18 Cultural Events of 2018 – UA Little Rock unveils restored Joe Jones mural from 1930s

As curator Brad Cushman said at the unveiling of the Joe Jones mural, “There is absolutely no reason this mural should still exist.”  But it does.  And now fully restored Jones’s 1935 mural The Struggle in the South is a centerpiece of the new UA Little Rock Downtown Campus in the heart of the River Market.

First painted in the 1935 to be placed at Commonwealth College in Mena, it spent many years lining two closets in a house after it had been taken down from its original location. When that house was being torn down, someone called Bobby Roberts because they thought it might be something worth saving.

Dr. Roberts drove to west Arkansas, picked it up, and brought it back to Little Rock.  For years it sat in storage at UA Little Rock. While that probably stopped its deterioration, it did nothing to restore it.

In 2009, the St. Louis Art Museum restored one panel of it to include in an exhibition on Jones, a native of the Gateway City.  That prompted Cushman to push even harder to have the rest of it restored.  In 2012, the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council provided a grant which made restoration possible.  Additional funding came from the University and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  The 29 pieces of the mural were sent to Helen Houp Fine Art Conservation in Dallas.

The mural consists of three sections that brutally but honestly tell tales of the South in the first third of the 20th Century.  The first section depicts coal miners about to go on strike, the middle section shows a lynching of an African American man, and the third shows an African American family in fear inside a wooden shack – both in the shadow of the lynching and an impending tornado set to destroy the land they are working.

It is a difficult piece. It is intended to be disquieting. But UA Little Rock also sought to put the piece in context. They did not do this to explain away or make excuses. But they did it to relate it to events in Little Rock both during that time period and other times in the City’s history.  It is designed to encourage dialogue, scholarship, and collaborations.

The space in which the mural is displayed was designed by architect Steve Rousseau.  Credit goes to the UA Little Rock Board of Visitors, Chancellor Andrew Rogerson, and many other faculty and staff at the campus for making the UA Little Rock Downtown campus a reality and a showcase for this important mural.

13 pieces of art will be unveiled at Mosaic Templars as part of 2015 Creativity Arkansas event

Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, Arkansas’s museum of African American history and culture, will unveil thirteen unique pieces in the 2015 Creativity Arkansas art collection during an Opening Reception at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17.

First introduced in 2009, Creativity Arkansas showcases works from prominent African American artists who have a connection to Arkansas which depict, represent, or illustrate historical places, events, or people that have been significant to the state’s black culture. Consistent with the mission of MTCC, the collection preserves and documents Arkansas’s African American history through vivid works in a variety of media.

The name Creativity Arkansas is inspired by the Kwanzaa holiday principle of “Kuumba” (or “Creativity”) which translates to mean to do as much as we can to leave our communities more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited. The 2015 Creativity Arkansas theme is Ancestral Landscapes: From Africa to Arkansas and contains artwork by ten renowned artists: AJ Smith, Jonathan Wright, Rex DeLoney, LaToya Hobbs, Higgins Bond, Danny Campbell, Ariston Jacks, Angela Davis Johnson, Bryan Massey, Sr., and George Frederick Nash.

Artwork acquired for Creativity Arkansas are used for MTCC’s educational programming and periodically serve as inspiration for new public programs. The entire collection is funded through a grant from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council.

The museum opened its doors in September 2008, and the opening of the art exhibit is part of activities marking its 7th anniversary celebration. Free and open to the public, the reception will feature refreshments and live music by Off the Cuff.

The 2015 Creativity Arkansas exhibit will be on display at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center from September 2015 through March 2016.

For more information about MTCC’s anniversary events, please visit mosaictemplarscenter.com or call 501.683.3593.

The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, a museum of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, is dedicated to telling the history of African Americans in Arkansas from 1870 to the present, especially in the areas of politics, business and the arts. Other agencies of the Department of Arkansas Heritage include Arkansas Arts Council, Arkansas Historic Preservation, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Delta Cultural Center, Historic Arkansas Museum and Old State House Museum.

Explore the Transformation of Arkansas during Civil War and Reconstruction at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center

MTCC-1Through December 31, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center is featuring the exhibit “Freedom! Oh, Freedom!” Arkansas’s People of African Descent and the Civil War: 1861-1866.

The Civil War radically changed the lives of all Arkansans, especially those of African descent. Across the country freed Africans were no longer property or simply viewed as a part of the South’s agrarian society. The war destroyed a society and an economy that had enslaved Africans and used them as chattel property.

“Freedom! Oh, Freedom!” tells a story of transformation, as it will allow visitors the opportunity to explore the African American perspective of the Civil War from the lens of slavery, the contributions of African American soldiers, and what happened through and after the Reconstruction Era.

The transformation was not swift or seamless as the United States government made empty promises to the newly freed African Americans, however in the aftermath of the Civil War Arkansas’s African Americans seized new opportunities and freedoms to create a new way of life as citizens of the United States. African Americans used the war to participate in their own emancipation. Former enslaved people experienced not only physical liberation from the ties of slavery, but a transformation of the spirit from bondage to freedom.

African American politicians emerged after the war ended and took seats in the state general assembly in 1869. The state general assembly even passed the Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1873, which provided for equal access to all public institutions and outlawed segregation. However, as Reconstruction came to an end in 1874, Democrats replaced Republicans and began altering the civil rights laws and enacting segregationist policies in their place. African Americans maintained some representation in the general assembly until 1893, but it was nearly a century later when Arkansans elected another African American to the legislature in 1973. The fight for full equality, the fight for justice,and the fight for civil rights had just begun.

This exhibit was made possible through a grant from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resource Council, funded by the Arkansas Real Estate Transfer Tax. All pictures are courtesy of the Arkansas History Commission.

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