Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


Rock the Oscars: Marjorie Lawrence

Opera star Marjorie Lawrence, CBE, was born in Australia, but spent the last two decades of her life in Arkansas.   Her triumph over polio to return to the opera stage was the subject of the Oscar winning film Interrupted Melody.

First singing in her native country, she rose to star in the opera halls of Europe before conquering the Metropolitan Opera.  Lawrence had contracted polio as an adult while on a trip to Mexico.  She eventually returned to the stage, usually singing while seated or reclining.  She also had an extensive recital career.  She performed at the White House at the invitation of Franklin Roosevelt and later Lyndon Johnson. During World War II, she performed at Buckingham Palace.  When Queen Elizabeth II made her a Commander of the British Empire in 1977, the Queen fondly remembered that wartime concert.

In 1949, she wrote her autobiography Interrupted Melody. The next year, Hollywood was interested in making it into a film.  Lawrence only wanted to agree to that if she herself did the singing.  In 1955, MGM released the film starring Eleanor Parker as Lawrence and Glenn Ford as her husband. Lawrence did not provide the singing voice; Eileen Farrell did.  Lawrence was openly critical of the film, though some suspected it was because she did not get to sing for it.  By the time of the filming, her vocal range was not what it had been, which is apparently what led MGM to make the decision not to use her.

Despite Lawrence’s disdain for the film, the film was financially successful.  It was nominated for three Oscars: Original Screenplay (though it was actually based on a book), Eleanor Parker as Best Actress, and Costume Design for Color motion pictures.  Sonya Levien and William Ludwig won the statuette for their screenplay.

Lawrence and her husband bought a ranch near Hot Springs in 1952.  She spent most of her life there afterward though she was a vocal coach at Southern Illinois University and Tulane. She also welcomed international students to her home for coaching.  In 1975, she started working with students from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.  She was also an early member of the Arkansas Arts Council.

Lawrence died in January 1979 and is buried in Hot Springs.

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12th EVER Nog Off at Historic Arkansas Museum Tonight

thnogoff_tstHistoric Arkansas Museum is home to the first ever, original Nog-off, a culinary celebration of a favorite holiday drink, and friendly competition for the best eggnog in town. The 12th Ever Nog-off welcomes old friends and new friends to this tasty and unique contest.

Among the new challengers are Luiggi Uzcategui of Big Orange Midtown, Merrick Fagan of Trio’s Restaurant and Dillon Garcia of Arkansas Mixology Associates. Will they take down last year’s returning champs, Rock City Eats and Stone’s Throw/Marriott Hotel? Or the Capital Hotel who holds 3 wins? Or Bill Worthen, whose family has been making Egg Nog with the same recipe for eight generations? Taste for yourself and make sure your vote gets counted!

Rex Deloney’s Eclectic Color: Diverse Colors for a Diverse World is inspired by the many different thoughts, emotions and people that he has portrayed over the years as a figurative artist.The emotionally driven portraits juxtaposed on colorful abstract backgrounds work together to convey messages of hope, faith and the everyday joys and struggles of life.

This exhibit is curated by the Arkansas Arts Council and continues in the SECOND FLOOR GALLERY through March 5, 2017.

…plus, holiday shopping in the Museum Store

  • Show your love of all things Nog with this t-shirt designed to commemorate our Nog Off, available exclusively online or in our Museum Store.
  • Get a signed book, for yourself or a gift: Rex Nelson, author of Southern Fried: Going Whole Hog in a State of Wonder will be in the store from 5 to 6:30, and Frances Mitchell Ross, will be on hand to sign copies of United States District Courts and Judges of Arkansas, 1836-1960.
  • Shop #ArkansasMade with Little Rock artist Jann Greenland, who will be showcasing her newest jewelry and fused glass work.


Creative Class 2016: Tod Switch

cc16-switchTod Switch  has worked as an architectural photographer since 1991.  In that capacity, he has had many artistic experiences while traveling throughout the US and eighteen countries around the world.

Making the transition to the fine arts in 2010, he started by using what came naturally to him, visualization. He saw intrinsic beauty in found objects and transformed them into his own vision with the addition of metal, wood, and stone. Composition, form, and perspective, concepts he utilized daily with photography, are now put to use in his sculptural work.

His sculptures often combine different materials and fabrication processes. Many works are one of a kind or unique in a series.  He currently is working on a series of keyholes as well as a series of city blocks, which are a variety of wood blocks, laser etched with architectural images that I have taken from around the world. They will be capped with copper, bronze, brass, or nickel.

Tod has shown at Sculpture at the River Market.  In 2015, he won the Best of Show Award and in 2016 received an Award of Merit.  His temporary installation was chosen for the Arkansas Arts Center’s Fountain Fest in 2015, as well.  He has also taught seminars for the Arkansas Arts Council.

His goals in public art are to appeal to the largest audience and have them say, “I wish I would have thought of that,” and to produce site – specific works of art that will stand the test of time.


