Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


The Arkansas Arts Center chooses Studio Gang as design architect

The Arkansas Arts Center (AAC) announced on Tuesday the selection of Studio Gang as design architect for its upcoming building project.
“We had a number of highly qualified firms respond to our RFQ, and narrowing this impressive group down to the five finalists was extremely difficult,” said Todd Herman, executive director for the Arkansas Arts Center. “All five finalists were incredibly talented with international reputations and credentials. The Arts Center would have been well served by any one of them. We were in a great position to choose from such an impressive pool of talent.”

The five firms selected as finalists were Allied Works (Portland, Ore./New York), Shigeru Ban (New York/Paris/Tokyo, Japan), Studio Gang (Chicago/New York), Thomas Phifer (New York) and Snohetta (Oslo, Norway/New York/San Francisco).

Herman said the selection committee felt Studio Gang was the best fit for the project, due to the firm’s elegant and smart approach to architecture, their understanding of the issues posed by the AAC’s current facility, their vision for the center as a cultural beacon for Central Arkansas and their commitment to sustainability and strength as urban planners.

Founded by MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang is an award-winning architecture and urbanism practice based out of Chicago and New York. A recipient of the 2013 National Design Award, Jeanne Gang was also named the 2016 Archiitect of the Year by the Architectural Review and the firm was awarded the 2016 Architizer A+ award for Firm of the Year.

Studio Gang is recognized internationally for a design process that foregrounds the relationships between individuals, communities and environments. The firm has extensive knowledge in museum, theatre and artist studio spaces, with projects ranging from the Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Ill. to the Aqua Tower in Chicago to the expansion of the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

“Designing a re-envisioned Arkansas Arts Center is a truly exciting commission,” Gang said. “Its extraordinary collection, historic MacArthur Park setting, and rich mix of programs present a unique opportunity to redefine how the arts can strengthen local communities and surrounding regions. We look forward to working closely with the AAC to discover how architecture can enhance the Center’s important civic and cultural mission by creating new connections between people and the arts in Little Rock and beyond.”

An RFQ for a local architect to collaborate on the project will be issued later this month.

“When the Arkansas Arts Center project is completed, it will not just be a renovated facility, it will be a re-envisioned experience,” Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola said. “The enhanced building will offer opportunities for an even higher level of exhibits, classes, children’s theatre productions and special events, making the Arkansas Arts Center not only a signature tourist attraction, but an even more important cultural anchor for the arts community in Little Rock.”

“It is well known that businesses looking to locate or expand look at a city’s quality of life offerings,” Stodola said. “An enhanced Arkansas Arts Center will be a showcase which will enable us to attract and retain quality job creators in a variety of sectors.”

Herman said he is looking at the project holistically, including Historic MacArthur Park, and reevaluating how the Arts Center meets the needs of its community.

“This project is about more than just addressing the physical issues of the current building. It requires rethinking how the AAC fits into the downtown fabric,” said Herman. “How can we best serve the community, and how do the AAC and MacArthur Park connect to other social and cultural nodes in downtown Little Rock? We want to do more than build; we want to transform the cultural experience.”

The five finalists presented their firm’s general project approach and design philosophies to the selection committee on November 1, 2016. The presentations took place in the AAC lower lobby lecture hall and were open for public viewing. More than 100 people were in attendance at the presentations, including students, community members and media.

The committee determined their selection at a public meeting on December 6, 2016. The selection committee included: AAC Executive Director Todd Herman; City Director Dean Kumpuris; Director of Little Rock Parks and Recreation Truman Tolefree; AAC Board Chair Mary Ellen Irons; AAC Board members Isabel Anthony, Van Tilbury and Chucki Bradbury; AAC Foundation Chair Bobby Tucker; Little Rock Small Business Development official Chauncey Holloman; and past Director of the Central Arkansas Library System Bobby Roberts.

A technical review panel was responsible for reviewing all proposals and recommending a slate of finalists to the selection committee, based on specialized criteria outlined in an RFQ that reflected the specific needs and goals of the AAC.  The technical review panel included: AAC Executive Director Todd Herman, AAC Chief Curator Brian Lang, Architect Ken Sims, Dean of the Fay Jones School of Architecture Peter MacKeith, Chair of the AAC Buildings and Grounds Committee Kaki Hockersmith and international museum consultant Deborah Frieden.

The leadership phase of a capital campaign to maximize the impact of public dollars dedicated to the project is currently underway.

“Anyone and everyone can participate in the creation of a new Arkansas Arts Center,” Herman said. “The Arts Center is a symbol of the importance that this community ­– and state – places on culture, arts education and quality of life, and all Arkansans will have the opportunity to share in that civic pride.”

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Today at noon – Legacies and Lunch with Bobby Roberts

robertsThe Butler Center for Arkansas Studies and Clinton School of Public Service present today’s Legacies and Lunch program which features a conversation with Bobby Roberts.

Roberts has been the director of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) since 1989. During his tenure at CALS, it has been recognized as one of the premier library systems in the United States, noted for outstanding public service and innovative programming. Roberts is retiring from CALS on March 4. On March 2, he will talk with Clinton School of Public Service Dean Skip Rutherford at the Butler Center’s monthly Legacies & Lunch presentation series.

A native of Helena, Ark., Roberts became a historian and archivist, a writer of Civil War history, a university faculty member, and a member of Governor Bill Clinton’s staff before taking leadership at CALS. At Legacies & Lunch, Rutherford will interview Roberts about his interest in history and politics, the transformation of CALS, and what he sees for the future of the library system, the city of Little Rock, and the state of Arkansas. This special program is sponsored in part by the Arkansas Humanities Council.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 12:00 Noon
CALS Ron Robinson Theater


15 Highlights of 2015 – 86% of voters approve new CALS projects

Cals ELection

For the final fifteen days of 2015, a look back at some of the cultural highlights of 2015.

