freedom and achievement. This year’s event takes place today from 12 noon until 6pm.

Juneteenth is the oldest national commemoration of its kind, dating back to 1865.

Among  the musicians scheduled to perform at this year’s free Juneteenth celebration are  GRAMMY-nominated recording artist Shanice, Sir the Baptist and special host Larry Dodson of the Bar Kays.

The event will be emceed and co-hosted by Keef Glason of Power 92 FM. Local performers will include 2017 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase winner Dazz & Brie, ZaeHD, Chris James and Ron Mac, Big Piph and Tomorrow Maybe, Big John Miller Band, Gold and Glitz, Dunbar Middle School Choir and Mabelvale Drum Line.

In addition, other activities will be happening throughout the day, including vendors, food trucks, living history characters and film screenings. A screening of the documentary “Dreamland” will air at 1 p.m. and “Soul Food Junkies” will air at 3 p.m.

A kids zone will feature face painting, a video game truck, laser tag, rock climbing wall, water tinkering station and more!

Visitors are also invited to learn more about Arkansas history through the African American lens while exploring MTCC’s exhibits, including the new display, “Don’t Touch My Crown,” which opened June 14 and examines the role of hair in how African Americans define themselves and are defined by others, from the late 19th century to the present.

Seating at the performance stage is limited; attendees are invited to bring their own chairs and blankets.

MTCC is located at 501 W. Ninth St, Little Rock, AR 72201. For more information, please call (501) 683-3593 or email info@mosaictemplarscenter.com.

MTCC is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.