Count Pulaski subject of December Legacies and Lunch

As they do from time to time, the Clinton School of Public Service is co-presenting this month’s Butler Center for Arkansas Studies Legacies and Lunch program.  The program, focusing on the life of Count Casimir Pulaski, will begin at noon today at the Ron Robinson Theater.

Authors Mel and Joan Gordon will discuss the life of General Casimir Pulaski, a Polish immigrant who saved George Washington’s life at the Battle of Brandywine and died at age thirty-four after being wounded at the Siege of Savannah in Georgia.

The Gordons published a historical novel about Pulaski, who was known as the “Father of American Cavalry.” The authors were recently inducted into the Lafayette Order in France in recognition of their work on Pulaski and the Marquis de Lafayette. December 15 will mark the 200th anniversary of the establishment of Pulaski County in Arkansas, one of seven counties in America named for Pulaski.

All Clinton School Speaker Series events are free and open to the public. Reserve your seats by emailing publicprograms@clintonschool.uasys.edu or by calling (501) 683-5239.

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Expanded partnership between Arkansas Arts Center and Central Arkansas Library System announced

The Arkansas Arts Center and the Central Arkansas Library System are launching a long-term partnership to build valuable creative connections between two Central Arkansas cultural institutions.

This collaboration with CALS is the first of several community partnerships the Arkansas Arts Center will offer as its building in MacArthur Park undergoes a transformational renovation. Beginning in the fall of 2019, arts patrons will find Arts Center collection works and programming at a variety of locations around Arkansas, including 15 Central Arkansas Library System locations. More details about additional partnerships will continue to be announced throughout 2019.

“CALS has always served as a partner and host for our regional arts institutions. Our many branch locations provide a perfect venue to share with local neighborhoods the cultural richness of the Arkansas Arts Center’s collection,” CALS Executive Director Nate Coulter said. “We are also delighted to enable the continuation of the Arts Center’s educational programs during their construction process, thanks to our many community classrooms and meeting spaces. It is our pleasure to collaborate with the Arts Center to support our arts community, and we know CALS patrons will greatly enjoy these classes as an addition to our regular library programming.”

Beginning in early 2019, patrons of CALS branches will see works from the Arkansas Arts Center’s extensive collection of contemporary craft objects as they browse their neighborhood libraries. Nearly 10% of the craft collection’s 1,500 works will be on view at all 14 CALS branches, as well as the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, with each installation carefully curated to the environment, history and mission of each individual library branch. These installations in communities across Central Arkansas will show off the incredible diversity of the Arts Center’s collection of contemporary craft objects.

Beginning in September 2019, CALS patrons will also find some of their favorite Arts Center youth and adult programs at their neighborhood libraries, with programs carefully placed to fit the communities already present at each library.

“Partnerships within our community have always been critical to our mission,” said Laine Harber, Arkansas Arts Center interim executive director. “As we look toward the future, we want to continue to build the Arts Center into a true community gathering space. During our construction process, we look forward to building community with our many partners across the state.”

The November 4th CALS Rabbi Ira Sanders Distinguished Lecture pays tribute this year to the man who inspired it

The 2018 Rabbi Ira Sanders Distinguished Lecture of the Central Arkansas Library System will honor Rabbi Ira Sanders himself, as two expert scholars engage in a lively dialogue on his inspirational work and legacy.

The lecture will take place at Temple B’nai Israel, 3700 North Rodney Parham Road, at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 4. A reception and book signing will follow the program, and copies of the book will be available for purchase. The event is free and open to the public.

Rabbi Sanders was a member of the library Board of Trustees for over 40 years, but his contribution to social justice, to the Little Rock community, and to the whole region stretched far beyond his library service.

James L. Moses, author of Just and Righteous Causes: Rabbi Ira Sanders and the Fight for Racial and Social Justice in Arkansas, 1926-1963, will join Mark K. Bauman, editor of the journal Southern Jewish History, for a dialogue focusing on the life and work of Rabbi Sanders.

Their dialogue coincides with the launch of the new book by James Moses, just released from the University of Arkansas Press. Moses and Bauman will discuss Sanders’s lifelong work for social and racial justice in Arkansas and its relation to the efforts of other southern rabbis during the civil rights movement.