Up next –

In July 86.10% of those voting approved the Central Arkansas Library System bond refinancing.

The refinancing will allow CALS to:

  • Expand the Thompson, Fletcher, and Dee Brown libraries and reconfigure their children’s areas
  • Limited remodel in the Main Library and refurbish the Williams Library
  • Expand and upgrade the digital/Internet network
  • Purchase thousands of books, eBooks, DVDs, & CDs

Because of the restructuring of the debt, it will actually lower taxes by about $2 per year on a $100,000 home and extend the bond payments by approximately five years.

The final numbers were 3,834 FOR, 619 AGAINST.  Two ballots were cast which were overvotes (voters filled in both bubbles) and five ballots were cast which were undervotes (they were blank). 4400 votes in a special election in July is a fairly decent turnout. It was 3.51% turnout.  When one considers how anemic voter turnout is for presidential elections, this should be viewed as fairly strong.

Looking at the precinct reports, it shows a deep level of support from all areas of the city.  It passed overwhelmingly in every precinct.  The most votes garnered against it in a precinct were 291 at one of the two Pulaski Heights Presbyterian precincts in Hillcrest.  But as that precinct had over 3,000 voters, it was still only 9% of the voters at that ballot box.

The Central Arkansas Library System is in the process of hiring a replacement for retiring director Dr. Bobby Robert


Nate Coulter named next CALS Director

  
The Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) Board of Directors has selected Nate Coulter, Little Rock, as its director.Selection/Transition Committee chair Fred Ursery said, “After a nation-wide search, the Selection/Transition Committee reviewed the numerous applications for the position, interviewed four of the applicants, and presented to the Board the two applicants it felt were most qualified for the position. 

“The Board members met the applicants at a public reception and received a number of comments from the general public, library patrons, and the staff. At our December board meeting the board members discussed the applicants. The board felt that both applicants were highly qualified, but after discussion agreed upon Nate Coulter as the successor to Dr. Bobby Roberts.”

Coulter responded by saying, “I am humbled and honored by the Board’s decision, particularly considering the strength of other applicants. Thanks to the leadership and vision of Bobby Roberts and the hard work of his staff and board, the Central Arkansas Library System has become a very respected and cherished part of our community. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to help lead CALS to even greater heights.”

Roberts announced his retirement in February, 2015, but plans to work through March 4, 2016, during a transition period.

Coulter is currently Of Counsel with Millar Jiles, PLLC, and was previously Partner in the law firms of Wilson, Engstrom, Corum & Coulter, and Wright, Lindsey & Jennings. Coulter has served on the CALS Board of Trustees, CALS Foundation Board, and in various volunteer capacities for CALS.


And then there were Two – Finalists for next CALS Director announced

calsThe Transition/Selection Committee of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) has recommended the CALS Board of Trustees consider two candidates, Nate Coulter and Haley Lagasse, both of Little Rock, as the final candidates for the position of director.

The next director will succeed longtime director Dr. Bobby Roberts.

There will be a reception in mid-November open to anyone interested in meeting the finalists. An announcement of the new director will be made following the Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, December 10, at noon at Hillcrest Hall, 1501 Kavanaugh Blvd.


86 Percent say YES to CALS Bonds

Cals ELectionAs noted last night, 86.10% of the voters approved the Central Arkansas Library System bond refinancing.  It really was a no-brainer, though a complicated explanation.  A “Yes” vote meant property taxes would be reduced (thanks to refinancing at a better interest rate).

The final numbers were 3,834 FOR, 619 AGAINST.  Two ballots were cast which were overvotes (voters filled in both bubbles) and five ballots were cast which were undervotes (they were blank). 4400 votes in a special election in July is a fairly decent turnout. It was 3.51% turnout.  When one considers how anemic voter turnout is for presidential elections, this should be viewed as fairly strong.

Looking at the precinct reports, it shows a deep level of support from all areas of the city.  It passed overwhelmingly in every precinct.  The most votes garnered against it in a precinct were 291 at one of the two Pulaski Heights Presbyterian precincts in Hillcrest.  But as that precinct had over 3,000 voters, it was still only 9% of the voters at that ballot box.

The Central Arkansas Library System is in the process of hiring a replacement for retiring director Dr. Bobby Roberts.  Certainly one of the things they must find is someone who knows how to run elections.  Library knowledge, creativity and a vision are not enough. Without the ability to build coalitions of voters, the other skills are all for naught.

In the meantime, the Central Arkansas Library System will move forward with plans to upgrade and expand physical plants and acquire more books and technology.  As is often the case, the planning for the campaign can be the easy part.  After the win comes the execution of the plan.

Now (as Pulitzer Prize and Tony winning playwright Tony Kushner writes in Angels in America, which is available to be checked out from CALS) – “The great work begins.”


CELEBRATE public art tonight at CALS

celebrateIn conjunction with 2nd Friday Art Night, the public dedication of Celebrate, the Central Arkansas Library System’s (CALS) newest public art piece, will take place Friday, June 13, at 6 p.m. 
This kinetic sculpture was commissioned in 2010 by CALS, Jim Conner, and other donors to commemorate the library’s centennial of service to the community and was recently installed on the Main Library’s campus, between the patron parking lot and the Arkansas Studies Institute building. 
The sculpture, in the shape of a spinning top, is inscribed with the word “Celebrate” in numerous languages from English to Binary Code to Klingon.
 
Michael Warrick, the sculptor who created Celebrate, and Bobby Roberts, director of CALS, will speak at the dedication. All will be welcome to try out the kinetic sculpture by giving it a spin. Afterward, attendees will be invited into the Butler Center Galleries to enjoy refreshments and live music as part of 2nd Friday Art Night.