Mardi Gras on South Main

2016 Mardi Gras ParadeJoin in one of Little Rock’s most beloved festivals, the SoMa Mardi Gras Parade on South Main!

At noon today (Saturday, February 6)

Floats, bands, stilt walkers, puppets…the parade will have it all! Also featuring music and beer in the Bernice Garden, and of course the highly anticipated Root Cafe Beard Judging to be held after the parade. Special events will be going on all along South Main, so come celebrate Mardi Gras in SoMa!

SoMa Mardi Gras 2016 events:

The Bernice Garden will be hosting the Root Café’s 4th Annual Beard Judging and a Mardi Gras Biergarten featuring Stone’s Throw, Lost Forty, Flyway and Diamond Bear. The Lemon Cakery, Hot Rod’s Weiners and Kincaid’s Coffee will also be set up.

The Green Corner Store- free Mardi Gras face painting from 11-12
Customers in Mardi Gras outfits from recycled materials can register for a great door prize.

Loblolly Creamery- creating a special Mardi Gras ice cream flavor and will have Mardi Gras sundae specials. Also will have an ice cream photo booth.

Root Café- The 4th annual Little Rock Beard Contest judging after the parade at the Bernice Garden. Judges will be Mayor Mark Stodola, Capi Peck of Trio’s and Amber Brewer of Yellow Rocket Concepts. Renee Shapiro will emcee.

Boulevard Bakehouse- Mardi Gras cookies and king cakes for sale.

Sweet Home & clement- free Mardi Gras beads, hot apple cider and gingersnaps.

South Main Creative- free make-and-take recycled craft workshop from 2:00-3:00.

Midtown Billiards- beads and étoufeé.

Esse Purse Museum and Shop- Flyway beer on tap, sponsored by Tonic Media. 10-50% off select items.

14ish Cultural Highlights of 2014

2014 was a busy year.  Here are 14 cultural highlights. In no particular order. Except maybe once in while.

The Rep's Bob Hupp and Catherine Hughes flank NEA Chair Jane Chu

The Rep’s Bob Hupp and Catherine Hughes flank NEA Chair Jane Chu

Dr. Jane Chu visits Arkansas. Former Arkadelphia resident Dr. Jane Chu was appointed as the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. In October, she paid a visit to Little Rock and northwest Arkansas. While in the Rock, she participated in a discussion at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre and toured the new Creative Corridor spaces under construction for the Rep, Ballet Arkansas and Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. Dr. Chu was also the guest of honor at a reception hosted by the Arkansas Arts Council. While here, she had the chance to renew old friendships as well as make new ones.

Carroll Cloar exhibit at Arkansas Arts Center. The Arkansas Arts Center featured the works of Arkansas native Carroll Cloar. Much as the Biblical prophet who is ignored in his homeland, Cloar has long been better recognized outside of his native state.  The Cloar exhibit (which included a painting of future Little Rock mayor J. V. Satterfield playing football, a personal favorite of the LRCV) and the outreach by the AAC staff made great strides towards raising Arkansas’ consciousness about the works by the American treasure.

DSCF0011Robinson Center Music Hall closes for renovation. Opening in February 1940 as the Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium, the City’s prime venue for performances and civic gatherings needed an external and internal facelift at 74. The building closed in July 2014 for a two year renovation which will see the reconfiguration of the performance and audience space in the music hall, the creation of a new special events venue overlooking the Arkansas River, and the restoration of this historic main lobby and front façade to 1940 appearance. During this closure tenants such as Ballet Arkansas, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and Celebrity Attractions have temporarily relocated to other venues including the Pulaski Academy Connor Performing Arts Center and the Maumelle Performing Arts Center.

Ron Robinson Theater opens. Shortly before one Robinson closed, another opened.  The Central Arkansas Library System’s new Ron Robinson Theater opened. This multi-purpose venue has quickly become home to lectures (by the library, the Clinton School and others), films (in partnership with Arkansas Times, Little Rock Film Festival and others) and music (including the Arkansas Sounds series).  Named for famed Little Rock adman Ron Robinson, the public spaces pay tribute to his love of movies and music about Arkansas.

Music Music Music

  • As noted above, Arkansas Sounds has switched from a concentrated music festival to instead offering a variety of music styles and genres throughout the year at the new Ron Robinson Theatre. The music has ranged from Big Band to Klezmer to Country to Rock to Rap.  This is only one of the new music offerings in Little Rock.
  • South on Main completed its first full year of the weekly Local Live free music series sponsored by the Oxford American and Landers Fiat. South on Main also started a Jazz on Main series as well as increased their bookings of other musicians ranging from Rodney Block to Rodney Crowell.
  • Meanwhile, The Undercroft completed its first full year of (mainly) acoustic music offerings at the corner of Capitol and Scott Streets.

