Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area

Heritage Month – Choctaw Station

Choctaw StationForty years ago today, on May 6, 1975, Little Rock’s Choctaw Route Station was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

This turn-of-the-century railroad depot is one of the finest examples of railroad, architecture in Arkansas.  This red brick with terra cotta elements building is a two story rectangular structure with one story wings projecting from both the north and south elevations.  A long one story porch covers the passenger loading area along the entire east elevation, with a smaller porch over the entry on the west elevation.

The Choctaw Route Station was built between 1899 and 1901 (records vary) by the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad.  This railroad amalgamated with many small lines in Oklahoma and extended into Arkansas in the early 1890’s.  Used as a passenger station, the Little Rock terminal building housed two waiting rooms, a baggage room, restaurant and dining room.

When the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad was sold in 1902, the Choctaw Route Station became the property of the Rock Island Railroad.  Until the mid 1950’s it continued to serve as a passenger station for the Rock Island.  It later served as a warehouse, restaurant and nightclub.

Since 2004, it has been the home to the Clinton School for Public Service as well as Clinton Foundation offices.  Restoration was underwritten by the Roy and Christine Sturgis Foundation. In recognition of this, it is now known as Sturgis Hall.  Former Clinton School Dean David Pryor referred to it as “the little red school house.”

On Earth Day (April 22, 2015), it was announced that Sturgis Hall had received Gold LEED certification from the US Green Building Council.  In August 2009, the Clinton School received a stimulus grant from Governor Mike Beebe to implement sustainable and maintenance practices for reducing the environmental impact of the building. Utility bills costs have already been lowered by $38,000 annually and water usage has been significantly curtailed.

This designation made it the oldest building in Arkansas to be LEED certified and one of the oldest university buildings in the world.  The LEED certification had been a goal of Clinton School Dean Skip Rutherford and Clinton Foundation Executive Director Stephanie Streett.


Remembering 14 Cultural Figures from 2014

Little Rock lost several cultural luminaries in 2014. Some were practitioners, others were volunteers and donors.  All were passionate about the role the arts and culture play in not only everyday lives, but in making a city great.

While there are doubtless omissions to this list, these 14 are representative of the loss in 2014 but also the rich cultural legacy of the Little Rock area. They are presented in alphabetical order.

1414mayaThough never a Little Rock resident, Maya Angelou is linked to the City’s cultural life. Throughout her career, she would make appearances in Little Rock at a variety of venues. As an actress, dancer, poet and professor, she lived life to the fullest and encouraged others to do likewise.

1414jeffbJeff Baskin was more than a librarian in North Little Rock. He was a religious scholar, an actor, and an appreciator of many art forms. He was a regular fixture at cultural events on both sides of the Arkansas River. With his sly smile and quick wit, he put others at ease. His charm was disarming and his circle of friends was boundless.

1414BowenAttorney, banker, historian, author, Dean, advisor, raconteur. This was Bill Bowen. And so much more.  He helped build Little Rock and Arkansas into modern entities. As such, he realized the value of arts and culture to the big picture.  He was not only generous with money, he was generous with wise advice.

1414tcT.C. Edwards was far more than the lead singer of TC and The Eddies, TC and The Ponies and The Piranhas. One of the most familiar faces in the Little Rock music scene over the last 25 years, he was an icon. Much more could be said about him, but he’d prefer the music just keep playing.

1414lawrenceBroadway star Lawrence Hamilton. After conquering the Great White Way, he conquered the Rock. Whether with the Philander Smith College Choir, the Arkansas Rep, Arkansas Symphony, surprising Governor Beebe, or at an event, Lawrence was a consummate performer and warm and welcoming individual.

1414anneAnne Hickman was ever-present at the Arkansas Arts Center. For over forty years she gave time and money to make sure this museum could fulfill its mission. Her generous smile and ebullience were also part and parcel of many Arts Center events. In recognition of her dedication, she received the Arts Center’s Winthrop Rockefeller Award in 2008.

1414geraldGerald Johnson was a tenor saxophone player and Little Rock music scene mainstay. Whether headlining a concert or as a side man in a recording session, he brought the same level of cool excellence to his playing. He also mentored younger musicians and worked to instill love of music in many generations.

1414warrenWarren Law lit up Little Rock. For nearly three decades he was lighting designer and a teacher at UALR.  He designed the lighting for many Ballet Arkansas, Murry’s Dinner Playhouse and Arkansas Arts Center productions as well. At the time of his death, he was the lighting designer for Robinson Auditorium and the Little Rock School District.

1414barbaraBarbara Patty was a force of nature, especially when it came to support of music and art. As a singer, master gardener at museums, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra volunteer and board member, Arts Center docent, Aesthetic Club president, and general lover of the arts, she not only enjoyed the arts, she was a mentor and encourager of arts patrons and practitioners.

