Little Rock Look Back: Arkansas Arts Center celebrates with week of Grand Reopening activities in February 2000

On February 17, 2000, over three thousand people attended the Arkansas Arts Center members preview of the new and renovated galleries as part of a week long celebration. It culminated in Big Art Weekend in which the building was open for 72 hours with around the clock programming.

Donors to the project, media, and Arkansas museum professionals had each received sneak peeks of the new facility earlier in the week. On Friday, February 18, the Big Art Weekend got underway with a gallery tour of a variety of Little Rock galleries. (This was before 2nd Friday Art Night.)  Lectures, tours, and other special events populated the building on Saturday and Sunday the 19th and 20th.  In addition, the Children’s Theatre was performing Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp..

The renovation had taken over 18 months and cost $12 million.  It added 30,000 square feet of gallery space.  The expanded gallery space featured these exhibits: Paul Signac Watercolors and Drawings: Selections from the James T. Dyke Collection; Without Parameters: Selections from the Permanent Collection; Recent Acquisitions; Prophets, Parables and Paradoxes: Recent Drawings by David Bailin; Artistic Processes: Drawing; Living with Form: The Horn Collection of Contemporary Crafts; and European Paintings and Drawings.

The latter exhibit included eight pieces that were promised gifts from the Jackson T. Stephens collection.  They were Edgar Degas’ Dance in Blue (Before the Class, Three Dancers (c. late 1880s), Pablo Picasso’s Still Life with Red Bull’s Head (1938), Claude Monet’s Apple Trees Near Vetheuil (1878), Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Three Partridges (c. 1888-1890), Alfred Sisley’s Road on the Edge of the Loing (1891), Camille Pissarro’s The Raised Terrace of the Pont-Neuf, Place Henri IV in Morning Rain (1902), Berthe Morisot’s The Flute Player (1890) and Bertrand Redon’s Vase of Flowers (c. 1890).

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THIS LITTLE PIGGY WENT TO MARKET comes to Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre stage

This Little Piggy Went to MarketThe 2018–2019 Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre continues this winter with This Little Piggy Went to Market. The show runs February 1– 17, 2019. Performances of This Little Piggy Went to Market are Fridays at 7 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Hooray! Hooray! It’s Cajun market day! Little Piggy loves Cajun market day. So many good things to eat! So many good games to play! When Mama Piggy sends her precious piglet off to Boudreaux’s Bayou Market for flour and sugar and eggs – wearing the pretty little dress her grandma made – she reminds her of three things: Be kind to others; obey all the rules; and never stray from the market road.

Fairly squealing with excitement, Little Piggy trots off to town, promising to be good. But can such a fun-loving little pig keep her promise? Especially when her two best friends, Skinny Piggy and Curly Piggy, join the adventure? They are the two “rowdiest boys in the bayou,” after all.

This Little Piggy Went to Market was written by Keith Smith. The Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre’s production of This Little Piggy Went to Market is directed by John Isner. Bradley D. Anderson is the Artistic Director. Original music was composed by Lori Isner, set design and technical direction by Frank Mott, costume design by Nikki Gray, properties design by Cathleen Brignac, and lighting design by Mike Stacks. Liz McMath is the stage manager.

The cast includes: Mark Hansen (Boudreaux), Anthony McBride (Thibodeaux and Curly Piggy); Stephen Jones (Fontenot and Skinny Piggy); Morgan Jones (Charmaine); Samantha Harrington (Little Piggy); Georgeann Burbank (Momma Piggy); and Hazel Ragsdell (Market Girl).

The Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre will offer several events in conjunction with This Little Piggy Went to Market including a Pay-What-You-Can preview, opening night celebration and a pajama party. Full programming details can be found below.

Friday, February 1, 2019
Opening Night Dinner at Watercolor in the Park – 5 p.m.
Join us for dinner at Watercolor in the Park before the 7 p.m. opening night performance of This Little Piggy Went to Market! Make memories while enjoying a Cajun Buffet Dinner, with favorites like Cajun Spiced Pork Loin, Veggie Gumbo, PK Mac and Cheese, Hand Breaded Chicken Tenders, Strawberry Shortcake and more. Creative coloring placemats featuring activities and artwork from the show will be available for children to enjoy. Seatings at 5 p.m., 5:15 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 5:45 p.m., and 6 p.m.

