Artober – Public Art: Henry Moore’s Large Standing Figure Knife Edge

Arguably Little Rock’s most famous piece of public art is Henry Moore’s 1961 creation Large Standing Figure: Knife Edge, which is known locally as “The Henry Moore Sculpture.”

The original model was created in 1961; this sculpture was cast in 1976 and purchased in June 1978 by the Little Rock Metrocentre Improvement District.

The purchase price was $185,000 — a princely sum at the time but now a bargain for a Henry Moore sculpture. (Adjusted for inflation, that amount would be the equivalent of $705,000 today.)

A committee consisting of Townsend Wolfe (then the director and chief curator of the Arkansas Arts Center), James Dyke and Dr. Virginia Rembert traveled to England to meet with Moore about the sculpture.

It was originally placed on Main Street when the street had been bricked over as part of the Metrocentre Mall pedestrian mall plan. As portions of the street became unbricked and reopened to vehicular traffic, it was moved to the intersection of Capitol and Main. Finally, when the last segment was reopened to vehicular traffic, it was put at its current location of the southeast corner of Capitol and Louisiana. Because it was purchased by the Improvement District, it must stay within the boundaries of the district.

On March 20, 2018, the City of Little Rock and the Metrocentre Improvement District swapped the Henry Moore sculpture for the land on which the District’s parking deck stands. The City will relocate the Henry Moore piece to be in front of the Arkansas Arts Center once that reconstruction project is completed.

A replica of the sculpture is featured in the 1980s classic The Breakfast Club.

31 years of Little Rock’s flag

On October 18, 1988, the City of Little Rock Board of Directors adopted the first official flag for the City of Little Rock.

The adoption of Ordinance No. 15,566 was the culmination of a design competition which had been spearheaded by Little Rock City Director Sharon Priest (later Little Rock Mayor, Arkansas Secretary of State and Executive Director of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership).

Prior to the Official Board of Directors meeting that day, a press conference was held in the Little Rock City Board Chambers for presentation of the City’s flag.  The City Beautiful Commission, a commission of the Department of  Parks and Recreation, sponsored a the contest which received a total of fifteen flag designs.

The flags were judged October 12, 1988, by City Directors and City Beautiful Commission Members. Director Sharon Priest presented the winning flag and introduced David Wilson, a law clerk at the Mitchell Law Firm, who designed the flag chosen for the $1,000 first prize. The second-place winner was Craig Rains, who received $500; and the third-place recipient was David Tullis, who received $250.

The flag was adopted by the City Board that night by a 6-0 vote; former mayor and current director Charles Bussey was absent.  Those voting to adopt the flag were Mayor Lottie Shackelford and directors Sharon Priest, Tom Prince, Buddy Villines, Buddy Benafield and Tom Milton.  Priest would be a future mayor while Prince, Villines and Benafield had all served as mayor.

The official description of the flag is as follows:

As the official flag of the City of Little Rock, its symbolism is described as follows: A clean white background of the banner represents the optimism and open potential that the city has to offer. The royal blue horizontal broad stripe symbolizes the Arkansas River which borders Little Rock, and has served as an economical and historical emblem since the city’s beginning. The forest green stripe runs vertical to the royal blue stripe, creating a cross which symbolizes the location and statute of Little Rock—a city serving not only as the crossroads of Arkansas, but a crossroad of the mid-southern United States as well.

The strong forest green color depicts the fields, parks and forests which contribute to the natural beauty of the city. The seal of the flag is a modernized adaptation of the current Little Rock seal. The razorback red silhouette of the great State of Arkansas shows her capitol, the City of Little Rock, represented by the centered star. The star rises directly above “The Little Rock”—the protruding cliff along the Arkansas River, which was discovered in 1722 by French explorer La Harpe, when the city was given the name. The Arkansas River behind the rock and the symmetrical oak leaves in the border of the seal are a stylized illustration of what the flag’s stripes represent—the natural beauty of the city. Finally, the gold color of the seal and bordering stripes symbolize the superior economic history, and the future economic potential that is available in the City of Little Rock, Arkansas.

It started with seven – a decade of the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden

The original seven sculptures. Clockwise from top left: Conversation with Myself; Straight and Narrow; Bateleur Eagle; First Glance; Sizzling Sisters; Cascade; and Full of Himself

After nearly a week of rain, the skies dried up and on Friday, October 16, 2009, the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden was dedicated.

Designed and created by the staff of the Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department, the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden started with seven sculptures. These were purchased at the 2007 and 2008 Sculpture at the River Market Show and Sales.

The original seven were: Full of Himself by Jan Woods, Cascade by Chapel, Bateleur Eagle by Pete Zaluzec, Sizzling Sister by Wayne Salge, Conversation With Myself by Lorri Acott, First Glance by Denny Haskew, and Straight and Narrow by Lisa Gordon.

The sculpture garden was named after the Vogel Schwartz Foundation in recognition of its contributions to the project. The garden was dedicated on the afternoon of the preview party for the 2009 Show and Sale.

The Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden did not have seven sculptures for long. New pieces have been added every few months since then.  In 2017, an expansion was dedicated which doubled the size and allowed for larger pieces to be installed.  Today there are over eighty sculptures in the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden and more than twenty elsewhere in Riverfront Park.

The 2020 Sculpture at the River Market “A Night in the Garden” party will take place on Friday, April 17, 2020, in the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden.