Little Rock Look Back: Open House Gala for Museum of Fine Arts

On Tuesday, October 5, 1937, the Fine Arts Club of Little Rock held its first meeting in the new Museum of Fine Arts.  But it was not a typical meeting. It was an Open House and Dedication for the new building.

Construction on the 10,140 square foot building had commenced with the January 3, 1936, groundbreaking.  By September 1937, the keys were presented to the City, marking the end of the construction process.

During the October 5 events, a letter of congratulations was read by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and WPA Administrator Harry L. Hopkins.  A letter which had been prepared by Sen Joe T. Robinson prior to his death was also read.  Mayor R. E. Overman, architect H. Ray Burks, and Fred W. Allsopp spoke at the event.  The latter was chair of the museum’s board.  Over 1,000 people were in attendance. At the time the city’s population was around 87,000.

The museum officially opened its doors to the public on October 28, 1937.  Irene Robinson, a longtime member of the Fine Arts Club, was its first director and would serve in that capacity for two decades.

The original facade of the Museum can still be seen inside the Arkansas Arts Center.  Once the expansion and renovation of that building is complete in 2022, the original entrance will be highlighted even more with the new design.

 

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Happy Birthday to Elizabeth Eckford

After 60 years, the most dramatic images of the 1957 crisis at Little Rock Central High School remain those of 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford, being taunted as she walked through a hate-filled mob, on her way to school.  Today, Ms. Eckford recalls how difficult it was for her parents, Oscar and Birdie, to allow her to continue the struggle to integrate the Little Rock schools.

Last month, a replica of the bench on which she sat on that first day in 1957 was unveiled.  Instead of sitting on a bench surrounded by taunters, this time she sat on a bench surrounded by cheers and applause.  The bench was the latest project of the Central High Memory Project which has also produced an audio tour which takes listeners down the street as Ms. Eckford experienced it in 1957.

Born on October 4, 1941, she grew up in Little Rock.  Because all of the city’s high schools closed her senior year, Ms. Eckford moved to St Louis, where she obtained her GED. She attended Knox College in Illinois, and received her BA in History from Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio.  While in college, Ms. Eckford became one of the first African Americans to work in a local St. Louis bank, in a non-janitorial position, and later she worked as a substitute teacher, in Little Rock public schools.

Ms. Eckford, a veteran of the U.S. Army, has also worked as a substitute teacher in Little Rock public schools, test administrator, unemployment interviewer, waitress, welfare worker, and military reporter.  Along with her fellow Little Rock Nine members, she is a recipient of the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal and the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal.  Together with one of her former tormenters, Ms. Eckford also received a Humanitarian award, presented by the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ), following their meeting 34 years after an apology.  The award recognizes forgiveness and atonement.  They talked to students for two years, and, together, attended a 12-week racial healing course.

Ms. Eckford has started to walk through the painful past in sharing some of her story.  She has said that true reconciliation can occur if we honestly look back on our shared history. She believes that the lessons learned from Little Rock Central High School must continue to be shared with new generations, reminding audiences that “the dead can be buried, but not the past.”  Ms. Eckford continues her interest in education by sharing her story with school groups, and challenges students to be active participants in confronting justice, rather than being passive observers.

LR Culture Vulture turns 7

The Little Rock Culture Vulture debuted on Saturday, October 1, 2011, to kick off Arts & Humanities Month.

The first feature was on the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, which was kicking off its 2011-2012 season that evening.  The program consisted of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90, Rossini’s, Overture to The Italian Girl in Algiers, Puccini’s Chrysanthemums and Respighi’s Pines of Rome.  In addition to the orchestra musicians, there was an organ on stage for this concert.

Since then, there have been 10,107 persons/places/things “tagged” in the blog.  This is the 3,773rd entry. (The symmetry to the number is purely coincidental–or is it?)  It has been viewed over 288,600 times, and over 400 readers have made comments.  It is apparently also a reference on Wikipedia.

The most popular pieces have been about Little Rock history and about people in Little Rock.

MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History reopens after 5 months and $1.5 million in renovations

After several months of renovations to the building, the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History reopens today.

The museum closed in March 2018 for five months of extensive structural work.  The $1.5 million renovation for the 178-year old structure included both interior and exterior upgrades.  The first phase of the project, which began last December, involved renovation to the north and south porches and was partially funded by a Historic Preservation Restoration Grant from the Department of Arkansas Heritage. The interior renovation includes upgrades to the heating and cooling systems, installation of new lighting, and repainting of interior gallery spaces.

Funding for the renovations came from proceeds of a hotel tax which was approved by Little Rock voters in February 2016.

The MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History was created to interpret our state’s military heritage from its territorial period to the present. It is a program of the City of Little Rock’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

Located in the historic Tower Building of the Little Rock Arsenal–the birthplace of General Douglas MacArthur–the museum preserves the contributions of Arkansas men and women who served in the armed forces.  Exhibits feature artifacts, photographs, weapons, documents, uniforms and other military items that vividly portray Arkansas’s military history at home and abroad.

In conjunction with the reopening, there will be a belated 125th birthday party for MacArthur Park. (The park actually opened on July 4, 1893.)  Originally known as Arsenal Park, it became known as City Park shortly thereafter. In 1942, it was renamed in honor of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who was born there. At the time he was commanding US troops in the Pacific Theatre of Operations during World War II.

