Little Rock Look Back: Mrs. Ruth May Wassell Gibb

Ruth-May-Wassell-GibbOn August 27, 1944, Ruth May Wassell shattered a bottle on the hull of a new ship and christened it the U.S.S. Little Rock.  Mrs. Wassell, whose husband was Little Rock alderman Sam Wassell, had been designated as the official sponsor for the City of Little Rock by Mayor Charles Moyer.

Details are vague as to why Mayor Moyer designated Mrs. Wassell for the honor.  Her husband was a first cousin of World War II hero Dr. Corydon Wassell, which might have had something to do with it.

Ruth May Wassell was more than the wife of a local political leader.  The daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Wiley Singleton May, she moved from Gurdon to Little Rock with her family and graduated from Little Rock High School. She later graduated from Henderson-Brown College and received a law degree from the University of Arkansas.  In 1932, she was admitted to the Arkansas Bar and later was admitted to practice before the Arkansas Supreme Court, one of the first women to receive this designation.

Mrs. Wassell was active in business, serving as president of the Arkansas Lumber Company  and owner of a citrus farm in Texas.  She was also active in civic affairs through involvement with the Arkansas Democratic Women, Boys Club and Second Presbyterian Church.  From 1947 until 1951 she was First Lady of Little Rock when Sam Wassell was elected as Mayor.

Following the December 1954 death of Mayor Wassell, she subsequently married E. W. “Bud” Gibb.  She died in 1964.

Black History Month Spotlight – Art Porter Sr.

bhm art srArthur Lee (Art) Porter Sr. was a pianist, composer, conductor, and music teacher. His musical interest spanned from jazz to classical and spirituals.

Born on February 8, 1934 in Little Rock, he began his music education at home. He played in church at age eight; played his first recital at twelve; and, by fourteen, hosted a half-hour classical music radio program on KLRA-AM. He earned a bachelor’s degree in music from Arkansas AM&N College (now UAPB) in May 1954. The next year, he married Thelma Pauline Minton. Following his marriage, he pursued graduate study a the University of Illinois, University of Texas and Henderson State University.

He began his teaching career at Mississippi Valley State University in 1954.  When he was drafted into the Army, his musical talents were responsible for him being assigned as a chaplain’s assistant in New York.  In the late 1950s he returned to Little Rock and taught at Horace Mann High School, Parkview High School and Philander Smith College.

He also started playing piano jazz in the evenings. This led to the creation of the Art Porter Trio, which became THE music group for events.  Many musicians who came to Arkansas to perform in Little Rock or Hot Springs would often stop by and join in with Porter as he played.  From 1971 to 1981 he hosted The Minor Key musical showcase on AETN.  His Porterhouse Cuts program was shown in 13 states.

Often encouraged to tour, he instead chose to stay based in Arkansas.  He did, from time time, perform at jazz or music festivals.   He also performed classical piano with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, founded the Art Porter Singers, and created a music group featuring his four oldest children.  Though Porter received many honors and awards, he found particular satisfaction in the “Art Porter Bill” enacted by the state legislature, which allowed minors to perform in clubs while under adult supervision. Porter’s children thus were able to perform with him throughout the state. Governor Bill Clinton, at the time a huge fan and friend of Porter, often joined Porter’s group on his saxophone.

In January 1993, Porter and his son Art Porter, Jr., performed at festivities in Washington DC for the Presidential Inauguration of his friend Bill Clinton.  In July 1993, he died of lung cancer.  He was eulogized at Bethal AME Church, where he had been organist for 35 years.  He is buried at Little Rock National Cemetery.  Today his legacy lives on in the Art Porter Music Education Fund as well as in the lives of the many musicians and fans he touched.

He was posthumously inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1994.  For more on Art Porter Sr. and other inductees into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, visit the permanent exhibit at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. That museum is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

Black History Month Spotlight – Lawrence Hamilton

LawrenceHamiltonLawrence Hamilton, the son of the Dr. Oscar and Mae Dell Hamilton, was born in the small southwest Arkansas town of Foreman With an interest in music stemming from childhood, Hamilton earned a music scholarship to attend Henderson State University in Arkadelphia where he studied piano and voice He graduated in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in music education.