Rabbi Ira Sanders built an unforgettable legacy through his passionate advocacy for social justice and the many initiatives he founded to better the lives of others. He was a founder of the Little Rock School of Social Work, the Arkansas Lighthouse for the Blind and the Urban League of Greater Little Rock, where he served as an executive and advisory board member for more than 30 years. Dr. Sanders also served as rabbi at Congregation B’nai Israel for 38 years, which makes the congregation’s building a natural setting for this unique lecture. Sanders, who lived in Little Rock from 1926 until his death in 1985, was an outspoken supporter of racial integration, equal opportunity, and women’s rights.

James Moses states: “Rabbi Ira Sanders was a warrior for social and racial justice throughout his life. He took these words from Isaiah strongly to heart: Learn to do well: seek Justice – relieve the oppressed.

Through a lifetime devoted to this moral imperative, Moses says, “Sanders made a real difference in the lives of many thousands over an influential career that spanned the eras of the Depression, World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, and beyond. Sanders’s inimitable career gives us a window through which we can understand the history of Arkansas and the South through the tumultuous 20th Century. I look forward to sharing his singular story – and hearing more stories about him – in Little Rock on November 4.”

Mark K. Bauman praises the new book by Moses: “James Moses has written a trailblazing book on a true Jewish American hero. Ira Sanders was involved in the civil rights movement long before other people were. He was devoted to a variety of causes to help people in need. Sanders is well-deserving of the marvelous tribute that Moses has given him through this biography.”

Bauman is also enthusiastic about the upcoming dialogue. “I very much look forward to relating the work of Sanders to the work of other Reform Rabbis in the South and to sharing these remarkable experiences with an energetic and informed audience.”

Rabbi Barry Block, current leader of Congregation B’nai Israel, sees continuing value in the legacy of Rabbi Sanders. “In collaboration with interfaith clergy partners, members of Congregation B’nai Israel, and diverse leaders throughout the community, Rabbi Sanders transformed Arkansas for the better,” he says. Rabbi Block believes that people of all belief systems can be inspired to bold action against today’s injustice by the example of Rabbi Sanders.

The 2018 Rabbi Ira Sanders Distinguished Lecture is sponsored by the Central Arkansas Library System and Congregation B’nai Israel and co-sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Arkansas and the CALS Butler Center for Arkansas Studies.

For more information about the Rabbi Ira Sanders Distinguished Lecture, contact Madelyn Ganos at mganos@cals.org or (501) 918-3030.

LR Culture Vulture turns 7

The Little Rock Culture Vulture debuted on Saturday, October 1, 2011, to kick off Arts & Humanities Month.

The first feature was on the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, which was kicking off its 2011-2012 season that evening.  The program consisted of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90, Rossini’s, Overture to The Italian Girl in Algiers, Puccini’s Chrysanthemums and Respighi’s Pines of Rome.  In addition to the orchestra musicians, there was an organ on stage for this concert.

Since then, there have been 10,107 persons/places/things “tagged” in the blog.  This is the 3,773rd entry. (The symmetry to the number is purely coincidental–or is it?)  It has been viewed over 288,600 times, and over 400 readers have made comments.  It is apparently also a reference on Wikipedia.

The most popular pieces have been about Little Rock history and about people in Little Rock.

Little Rock Look Back: CALS Opens New Downtown Main Library

On September 20, 1997, the Central Arkansas Library System debuted its new main library building.  The building had previously been the Fones Brothers Warehouse building and was repurposed by the Polk Stanley Yeary architectural firm.

The grand opening festivities included storytellers for children throughout the day as well as various special activities.  Linked balloons made to resemble bookworms greeted visitors to the front entrance.

The move and expansion were the dream of then-CALS Director Bobby Roberts.  The previous library space had limited parking and was in a confined (and confining) space with no room for expansion.

To prepare for the move from the old location at 7th and Louisiana Streets, the library’s main branch had closed in July.  They had to inventory the existing materials in anticipation of the move.  The actual transport of the 250,000 books was accomplished in three 16-hour work days by the 65 member staff.

The project cost $13 million dollars, most of which came from a millage approved by voters. The 200 seat auditorium was funded by overdue book fines and areas for the employees were financed by a patron bequest.

At the time it opened, the fifth floor remained undeveloped.

Since September 1997, the fifth floor has been developed and CALS has ultimately developed over one city block in what is now known as Library Square.

Little Rock Look Back: First Meeting of the WEC

Vivion Brewer, Adolphine Terry, and Pat House with an award presented to the WEC around the time the group disbanded.