1414pennickBanker Edward M. Penick served on the Arkansas Arts Center Board of Trustees.  As a longtime leader at Worthen Bank, he was instrumental in helping establish many nascent cultural institutions such as the Arts Center, Arkansas Symphony and Arkansas Rep as they were getting established in the 1960s and 1970s.

1414TTheresa Quick, or “T,” was a founding member of the Arkansas Rep. She spent over three decades on stage as an actress. She also was a teacher and mentor.  In addition to usually stealing the show when she appeared at the Rep, she shone at Murry’s, the Arts Center and countless radio commercials.

1414kayKay Terry Spencer enjoyed being on stage, but also enjoyed volunteering to make sure others had the opportunities to shine in their artistic talents. After moving to Little Rock, she spent countless hours as a volunteer at the Arkansas Arts Center, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and with the Fine Arts Club.

1414billTBill Trice. That name is synonymous with the arts in Little Rock. He was an actor, director, dancer, singer, teacher, student and mentor. From small blackboxes to large halls, bars to churches, his smile and talents left their mark. He was an expert attorney too. And a lover of music (all types), politics (Democratic), and his exceptionally talented family.

1414pollyCaroline “Polly” Murphy Keller Winter embraced the arts as she embraced all aspects of life – fully and without reservation. She served as board chair for the Arkansas Symphony and established the ASO endowment, which continues to grow.  She was an active supporter of the arts in Little Rock, south Arkansas and other states.

Little Rock Look Back: 57 Years since 1957

101st_Airborne_at_Little_Rock_Central_HighIt was 57 years ago today that the Little Rock Nine entered Central High School and stayed. On one hand, this brought to the end a nearly month long standoff between segregationists and those who wanted to obey the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board decision.

In the bigger picture, the struggle did not end that day.  Throughout the remainder of the school year, the Little Rock Nine were subjected to threats, isolation and hostility.  Outside of the school, while the crowds may had dispersed after September 25, the raw feelings did not subside.

This was evidenced by the fact that the following year the high schools were closed to avoid having them integrated.

But September 25, 1957, was an historic day in the United States. Under guard of members of the 101st Airborne Division of the Army, the Little Rock Nine were escorted into Central High School. This action by President Dwight Eisenhower was the result of the intrusive efforts of Governor Orval Faubus who had used the Arkansas National Guard to keep the nine students out.

The City of Little Rock was largely a bystander in this issue. The form of government was changing from Mayor-Council to City Manager in November 1957. Therefore Mayor Woodrow Mann and the entire City Council were lame ducks. Mann, whose son was a senior at Central, tried to focus on keeping the peace in Little Rock. Most (if not all) of his Council members sided with the Governor.

Congressman Brooks Hays, a Little Rock resident, had tried to broker an agreement between the President and the Governor but was unsuccessful.  Following that, Mayor Mann was in discussions with the White House about the ability of the Little Rock Police Department to maintain order.  Finally, in the interest of public safety, the President federalized the National Guard and removed them. This paved the way for the Army to come in.

Though the school year was not easy, the nine youths who became known worldwide as the Little Rock Nine were finally in school.  They were Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Patillo, Gloria Ray, Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas and Carlotta Walls.

In 1997, President Bill Clinton, Governor Mike Huckabee and Mayor Jim Dailey, famously held open the doors of Central High for the Little Rock Nine on the 40th anniversary.  Ten years later, Clinton, Huckabee and Dailey returned joined by current Governor Mike Beebe and Mayor Mark Stodola to host the 50th anniversary events.

Today the school is a National Historic Site, while still functioning as a high school.

First Full Day of ACANSA Offers Poetry, Visual Art, Theatre, Music

acansaThe ACANSA Arts Festival gets going with its first full day of activities today.


12:00 pm to 1:00pm
Central Arkansas Library System

Chris James, Arkansas native and member of the Foreign Tongues Poetry Troupe, will be presenting about his career as a spoken word poet.   Chris will perform his original spoken word and share information about his upcoming ventures.

Sponsored by: Anita Davis, Delta Trust and Bank, and JPMS Cox, PLLC


5:30 pm to 7:00 pm
Arkansas Arts Center

Evan Lindquist was selected by Governor Mike Beebe as the first Artist Laureate of Arkansas 2013 – 2017.  He creates original prints in his private studio in Jonesboro, Arkansas.  Most of his prints are engravings developed by his own original ideas and designs.   Lindquist has had more than 60 solo exhibitions and has received more than 80 awards in about 300 competitive exhibitions.  At the reception, Mr. Lindquist will speak about his works, technique and career.

Sponsored by William and Kay Patton, Nabholz Construction


ACANSA Central Arkansas's Own.CollageCENTRAL ARKANSAS’S OWN
6:30 pm to 9:30 pm
Great Hall of the Clinton Presidential Center

The Arkansas Chamber Singers is a 65-member vocal ensemble dedicated to performing and promoting classical and contemporary choral repertoire.  Arkansas’s newest professional opera company is Opera in the Rock, with a mission to produce main stage professional opera and showcase talented performers from the state and region.  The Muses are performers with The Muses Creative Artistry Project, blending vocal and instrumental art songs from the Baroque period to the present.  Refreshments and a cash bar will be available throughout the event.

