Little Rock Look Back: LR Voters Overwhelmingly Support Arts+History

On Tuesday, February 9, 2016, Little Rock overwhelmingly approved the Arts+History initiative which funded expansion and enhancements to the Arkansas Arts Center, MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, and MacArthur Park.

There were 7,989 votes cast in the special election.  This was 6.61% of the electorate.  Of those, 6,733 or 84.28% voted for the proposal.

In 2018, the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History was closed for several months for a renovation, which was financed by these bonds.  It reopened in September.  The Arkansas Arts Center unveiled plans in February 2018 for its expansion.  It is preparing to start construction later in 2019. As part of that, Arts Center programming will continue in a variety of locations including Central Arkansas Library System branches.

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Landscape Architecture Now! Case Studies in Mexico and Latin America is topic of lecture tonight

Vistas Cerro Grande Linear Park in Chihuahua City: A Public Mile Designed with and for the Community. Photos by Delfoz.

Vistas Cerro Grande Linear Park in Chihuahua City: A Public Mile Designed with and for the Community. Photos by Delfoz.

Architecture and Design Network (ADN) continues its 2018/2019 June Freeman lecture series by diving into the discipline and profession of landscape architecture by analyzing a double context:  first, the larger context of the Latin American continent; and second, Mexico as a specific context.

The program will begin at 6:00pm tonight at the Arkansas Arts Center. A reception will precede it at 5:30pm.

Gabriel Diaz Montemayor, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at The University of Texas at Austin and Founder of Labor Studio, will present these findings in ADN’s second lecture of 2019 year, “Landscape Architecture Now!  Case Studies in Mexico and Latin America.”

The discipline and profession of Landscape Architecture is not the same in Latin America as in the United States. It should not be the same. A brief historic chronology will be traced to explain the different origins and meaning of public space in this continent while addressing the need to identify the unique national and regional differences, avoiding -often done- common generalizations. Recent project case studies will be synthesized to portray the current condition of the discipline in the Latin American context.

The contemporary condition of Public Space in Mexico will be explained as one of the unique conditions assembling the Latin American mosaic. The country has recently gone through dramatic changes in public life, society, culture, and politics. A set of case studies in Landscape Architecture and Public Space, where Montemayor has been involved in different capacities, will be employed to explain the challenges and opportunities for Landscape Architecture in Mexico.

The Mexican projects include applied academic studios trying to fill the void between the planning and the implementation of public infrastructure projects needing landscape architectural methods and matter. These will also include professional public space commissions based on community reconstruction, engagement, and participation. Both applied studios and professional projects operate in a third context, northern Mexico. This will lead to a final proposition reflecting on a potential future for the border region between the United States and Mexico, one where societies are reconciled with their common ground.

Gabriel Diaz Montemayor, ASLA, is an Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at the School of Architecture at The University of Texas at Austin. Through Spring 2019, he will hold the Garvan Chair and Visiting Professorship in Landscape Architecture at the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design.

Montemayoris an architect educated at the School of the Desert:  The Superior Institute of Architecture and Design (ISAD) at Chihuahua, Mexico, from where he graduated in 1998. He holds an architect degree from the Autonomous University of Chihuahua, Mexico, and received his Master of Landscape Architecture from Auburn University in 2007.  Montemayoris a founder of LABOR Studio, an architecture, urban design and landscape architecture practice based in Chihuahua, Mexico, since 2002. The studio has engaged in a variety of private and public commissions.

Architecture and Design Network lectures are free and open to the public. No reservations are required.  Supporters of ADN include the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, the Central Section of the Arkansas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and friends in the community.

Photographing Frida: Portraits of Frida Kahlo/Fotografiando Frida: Retratos de Frida Kahlo exhibit at Arkansas Arts Center from Feb 1 to April 14

Nickolas Muray, American (Szeged, Hungary, 1892 – 1965, New York, New York), Frida Kahlo on White Bench, New York (2nd Edition), 1939, color carbon print, 19 x 14 ½ inches. Courtesy of Throckmorton Fine Art, New York, New York.

The Arkansas Arts Center presents a rare opportunity to see one of Mexico’s greatest painters captured by some of the 20th century’s most important photographers. 

Photographing Frida: Portraits of Frida Kahlo/ Fotografiando Frida: Retratos de Frida Kahlo will be on view at the Arkansas Arts Center through April 14, 2019.

Photographing Frida: Portraits of Frida Kahlo features 65 images of Kahlo as art and artist. The photographs document Kahlo’s life as seen by the greatest photographers of the time – Lola and Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Imogen Cunningham, Emmy Lou Packard, Graciela Iturbide, Nickolas Muray, and Edward Weston, among others. From casual snapshots to intimate family photographs to artfully posed studio portraits, viewers will see the full spectrum of Kahlo’s life, from self-assured adolescent, to influential artist, fashion icon and passionate lover, as she takes on a mythic presence in our collective imagination.

In the hands of photojournalists, friends and artists, the camera allowed Kahlo to explore her own image and identity, document her marriage to the great muralist Diego Rivera, express her strong political views, and artfully reveal her life-long struggle to overcome her physical challenges. In the process, she ultimately defined the principal subject of her own art – herself.