On Tuesday, September 16, 1958, the first meeting of the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools took place at the Pike-Fletcher-Terry House in downtown Little Rock.  Fifty-eight women were in attendance at the initial meeting.

The group had been envisioned four days earlier, on September 12. At the time, Adolphine Fletcher Terry had invited Vivion Lenon Brewer and Velma Powell to her house to discuss the current school situation. Terry and Brewer were both daughters of former Little Rock mayors.  They were frustrated with the stalemate that was taking place with the Little Rock School District, the State, and the Federal Government.

In a conversation about the group with her friend Arkansas Gazette editor Harry Ashmore, Mrs. Terry stated, “The men have failed, it’s time to call out the women.”

The same day the trio met, an immediate concern superseded their general discontent.

On September 12, Governor Faubus had signed several segregationist bills into law. One of them gave him the authority to temporarily close schools in order to keep the from being integrated. After signing the bills, he issued an order closing Little Rock’s four high schools. He set October 2 as the election day for Little Rock voters to ratify or reject the closing.

The closure of the schools and impending election, gave an urgency and an immediate focus for the WEC. The women sprung into action.

The way the election law was written, keeping the schools open would require a majority of all registered voters — not just those voting in the election.  There were several other requirements written into the law that made it all but impossible to reject the closure.  Nonetheless the WEC went to work.  They wrote letters, made phone calls, made personal pleas, raised money, and placed newspaper ads.

Their need for a quick and efficient organization became even more paramount with the Governor moved the election forward to September 27.  His public reason was to remove the uncertainty; but privately he was likely concerned that there was organized opposition.

Though the voters approved keeping the high schools closed, the WEC was undaunted. They continued to work throughout the 1958-59 school year in a variety of ways. They backed candidates in the December 1958 school board elections, and succeeded in getting three moderates elected.  In May 1959, they were a crucial bloc in the campaign to recall of three segregationist school board members.

Following the reopening of the schools in 1959, the WEC continued to focus on social issues until disbanding in 1963.

The membership of the WEC was kept a secret. No official roll was kept.  With a membership which swelled to over 1,300, obviously not all attended meetings at once. There were well organized phone trees which quickly got the word out to the membership.  During elections, they would create files on all registered voters with codes for Saints, Sinners and Savable.

In an effort of intimidation (as if anyone could intimidate Adolphine Fletcher Terry), there were efforts to force the WEC to disclose membership lists. The officers and their legal counsel replied that there were no lists in existence, so there was nothing to disclose.

On March 13, 1998, the names of the WEC were made public for the first time when they were published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.  This was done in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the year of the founding.  Later in the year, the names were etched in glass in the solarium of the Pike-Fletcher-Terry House.  (In the 1970s, the house was given by the family to the City of Little Rock for use by the Arkansas Arts Center.)

A ceremony at the house in October 1998 celebrated the 40th anniversary and the names permanently etched there.  First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton came back to Little Rock to deliver remarks at the ceremony.

Sara Murphy, a member of the WEC wrote a book about the organization which was published in 1997, shortly after her death.  Around the same time, Sandra Hubbard produced a documentary called The Giants Wore White Gloves.  A sold out screening of the film is scheduled today at the CALS Ron Robinson Theatre as a presentation of the Clinton School Speaker Series in conjunction with the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies.

Legacies & Lunch features Dr Brooks Blevins discussing his new book on the Ozarks

The Butler Center’s monthly Legacies & Lunch program is today.

Brooks Blevins will discuss his book A History of the Ozarks, Volume 1: The Old Ozarks, the first in a trilogy on the history of the region that includes most of the southern half of Missouri, much of northern Arkansas, and some of northeastern Oklahoma and southeastern Kansas.

Legacies & Lunch is free and open to the public. Programs are held from noon-1 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month. Attendees are invited to bring a sack lunch; drinks and dessert are provided. For more information, contact 918-3033.

A native of Batesville, Brooks Blevins is the Noel Boyd Professor of Ozarks Studies at Missouri State University. He is the author or editor of eight books, including: Ghost of the Ozarks: Murder and Memory in the Upland South; Arkansas, Arkansaw: How Bear Hunters, Hillbillies, and Good Ol’ Boys Defined a State; and Hill Folks: A History of Arkansas Ozarkers and their Image.