Creative Class 2016: Spencer Sutterfield

cc16-sutterfieldSpencer Sutterfield is an arts educator and leadership trainer.  He appears on the Arkansas Arts Council Arts in Education roster as well as being a 2016 Regional Arkansas Teacher of the Year as well as the Little Rock School District Teacher of the Year.

He specializes in theatre and speech education, team building, dramatic play, and directing actors of all ages. Diagnosed with dyslexia at age 8, Spencer has an inspiring story of perseverance and achievement that underscores much of his teaching artist work. He has a bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts/ Speech Communication Education and an M.F.A. in Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities.

Spencer has dedicated more than a decade to using theatre as a tool to inspire and educate. Spencer has directed plays for young audiences at the university and high school levels including The Arkansaw Bear, Mother Hicks, Holes, and The Imaginary Invalid. As a graduate student, Spencer wrote, directed, and performed in a documentary theatre piece about the experiences of students with dyslexia. This piece was accepted for entry into the University of Texas at Austin’s highly competitive Cohen New Works Festival. He later incorporated a shortened version of the piece into a professional development workshop he facilitated across Texas and Arkansas.

Spencer currently holds the position of Drama Specialist at Parkview where he serves as the Drama Department Chair. In this position, he directs main stage productions and a yearly student-devised performance about Arkansas history that tours to elementary and middle schools. In addition to directing, he teaches year long, in-depth courses in Theatre History, Children’s Theatre, and Ensemble Theatre for 10th through 12th grade theatre students. Spencer has also taught Introduction to Improvisation and Introduction to Theatre on the college level.  He also has taught for several years at Arkansas Governor’s School.


Creative Class 2016: Christen Burke Pitts

cc16-pittsDancer and choreographer only defines two of Christen Burke Pitts‘s involvement with the arts.  She and her family are also active supporters of the Arkansas film industry and are patrons of all of the performing arts.  But it is in dance that Christen probably makes her largest impact.

Since 1996, she has been the founder and director of the NLRHS Dance Program.  In that capacity, she teaches scores of students each year as well as choreographs musicals, plans workshops, and produces dance performances.  She received the 2012 Governor’s Arts in Education Award from the Arkansas Arts Council and was also named the 2012 Arkansas Communication and Theatre Arts Association Teacher of the Year.

Christen holds her MEd from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and a BA in Drama/minor in Dance Performance from the University of Arkansas. She studied ballet, tap, jazz, modern, pointe, and musical theatre with various instructors across the country and trained at workshops/intensives with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, MOMIX, Pilobolus, Luigi, Frank Hatchett, Finis Jhung, Bill Hastings, and many others.

Christen has performed in over fifty shows throughout the South including Damn Yankees at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, the Shoji Tabuchi Show and The Crystal Gayle Show in Branson, and numerous industrial shows. She has appeared in local and national commercials, “The Ernest Green Story” on The Disney Channel, and in television specials on The Family Channel. Christen was a company member of the Memphis Dance Ensemble and the University of Arkansas Dance Company.

She has taught dance workshops for the ARC National Performing Arts Camp, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre (Summer Theater Intensive-Camp Rep), Arkansas Communication and Theatre Arts Association, and Arkansas Dance Network. A co-founder of the Arkansas Dance Network, she has also served been affiliated with ACANSA Arts Festival, the THEA Foundation, Arkansas Festival Ballet, and Argenta Community Theatre, among others.


Arkansas Heritage Month – Cliff Baker

cliffCliff Fannin Baker is one of only two people to have been recognized with two Governor’s Arts Awards. He was honored at the first awards in 1991 with an Individual Artist Award and in 1999 with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

He has nearly a half-century of work in the professional theatre.   He was the Founder of Arkansas Repertory Theatre in 1976. He previously was associated with a professional theatre at the Arkansas Arts Center in the 1960s and the Arkansas Philharmonic Theatre in the 1970s prior to his founding the Rep.

Baker has directed over 200 productions of every genre in cities as far flung as Beijing (Peking University) to Portland Center Stage, from Houston’s Alley Theatre to the Theatre of the Open Eye in New York. He has a particular passion for new plays, having directed or produced over thirty world and regional premieres.

For five years, he served as Creative Director of Wildwood Park for the Arts. When not directing, he is a corporate leadership consultant for Goss-Reid Associates in New York. Baker is a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers and the Dramatists Guild.

Baker will return to the Arkansas Rep in July to be the Interim Artistic Director while a replacement for Bob Hupp is being selected.  He will also serve as the production director for Sister Act in the Rep’s 2016-2017 season.


Arkansas Heritage Month – Townsend Wolfe of the Arkansas Arts Center

wolfe

Continuing with a focus on Little Rock recipients of the Governor’s Arts Awards, today’s focus is Townsend Wolfe, who led the Arkansas Arts Center for 34 years.

Though not the founding director of the Arkansas Arts Center, Townsend Wolfe was the director for well over half of the institution’s 53 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 holds 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.  He was recruited 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 plant.

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.