From Arkansas, Hamilton traveled to Florida to work as a performer at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida where he would meet talent manager, Tommy Molinaro. This fateful meeting would prove to be a life-changing encounter, as Molinaro would invite Hamilton to come to New York to audition for the famed actor/director Geoffrey Holder. This marked the beginning of Hamilton’s bold and creative career in the performing arts, leading to performances on Broadway and on tours in Sophisticated Ladies, The Wiz, Uptown – Its Hot, Porgy and Bess, Big River, Play On!, and Jelly’s Last Jam among others. Perhaps his crowning achievement was starring in Ragtime.

Hamilton has been a member of the Southern Ballet Theater, Brooklyn Dance Theater, Ballet Tap USA, and the Arkansas Opera Theater He has performed in concert with the legendary Lena Horne at the White House for President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, and at the Vatican for Pope John Paul II. Hamilton’s career also led to a stint as musical director for the renowned opera legend Jessye Norman, as well as vocal coach/arranger for the pop group New Kids on the Block

Upon his return to Arkansas, Hamilton served for several years as director of choral music at Philander Smith College. He also appeared in several plays at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.  In addition, he performed at countless concerts, benefits and galas throughout Arkansas.  In 2003, he was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.  In 2008, he was appointed to the Little Rock Mayor’s Task Force on Tourism.

Hamilton died in New York in April 2014 due to complications from surgery.  Just weeks prior to the surgery, he had appeared in August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson in Cape Fear, North Carolina.  He had also starred in that play at Arkansas Rep a few years earlier.

For more on Lawrence Hamilton and other inductees into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, visit the permanent exhibit at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. That museum is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

 

Black History Month is focus of discussion sponsored by Butler Center and Clinton School

legaciesIn honor of Black History Month, the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies’ monthly Legacies & Lunch will feature a discussion on the benefits and potential detriments to setting aside a month to focus on the history of African Americans.

Panelists will be Henderson State University history professor John Graves, Arkansas State University history professor Cherisse Jones-Branch, community leader Freeman McKindra, and Butler Center staff member Rhonda Stewart.  Among the topics they will discuss include: Does the promotion of Black History Month lead to decreased attention to this topic in other months, or does setting aside an entire month build commitment to the history of African Americans?

This program is co-hosted by the Clinton School of Public Service.

It will take place from noon to 1pm at the Ron Robinson Theatre in the Arcade Building.

It is Spring – Fly a Kite (or see art about it)

Today marks the first day of spring aka the Vernal Equinox.  It is a good day to go kite flying.

Next season the Arkansas Rep will be presenting Mary Poppins with its song about flying a kite.  The original Broadway Mary Poppins, Ashley Brown, will be performing with the Arkansas Symphony as well next season.

But this year, on the Arkansas Arts Center website, you can see art from their collection which features kites.

Alice Andrews - Kite Flying - from collection of Arkansas Arts Center

Alice Andrews – Kite Flying – from collection of Arkansas Arts Center

The first is Alice Andrews’ Kite Flying.  This 1978 watercolor on paper depicts a kite being flown in a field. The perspective is from above the kite looking down on it and the ground below. The artwork measures 21.5 by 29.5 inches.  It was a gift to the Arkansas Arts Center in 1978 by the Mid-Southern Watercolorists.

Alice Andrews lives in an old white farmhouse built in the 1800’s in the Boxley Valley in Newton County, Arkansas. Boxley is full of clear rocky creeks and pastures and is surrounded by mountains. It has the feeling of being back in time about one hundred years, and has more cow residents than people.

Alice works in both oils and pastels. Her subject matter ranges from landscapes and paintings of her home and garden, to paintings of dreams, of allegory and of pure abstraction. Alice has been awarded residency at The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, New Mexico, and the respected pastel artist Wolf Kahn personally awarded her a residency at the prestigious Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont.

She is a graduate of Henderson State University and the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.

Lothar Krueger's Day of the Great Kite Race - from collection of Arkansas Arts Center

Lothar Krueger’s Day of the Great Kite Race – from collection of Arkansas Arts Center

Another piece in the Arts Center collection is Lothar Krueger’s Day of the Great Kite Race.  This 1980 drawing is chalk and colored pencil on paper. The art measures 21 7/8  by 34 inches.  It was purchased by the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation after the 13th Annual Prints, Drawings and Crafts Exhibition.

