Women Making History – Jeannette Edris Rockefeller

Jeannette Edris Rockefeller only lived in Arkansas for about fifteen years. But her impact on the cultural life of Little Rock and all of Arkansas continues to be felt today.

Born and raised in Seattle, as a young mother she met Winthrop Rockefeller while both were in New York.  He moved to Arkansas in 1953; after their 1956 marriage, she joined him. They split their time between Little Rock and Petit Jean.

In 1959, she was asked to become involved in plans for a new art museum in Little Rock.  She became a tireless advocate and fundraiser for the new Arkansas Arts Center.   In 1960, she assumed the role of president of the Arkansas Arts Center Board of Trustees, a position she held until 1968.  During that time period she oversaw the planning, construction and opening of the building.  She also invited Townsend Wolfe, who she had met when he taught some classes at the Arts Center, to apply to become the museum’s first executive director.

From 1967 to 1971, she was First Lady of Arkansas.  In that capacity, she supervised renovation of the Governor’s Mansion and started the tradition of displaying art on the walls.

Shortly after her 1971 divorce from Rockefeller, she relocated to California.  She continued to be a supporter of the Arts Center.  One of the galleries in the Arts Center is named in her honor.  In addition, one of the sculptures on the lawn of the Arts Center, Standing Red, was dedicated in 1970 in recognition of her service on the Arts Center Board.

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Rock the Oscars 2019: Carol Channing

On January 31, 1921, future “Little Girl from Little Rock” and Oscar nominee Carol Channing was born. Alas it was in Seattle.

After gaining the notice of New York critics and audiences in the musical revue, Lend an Ear, Channing achieved Broadway stardom playing fictional Little Rock native Lorelei Lee (the creation of Anita Loos) in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  In this show, which opened in December 1949, she introduced the Leo Robin-Jule Styne songs “Little Girl from Little Rock” and “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”

In 1964, she won the Actress in a Musical Tony for her second signature role playing the title character in Hello, Dolly!  Channing also earned a special Tony in 1968 for Dolly when it became the longest-running Broadway musical.

On November 15, 1966, Carol Channing opened a six day stint in HELLO, DOLLY! at Robinson Auditorium.  She would play 8 sold out shows over those six days.  She had just wrapped filming THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE (for which she would receive an Oscar nomination). She had specifically requested that Little Rock be added to the tour.

While in Little Rock, Channing was entertained at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion and feted at parties.  She was made an honorary citizen of Little Rock, as well.  But she was here to perform. And perform she did. She was rarely known to miss a performance and always gave her utmost.  Bill Lewis, in his review in the ARKANSAS GAZETTE, stated “To hear Channing sing ‘Hello, Dolly!’ Is one of the great experiences of all musical theater to date…”

In 1993, she spent her birthday in Washington DC at a White House dinner for the National Governors’ Association.  This was the Clintons’ first official White House dinner after moving in to the residence eleven days prior.  President Bill Clinton led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to her.  She remarked to the President that she was Christian Scientist and didn’t celebrate birthdays, which meant she didn’t get any older.  He replied that it meant the night was her first birthday (it was her 72nd in actuality).

She died earlier this month just two weeks shy of her 98th birthday.

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.

Mosaic Templars Cultural Center Holiday Open House on December 2 from 2pm to 5pm

Image may contain: foodMosaic Templars Cultural Center will celebrate the holiday season with its annual Holiday Open House, featuring the sixth annual “Say it Ain’t Say’s” Sweet Potato Pie Contest, from 2-5 p.m. on Dec. 2.

In addition to the baking competition, the Holiday Open House will feature performances by several local musical groups and performers. The museum will also host a holiday craft-making station for children.

The “Say it Ain’t Say’s” Contest derives its name from Little Rock restaurateur Robert “Say” McIntosh who is known for his popular sweet potato pies. A panel of celebrity judges will select first- and second-place winners in both the amateur and professional categories, and a “People’s Choice” award will be determined by open taste-tasting beginning at 2:30 p.m.

Open to the public, MTCC’s Holiday Open House is a free event, though visitors are encouraged to bring a toy to donate to the Stop the Violence organization, which was founded by Robert “Say” McIntosh.

For more information, please call (501) 683-3593 or visit mosaictemplarscenter.com.

Mosaic Templars Cultural Center is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

Admission is free, and a trolley will be available to take patrons between Old State House MuseumHistoric Arkansas Museum and Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, as well as the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion, at no charge.

The Old State House Holiday Open House is Sunday, December 2

No automatic alt text available.Help ring in the holiday season at the Old State House Museum on Sunday, December 2, at Holiday Open House!

Visitors will find the Old State House colorfully decorated for the season, and local music groups will perform delightful carols. Fun, hands-on activities will be available to children; they can create unique holiday cards and more.

The hours are 1pm to 5pm, and admission is free.

Schedule of performances at Old State House Museum:

1:30 — Bethel Middle School Bryant
2:00 — Little Rock Central High School Madrigals
2:30 — Sweet Adelines, Top of the Rock
3:00 — Clarksville High School Choir
3:30 — Forest Heights STEAM Middle School Choir
4:00 — JA Fair High School Choir
4:30 — Pine Bluff High School Choir

The Old State House Museum is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.  A trolley will be available to take patrons between Old State House MuseumHistoric Arkansas Museum and Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, as well as the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion, at no charge

51st annual Historic Arkansas Museum Christmas Frolic on December 2 from 1pm to 4pm

Sunday, December 2 is the 51st annual Historic Arkansas Museum Christmas Frolic!

The Frolic celebrates Christmas as it was in the 1800s with living history, carols, reenactments, live music, dancing and more.

Visitors come from across Arkansas each year to sample Historic Arkansas Museum’s famous hot cider and ginger cake, and to shop for unique Arkansas-made holiday gifts in the Museum Store.

Frolickers will enjoy a variety of activities for children and adults, including: living history performances and pioneer games.

This event runs from 1pm to 4pm and is free.

Historic Arkansas Museum is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.  A trolley will be available to take patrons between Old State House MuseumHistoric Arkansas Museum and Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, as well as the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion, at no charge

LR Women Making History – Kaki Hockersmith

In 2015, Kaki Hockersmith was honored at the Governor’s Arts Awards.  She creates art as a designer. In addition, she promotes arts and heritage through her tireless efforts on behalf of numerous cultural institutions.  This award was only one of many recognitions she has received.

In 2010, she was appointed to the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts for The Kennedy Center.  In that capacity, she serves as a national ambassador for The Kennedy Center. She has also brought programs from The Kennedy Center to Arkansas to help established and emerging arts organizations. She also serves as a commissioner on the cultural committee of UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.  For the past two years, she and Stephanie S. Streett have led the efforts for FUSION which creates an arts and humanities curriculum for Arkansas teachers.

In 1993, she redesigned the interior of The White House during the Clinton Administration. She was also appointed a member of the Committee for the Preservation of The White House.  Her work on this American landmark was featured in Hillary Clinton’s book An Invitation to the White House: In Celebration of American Culture.

Locally, she has served on the Board of Trustees for the Arkansas Arts Center and the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion Association. She is an active supporter of many cultural organizations in Little Rock.  She and her husband Max Mehlburger open their home to host receptions and fundraisers for numerous cultural institutions and organizations.  In 2014, she was recognized for this support at Ballet Arkansas’ Turning Pointe gala.

Professionally, she has been honored by the national ASID organization as well as the Washington D.C. chapter. Her projects have won 16 regional ASID awards, including seven gold awards.