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.

Little Rock Look Back: The City welcomes Katrina evacuees

Hurricane KatrinaIn light of the landfall of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey and City Manager Bruce Moore sprung into action to marshal resources to welcome visitors who found themselves in Little Rock. From greeting buses and aircraft that arrived with evacuees, to coordinating with churches and non-profits to distribute supplies, to working with area businesses to identify resources, Mayor Dailey, the City Manager and other City leaders worked diligently to offer assistance.

Mayor Dailey noted, “While we welcome these visitors to our City, obviously the timeframe for this stay was not of their own choosing. As they wait out the hurricane and its aftereffects, I wanted to extend this hospitality to them on behalf of all our citizens.”

One of the things the City did was distribute a list of the cultural institutions which had free admission. These museums offered a respite for people who were spending time in hotel rooms or temporary shelters. With economic futures uncertain, spending money on entertainment was not an option for many.  The chance to see exhibits for free was a break from the monotony of television coverage and endless waiting.

In addition to providing information on free and low-cost Little Rock attractions, the Convention & Visitors Bureau worked around the clock to identify available hotel rooms and other places where evacuees could stay.  Little Rock’s Animal Services division worked to find places to keep animals since some could not stay in hotel rooms.

With the breaking of the levee and the subsequent flooding, it became obvious that what many had expected to be a three-day absence from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, was going to be much longer.  The days turned into weeks; subsequently, the City shifted its focus into helping people find housing and jobs.

“I am proud of how Little Rock has responded,” said Mayor Dailey at the time. “From volunteers to utility workers, a number of our citizens are poised to go down there and help restore those basic necessities to the areas hit by Hurricane Katrina. I am also proud to know that our hospitality and attraction industries in Little Rock are working to offer comfort and relief here. Perhaps most importantly, the compassionate smiles and words of encouragement extended by everyday men and women in Little Rock to our newest visitors are so significant.”

“I think we can never underestimate the value of helping our neighbors. When Little Rock has been beset by disaster, it has been the knowledge that other people cared about us that has helped as we worked to return to daily routines. While I am sorry that this situation has occurred, I am grateful that we can repay in some small way, all that others have done for us,” said the Mayor.

Ten years on, much has changed in Little Rock because of Katrina.  Some people who came here “temporarily” have stayed.  Others who returned have maintained ties with Central Arkansas friends.  Little Rock’s culinary and hospitality industry have benefitted from several of the newcomers who were brought here by Katrina.  There is perhaps a bit more diversity of beliefs, tastes, and accents because of this storm.

As they did with people stranded in Little Rock after September 11, the City’s cultural institutions opened their doors, their arms and their hearts to the Katrina visitors.  It proved again the healing power of not only the arts but also of hospitality.

Dave Anderson’s ONE BLOCK at Christ Church

IMG_0596In recognition of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Christ Episcopal Church in downtown Little Rock is showing a collection of Dave Anderson’s One Block photos.

Little Rock photographer Dave Anderson followed the reconstruction of a single block in New Orleans from 2006 to 2010. This delivers a powerful portrait of the storm’s ongoing physical and psychological impact on a neighborhood and its residents.

Using portraiture, still lifes and abstract images, Anderson’s photos document the evolution of both the street and its houses as residents literally rebuild their lives, exploring the very nature of community while testing its resilience. Anderson’s compassionate treatment of the neighborhood’s straitened financial circumstances and its courageous reconstruction has drawn comparisons to coverage of the Great Depression by Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans and other Farm Security Administration-funded photographers.

Seventy years later, between the devastation left by Katrina and the current housing crisis, the stability and permanence of the American home are once again in jeopardy, lending Anderson’s record a heightened, timely pertinence. One Block is an extension of Anderson’s optimistic belief that the good within each of us is what unites us, as well as his hope that this commonality will afford us the grace to both endure and emerge from our current turmoil.

Copies of Anderson’s book One Block are available for purchase at the church.