31 Days of Arkansas Rep: OVATION! in 1999

Upon his retirement (the first time) from Arkansas Rep, founder and artistic director Cliff Fannin Baker was feted with a special performance celebrating his career with the Rep.  The entire evening was called “Ovation!” and included a pre-performance reception, a special revue celebrating Cliff’s career, and a performance of As Bees in Honey Drown, which Cliff directed.

Ruth Shepherd and Helen Buchanan co-chaired the evening, which took place on September 21, 1999.  Jana Beard was involved in the conception and direction of the performance.

The program started with a welcome from Mimi Dortch, the first Rep Board chair; Bill Rector, a former Rep Board chair who had been instrumental in the move to the Rep’s Main Street location; and Carol Corley, who was the 1999-2000 Rep Board chair.

The performers included Michael Davis, Don Bolinger, Shannon Farmer, Vivian Morrison Norman, Candyce Hinkle, Debbie Rawn, Jana Beard, Debbie Weber, Mary Twedt Cantrell, Mark Johnson, Judy Blue., Jean Lind, and Phyllis Blumenfeld.

First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton sent a videotaped message that was played and followed by a video which highlighted Cliff’s career.  Lt. Governor Winthrop Rockefeller presented Cliff with the 1999 Governor’s Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement.  Also that evening, longtime Rep staffers Lynn Frazier and Guy Couch were presented with Cliff Fanning Baker Awards for extraordinary service to the Rep.

After a brief intermission, the evening continued with As Bees in Honey Drown. The show was directed by Cliff and was the final show of the Cliff Fannin Baker era (Part I).

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Little Rock Look Back: Townsend Wolfe

Townsend Wolfe, who led the Arkansas Arts Center for 34 years, was born on August 15, 1935.  He was hired to lead the Arkansas Arts Center 50 years ago this month.

Though not the founding director of the Arkansas Arts Center, Wolfe was the director for well over half of the institution’s 57 year history. Hired in 1968 at the age of 32 (making him one of the youngest art museum directors in the US at the time), he retired in 2002.  That year he was honored with the Governor’s Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Arkansas Arts Council.

A native of South Carolina, Wolfe held a bachelor’s degree from the Atlanta Art Institute and a master’s degree from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. He also received a certificate from the Harvard Institute of Arts Administration, and honorary doctoral degrees from two other institutions.  After teaching some classes and seminars at the AAC in the early 1960s, he was recruited to return full-time to the Arkansas Arts Center by Governor and Mrs. Winthrop Rockefeller.

During his tenure at the Arts Center, he first was responsible for creating financial stability. After drastic cost-cutting measures, he refocused programming which led to the creation of the current Museum School, a focus of works on paper for the collection, cultivating a thriving collectors group, establishment of a children’s theatre, expansion of statewide services, and several additions to the physical structure.  He encouraged others to collect art and expanded Arts Center programming into Little Rock neighborhoods.

In addition to serving on the National Council of the Arts, Wolfe was a member of the National Museum Services Board and the board of the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts in New York. He was curator for an exhibition in the First Ladies’ Sculpture Garden at the White House in 1995, and was the recipient of the 1997 Distinguished Service Award (outside the profession) by the National Art Educators Association.

Over the years, Wolfe has served in a variety of capacities for the Association of American Museums, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Wolfe, who died in 2017, was posthumously honored by the Arts Center earlier this year with one of its Portrait of a Patron awards.  In 1973, he received the first Winthrop Rockefeller Memorial Award from the Arkansas Arts Center.

LR Women Making History – Kaki Hockersmith

In 2015, Kaki Hockersmith was honored at the Governor’s Arts Awards.  She creates art as a designer. In addition, she promotes arts and heritage through her tireless efforts on behalf of numerous cultural institutions.  This award was only one of many recognitions she has received.

In 2010, she was appointed to the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts for The Kennedy Center.  In that capacity, she serves as a national ambassador for The Kennedy Center. She has also brought programs from The Kennedy Center to Arkansas to help established and emerging arts organizations. She also serves as a commissioner on the cultural committee of UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.  For the past two years, she and Stephanie S. Streett have led the efforts for FUSION which creates an arts and humanities curriculum for Arkansas teachers.

In 1993, she redesigned the interior of The White House during the Clinton Administration. She was also appointed a member of the Committee for the Preservation of The White House.  Her work on this American landmark was featured in Hillary Clinton’s book An Invitation to the White House: In Celebration of American Culture.

