The next Downtown Little Rock Partnership Alley Party is tonight

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Presented by CDI Contractors, join the Downtown Little Rock Partnership in the alley around the corner from Bella Vita Jewelry, just off the Main Street Creative Corridor, for live music from The Going Jessies and craft beer from Stone’s Throw Brewing!

Little Rock Look Back: Sharon Priest

Little Rock’s 70th mayor, Sharon Priest, celebrates her birthday on September 12.

She began her public service at the grassroots level when she led the effort to bring flood relief to Southwest Little Rock and Pulaski County following the devastating flood of 1978 that killed 13 people in central Arkansas.

Sharon was appointed to the Little Rock City Beautiful Commission.  Following that, she challenged an incumbent City Director and won her first elective office in 1986. In January 1989, she was named Vice Mayor of Little Rock by her colleagues on the City Board.  Two years later, she was selected Mayor becoming only the second female to serve as Mayor of Little Rock.  During her service to the City of Little Rock, she spearheaded the effort to create a Little Rock flag.  At the conclusion of her second four year term on the City Board, she decided to run for Secretary of State.

In November 1994, she elected Secretary of State, becoming the first woman to be elected to that position in Arkansas.  She was reelected in 1998.   In the summer of 2000, she became President of the National Association of Secretaries of State. After the 2000 presidential election, she was thrust into the forefront of the movement toward election reform. Ms. Priest testified before U.S. House and Senate Committees on election reform. As Secretary of State, restoring the Governor’s Reception Room and the Old Supreme Court Chamber of the State Capitol to their original splendor and restoring the rotunda marble are a few of her proudest achievements.

In January 2003, Priest was selected to serve as Executive Director of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership. She served in that capacity until early 2015.  She has also been a leading champion for the redevelopment of MacArthur Park, the City’s oldest park.

Central to Creativity – Matt McLeod

Matt McLeod is a painter, sculp­tor and mural­ist, specializing in fine art for residential, commercial and pub­lic art projects. His art hangs in many homes and businesses throughout Central Arkansas and beyond. Arguably his most visible work is the new mural at the corner of 6th and Main in the Creative Corridor.

Growing up in Little Rock, Matt graduated from Central High School.  After grad­u­at­ing from South­ern Methodist Uni­ver­sity in 1987, Matt spent a fifteen-year career in adver­tis­ing, before becom­ing a full-time artist. Matt spent the last eleven years in fine art, devel­op­ing paint­ings into his bold, vibrant style — what he calls Ener­getic Color.

Matt’s energetic color is included in sev­eral pri­vate and cor­po­rate col­lec­tions across the US and has brought significant recognition, includ­ing pieces in the Delta Exhi­bi­tion at The Arkansas Arts Cen­ter and a paint­ing on the front cover of the first Arkansas Artists Cal­en­dar, cre­ated by The Arkansas Governor’s Man­sion Asso­ci­a­tion.

In 2011, Matt was the fea­tured artist for River­fest music fes­ti­val. Matt was the fea­tured artist for MusicFest El Dorado, in 2012. In 2013, Matt was the fea­tured artist for The Thea Foundation’s Annual Spring Fine Arts Fes­ti­val. In October 2015, Matt opened a gallery in down­town Lit­tle Rock, spe­cial­iz­ing in highly col­lectible regional artists and res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial commissions.

In addition to his mural at the corner of Main and Scott Streets, Matt is currently at work on a mural on the side of the Besser Hardware building in the 1000 block of Main Street.

Arkansas Heritage Month – Robert Hupp

HuppRobert Hupp is in his final months of his seventeenth and final season as producing artistic director of Arkansas Rep.  In recognition of all of his service and artistic excellence, in 2013 he was the Individual Artists recipient of the Governor’s Arts Awards.

During his tenure in Little Rock, Hupp has overseen continued growth and development at The Rep. Since he assumed the producing artistic director’s position in 1999, the theatre has tripled its budget (currently at $4 million annually), increased contributed income by 100%, completed a successful capital campaign, and broadened the company’s artistic and economic base through co-productions with other nonprofit theatres and partnerships with institutions of higher education and community organizations. Under Hupp’s leadership, the theatre and actor housing apartments underwent a complete renovation in 2011. The Rep also renovated a new downtown scenic construction facility and recently opened The Annex, a black box theatre and education space, in Main Street’s Creative Corridor.