Lothar Krueger, was a native of Two Rivers, WI.  Born in 1909, he became interested in art in Washington High School where he was “considered one of the greatest all-round football players in that school’s history.” He received his B.S. degree in art from Milwaukee State Teachers College in 1942 when he was drafted into the army. After officers training he took part in the World War II.  In the war, he took part in the D-Day invasion of Normandy and received two Purple Hearts, a Silver Star and a Bronze Star.  In 1947, he had one of his first art shows at the Wisconsin Historical Museum in Madison.

Krueger joined the faculty of the University of Arkansas. During his tenure on the art faculty at the university, he established himself as a major artist in Arkansas and in the regional and national art scene by winning numerous awards and honors. He taught Art, Art Education, and Art Criticism from 1953 until 1981, and also served as acting chairman of the art department for a year. After his retirement from the university, he continued to live in Fayetteville.   He died in January 2009 at the age of 89.

ChildrenKites1960

Children Flying Kites by Manfred Schwartz – from collection of Arkansas Arts Center

Manfred Schwartz’s Children Flying Kites is also in the Arkansas Arts Center collection. This 1960 oil on canvas measures 42 by 34 inches. It was a gift to the Arkansas Arts Center in 2005 from Janice M. Ireland.

In Manfred Schwartz’s lifetime, he produced a significant and varied oeuvre, and was extolled by art critics and museums. Born in Poland in 1909, he emigrated to New York in 1920 at the age of 11, and was something of a child prodigy. Early in his career he showed side by side with Maurice Vlaminck, Bernard Buffet, Edward Hopper, and Andrew Wyeth.

In 1929 he moved to Paris. There his art gained a new sense of freedom, which he expanded for the next forty years.  Educated at the Sorbonne in Paris, the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris, the Art Students League in New York, and the National Academy of Design in New York. Studied with Charles Hawthorne in Provincetown, John Sloan, and Bridgemen.

Manfred Schwartz created a sensational body of work; oils, pastels, lithographs, and we can see his evolution within three major periods that span fifty years of work.  His earliest paintings were portraits and still-lifes. The colors were deep and muted, he preferred the umbers to the yellows. By 1940 he began to paint in a more abstract manner. His colors intensified and his images seemed ahead of their time.

Schwartz died in New York in 1970.

 

Lineup for April’s 11th Annual Arkansas Literary Festival Announced

1359064160-litfest_logoAs winter drones on, a person’s fancy may turn to thoughts of spring. Or to a good book to read by candlelight to pass the time in winter.

In any way, a certain harbinger of warmer weather will be the presence in April of the 11th annual Arkansas Literary Festival.

Prestigious award-winners, big names, writers for television shows, journalists, and artists are among the diverse roster of presenters who will be providing sessions at the eleventh annual Arkansas Literary Festival, April 24-27, 2014. The Central Arkansas Library System‘s Main Library campus and many other Little Rock venues are the sites for a stimulating mix of sessions, panels, special events, performances, workshops, presentations, opportunities to meet authors, book sales, and book signings. Most events are free and open to the public.

The Arkansas Literary Festival, the premier gathering of readers and writers in Arkansas, will include more than 80 presenters including featured authors Catherine Coulter, who has more than seventy million books in print; Congressman John Lewis, one of the key figures in the civil rights movement; best-selling authors Mary Roach, ReShonda Tate Billingsley, Curtis Sittenfeld, and artist/illustrator Kadir Nelson; musician Rhett Miller; and education expert David L. Kirp.

This year’s Festival authors have won an impressive number and variety of distinguished awards, including ten Emmy awards, multiple National Endowment for the Arts fellowships and grants, two Pulitzer Prizes, the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (the Genius Grant), the National Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, the Caldecott Honor, an NAACP Image Award, an Eisner Award, a Ford Foundation Fellowship, the American Book Award, the O. Henry Prize, recognition as one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35, and much more.

Their works have been included in the New York TimesRolling Stone, Bon Appétit, Glamour, Playboy, Esquire, Vanity Fair, Slate, Mother Jones, and the Washington Post, among others.

Special events for adults during the Festival include a cocktail reception with the authors, a writing workshop with Catherine Coulter, a concert by Rhett Miller, and a presentation by an art historian which includes an Artists Buffet. Panels and sessions include genres and topics such as chocolate, lucid dreaming, graphic novels, the war in Iraq, short stories, Arkansas food, murder mysteries, football, dinosaurs, and gangsters.