Reservations recommended. Call 501-396-0390 for reservations

Friday, February 1, 2019
Opening Night Celebration: This Little Piggy Went to Market – 7 p.m.
After the show, enjoy a meet and greet with the cast, snacks and punch to celebrate the opening night of This Little Piggy Went to Market.

Friday, February 8, 2019
Pajama Night at This Little Piggy Went to Market – 7 p.m.
Toss on those cute pajamas and join us at the Children’s Theatre for the 7 p.m. performance of This Little Piggy Went to Market. Stickers are available at the Box Office before the show for children (and parents!) wearing pajamas.

Saturday, February 9, 2019
ASL Interpreted Performance – 2 p.m.
There will be American Sign Language interpreters at the 2 p.m. performance of This Little Piggy Went to Market. Visit the Box Office before the performance for seating assistance.

For more information, visit ArkansasArtsCenter.org/theatre or call 501-372-4000.

Happy Birthday to Pulitzer & Tony winner David Auburn, an alum of Hall High and Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre

November 30 is the birthday of Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning playwright David Auburn. A 1987 graduate of Hall High School, he participated in the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre while he spent his teen years in Little Rock.

Born in Chicago, he grew up in Ohio. He moved to Arkansas when his parents took jobs here, first in Jonesboro then Little Rock. After graduating from Hall, he returned to Chicago to attend the University of Chicago, where he graduated with a degree in English literature.  While there he was involved with a performance group and also wrote theatre reviews.

In 1992, he went to New York to take part in Julliard’s playwriting program.  In 1997, his first Off Broadway play was produced, Skyscraper.  In May 2000, Manhattan Theatre Club produced his play Proof at one of its Off Broadway theatres. Following the success of that run, it transferred to Broadway in the autumn of 2000.

In 2001, Proof won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Tony Award for Best Play, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best American Play, and Best Play awards from the Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama League.

That spring he also served as a script consultant for tick…tick…BOOM! a musical written by the late Jonathan Larson. He was asked by Larson’s family to write the book based on the several different drafts Larson had written prior to his 1996 death.

Subsequently, Auburn has moved between writing plays and movies as well as directing. He has also served as a teacher and playwright in residence. His plays include The New York Idea, The Columnist, and Lost Lake.

He is currently one of the screenwriters on the upcoming new Charlie’s Angels movie.

31 Days of Arkansas Rep: PROOF by LR Hall Alum David Auburn

Fourteen years after graduating from Little Rock Hall High School, David Auburn received the 2001 Pulitzer Prize in Drama for his play Proof.  In September 2002, Arkansas Repertory Theatre produced Proof while the original Broadway run was in its final months.

The production at Arkansas Rep was directed by Producing Artistic Director Robert Hupp.  The cast featured Amy Tribbey, Scott Barrow, Jessica Henson and Curt Karibalis.  (Barrow met his future wife, the former Amy Sabin, while in Little Rock during the run of this show.)

The set, a very realistic craftsman house back porch, was designed by Mike Nichols.  On opening night he was lauded because the production marked his 20th anniversary with the Rep. (In 2018, Nichols is still serving as Technical Director and Resident Scenic Designer for the Rep.)

Auburn was unable to come to Little Rock to see the production. His wife was set to give birth to a child during the run of the show.

When Auburn was growing up in Little Rock, he and his brother were active with the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre which is across MacArthur Park from where the Rep was at the time.

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.

Little Rock Look Back: Townsend Wolfe

Townsend Wolfe, who led the Arkansas Arts Center for 34 years, was born on August 15, 1935.  He was hired to lead the Arkansas Arts Center 50 years ago this month.

Though not the founding director of the Arkansas Arts Center, Wolfe was the director for well over half of the institution’s 57 year history. Hired in 1968 at the age of 32 (making him one of the youngest art museum directors in the US at the time), he retired in 2002.  That year he was honored with the Governor’s Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Arkansas Arts Council.