Hupp’s artistic stewardship at The Rep has been marked by seasons that reflect the great diversity of the theatrical canon. Shakespeare and American classics join new and contemporary works, and seasons always include musicals or plays with music. The current season contains the regional theatre premiere of The Bridges of Madison County, a new adaptation of The Little Mermaid, as well as a new comedy, Windfall, directed by Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander. The theatre also recently produced a new musical, Because of Winn Dixie, by Duncan Sheik and Nell Benjamin. Hupp has directed 28 productions while at The Rep, including The Grapes of Wrath, God’s Man in Texas, Les Miserables, August: Osage County, and all of The Rep’s recent Shakespearean productions.

In addition to his duties at The Rep, Hupp has shown a strong commitment to serving the central Arkansas community. He has served on numerous civic committees in Little Rock, including Little Rock’s Arts and Culture Commission, the Advisory Board of the ACANSA Arts Festival, and Vision Little Rock. He has collaborated with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Wildwood Park for the Arts, and the Arkansas Arts Center.  In 2012, he was named “Nonprofit Executive of the Year” at the Arkansas Business of the Year Awards, and also received the Arkansas Public Relations Society of Arkansas (PRSA) Diamond Award. Hupp has also been a panelist and on-site evaluator for the National Endowment for the Arts and has served in various capacities for the Theatre Communications Group, including a term as vice president of the Board of Directors. Hupp has taught and directed at several Arkansas colleges and universities, including Hendrix College, University of Central Arkansas, and University of Arkansas at Little Rock where he also served as the Interim Chair of the Department of Theatre in 2005.

Bonus Highlight of 2015 – Creative Corridor

Sep opening ccA grand opening to highlight the new features and completed sections of the Creative Corridor’s Low Impact Development (LID) streetscape took place on September 14 as the revitalization of Little Rock’s Main Street continues to take shape, block by block.  Earlier in the year, Matt McLeod’s mural Beneath the Surface was dedicated at the corner of Sixth and Main Streets.  Together with Lorri Acott’s sculpture Peace and mural banners by Stephano and Virmarie DePoyster, public art is taking shape along the Creative Corridor.

The most recently completed improvements in the 500 block of Main Street were opened to the public for strolling along the tree-lined boardwalk on the west side.  All of the pedestrian and environmentally friendly streetscapes in the 100, 200, 300 and 500 blocks of Main Street contain LID features such as bioswales, porous pavers, rain gardens, and other biodiverse vegetation.

The grand opening also celebrated the elements of creative place-making that have occurred. Recent public art installations and the clustering of artistic and creative organizations on Main Street are transforming the Creative Corridor into a downtown hub that supports a great level of pedestrian activity, sociability, recreation and aesthetics.

An arts open house and reception followed the tour, with the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Arkansas, Matt McLeod Fine Art, and Cranford Co. opening the doors to their new, connected spaces. Later that week, ACANSA kicked off with a street party showcasing the ASO.

The Creative Corridor is a mixed-use development project aimed at restoring the vitality of Main Street by creating an arts district and retrofitting a four-block segment of the street between President Clinton Avenue and 7th streets. The City of Little Rock estimates that more than $100 million in private and public investment has occurred to date to help make this vision a reality.

15 Highlights of 2015 – Ark Rep opens new performance space

Rep Black Box interiorThe Arkansas Repertory Theatre opened its new education and black box performance space in the summer of 2015.  Located in the 500 block of Main Street on the Creative Corridor, it also serves as additional rehearsal space for The Rep.

The Rep’s youth education programs have been limited by the available performance and rehearsal options the Rep previously had. It was fitting, that this space was opened with one of the Rep’s Summer Musical Theatre Intensive’s (SMTI) productions.  The Maurice Sendak-Carole King musical Really Rosie was performed by two different casts in the summer.  The performances, directed by Rep audience favorite Ethan Paulini, was the culmination of a two week workshop training for preteen students.  (At the same time, across the street in the Rep’s main building, older students were preparing for two different productions of Once on This Island.)

In September, during ACANSA, the Rep hosted a performance of Jason O’Connell in his autobiographical one-man play The Dork Knight.

The space will allow the Rep to not only showcase educational performances, but to produce plays in a black box setting.