Children’s special events include a storytime on the lawn of the Governor’s Mansion, a treasure hunt, a play based on The Little Engine That Could, and a Lego exhibit. Festival sessions for children will take place at both the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center, 4800 10th Street, and the Youth Services Department at the Main Library, 100 Rock Street.

At Level 4, the Main Library’s teen center, special events for teens include a robotics demonstration and a panel on comic book conventions.

Through the Writers In The Schools (WITS) initiative, the Festival will provide presentations by several authors for Pulaski county elementary, middle, and senior high schools and area colleges.

Support for the Literary Festival is provided by sponsors including Central Arkansas Library System; Friends of Central Arkansas Libraries (FOCAL); Arkansas Humanities Council; Department of Arkansas Heritage; Fred K. Darragh Jr. Foundation; Mosaic Templars Cultural Center; ProSmart Printing; KUAR FM 89.1; Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau; Arkansas Democrat Gazette; Sync; Arkansas Life; William J. Clinton Presidential Center; Oxford American; Landers FIAT of Benton; MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History; Arkansas Times; Wright, Lindsey & Jennings LLP; University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service; Historic Arkansas Museum ; Christ Church, Little Rock’s Downtown Episcopal Church; Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center; Arkansas Library Association; Goss Management Company, LLC; Henderson State University; Hendrix College Project Pericles Program; Pulaski Technical College; Arkansas Arts Center; River’s Edge Media; Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre; Rockefeller Elementary School; Gibbs Elementary School; Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center; Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow; Arkansas Governor’s Mansion; Hendrix College Creative Writing; University of Arkansas at Little Rock English Department; University of Arkansas at Little Rock Department of Rhetoric and Writing; Pyramid Art, Books & Custom Framing/Hearne Fine Art; Stickyz Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicken Shack; Literacy Action of Central Arkansas; National Park Service Central High School National Historic Site; Tales from the South; and Power 92 Jams. The Arkansas Literary Festival is supported in part by funds from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Author! Author!, a cocktail reception with the authors, will be Friday, April 25, at 8 p.m.; tickets are $25 in advance, and $40 at the door, and go on sale at ArkansasLiteraryFestival.org beginning Tuesday, April 1. Author! Author! tickets will also be available for purchase at the Main Library and River Market Books & Gifts, 120 River Market Avenue.

The Arkansas Literary Festival is a project of the Central Arkansas Library System. The Festival’s mission is to encourage the development of a more literate populace. A group of dedicated volunteers assists Festival Coordinator Brad Mooy with planning the Festival. Jay Jennings is the 2014 Festival Chair. Other committee chairs include Katherine Whitworth, Talent Committee; Lisa Donovan, Youth Programs; and Amy Bradley-Hole, Moderators.

For more information about the 2014 Arkansas Literary Festival, visit ArkansasLiteraryFestival.org, or contact Brad Mooy at bmooy@cals.org or 501-918-3098. For information on volunteering at the Festival, contact Angela Delaney atadelaney@cals.org or 501-918-3095.

Arkansas Literary Festival This Weekend!

litfestlogoThe Arkansas Literary Festival, the premier gathering of readers and writers in Arkansas, has expanded to include over 90 authors in many locations on both sides of the river from April 18-21, 2013.

The Central Arkansas Library System’s Main Library campus, other venues in the River Markets and Argenta Arts districts are the sites for a stimulating mix of sessions, panels, special events, performances, workshops, presentations, opportunities to meet the authors, book sales, and book signings. Most events are free and open to the public.

Festival authors include:

Salma Abdelnour, David Abrams, Mary Stewart Atwell, Beth Ayer, Jenni B. Baker, Jan Barry, Carolyn Briggs, Kevin Brockmeier, Sam Calvin Brown, Oliver Burkeman, Mary Bucci Bush, Drew Cameron, Raquel Cepeda, Da Chen, Joseph Crespino, James Daily, Lela Davidson, Edmond Davis, Sylvia Day, James W. Erwin, Richard Ford, Ben Fountain, Tim Gallagher, Tim Gallagher, Paula J. Giddings, Kay Collett Goss, Jessica B. Harris, Ruth Hawkins, Roger D. Hodge, Ty Jaeger, Jay Jennings, Ben Katchor, Janis F. Kearney, Jeannette Keith, Brian and Terri Kinder, Steve Kistulentz, Christi Shannon Kline, Jon Krampner, Travis Langley, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Dorothy R. Leavell, Domingo Martinez, Ayana Mathis, Carla Killough McClafferty, Rosetta Miller-Perry, Lydia Millet, Pat Mora, Linda Murphy, Sara Nesson, Cynthia LeJeune Nobles, Harry Ostrer, Darcy Pattison, Lori Perkins, Leonard Pitts Jr., Garry Craig Powell, Padgett Powell, Joe Queenan, Karen Russell, Eric Rutkow, Courtney Miller Santo, Rosie Schaap, Martha Silano, Heather Sutherlin, Steve Teske, Chuck Thompson, Charles Todd, Caroline Todd, Duncan Tonatiuh, GB Tran, Dennis Vannatta, Frank X Walker, John Corey Whaley, Steve Wiegenstein, David Wesley Williams, Johnathon Williams, Rita Williams-Garcia, Christian Wiman, Jan Wolfe, Ron Wolfe, C.D. Wright, Steve Yates

This year’s Festival authors have won an impressive number and variety of distinguished awards, such as the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Pulitzer Prize for Journalism, James Beard Foundation Award, PEN/Hemingway Award, Newbery Honor, National Book Critics Circle Award, a Coretta Scott King Honor, PEN/O.Henry Prize; Pushcart Prize; Barnes and Noble Discover Prize for Fiction, Roger Ebert’s Film Festival Thumbs Up Award, Pure Belpré Award, International Griffin Prize for Poetry, International Documentary Association Best Documentary Short, Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators, and several National Book Award Finalists. Many of the presenters’ works have been translated into multiple languages and made into films.

Special events for adults during the Festival include a cocktail reception with the authors, food, wine, and spirits workshops, films, a play, and Spoken Word LIVE!, a city-wide poetry competition. Panels and workshops will feature topics such as fiction, memoir, screenwriting, super hero psychology & law, Warrior Writers Project, erotica, and more.

Children’s special events include a storytime on the lawn of the Governor’s Mansion, a book fiesta, the artmobile, plays, outdoor activities, and Super Hero Activity Afternoon. Festival sessions for children will take place at both the new Children’s Library, 4800 10th Street, and the Youth Services Department at the Main Library, 100 Rock Street.

At Level 4, the Main Library’s teen center, teens can meet authors and illustrators, participate in ComiCALS, activities and panels such as a cosplay contest, video game tournament, a writing workshop, and zombie survival activities.

Through the Writers In The Schools (WITS) initiative, the Festival will provide presentations by several authors for Pulaski county elementary, middle, and senior high schools and area colleges.

Support for the Literary Festival is provided by sponsors including Central Arkansas Library System; Friends of Central Arkansas Libraries (FOCAL); Department of Arkansas Heritage; Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau; Fred K. Darragh Jr. Foundation; Arkansas Democrat Gazette; Mosaic Templars Cultural Center; Regions; ProSmartPrinting; MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History; Historic Arkansas Museum; Clinton Presidential Center; Hendrix-Murphy Foundation; Wright, Lindsey & Jennings LLP, Arkansas Times; Christ Church, Little Rock’s Downtown Episcopal Church; Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center; Arkansas Library Association; Henderson State University; University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service; Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre; Arkansas Governor’s Mansion; Hendrix College Creative Writing and the Hendrix-Murphy Foundation Programs in Literature & Language; Hendrix College Project Pericles Program; Hendrix College; University of Arkansas at Little Rock, English Department; University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Department of Rhetoric and Writing; Pulaski Technical College; Jewish Federation of Arkansas; Arkansas Arts Center; Power 92 Jams; Central High School National Historic Site; National Park Service; Literacy Action of Central Arkansas; Capital Hotel; Little Rock Film Festival; and LuLav. The Arkansas Literary Festival is supported in part by funds from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Author! Author!, a cocktail reception with the authors, will be Friday, April 19 at 8pm on the fifth floor of the CALS main library building.  Tickets are available at the door.

The Arkansas Literary Festival is a project of the Central Arkansas Library System. The Festival’s mission is to encourage the development of a more literate populace. A group of dedicated volunteers assists Festival Coordinator Brad Mooy with planning the Festival. Jay Jennings is the 2013 Festival Chair. Other committee chairs include Katherine Whitworth, Talent Committee; Lisa Donovan, Youth Programs; and Amy Bradley-Hole, Moderators.