A native of South Carolina, Wolfe held a bachelor’s degree from the Atlanta Art Institute and a master’s degree from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. He also received a certificate from the Harvard Institute of Arts Administration, and honorary doctoral degrees from two other institutions.  After teaching some classes and seminars at the AAC in the early 1960s, he was recruited to return full-time to the Arkansas Arts Center by Governor and Mrs. Winthrop Rockefeller.

During his tenure at the Arts Center, he first was responsible for creating financial stability. After drastic cost-cutting measures, he refocused programming which led to the creation of the current Museum School, a focus of works on paper for the collection, cultivating a thriving collectors group, establishment of a children’s theatre, expansion of statewide services, and several additions to the physical structure.  He encouraged others to collect art and expanded Arts Center programming into Little Rock neighborhoods.

In addition to serving on the National Council of the Arts, Wolfe was a member of the National Museum Services Board and the board of the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts in New York. He was curator for an exhibition in the First Ladies’ Sculpture Garden at the White House in 1995, and was the recipient of the 1997 Distinguished Service Award (outside the profession) by the National Art Educators Association.

Over the years, Wolfe has served in a variety of capacities for the Association of American Museums, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Wolfe, who died in 2017, was posthumously honored by the Arts Center earlier this year with one of its Portrait of a Patron awards.  In 1973, he received the first Winthrop Rockefeller Memorial Award from the Arkansas Arts Center.

The late Bob Dorough, Arkansan and musical genius, named a 2019 NEA Jazz Master

Earlier this week, the National Endowment for the Arts announced the 2019 Jazz Masters.  Among them was the late Bob Dorough, who died on April 23 of this year.  The other three recipients are big band leader Maria Schneider, pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, and writer Stanley Crouch.

Dorough’s career spanned more than 70 years in jazz as a singer, pianist, composer, and arranger. His distinctive vocals, clever lyrics, and strong melodies were well-known in the jazz world even before his compositions and vocals for the animation series “Schoolhouse Rock!.”

Born in Arkansas and raised in Texas, hepivoted toward jazz after hearing Benny Goodman and Harry James recordings. During a three-year-stint in the U.S. Army from 1943-45, he worked as an arranger and musician in a Special Services band, then earned a bachelor’s degree in composition at North Texas State Teachers College (now known as the University of North Texas) in 1949.

Dorough relocated to New York City to continue his studies at Columbia University and immersed himself in the vibrant local jazz scene.  After spending six months working at the famed Mars Club in Paris, France, he returned to the U.S. and settled in Los Angeles, performing as pianist-vocalist in clubs and as supporting act between sets for comedian Lenny Bruce. Dorough’s first album, Devil May Care, was released in 1956.

In 1962, Dorough was working on the East Coast when he received a call from Miles Davis who he had met several years before in Los Angeles, asking him to write a Christmas song for him to record. Dorough composed “Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)” and sang it with Davis as well as another track, “Nothing Like You,” used as the closing track of Davis’ album Sorcerer in 1967.

In 1972, Dorough was hired by a New York advertising firm to set the multiplication tables to music to make them easier to learn. It was decided that the songs would make good animation, and Tom Yohe put artwork with the music to create Schoolhouse Rock! Dorough became the musical director of the television series, enlisting other well-known jazz musicians to help write and perform the songs. The animated educational series became a staple of the ABC network’s children’s programming for more than two decades.

In 1998, he was inducted into the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame.  The Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre has performed the stage adaptation of “School House Rock Live!” (which was created by Arkansan and AAC alum Scott Ferguson and performed all over the country).

On April 15, 2019, the NEA will host a free concert celebrating the Jazz Masters at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Beginning in 1982, NEA has bestowed the Jazz Master honor on more than 150 people connected to the jazz genre, including Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Dianne Reeves and George Wein. Individuals first are nominated by the public, with an NEA-convened panel assessing the nominations before the National Council on the Arts reviews the recommendations and forwards them along to the NEA chairman, who makes the final decision.