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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RobinsoNovember: Aretha Franklin with the ASO for the Clinton Library opening

wjc-arethaTwelve years ago today, the William J. Clinton Presidential Center officially opened.  While that day was cold and wet, two days earlier, inside Robinson Center Music Hall, patrons were warmed by the musical talents of Aretha Franklin.

She shared the Robinson stage with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.  The ASO brough Miss Franklin to town as part of the festivities surrounding the opening of the presidential library.  Long a favorite of the Clintons, Miss Franklin sang at his 1993 inaugural festivities the night before he took the oath of office.

Resplendent in a series of white dresses, Miss Franklin was in top form feeding off the love from the audience.  While backstage she may have been dealing with back and knee issues (which the Culture Vulture saw first hand), when she stepped on to the stage she was giving her all as she rolled through hit after hit from her starry career.  She sang, she played the piano, she entertained!

It was a sold out house and her voice and energy reached the last row of the balcony.

Prior to her appearance, the ASO played a few selections including variations on “Hail to the Chief” and “America.”

 


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.


Free admission at Clinton Center today

Clinton Library 3The Clinton Presidential Center is free today in honor of the George Washington Birthday Federal Holiday.  Also free are audio tours narrated by President Clinton.

This is a wonderful opportunity to see the final day of the temporary Coca-Cola exhibits.

Illustrations of an American Original is located in the Garden View Room and focuses the now-iconic images and advertising campaigns that have helped define the Coca-Cola brand.  An American Original at 100 is housed in the Temporary Gallery, bringing together historic bottle “firsts.” It features a 13-bottle chronology, including an original glass bottle produced in 1902, a replica of the prototype contour bottle created by the Root Glass Company in 1915, and a prototype of the aluminum bottle that debuted in 2008.
In addition to Illustrations of an American Original and An American Original at 100, the Center is also displaying a full-size antique Coca-Cola delivery truck produced in 1949 by the White Motor Company and a spectacular hanging installation comprised of more than 750 3D-printed, ribbon-shaped interpretations of the bottle’s classic shape.


Final 2 Days of Coca Cola exhibit at Clinton Center

Coca-Cola-Bottle-History-v2-hiThe Clinton Presidential Center celebrates the art and history of the Coca-Cola Bottle’s 100-year anniversary during its upcoming temporary exhibit, Coca-Cola: An American Original. The exhibit closes on Monday, February 15.
The exhibit is divided into two sections and occupies both the Garden View room, located on the first floor, and the Temporary Gallery, located on the third floor.
Illustrations of an American Original will be located in the Garden View Room and will have as its focus the now-iconic images and advertising campaigns that have helped define the Coca-Cola brand. Illustrations will include three original paintings by Norman Rockwell, an American artist who created a total of six paintings that were ultimately used in finished Coca-Cola ads. The three others, known as the “Missing Rockwells,” have yet to be located. Additionally, Illustrations feature several images of Santa Claus, including the first Coca-Cola Santa painted by Fred Mizen that appeared in The Saturday Evening Post in December of 1930, as well as nine original Haddon Sundblom illustrations.
An American Original at 100 is housed in the Temporary Gallery, bringing together historic bottle “firsts.” It features a 13-bottle chronology, including an original glass bottle produced in 1902, a replica of the prototype contour bottle created by the Root Glass Company in 1915, and a prototype of the aluminum bottle that debuted in 2008.
Also, the exhibit showcases pop art by Andy Warhol—including videos, photographs, prints, and other original works—and folk art by Howard Finster, who incorporated the Coca-Cola bottle into dozens of his pieces over his prolific career. Another portion of this exhibit is dedicated to American presidents and their connection to the global brand. An American Original at 100 was recently on display at the High Museum of Art Atlanta.

 

In addition to Illustrations of an American Original and An American Original at 100, the Center is also displaying a full-size antique Coca-Cola delivery truck produced in 1949 by the White Motor Company and a spectacular hanging installation comprised of more than 750 3D-printed, ribbon-shaped interpretations of the bottle’s classic shape.
Coca-Cola: An American Original is the Center’s 42nd temporary exhibit. It will close on February 15, 2016.  Admission to temporary exhibits is included in the price of Library admission.


Coca-Cola Collectors’ Convention today at Clinton Center

Coca-Cola-Bottle-History-v2-hiDo you have unique Coca-Cola products or memorabilia you would like appraised?

Join Ted Ryan, Director of Heritage Communications for The Coca-Cola Company, at the Clinton Center on Saturday, January 30, for a Coca-Cola Collectors’ Convention. Learn more about your Coca-Cola treasures and connect with other Coca-Cola aficionados.

The Clinton Center will also have FREE family activities in conjunction with their current temporary exhibit, Coca-Cola: An American Original, including “Recreate an Original,” an opportunity to become part of Norman Rockwell’s original paintings, Out Fishin’ and Barefoot Boy.

Collectors’ Convention
10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Coca-Cola Family Activity
10:00 a.m. – 2 p.m.

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


Little Rock Look Back: Clinton Library Groundbreaking

bill groundbreak14 years ago today the groundbreaking for the Clinton Library took place on December 5, 2001. It was dry and about thirty degrees warmer than the actual opening would be in November 2004.

The former president was joined by then-Mayor Jim Dailey, City Director Dean Kumpuris, then-Assistant City Manager Bruce Moore, contractor Bill Clark, then-Clinton Foundation executives Skip Rutherford & Stephanie Streett, and other dignitaries in turning the dirt. The location for the ceremony is now actually the parking lot for Sturgis Hall – the home of the Clinton School of Public Service and Clinton Foundation offices.

President Clinton was the only member of his family to attend the ceremony, which drew over 400 people. His wife, then the junior Senator from New York, was expecting some important floor votes in Washington DC, and daughter Chelsea was studying in England.

At the ceremony, Clinton joked “We’re going to try to build it in less than it took to build the medieval cathedrals and the Egyptian pyramids, but if I can’t rein in my team it may cost as much!” Of course by then the date was set for November 2004. Coordinating schedules of the current and former Presidents is an intricate act.