Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area

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Creative Class 2016: Yslan Hicks

cc16-hicksYslan Hicks has dressed hundreds of people in all sorts of clothing.  As a theatrical costume designer and educator, she has worked throughout the United States.  She is currently an Associate Professor and Interim Department Chair for the UALR Theatre and Dance Department.

Yslan has design credits that include productions at UALR, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Lincoln Center Institute in New York City, the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Portland Center Stage in Oregon, the Old Globe in San Diego and Williamstown Theatre Festival in Williamstown, Mass. As an artistic associate at Lifeline Theatre in Chicago, she has designed a number of literary adaptations including Dracula, Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre.

Her work with the Arkansas Rep spans over two decades.  Among her recent productions are The Whipping Man, Clybourne Park, and Gee’s Bend.  In addition to UALR, she has served on the faculties of the University of Tulsa and Tulane University. Yslan is a member of United Scenic Artists, Local 829.

Yslan is also an in-demand speaker.  Most recently, she has given a series of talks for the Central Arkansas Library System on the history of fashion. Among her topics have been Downton Abbey and bridal dresses.

Arkansas Heritage Month – American Institute of Steel Construction honors Polk Stanley Wilcox and CALS

AIA ALA PSW HRCCLCThe American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) in Chicago has announced that Polk Stanley Wilcox Architect’s design of the Hillary Rodham Clinton Library and Learning Center in Little Rock, Arkansas has been honored in its prestigious annual awards.

In all, just ten building projects from around the country earned awards in the 2016 Innovative Design in Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel awards program (IDEAS2), recently announced during AISC’s 2016 Conference in Orlando, Florida. An award presentation will be scheduled for this summer at the library in Little Rock. A panel of design and construction professionals identified National and Merit Awards in three categories, based on constructed value. Other winners included the National 9/11 Memorial Museum Pavilion in New York by Snohetta, Rutgers University School of Business by TEN Arquitectos, and Emmerson College in Los Angeles by Morphosis.

East Harding Construction of Little Rock was the General Contractor, while Engineering Consultants Inc. of Little Rock served as structural engineer for the innovative project.

Jury Comments:

“With a community driven mission, the library showcases steel in its purest form and use in a whimsical, but purposeful manner.” – Wanda Lau, Senior Editor ARCHITECT Magazine

“Playful and inspiring inside and out, this project succeeds in its goal of capturing the child’s imagination.” – Jason Stone, Senior Associate Leslie E. Robertson Associates

“The playfulness of the steel structure exterior, combined with the opportunity to utilize the structure as a teaching tool to inspire children to pursue math and science, makes this a natural choice for AISC and the IDEAS2 Awards” – Paula Pritchard, Plant Construction Co., L.P.

According to design architect Reese Rowland FAIA, “This library’s meaning can be seen in the faces of the children – their excitement and wonder, and hopeful smiles that say their future can be limitless with the right opportunities. Some of those opportunities involve teaching simple life skills that build confidence, while others focus on technology not available in the home.

The key to the library’s success comes from a vision set forth by CALS to not only build a functional public library and education facility, but also a symbol that represents hope. Being listed alongside these other nationally recognized projects is a strong indication that this vision was successfully achieved, helping create a new sense of pride for the children of Little Rock. We are grateful to the Central Arkansas Library System, as well as the people of Little Rock that funded this incredible project for our children.”

The Hillary Rodham Clinton Library and Learning Center was also honored in 2015 with Library Architecture’s highest honor, a National AIA/ALA Library Honor Award, one of just six given recognizing the best examples of new libraries from around the world. Learn more about this award at:

This is the fourth AISC National Award for Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects, with the others being the CALS Arkansas Studies Institute in Little Rock, The El Dorado Conference Center, and Heifer International’s World Headquarters in Little Rock, which also won architecture’s highest honor: the American Institute of Architect’s National Institute Honor Award.

Arkansas Heritage Month – The architecture of AIA/ALA award winning CALS libraries by Polk Stanley Wilcox

To encourage excellence in the architectural design and planning of libraries, the AIA and the American Library Association/Library Administration and Management Association created this award to distinguish accomplishments in library architecture.  In 2011 and again in 2015, Polk Stanley Wilcox won the award for projects designed for the Central Arkansas Library System.

AIA ALA PSW ASIThe 2011 award went to for work on the Arkansas Studies Institute.  This actually combines three buildings of three different centuries and construction types into one architectural timeline, evoking imagery of pages of an opening book.

The Arkansas Studies Institute is a repository for 10 million historic documents and the papers of seven Arkansas Governors, including President Bill Clinton. Located in a thriving entertainment district comprised of rejuvenated warehouses near the Arkansas River, the design combines significant, but neglected buildings from the 1880’s and 1910’s with a new technologically expressive archive addition. This creates a pedestrian focused, iconic gateway to the public library campus – and the public face of Arkansas history.

The design philosophy is based literally on the book – a physical container of information, with pages flowing into a site-sensitive narrative of the building’s function. Taking cues from the medium for which the Institute was created, the entrance acts as an abstract book cover, pulled away from the building as a double wall, defusing western sunlight and heat in the atrium beyond.

Public Spaces – galleries, a café, museum, and meeting rooms – enliven streetscape storefronts, while the great library research hall encompasses the entire second floor of the 1914 warehouse building. A thin atrium pulls the new structure away to protect the old, stretching the building’s length and flooding all levels with light – a key sustainable strategy. 100 historic images in glass handrails signify that architecture can and should actively engage in storytelling. Suspended bridges span the gap between new and old, open and secure, today and yesterday.

The Arkansas Studies Institute weaves history, research, pedestrians, and a restored streetscape together, healing a gaping wound in the urban fabric, while expanding environmental stewardship into the public realm and serving as a beacon of knowledge.

AIA ALA PSW HRCCLCIn 2015, the award went to PSW for their work on the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center.

Based on experiential learning where hands-on education teaches life skills needed to become responsible adults, a new Children’s Library and Learning Center boosts hopes for a neglected neighborhood, serves as an exemplary tale of urban renewal, and acts as a beacon of hope for an entire city.

This “community embedded, supportive learning center” offers not only books, but also a performance space, teaching kitchen, greenhouse, vegetable garden, and an arboretum. It is the state’s first library holistically imagined as a children’s education destination. The Library Director’s challenge was to create a “playground without equipment” where nature and imagination create grand adventures on an abandoned six acre site in the heart of the capital city. A charrette with youth uncovered a surprising and heartbreaking result: their top desire wasn’t for the latest video game technologies… it was food security. They wanted to learn how to feed themselves. Children also desired a place that was uplifting, inspirational and full of natural light, while in contrast feeling safe, secure, and sheltered. They wanted a place that “lifted expectations”.

An interstate highway—the railroad tracks of our generation—split Little Rock 40 years ago and destroyed a unified city grid, contributing to racial and socioeconomic divisions that separated citizens physically and emotionally. The site’s border condition became a national symbol for gang violence when featured in a 1990’s HBO documentary. Its opposite side, however, continued to be the city’s version of New York City’s Central Park—the place to live, work, and play. The design team’s overarching idea was centered on three moves: bridge the gap by stretching the park across the highway, create a library that is “the place to be” for all children, and develop civic pride in an underserved neighborhood, helping to mend partitions that have plagued the city for so long.

Landscape ecology and urban connectivity themes provide experiential education. Children see natural vegetation representing the state’s varied ecological regions from the Ozark Highlands to the Mississippi Delta. Two bus lines within a quarter mile assure access from distances, while the hundreds of children living within a half mile can walk or bike. An instructional greenhouse, gardens, and teaching kitchen allow children to cultivate, harvest, prepare meals, and sell produce in a planned farmer’s market. A full time ‘Environmental Educator’ oversees programs, teaching proper use of water, energy, and resources, and how we keep healthy through decisions made within the built environment. The lobby’s smart monitors can display real time water and energy consumption. Mechanical and structural systems are purposefully exposed so operations and construction methods can be discussed.

While this Library exceeded expectations by achieving LEED Gold, the true measure of success beyond points is the neighborhood’s feel, which shifted from dangerous to full of life and pride. The library is a safe zone and home to a sustainable-minded community.

Little Rock Look Back: Longtime CALS trustee Rabbi Ira Sanders

SandersIraE_fOn May 6, 1894, Ira Eugene Sanders was born in Missouri.  After receiving an undergraduate degree and rabbinate degree in Cincinnati, he was ordained a rabbi in 1919.  He served congregations in Pennyslvania and New York before coming to Little Rock in September 1926.

Shortly after arriving to lead the B’nai Israel congregation, Rabbi Sanders became active in the Little Rock community.  Among his projects were the Little Rock Community Fund, Little Rock School of Social Work (which he founded), Central Council of Social Agencies, and University of Arkansas Extension Department. During the Great Depression, he helped organize the Pulaski County Public Welfare Commission.  Other areas of involvement over his career included the Arkansas Human Betterment League, Urban League of Greater Little Rock and Arkansas Lighthouse for the Blind.  On November 3, 1930, Rabbi Sanders debated Clarence Darrow about the existence of God in front of a packed house at Little Rock High School.

For his many involvements, he received an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree in 1951 from the University of Arkansas.  Three years later he received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Hebrew Union College’s Jewish Institute of Religion.

A lifelong supporter of a Jewish state, he participated in nineteen bond drives for the state of Israel.  In August 1963, he retired as the leader of B’nai Israel after over 35 years. He would remain as Rabbi Emeritus until his deal in 1985.

In January 1978, Rabbi Sanders tendered his resignation from the Central Arkansas Library board of directors.  The City Board of Directors passed resolution 5873 which noted that he had served for 51 years on the Library Board. He was first appointed in 1926.  He served during 19 different Mayoral administrations from Charles Moyer’s first term through Donald Mehlburger’s.

On April 8, 1985, Rabbi Ira Eugene Sanders died of natural causes.  He is buried in the City’s Oakland Jewish Cemetery.  The Central Arkansas Library System honors his memory with an annual distinguished lecture series.

The NEH announces grant to CALS for Dialogues on the Experience of War

2016 NEH New grantsThe National Endowment for the Humanities today announced a total of $21.1 Million in grants.  One of those went to the Central Arkansas Library System.

CALS will receive $99,772 for a project focued on dialogues on the experience of war.  Project Director Alex Vernon will lead “Fiction & Fact: A Dialogue with Veterans.”  It will consist of four discussion programs for Arkansas veterans and others on the themes of battlefield and homefront, World War I, Vietnam, and war and witness.


LR Women’s History Month – Adolphine Fletcher Terry


Photos from the collection of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

Adolphine Fletcher Terry was born on November 3, 1882 to former Little Rock Mayor John Gould Fletcher and his wife Adolphine Krause Fletcher.

Raised in Little Rock, in 1889 she moved into the Albert Pike House on East 7th Street, when her aunt transferred the title to her father. That house would be her primary residence the rest of her life.  Her sister Mary Fletcher Drennan never lived in Arkansas as an adult after marriage. Her brother John Gould Fletcher spent much of his adulthood in Europe before returning to Little Rock and establishing his own house, Johnswood.

At age 15, Adolphine attended Vassar. She later credited that experience as broadening her views on many issues.  After graduating at age 19, she returned to Little Rock.  Her parents both died prior to her 1910 wedding to David D. Terry, which took place at what was then known as the Pike-Fletcher House (and today is known as the Pike-Fletcher-Terry House).

She is perhaps best known today for establishing the Women’s Emergency Committee in 1958 and for her subsequent deeding of the family house to the City for use by the Arkansas Arts Center.  But her entire life was based on civic engagement.

She was instrumental in establishing the first juvenile court system in Arkansas and helped form the first school improvement association in the state. She was long an advocate for libraries, serving 40 years on the Little Rock public library board.  Through her leadership, the library opened its doors to African Americans in the early 1950s. Today a branch of the Central Arkansas Library System (the successor the Little Rock public library) is named after her.  Another branch is named after her Pulitzer Prize winning brother.

Adolphine formed the Little Rock chapter of the American Association of University Women, the Pulaski County tuberculosis association and the Community Chest.

In 1958, when the Little Rock public high schools were closed instead of allowing them to be desegregated again, she called Harry Ashmore the editor of the Gazette and exclaimed, “the men have failed us…it’s time to call out the women.”  With this, she formed the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools. This group played a major role in getting the four high schools open the following year.

From 1933 to 1942, David Terry served in the U.S. Congress. During that time, Adolphine alternated her time between Washington DC and Little Rock. But she spent much time in Little Rock raising her five children.

After her husband’s death in 1963, she continued to remain active in civic affairs. In the 1960’s, she and her sister deeded the Pike-Fletcher-Terry House to the City of Little Rock for use by the Arkansas Arts Center upon both their deaths.  Following Adolphine Fletcher Terry’s death in 1976, Mary turned over the title to the City.

Adolphine Fletcher Terry is buried in Mount Holly Cemetery alongside her husband. Three of her children are also buried in that plot.  Her parents and brother are buried in a nearby plot.

Her son William Terry and his wife Betty continue to be active in Little Rock. Their daughters and their families also carry on Adolphine Fletcher Terry’s commitment to making Little Rock better.

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