New Works of Art.

  • New sculptures were added to the Vogel-Schwartz Sculpture Garden and Riverfront Park as well as the Bernice Gardens.
  • In what may be the first for any symphony in the US, the musicians of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra commissioned a new piece in honor of the ASO board of directors. The work, composed by Christopher Theofanidis, was entitled The Wind and Petit Jean.  It was well-received by audience and musicians alike.
  • Ballet Arkansas sponsored a choreography competition “Visions” which featured five choreographers competing to be selected for a full-scale commission.  The winner was Hilary Wolfley whose work will be seen at the spring Ballet Arkansas presentation.
  • Finally, in conjunction with the 175th anniversary of Christ Episcopal Church (the oldest church in Little Rock to be at its original location), a new choral piece was commissioned. Daniel E. Gawthrop’s “Haste the Day” premiered on December 7.

mod delaneyThe Tonight Show with Kevin Delaney. Because Jimmy Fallon is really just a big kid at heart, he wanted to include periodic “cool” science experiments when he took over the “Tonight Show.”  After being contacted by a producer of Fallon’s show and an audition process, the Museum of Discovery’s Kevin Delaney was booked to appear.  He debuted on May 5 performing experiment with Fallon and returned on November 7. When not a guest of NBC, Delaney performs the same types of “Awesome Science” experiments for tens of thousands of children and adults at the Museum of Discovery.

New Festival of Arts. Acansa, a new multi-discplinary, multi-venue arts festival, debuted this year in September.  Over a five day period, ACANSA Arts Festival brought together audiences and cultural resources to present unique and exciting visual and performing works which celebrate the unique influence of the south and champion excellence and innovation in artistry.  There was theatre, dance, instrumental music, choral music, puppetry and visual art.

14 14 4Gridiron Returns. The talk of the return of the Star Wars movie franchise was not the only welcome news of returns. Gridiron, the biennial attorney fundraiser which spoofs politics, current events, sports and everything that is “sacred” to the general populace, returned after a hiatus.  Once again this effort was under the watchful eye of producer Judge Mary McGowan, the creative leadership of Jana Beard, and the writing prowess of the anonymous committee.  As has been the case in the past, many of the targets of the show good-naturedly showed up and laughed along in the audience.

Sculptures Returned.  Gridiron was not the only welcome return. Earlier this year several sculptures were stolen from the Vogel-Schwartz Sculpture Garden in Riverfront Park. After a media blitz about the theft, some people strolling through the park stumbled across a bag containing the missing sculptures. The pieces are in the process of being restored and will be reinstalled soon.

14 14 3Clinton Center turned 10.  Proving that you can come home again, quite a few of the people who were present for the opening of the Clinton Presidential Center in 2004 showed up again in 2014 to take part in celebratory festivities.  Among events included several lectures; a day of service benefiting the Arkansas Food Bank; a barbecue picnic; and a concert featuring Nick Jonas, Kool & the Gang and others which was hosted by Kevin Spacey.  The Clinton School also celebrated 10 years of lectures and innovative programs.

Preservation Concentration – The Quapaw Quarter Association marked the 50th Spring Tour this year. The event was co-chaired by First Lady Ginger Beebe and lifestyle expert P. Allen Smith.  Later in the year, the QQA hosted its first Mid-Century architecture tour highlighting some of Little Rock’s buildings from this style. They ended the year with the news that they had purchased the William E. Woodruff House in east Little Rock. One of Little Rock’s oldest houses, it was built by the founder of the Arkansas Gazette.  They will shore up the building to try to ensure no further decay as the building is readied for its next phase.


  • 14 14 2Reese Rowland, architect and principal at Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects of Little Rock, was named a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, awarded to fewer than 4 percent of AIA members.
  • Little Rock native Will Trice earned his third Tony Award in three years, this time for producing All The Way, the Best Play of 2014. His previous Tonys were for Porgy and Bess (Musical Revival-2012) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Play Revival-2013).
  • Arkansas native and frequent Little Rock performer Al Green was one of the 2014 Kennedy Center Honorees.
  • Little Rock’s Creative Corridor continued to rack up honors. The UA’s Community Design Center, which includes faculty and staff members from the school, won a 2014 Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects for its work on the Creative Corridor, on which it collaborated with Marlon Blackwell Architect of Fayetteville. The project also received the American Society of Landscape Architects Honor Award for Analysis and Planning.