Activities include:

9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. – Vintage Military Vehicle Show featuring military vehicles from the Arkansas Military Vehicle Preservation Association.

10:00 – 10:30 a.m.  –  Grand Re-opening of the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History

  • Music provided by Five Star Brass Quintet of the 106th Army (Arkansas) Band
  • Remarks and Ribbon Cutting re-opening the military museum following a $1.55 million renovation

10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.  –  MacArthur Park History Walk

Explore MacArthur Park using a “passport” to learn more about the park’s history during the territorial/Civil War periods, late 19th century/early 20th century periods, and World War II/Modern periods.  There will be eight “passport sites” in total, with other sites to visit as well. Passports and Park materials may be picked up at the MacPark Group Table.  Stamped passports to all eight sites may be turned in for raffle prizes from the Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock Parks, Arkansas Paranormal Expo, MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, Mac Park Group, Quapaw Quarter Association, and others.

  • AAC Friend Level Membership.
  • AAC Children’s Theatre Tickets (4).
  • Flat Screen Television- MacPark Group.
  • AAC class/workshop.
  • QQA- ticket to Spring Tour of Homes and ticket to Mother’s Day Brunch.
  • MMAMH- Gift basket and passes to the 8th Annual Paranormal Expo.
  • Parks and Rec- Round of Golf at Rebsamen Gold Course.

11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Woodmen Life will provide grilled hot dogs and chips to first 400 visitors.  Bottled water courtesy of Premium Refreshment Services.   Bluebell ice cream will be provided free.  Families are encouraged to bring picnic lunches.

12:00 – 2:00 p.m. – Concert by Funkle Sam of the 106th Army (Arkansas) Band on the North Plaza. Katie Sunshine will be hoop dancing with Funkle Sam.

4:00 – 8:00 p.m. – Evening German Biergarten.  Local breweries set up to sell beers. *Will have entry fee of $10 which will buy admission, three beer tokens, and a bratwurst plate.

 

Little Rock Look Forward: Happy Birthday Annie Abrams

September 25 is the birthday of Annie Mable McDaniel Abrams.

Miss Annie or Mother Abrams or Mrs. Abrams.  Whatever you call her, she greets you with a smile, a hug, and sage advice.

As both a historian and a futurist, she has turned her house into a museum and library. As a writer and preservationist, she has worked to document history and ensure historical properties and neighborhoods will long remain in Little Rock.

Born in Arkadelphia, she moved to Little Rock at age 13 to attend Dunbar Junior High School and High School.  She studied education at Dunbar Junior College and later taught in Marianna. In 1956, she returned to Little Rock to work for the Arkansas Teachers Association.  After her return to the capital city, she married Orville Abrams.  In addition to raising her four children, Miss Annie has helped raise countless others through her advice, support, love, and sometimes strong admonitions.  She also found time to return to school and receive a degree from Philander Smith College.

Among her many accomplishments are leading efforts to rename High Street for Martin Luther King, 14th Street for Daisy L. Gatson Bates and 20th Street for Charles Bussey.  Through her community activities, she had worked closely with both Bates and Bussey.  She was a friend to the Little Rock Nine (who were only a few years younger than she) and to their families. Perhaps, because she has been a personal friend of many Arkansas and national politicians over the past 60 years, it should come as no surprise that she and her husband were also acquainted with Governor Faubus.

Whether a leading political figure or a small child, Miss Annie isn’t afraid to give advice or to share her love.  Once an educator, always an educator, she loves to learn and teach. It is rare for her to miss a speech at the Clinton School or a Political Animals Club meeting.  (She is the Helen Thomas of the Political Animals Club — always given the first question when she is present.)

In recognition of all her efforts she has been recognized with an honorary doctorate from Philander Smith College, the Brooks Hays Award, and an award award from the national Martin Luther King Jr. Commission.  In 2010, she was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.

Little Rock Look Back: Arkansas Arts Center study group heads to China

TIna Poe, Raida Pfeifer and Jeane Hamilton at the Great Wall of China (photo from collection of Jeane Hamilton)

On September 1, 1975, a group from the Arkansas Arts Center left Little Rock for a study tour of China. This was the first non-governmental group from the United States who had been authorized to tour the People’s Republic of China.

Fred Poe, of Poe Travel, and Jeane Hamilton were the organizers of the trip.  It was part of the annual travel seminars the Arts Center  would take to locations throughout the world to learn more about art and culture.  It took many months of planning as wells as mounds and pounds of paperwork to get this trip underway.

Persons interested in the trip had to apply and be approved by the Chinese government in order to participate in the trip.   The Chinese government selected eighteen AAC members from submitted applications and the group visited Beijing, Shanghai, Changsha, Kweilin, and Guangzhou.

The AAC Traveling Seminar participants in front of Mao’s birthplace. (Photo from the Jeane Hamilton collection.)

The Clinton Center seeks feedback on future exhibit ideas

Be a Museum Curator for a Day – or at least for a few minutes.

The Clinton Presidential Center is seeking public input on future temporary exhibit ideas. They want to hear from you!

What temporary exhibits would you like to see on display at the Clinton Center? Share your opinion and be entered into a drawing for a Clinton Center prize pack!

Complete the short survey here: