Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


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Little Rock Look Back: Clinton Center opens in 2004

wjc library openingIt has been thirteen years since the Clinton Presidential Center opened on a wet, cold Thursday.

The days leading up to it has been glorious.  And while the weather may have literally dampened spirits a bit, it was still an important day for Little Rock and Arkansas.

The events leading up to the opening included a concert by Aretha Franklin with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and an appearance by Senator John Glenn at the Museum of Discovery.  Events were hosted by the Arkansas Arts Center, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Historic Arkansas Museum, and Old State House Museum.  There were scores of receptions and parties as Hollywood, New York, and DC descended on Little Rock.

November 18 dawned rainy and cool.  As the day continued on the precipitation continued while the temperature did not warm up.  Years of planning for a grand opening ceremony came down to this.  But at the appointed time, festivities began.

On the site of an abandoned warehouse district and unofficial dump which had previously been a train station, many leaders of the free world were gathered.  They rubbed shoulders with thousands of Arkansans from probably every county in the state.

It had been seven years and eleven days since Bill Clinton had announced the site of his presidential library.  It had been five years since artifacts and articles started arriving from Washington DC in Little Rock.  There had been lawsuits, threats of lawsuits, the threat of a Counter-Clinton Library, and countless meetings.

After speeches from Presidents Carter, Bush 41 and Bush 43, remarks from President Clinton and then-Senator Clinton (who was made even wetter by water pouring off an ill-placed umbrella), and even a musical performance by Bono and The Edge, Chelsea Clinton turned over the ceremonial key from the Clinton Foundation to the National Archives to officially open the Clinton Presidential Center.

In his capacity leading the Clinton Foundation, Skip Rutherford oversaw the planning for the Clinton Library and the grand opening festivities.  He, along with the foundation’s Executive Director Stephanie Streett, oversaw a phalanx of volunteers and staff to anticipate every detail.  The 1,000 days countdown sign that had been on the construction site (the brainchild of Tyler Denton) finally reached 0.

Isabelle Rodriguez, Shannon Butler, Mariah Hatta, Jordan Johnson, Lucas Hargraves, and Ben Beaumont — among others — had been putting in twelve plus hour days for months on end to get ready for the opening.  City Manager Bruce T. Moore led a team of City officials who had assisted on the planning and execution of the site preparation and making sure Little Rock was ready to welcome the world.  Moore and City Director Dean Kumpuris had been appointed by Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey to lead Little Rock’s efforts to land the library.  After Clinton’s announcement of the site, Dailey, Kumpuris and Moore continued to work together to ensure the library would be successful.

While the weather on November 18, 2004, may have been a disappointment, the people who were gathered knew they were witnesses to history.  And thirteen years later, is a day people still talk about.

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Little Rock Look Back: President Clinton performs with Arkansas Symphony

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton addresses the audience after reciting Martin Luther King’s famous speech, ‘I Have A Dream’, to the music of Alexander L. Miller at Robinson Auditorium March 25, 2003 in Little Rock. (Photo by Karen E. Segrave/Getty Images)

On March 25, 2003, former President Bill Clinton took the stage of Robinson Center Music Hall to perform with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. Entitled “Let Freedom Ring – A Patriotic Celebration,” the evening was a joint fundraiser for the Symphony and the Clinton Foundation.

Before a packed house, Clinton narrated Aaron Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait which weaves excerpts from Lincoln speeches with Copland’s own unique classical take on American heartland music.  Clinton also narrated Let Freedom Ring, a symphonic setting by Alexander Miller of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

The evening also consisted of Broadway veteran and Little Rock favorite Lawrence Hamilton singing “Wheels of a Dream” from the musical Ragtime.  On Broadway and on national tour, Hamilton had previously sung the song.

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra also performed An American in Paris by George Gershwin and “Jupiter” from The Planets by Gustav Holst.  This final selection was a tribute to the seven astronauts who had died in the crash of the space shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003.

David Itkin, who was then the musical director of the ASO, conducted the concert.


Little Rock Look Back: A Dozen Years of the Clinton Library

SkipIt has been twelve years.  Have you warmed up yet?

Many remember November 18, 2004, for the rain and cold wind which greeted visitors to the opening of the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Center and Park.  In the years which lead up to that day, November 18, 2004, was known simply as “Game Day” for a group of people.  The chief one was Skip Rutherford.

Overseeing the planning for the Clinton Presidential Center and the events surrounding it had been the focus of James L. “Skip” Rutherford for many years. A FOB for decades, he had stayed in Little Rock when so many went to Washington DC in 1993.

He oversaw the planning for the Clinton Library and led the Clinton Foundation.  No detail was too small or insignificant for him to consider. For months leading to the opening he led meetings to help restaurants, hotels, and attractions understand the scope of the opening.

Together with Dean Kumpuris and Bruce Moore on behalf of the City of Little Rock and Stephanie Streett of the Clinton Foundation, he reviewed plans for the Clinton Presidential Park and the streets and neighborhoods around the Clinton Presidential Center.

Skip used his connections with the business community in Little Rock and throughout the state to discuss the importance of a Presidential Library regardless of one’s personal political affiliations.  He withstood critics who second-guessed everything from the cost, the design, the location, the purpose, and even the anticipated tourism and economic impacts.

Finally the big day had come.  If the weather was not ideal, that was almost inconsequential. It was still the culmination of more than seven years hard work.  As he remarked later that evening when discussing the weather “Many who attended today go to events like this all the time.  This is one they won’t forget!”

However, the opening of the Clinton Presidential Center was not the end of the task. It merely was the move from one phase to another. A few years later, Skip’s role would change as he would leave the Foundation and become the second Dean of the Clinton School of Public Service.


New movie RACE about Jesse Owens shown tonight at the Ron Robinson Theater

Clinton Center Race filmJoin the Clinton Foundation on Monday, February 22, for a special showing of the new movie Race, in celebration of Black History Month.

Race is based on the incredible true story of Jesse Owens, the legendary athletic superstar whose quest to become the greatest track and field athlete in history thrusts him onto the world stage of the 1936 Olympics, where he faces off against Adolf Hitler’s vision of Aryan supremacy. As a student and athlete in Depression-era America, James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens (portrayed by Stephan James of Selma) bears the weight of family expectations, racial tension at his college Ohio State University, and his own high standards for competition.

Race, MPAA-rated “PG-13,” is an enthralling film about courage, determination, tolerance, and friendship, and an inspiring drama about one man’s fight to become an Olympic legend.

This event is held in partnership with Focus Features and the City of Little Rock.

Ron Robinson Theater

Monday, February 22

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. | Program begins at 6:30 p.m.


Celebrate Valentine’s Day at the Clinton Center TODAY from 10am to 2pm

Clinton LibraryCelebrate Valentine’s Day at the Clinton Center on Saturday, February 13, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Come make cards for your loved ones, send Valentine’s Day wishes to patients at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and enjoy FREE family activities, including “Recreate an Original,” an opportunity to become part of Norman Rockwell’s original paintings, Out Fishin’ and Barefoot Boy.

The Coca-Cola exhibit will be ending soon, so this is a good chance to see it one final time.

Saturday, February 13, 2016
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Clinton Presidential Center

This event is free, but regular admission fees apply to tour the Library.


15 Highlights of 2015 – Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter led panel at Clinton Presidential Center

Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter addressing the audience. Photo by James Doyle

On October 21, 2015, Kennedy Center president Deborah Rutter and a distinguished panel of Arkansas educators and artistic directors discussed national trends in teaching the arts and humanities, while exploring new ways to give Arkansas schools access to combined national and local resources.

While no single cultural institution in Arkansas can match the reach & multi-disciplinary offerings of The Kennedy Center, Little Rock and Arkansas have many of the same resources distributed across multiple institutions. Educators and arts advocates from across the state participated in this very important conversation about the transformation of arts and humanities education in Arkansas through deeper collaboration between these institutions.
The program included two engaging panels.
Educator Discussion Panelists
  • Joy Pennington ( Moderator ), Executive Director, Arkansas Arts Council
  • Zinse Aggine, Teaching Artist and Musician
  • Jama Best, Senior Program Officer, Arkansas Humanities Council
  • Dr. Jeff Grubbs, Associate Professor, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
  • Lana Hallmark, Fine Arts Coordinator, Arkansas Department of Education
  • Melanie Landum, Executive Director, Arkansas A+ Schools
  • Dr. Lenore Shoults, Executive Director, The Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas
Institution Discussion Panelists
  • Dr. Todd Herman  ( Moderator ), Executive Director, Arkansas Arts Center
  • Sericia Cole, Director, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center
  • Robert Hupp, Producing Artistic Director, Arkansas Repertory Theatre
  • Philip Mann, Music Director, Arkansas Symphony
  • Deborah Rutter, President, The Kennedy Center
  • Stephanie S. Streett, Executive Director, Clinton Foundation
This event was hosted by the Clinton Foundation; President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts member, Kaki Hockersmith; Mid-America Arts Alliance; Donna and Mack McLarty; and the Stella Boyle Smith Trust.


15 Highlights of 2015 – Chelsea Clinton was 1,000th Clinton School Speaker

chelsea

Eleven years to the day of the first Clinton School Speaker Series public program, that initiative celebrated its 1,000th speaker on September 18, 2015.

In “It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going!,” Chelsea Clinton tackles the biggest challenges facing us today. She combines facts, charts, photographs and stories to give readers a deep understanding of the world around them and how anyone can make a difference. With stories about children and teens who have made real changes big and small, this book inspires readers of all ages to do their part to make our world a better place.

One of Clinton’s favorite childhood books was “50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth.” As an elementary school student in Little Rock, she helped start a paper-recycling program at her school; as a teenager in Washington, D.C., she led her school’s service club; and as a student at Stanford University, she volunteered as a reading and writing tutor and at the Children’s Hospital.

Today, she is Vice Chair of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation where she helps lead the work of the Foundation across its various initiatives, with a particular focus on work related to health, girls and women, creating service opportunities, and empowering the next generation of leaders. Chelsea holds a BA from Stanford University, an MPH from Columbia University, and an MPhil and doctorate degree in international relations from Oxford University.

The lecture featuring Chelsea Clinton was the 1,000th public program for the Clinton School of Public Service. On September 18, 2004, the Clinton School welcomed their first public program speaker, Senator Bob Dole.

This event will be at the Wally Allen Ballroom at the Statehouse Convention Center at 6pm.