  • 14 14Sharon Priest, a longtime cultural advocate as a City Beautiful Commission member, Little Rock City Director, Little Rock Mayor and Arkansas Secretary of State announced her retirement after 12 years as Executive Director of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership.  Over the past dozen years, she has continued her cultural advocacy.
  • One of Priest’s successors as a member of the Little Rock City Board, Stacy Hurst, was named by Gov.-Elect Asa Hutchinson to be his choice to lead the Department of Arkansas Heritage. She will oversee seven agencies including three Little Rock museums: Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, Old State House Museum and Historic Arkansas Museum.
  • Following the closure of Starving Artists Cafe, the weekly Tales from the South program (which originated from there) had to scramble to find a place.  After several weeks of a completely nomadic existence, it is now settling into a rotating list of locations. The Arkansas Arts Center’s Best Impressions restaurant has been designated a “permanent” site for the first Tuesday of each month.
  • The free outdoor Movies in the Park celebrated its 10th season this year. Founders Blake Rutherford, Heather Allmendinger and Ben Beaumont were honored at the start of the season.  A few weeks into the season, the series screened the film Frozen and set a new record for attendance by logging over 7,000 attendees.
  • After the closure of the Riverdale cinema in 2013, the space sat vacant.  In June 2014, Matt Smith moved the Market Street Cinema operations into the Riverdale space. He upgraded the equipment at Riverdale (which was also a vast improvement over the equipment at Market Street).  The new Riverdale 10 shows a mix of first-run blockbusters as well as the independent films for which Market Street had been beloved.
  • The Studio Theatre was launched adjacent to the new Lobby Bar in downtown Little Rock.  In addition to producing its own performances, it is also the new home of the Community Theatre of Little Rock and Precipice Theatre.
  • Weekend Theatre founder Ralph Hyman retired as the Artistic Director of that group. He will continue to direct productions from time to time.


LR Cultural Touchstone: Anita Davis

anita davisAnita Davis has founded a museum, a sculpture garden and nurtured an eclectic retail community which has transformed Main Street south of I-630 into a thriving SOMA with its own unique identity.

Starting in 2004, she began to acquire property along Main Street in the teen blocks.  After attending a conference and learning about “placemaking” she started to envision ways to transform South Main through various artforms.

On the site of a burned out fast food restaurant, she devised the plans for the Bernice Garden. This sculpture garden and community gathering spot has become a hotspot for festivals (including the annual Cornbread Festival – another of her projects – this year it will be November 3), community events and a farmer’s market.

More recently, she opened the ESSE Purse Museum.  ESSE grew out of a traveling exhibit selected from Davis’ extensive collection. From 2006 to 2011, “The Purse & the Person: A Century of Women’s Purses” (curated by Curatrix Group and managed by Smith Kramer Fine Art Services) traveled the country. The collection was exhibited in Concord, Mass.: Little Rock, Ark.; Edmund, Okla.; Columbia, S.C.; Pasadena, Calif.; Rockford, Ill.; Logan, Kan.; Fullerton, Calif.; Baton Rouge, La.; Dallas; Sacramento; and Seattle.

Now Davis has brought her handbags back to Little Rock for good and given them a home worthy of the part they have played in women’s lives and history. ESSE is housed in a historic building in SoMa, an up-and-coming, hip neighborhood in downtown Little Rock.  The Huffington Post declared it one of the hot museums for 2014.

More theatre, music and art on tap today at ACANSA

acansaThe second full day of ACANSA Arts Festival promises another wide variety of choices.


12:00 pm to 1:00pm
Bernice Garden

Anita Davis will discuss art displayed at the Bernice Garden, which features permanent and temporary sculptures created by Arkansas artists. Mosaics, rock formations, hand-crafted signage and additional art installations add to the development plan for the space.

Sponsored by: Anita Davis, Delta Trust and Bank, and JPMS Cox, PLLC


5:00 pm to 9:00 pm
$20 to $50

Starting at the Arkansas Arts Center, participants may hop on and off trolleys to visit various local galleries in Little Rock and North Little Rock.

Enjoy refreshments while visiting with gallery owners and participating artists about their paintings.

Participating galleries include:   The Art Group Gallery,  Cantrell Gallery,  Greg Thompson Fine Art,  Hearne Fine Art Gallery,  M2 Gallery,  Gallery 221, L & L Beck Art Gallery,  Local Colour Gallery,  Matt McLeod Fine Art,  Stephano’s Fine Art Gallery,  The Edge Gallery, The Hot Springs Art Group, Argenta Gallery and Boswell Mourot Fine Art.

Sponsored by: Stuart Cobb


acansa Mike Disfarmer 3DISFARMER
8:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Argenta Community Theatre
$30 to $50

Don’t miss this production of Disfarmer, written by award-winning Arkansas playwright Werner Trieschmann and directed by Bob Hupp of The Rep.  Disfarmer is a comedic portrait which tells the story of Mike Disfarmer, an eccentric photographer from Heber Springs, Arkansas who charged townsfolk and visitors a quarter to have their picture taken in the early forties—and caused a minor speculative mania decades later as New York gallery owners “discovered” his work and descended on the small Arkansas town.

Head over to Argenta Theatre before the play and pick up a signed copy of Kim O. Davis’ Disfarmer biography titled Disfarmer:  The Man Behind the Camera.

Nothing speaks louder about Mike Disfarmer than his photographs.  Before the play, stop by  Argenta Gallery at 413 Main Street to enjoy an exhibit of Disfarmer photographs. In 1974, Peter Miller purchased the collection of Disfarmer glass negatives from Joe Albright. The Disfarmer prints in this exhibit have been archivally printed from the original Disfarmer glass negatives

Sponsored by: Peter Miller


acansa Hector Oliver 3HECTOR OLIVERA
7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Trinity United Methodist Church
$10 to $20

Hector Olivera is one of the most sought after international concert organists of the present time. He is a passionate, gifted and unique musician, whose personal interpretations of both classical and popular music have amazed and delighted audiences around the world.

Maestro Hector Olivera travels with his Rodgers touring organ, “The King,” a black four manual organ featuring a custom French specification.  This internationally acclaimed concert organist will perform at Trinity United Methodist Church.  During rehearsal, Maestro Olivera will uniquely customize his eclectic program from the chancel.


7:00 pm to 8:30 pm
Scottish Rite Masonic Temple
$10 to $20

Compared to the work of David Sedaris, Claudia Shear and Augustin Burroughs, IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING is a uniquely crafted autobiographical tour-de-force in which Bill Bowers shares funny, heartbreaking, and unbelievable true stories from his career as an actor and mime, and his life-long exploration of the role silence plays in all our lives.

IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING takes you on a scenic tour of Bill’s life thus far; from his childhood in the wilds of Montana, to outrageous jobs as a performer across the country, to the whirlwind of Broadway and studying with the legendary Marcel Marceau.

Sponsored by:  Legacy Termite and Pest Control, Inc.

4th Annual Bernice Garden Sculpture Party and Fall Fest

Come see the 2012 Sculptures unveiled at this great annual event !

See six new sculptures created by Arkansas artists and meet and talk to the artists about their work.

The chosen artists are: Mia Hall, Bryan Winfred Massey Sr., David O’Brien, Tod “Switch” Swiecichowski, Steph Shinabetzy and Jon M. Van Horn.

This event is free and will include delicious food from Boulevard Bread and The Root Café as well as music by “Rychy St. Vincent and The Package”

It’s a casual event where you can enjoy the cooler weather, chat with neighbors and enjoy great public art.

Sculpture Vulture: Michael Warrick’s VISIONARY


Today’s Sculpture Vulture features Michael Warrick’s Visionary. This bronze cast sculpture depicts a head with eyes closed. The sculpture is a permanent installation in the Bernice Garden on South Main Street.

The sculpture was created by Michael Warrick. It is a replica of a much larger piece he created for a sculpture garden in Changchun, China. That city is one of Little Rock’s Sister Cities.

Warrick is a professor in the UALR Art Department. His sculptures are in display throughout the US and in foreign countries.

This Thursday, September 20, the Bernice Garden will host an event which will feature the unveiling of the 2012 sculptures. (The garden features both permanent and temporary installations.). Six new sculptures will be unveiled. The chosen artists are : Mia Hall, Bryan Winfred Massey Sr., David O’brien, Tod “Switch” Swiecichowski, Steph Shinabetzy, and Jon M Van Horn.


Sculpture Vulture: Kerrick Hartman’s PLACES OF THE HEART


While the Sculpture Vulture usually features permanent public art installations, this week’s feature is one of the temporary installations at the Bernice Garden. One of the winners in the 2011 Sculpture Competition. Kerrick Hartman’s sculpture Places of the Heart is located at the west entrance to the Bernice Garden. The sculpture stands approximately four feet tall and is made of marble, steel and wood.

Here is his artist’s statement:

“I like to draw inspiration from the natural beauty of Arkansas with a focus on the small places tucked away that are sought out for a moment of quiet contemplation and introspection. It seems that with our stressed out and busy lives such places are harder to find and appreciate. These places of solitude are where we can let the interplay of ideas, emotions, and spirituality; shape our lives, our landscape, and our future.

20120812-152715.jpgThese are the places of the heart and the outwardly spiraling form suggests hope from spiritual and intellectual growth, and transitions into an undulating shape on the reverse side signifying and inward path of introspection and self-reflection. Where one seeks solitude is often as individualistic and unique as the people of Arkansas; and in a sense reflects the very nature of the Bernice Garden.

Hartman currently lives in Stuttgart and attends UALR working on a B.A. in Studio Art. Hh has previously worked as a scientist focusing in plant pathology with a PhD From North Carolina State University in 1996. It is his current desire and passion to create art on a full time basis and to share his creative skill through gallery exhibitions, workshops and community art experiences.