Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


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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.

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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.


Grants for Rep, ASO, Oxford American announced by National Endowment for the Arts

nea-logo-960Three Little Rock based cultural institutions were among the eight Arkansas recipients of National Endowment for Arts grants recently announced.

These were Art Works and Challenge America grants. Art Works grants supports the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts and the strengthening of communities through the arts. Challenge America grants offer support primarily to small and mid-sized organizations for projects that extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics or disability.

The Arkanas Repertory Theatre received $15,000 to support a production of An Iliad by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare.  The playwriting team has adapted Homer’s Trojan War epic into a compelling monologue that captures both the heroism and horror of warfare. A key theme is the personal cost of war. The theatre will continue and deepen its ongoing partnership with the Little Rock Air Force base and will engage with the service members and their families during the project. During the performance run, veterans returning from service overseas will share their personal stories as part of a post-performance community conversation. Activities will occur in the theater’s newly constructed second stage and center for community engagement on the Main Street Creative Corridor.

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra received $10,000 to support performances and educational workshops that will culminate in the world premiere performance of a composition by D.J. Sparr, featuring guitarist Ted Ludwig.  The composition is inspired by Ludwig’s flight from New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. In addition to performances, electric guitarists Ludwig and Sparr will lead workshops for student musicians and community members from central and southeastern Arkansas, including a high percentage of low-income residents.

The Oxford American received $20,000 to support the publication and promotion of the magazine.  Exploring the complexity and vitality of the American South, the magazine publishes poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and criticism by emerging and established authors. The magazine will be promoted through social media, the magazine’s website, a weekly e-newsletter, and events throughout the South.

In addition, TheatreSquared in Fayetteville received $25,000 for its Arkansas New Play Festival. This is presented in Fayetteville and Little Rock. The Little Rock performances are in conjunction with the Arkansas Rep.

Other Arkansas recipients were the Walton Arts Center, Sonny Boy Blues Society (for the King Biscuit Blues Festival), Ozarks Foothills Film Festival and John Brown University.


Creative Class of 2015: Scott Walters

scottwaltersOctober may have ended yesterday. But since this is about Creativity, the Creative Class stretches into November for one day this year.  Scott Walters uses his position as Rector of Christ Church to build connections and raise awareness of a variety of art forms and creative disciplines.

Through his leadership and encouragement, two different public gallery spaces have been created at Christ Church, an Arts at Christ Church series has been launched (featuring all types of music from Grammy winning soul to Renaissance chamber), the basement has been turned into The Undercroft music venue with regular performances, and a partnership with the Arkansas Literary Festival has been undertaken.

Concerned with the built environment, he has led walking tours of downtown which have focused not only on the history of the neighborhood but also looking at its present and envisioning its future possibilities.  Because Christ Church is at a hub of development in the River Market, Creative Corridor, SoMa, MacArthur Park and Hanger Hill, he is exploring ways to more actively integrate the church into its greater community.

Interested in historic preservation, he is currently shepherding an effort to restore the historic stained glass windows at the church. A student of poetry, philosophy and urban planning, he can often be found engaged in discussions about those topics.  But he is just as likely to discuss comedians, YouTube videos, and the local music scene.


Creative Class of 2015: Matt McLeod

McLeodMuralMatt 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.

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. This month, Matt opened a gallery in down­town Lit­tle Rock, spe­cial­iz­ing in highly col­lectible regional artists and res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial commissions.