Sponsored by James B. Conner


7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Scottish Rite Masonic Temple
$20 to $50

Compared to the work of David Sedaris, Claudia Shear and Augustin Burroughs, IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING is a uniquely crafted autobiographical tour-de-force in which Bill Bowers shares funny, heartbreaking, and unbelievable true stories from his career as an actor and mime, and his life-long exploration of the role silence plays in all our lives.

IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING takes you on a scenic tour of Bill’s life thus far; from his childhood in the wilds of Montana, to outrageous jobs as a performer across the country, to the whirlwind of Broadway and studying with the legendary Marcel Marceau.

Sponsored by:  Legacy Termite and Pest Control, Inc.


7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
$30 to $50

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra will present a variety of small ensembles at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. This ”Informance” includes the ASO Brass Quintet, a solo by the ASO violin and strings, a Little Rock premiere for the oboe and clarinet, as well as dueling banjos. The performance is followed by a VIP reception.

Sponsored by:  City of North Little Rock, North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, North Little Rock Economic Development Corporation & North Little Rock Visitors Bureau

Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act tonight from 6pm to 8pm at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center

To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Arkansas Psychological Association and Mosaic Templars Cultural Center will hold an event to discuss the importance of psychologically healthy workplaces and honor two local civil rights advocates, political and social justice activist Mary Brown “Brownie” Williams Ledbetter, and psychologist and member of the Little Rock Nine, Dr. Terrence Roberts, from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 2, at Mosaic Templars.

BrownieLedbetterThe free and public event is designed to raise the awareness of the effect of discrimination in the workplace on the groups named in the 1964 Civil Rights Act which was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2, 1964. A reception will follow.

Ledbetter is being honored posthumously for her work through the Arkansas Public Policy Panel. She served as volunteer executive director until her retirement in 1999.

Terrence RobertsRoberts is best known as being one of the nine students to desegregate Little Rock’s Central High School, but as an adult, he became a psychologist and through his private practice he has counseled organizations on equitable practices in both industry and business including serving as a desegregation consultant to the Little Rock School District.

The UALR Institute on Race and Ethnicity, Office of Governor Mike Beebe, City of Little Rock, Central High School National Historic Site, and Social Justice Initiative at Philander Smith College are all sponsors of the event.For more information, contact Dr. Patricia L. Griffen, president of the ArPA at 501.223.8883.

The 2014 Little Rock Film Festival Award Winners

LRFF coverHere are the award winners from the 2014 Little Rock Film Festival.

Diamond Award

Governor Mike Beebe

Golden Rock, Best Narrative

Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter, dir. David & Nathan Zellner

Golden Rock, Best Documentary

Virungadir. Orlando von Einsiedel

Arkansas Times Audience Award

Korengal, dir. Sebastian Junger

Special Jury Prize for Extraordinary Courage in Filmmaking

Matthew VanDyke, Point and Shoot

Special Jury Prize for Cinematic Nonfiction

Ne Me Quitte Pas, dir. Sabine Lubbe Bakker & Niels van Koevorden

Best Southern Film

Stop the Pounding Heart, dir. Roberto Minervini

Best World Short

King of Size, dir. Peter Dowd

Charles B. Pierce Award, Best Made in Arkansas Film

Sacred Hearts, Holy Souls, dir. Mark Thiedeman

Best Made in Arkansas Director

John Hockaday, Stuck

Best Made in Arkansas Performance

Ed Lowry, Matter of Honor

Youth Filmmaking Award

Connor Leach, Consequences

Governor’s Arts Awards Presented Today

Arkansas_Arts_Council_logo_2Governor Mike Beebe will present the 2013 Governor’s Arts Awards today at a luncheon sponsored by the Arkansas Arts Council.

Sponsored annually by the Arkansas Arts Council, the Governor’s Arts Awards recognize individuals and corporations for their outstanding contributions to the arts in Arkansas. The recipients were nominated by the public and then selected by an independent panel of arts professionals from around the state. Each recipient will receive an original work of art created by Arkansas artist Stephen Driver.

The recipients are:
Arts Community Development Award – Bob Ford and Amy Herzberg (Fayetteville)
Arts in Education Award – Paul Leopoulos (North Little Rock)
Corporate Sponsorship of the Arts Award – Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, PLLC (Little Rock)
Folklife Award – Paula Morell (North Little Rock)
Individual Artist Award – Robert Hupp (Little Rock)
Patron Award – Lee and Dale Ronnel (Little Rock)
Lifetime Achievement Award – Billie Seamans (McGehee)
Judges Special Recognition Award – Farrell Ford (Arkadelphia)