Photographing Frida is an opportunity to see Frida Kahlo as you’ve never seen her before,” Chief Curator Brian J. Lang said. “These images defined not only the way the world saw her – and continues to see her – but how she saw and depicted herself through her own work.”

Frida Kahlo was born in Coyoacán, Mexico City, Mexico in 1907. Her father, Guillermo Kahlo, was a photographer, and often photographed the young Frida. Through her father’s portraits, she became acquainted with the power of her own image.

In 1929, Kahlo married muralist Diego Rivera. Throughout their tumultuous marriage, the couple was often photographed together, both in Mexico and in the United States. Rivera was a major presence, both in Kahlo’s life and in the photographs that document their life. As they traveled through Mexico and the United States, “Frida and Diego” – as they were affectionately known – became a source of fascination and intrigue for the paparazzi: Kahlo, stunning in her Tehuana dresses, beribboned hair and beaded jewelry, accompanied her famous muralist husband. Photos of their second wedding (the couple divorced in 1939, only to remarry a year later) in California were captured by American press photographers.

The exhibition reveals Kahlo’s fascination with fashion – as self-expression, political expression, and a means for concealing her physical disabilities. She was often photographed wearing traditional Mexican clothing – Tehuana dresses, huipils and rebozos, and beaded jewelry. Under the voluminous skirts and flowing dresses, she was able to hide the injuries that had affected her since youth. The pre-Hispanic clothing she was so fond of allowed her to express her belief in mexicanidad – the nationalist movement that found its inspiration in pre-Columbian Mexico after the end of the Mexican Revolution.

Kahlo continued to be photographed until her death in 1954. To each photographer she encountered, she became something new – ever present and continually beguiling – but made different through their lens. In the process, she herself became a work of art.

Photographing Frida features images by Lola Álvarez Bravo, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Florence Arquin, Lucienne Bloch, Imogen Cunningham, Gisèle Freund, Hector Garcia, Juan Guzman, Graciela Iturbide, Peter Juley, Guillermo Kahlo, Bernice Kolko, Leo Matiz, Nickolas Muray, Emmy Lou Packard, Victor Reyes, Bernard Silberstein, Edward Weston and Guillermo Zamora. A fully-illustrated catalogue, Mirror, Mirror: Portraits of Frida Kahlo, featuring an essay by Salomon Grimberg, a noted authority on Latin American art, accompanies the exhibition.

Photographing Frida: Portraits of Frida Kahlo/Fotografiando Frida: Retratos de Frida Kahlo is organized by the Arkansas Arts Center in collaboration with Throckmorton Fine Art, New York, New York. The exhibition is sponsored by Bank of America; JC Thompson Trust; Judy Fletcher, In Memory of John R. Fletcher; Belinda Shults; Laura Sandage Harden and Lon Clark; Holleman & Associates, P.A.; Barbara House; and Rhonda and Tim Jordan. Additional support by Consulate of Mexico in Little Rock.

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.

Little Rock Look Back: Tornado lays waste to parts of Little Rock on January 21, 1999

Image result for january 1999 tornado little rockIn their 5pm and 6pm forecasts, Little Rock TV station meteorologists had warned of the potential for severe weather on the evening of January 21, 1999.

But no one seemed prepared for what happened.

A tornado cut through a huge swath of Little Rock stretching from the southwest portion of the city up through the Quapaw Quarter and beyond.  At least four people died in Pulaski County and over 150 houses were destroyed.

A Harvest Foods collapsed trapping people inside the store as storms pummeled survivors with rain and wind.  Stories were ripped off buildings. Sides of houses were peeled back.  Cars and trees were tossed about as if they were made of papier mache.

While not short-changing all of the devastation throughout the city – and there was a great deal – there were several cultural institutions and historic sites which were hit by this system.

  • A portion of the roof of Daisy Bates’ home was ripped off. Some of her books and papers were sucked up by the wind and scattered throughout the storm’s path.
  • The Governor’s Mansion sustained damage in addition to losing power and phones.
  • The original Fire Station 2 in MacArthur Park, then still serving as a museum storage facility, lost a portion of its roof and sustained water damage
  • The Arsenal Building, in the process of being prepared to become the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, lost a portion of its roof.  The storm’s impact also set off the sprinkler system in the building causing flooding throughout the interior of the building.
  • The Arkansas Arts Center sustained minor damage. The museum was hosting a reception that night for the opening of an exhibit. Many trees in MacArthur Park fell that evening, including several on cars of patrons present for the party.

It would take months and years for the areas hit by this storm to be rebuilt and recover.

The Museum of Discovery – which would have been impacted by the tornado if it had not relocated to the River Market District two years earlier – has an exhibit which allows persons to relive this night.  Tornado Alley Theater provides a riveting seven-minute experience for museum visitors as they relive the tornado that devastated the Governor’s Mansion district area of downtown Little Rock in January 1999. Hear the stories of people who survived the storm and see TV footage of the event as broadcast on THV 11 that fateful evening.