Locally, she has served on the Board of Trustees for the Arkansas Arts Center and the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion Association. She is an active supporter of many cultural organizations in Little Rock.  She and her husband Max Mehlburger open their home to host receptions and fundraisers for numerous cultural institutions and organizations.  In 2014, she was recognized for this support at Ballet Arkansas’ Turning Pointe gala.

Professionally, she has been honored by the national ASID organization as well as the Washington D.C. chapter. Her projects have won 16 regional ASID awards, including seven gold awards.

LR Women Making History – Charlotte Gadberry

Charlotte Gadberry has long been a supporter of Little Rock’s various cultural institutions. She has both served on boards and consulted with boards in strategic planning.  Her major focus these past few years has been the founding of the ACANSA Arts Festival.

A trip to Charleston, South Carolina, amid it’s Spoleto USA arts festival inspired her to dream that Little Rock could play host to a similar endeavor.  Using her fundraising prowess and connections, she started to raise funds, friends and awareness for this idea.

In September 2013, the inaugural ACANSA Arts Festival was announced for September 2014.  Under her leadership, ACANSA (a name derived from an early Native American variation of what is now called Arkansas) incorporated both local cultural institutions as well as performers brought in for the event.

In the first four years ACANSA has featured theatre, dance, mime, puppetry, instrumental music, choral music, opera, jazz, painting, photography, history, lectures, and gallery tours.  It has worked with the Arkansas Arts Center, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Arkansas, Central Arkansas Library System, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, and Wildwood Park for the Arts as well as numerous galleries and performance venues.

Because of her efforts to found ACANSA and lead it, Charlotte is being honored with an Arkansas Arts Council 2018 Governor’s Arts Award on March 29, 2018.

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.

Arkansas Heritage Month – Cliff Baker

cliffCliff Fannin Baker is one of only two people to have been recognized with two Governor’s Arts Awards. He was honored at the first awards in 1991 with an Individual Artist Award and in 1999 with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

He has nearly a half-century of work in the professional theatre.   He was the Founder of Arkansas Repertory Theatre in 1976. He previously was associated with a professional theatre at the Arkansas Arts Center in the 1960s and the Arkansas Philharmonic Theatre in the 1970s prior to his founding the Rep.

Baker has directed over 200 productions of every genre in cities as far flung as Beijing (Peking University) to Portland Center Stage, from Houston’s Alley Theatre to the Theatre of the Open Eye in New York. He has a particular passion for new plays, having directed or produced over thirty world and regional premieres.

For five years, he served as Creative Director of Wildwood Park for the Arts. When not directing, he is a corporate leadership consultant for Goss-Reid Associates in New York. Baker is a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers and the Dramatists Guild.

Baker will return to the Arkansas Rep in July to be the Interim Artistic Director while a replacement for Bob Hupp is being selected.  He will also serve as the production director for Sister Act in the Rep’s 2016-2017 season.

Arkansas Heritage Month – Jim Dailey

cna_commissioner_daileyDuring his years of public service, Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey was a dedicated supporter of the arts. He has been involved in support of the arts prior to and after leaving office, but he was a 2005 Governor’s Arts Awards recipient in recognition of his work while in office.

Mayor Dailey’s understanding of the importance of the arts was essential to the revitalization of downtown Little Rock and the development of the River Market district. Little Rock’s arts district has become home to several art galleries and the 2nd Friday Night Art Walk and provides venues for local and regional musicians.

Other examples of Mayor Dailey’s leadership in the arts include the City of Little Rock’s support of the expansion and renovation of the Arkansas Arts Center and support of the establishment of the Kramer School Artists Cooperative, which provides residential and studio space for artists.  He was also a key player in the location of the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock.

The City of Little Rock doubled the number of art institutions it helps fund under Mayor Dailey’s tenure and has developed an Arts & Culture Commission to continue to integrate the arts into the daily fabric of city life. Mayor Jim Dailey has demonstrated outstanding leadership and commitment to the development of the arts community in Little Rock.

While in office, most Tuesday nights he would be a City Hall presiding over a City Board meeting. But many Monday nights he would be found at the Arkansas Arts Center taking a class a the museum school.

Since leaving office, Mayor Dailey has continued to explore art galleries and museums as he travels throughout the United States.  He also served as one of the three co-chairs for the successful campaign to renovate Robinson Center Music Hall. The building is set to reopen in November 2016.