Little Rock Look Back: HAIR brings Age of Aquarius to Robinson Center

Ad for the original production of HAIR in Little Rock. Note the ticket prices. And that they could be purchased at Moses Music Shops.

Forty-seven years ago today, on January 18, 1972, the musical Hair settled in for a week-long run at Robinson Auditorium.  The saga to bring the national tour to Little Rock had actually begun eleven months earlier.

In February 1971, a young Little Rock attorney named Phil Kaplan petitioned the Little Rock Board of Censors to see if it would allow a production of Hair to play in the city. He was asking on behalf of a client who was interested in bringing a national tour to Arkansas’ capital city. The show, which had opened on Broadway to great acclaim in April 1968 after an Off Broadway run in 1967, was known for containing a nude scene as well for a script which was fairly liberally sprinkled with four-letter words. The Censors stated they could not offer an opinion without having seen a production.

By July 1971, Kaplan and his client (who by then had been identified as Southwest Productions) were seeking permission for a January 1972 booking of Hair from the City’s Auditorium Commission which was charged with overseeing operations at Robinson Auditorium. At its July meeting, the Commissioners voted against allowing Hair because of its “brief nude scene” and “bawdy language.”

Kaplan decried the decision. He stated that the body couldn’t “sit in censorship of legitimate theatrical productions.” He noted courts had held that Hair  could be produced and that the Auditorium Commission, as an agent for the State, “clearly can’t exercise prior censorship.” He proffered that if the production was obscene it would be a matter for law enforcement not the Auditorium Commission.

The Commission countered that they had an opinion from City Attorney Joseph Kemp stating they had the authority. One of the Commissioners, Mrs. Grady Miller (sister-in-law of the building’s namesake the late Senator Robinson, she had served on the Commission since 1940), expressed her concern that allowing Hair would open the door to other productions such as Oh! Calcutta!

On July 26, 1971, Southwest Productions filed suit against the Auditorium Commission. Four days later there was a hearing before federal Judge G. Thomas Eisele. Judge Eisele offered a ruling on August 11 which compelled the Auditorium Commission to allow Hair to be performed. Prior to the ruling, some of the Auditorium Commissioners had publicly stated that if they had to allow Hair, they would close it after the first performance on the grounds of obscenity. To combat this, Judge Eisele stated that the Commission had to allow Hair to perform the entire six day engagement it sought.

Upon hearing of the Judge’s ruling, Commissioner Emily Miller offered a succinct, two word response. “Oh, Dear!”

In the end, the production of Hair at Robinson would not be the first performance in the state.  The tour came through Fayetteville for two performances in October 1971 at Barnhill Arena.

On January 18, 1972, Hair played the first of its 8 performances over 6 days at Robinson Auditorium.  In his review the next day, the Arkansas Gazette’s Bill Lewis noted that Hair “threw out all it had to offer” and that Little Rock had survived.

The ads promoting the production carried the tagline “Arkansas will never be the same.”  Tickets (from $2 all the way up to $8.50–the equivalent of $12 to $51 in 2019 dollars) could be purchased at Moses Melody Shops both downtown and in “The Mall” (meaning Park Plaza). That business is gone from downtown, but the scion of that family, Jimmy Moses, is actively involved in building downtown through countless projects. His sons are carrying on the family tradition too.

Little Rock was by no means unique in trying to stop productions of Hair.  St. Louis, Birmingham, Los Angeles, Tallahassee, Boston, Atlanta, Charlotte NC, West Palm Beach, Oklahoma City, Mobile and Chattanooga all tried unsuccessfully to stop performances in their public auditoriums.  Despite Judge Eisele’s ruling against the City of Little Rock, members of the Fort Smith City Council also tried to stop a production later in 1972 in that city. This was despite warnings from City staff that there was not legal standing.

Within a few years, the Board of Censors of the City of Little Rock would be dissolved (as similar bodies also were disappearing across the US). Likewise, the Auditorium Commission was discontinued before Hair even opened with its duties being taken over by the Advertising and Promotion Commission and the Convention & Visitors Bureau staff.  This was not connected to the Hair decision; it was, instead, related to expanding convention facilities in Robinson and the new adjacent hotel.  Regardless of the reasons for their demise, both bygone bodies were vestiges of earlier, simpler and differently focused days in Little Rock.

One month left to submit for Arkansas Arts Center’s 61st Annual Delta Exhibition

The deadline to submit art for the Arkansas Arts Center’s 61st Annual Delta Exhibition is February 13. That means there is still one month remaining.

The Annual Delta Exhibition presents a vision of contemporary art in the American South. Founded in 1958, the exhibition provides a unique snapshot of the Delta region.

The Delta Exhibition reflects the region’s strong traditions of craftsmanship and observation, combined with an innovative use of materials and an experimental approach to subject matter.

A guest juror will select the artworks to be exhibited and assign the $2500 Grand Award and two $750 Delta Awards. Additionally, a $250 Contemporaries Award will be selected by the Contemporaries, an auxiliary membership group of the Arkansas Arts Center.

The exhibition is open to all artists who live in or were born in one of the following states: Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. Art must be original, completed in the last two years, and not previously exhibited at the Arkansas Arts Center.

For guidelines and the entry form, visit here.