Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


Little Rock Look Back: Opening of the Arkansas Arts Center!

On Saturday, May 18, 1963, amidst fanfare and fans of the arts, the Arkansas Arts Center officially opened its doors.  (This was thirty-five years and three days after the Fine Arts Club had opened the first permanent art gallery in Arkansas in the Pulaski County Courthouse).

The dedication ceremonies on May 18 featured U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright (who was in the midst of championing what would soon be known as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts), Congressman Wilbur Mills, Governor Orval Faubus, Little Rock Mayor Byron Morse, Winthrop Rockefeller and Jeanette Rockefeller.

On Friday, May 17, 1963, film star Gordon MacRae performed two separate concerts in the theatre space.  There were other assorted small events and tours on May 16 and 17.

The culmination of the weekend was the Beaux Arts Bal.  This black tie event, featured Oscar winner Joan Fontaine, cartoonist Charles Addams (creator of The Addams Family), James Rorimer of the Metropolitan Museum, and Dave Brubeck.  Chaired by Jeane Hamilton, the event set a new standard for events in Little Rock.

Among the exhibits at the Arkansas Arts Center for the grand opening was a special exhibit from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York entitled Five Centuries of European Painting.  In Little Rock for six months, this exhibit featured works by El Greco, Titian, Claude Monet, Odilon Redon, Pierre Renoir, Paul Signac, Edgar Degas, and Paul Gauguin among many others and spanned from the fifteenth century Early Renaissance era to the nineteenth century.

Prior to the opening, a profile on the Arts Center in The Christian Science Monitor touted the building as one of the first regional arts centers in the country to be completed. Benefiting from national ties of the Rockefeller family, the events in May 1963, set a high standard for the institution, and for other regional art museums.


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Arkansas Heritage Month – Celebrities and Celebrations open Arkansas Arts Center on May 18, 1963

AAC opening programOn Saturday, May 18, 1963, amidst fanfare and fans of the arts, the Arkansas Arts Center officially opened its doors.  (This was thirty-five years and three days after the Fine Arts Club had opened the first permanent art gallery in Arkansas in the Pulaski County Courthouse).

The dedication ceremonies on May 18 featured U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright (who was in the midst of championing what would soon be known as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts), Congressman Wilbur Mills, Governor Orval Faubus, Little Rock Mayor Byron Morse, Winthrop Rockefeller and Jeanette Rockefeller.

On Friday, May 17, 1963, film star Gordon MacRae performed two separate concerts in the theatre space.  There were other assorted small events and tours on May 16 and 17.

The culmination of the weekend was the Beaux Arts Bal.  This black tie event, featured Oscar winner Joan Fontaine, cartoonist Charles Addams (creator of The Addams Family), James Rorimer of the Metropolitan Museum, and Dave Brubeck.  Chaired by Jeane Hamilton, the event set a new standard for events in Little Rock.

Among the exhibits at the Arkansas Arts Center for the grand opening was a special exhibit from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York entitled Five Centuries of European Painting.  In Little Rock for six months, this exhibit featured works by El Greco, Titian, Claude Monet, Odilon Redon, Pierre Renoir, Paul Signac, Edgar Degas, and Paul Gauguin among many others and spanned from the fifteenth century Early Renaissance era to the nineteenth century.

Prior to the opening, a profile on the Arts Center in The Christian Science Monitor touted the building as one of the first regional arts centers in the country to be completed. Benefiting from national ties of the Rockefeller family, the events in May 1963, set a high standard for the institution, and for other regional art museums.


Arkansas Heritage Month – Jeane Hamilton

Photo taken for SOIREE

Photo taken for SOIREE

Happy Mother’s Day.  Today as part of Arkansas Heritage Month, we salute Jeane Hamilton — the “mother” of the Arkansas Arts Center.  In 2007, she was awarded the Arkansas Arts Council’s Lifetime Achievement Governor’s Arts Award.

Arriving in Little Rock a young wife in 1952, she immediately set about to become involved in her new community as she and her husband James set up a household.  In the mid-1950s, the Junior League of Little Rock tapped her to chair the initiative to create a new art museum for Little Rock.  The two decades old Museum of Fine Arts was threadbare through years of neglect and unfocused programming and collecting.

Hamilton, along with Junior League President Carrie Remmel Dickinson and Vice President Martha McHaney, approached Winthrop Rockefeller (then a relatively new resident) to lead the fundraising effort for the new museum.  He agreed on a few conditions: one was that a base amount had to be raised in Little Rock first, and second that the museum would be for the entire State of Arkansas and not just Little Rock.

Hamilton and her colleagues set about to raise the funds. They raised $645,000 at the same time Little Rock’s business climate was stymied by the aftereffects of the Central High crisis.

Now a lifetime honorary member of the Arkansas Arts Center Board, Hamilton has spent much of her life working on Arkansas Arts Center projects since that visit in 1959.  She has served on the Board, chaired committees, chaired special events, served hot dogs, helped kids paint and danced the night away at countless fundraisers.  She was on the committee which hired Townsend Wolfe as executive director and chief curator.  Jeane has led art tours for the Arts Center to a number of countries over the years.

When she is not at the Arts Center, she is often seen at the Rep, the Symphony or any number of other cultural institutions.  While she enjoys seeing old friends at these events, she also loves to see a room full of strangers – because that means that new people have become engaged in the cultural life of Little Rock.


Arkansas Heritage Month – Cinco de Mayo with Diego Rivera

portrait-of-two-womenToday is Cinco de Mayo. This Mexican holiday seems a good day to return again to the art of Diego Rivera.  He is one of the Culture Vulture favorite artists, so any excuse to discuss him and his relationship with the Rockefeller family is greatly appreciated.

One of Rivera’s masterpieces is 1914’s Portrait of Two Women which is part of the permanent collection of the Arkansas Arts Center. The official name is Dos Mujeres.  It is a portrait of Angelina Beloff and Maria Dolores Bastian.  The former was Rivera’s first wife.

This oil on canvas stands six and a half feet tall and five and a half feet wide.

Influenced by cubists such as Picasso, Rivera adopted fracturing of form, use of multiple perspective points, and flattening of the picture plane.  Yet his take on this style of painting is distinctive.  He uses brighter colors and a larger scale than many early cubist pictures. Rivera also features highly textured surfaces executed in a variety of techniques.

The painting was a gift to the Arkansas Arts Center by Abby Rockefeller Mauzé, sister of Arkansas Governor Winthrop Rockefeller.  At the 1963 opening of the Arkansas Arts Center, James Rorimer, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, remarked several times to Arts Center trustee Jeane Hamilton that the Met should have that piece. Jeane politely smiled as she remarked, “But we have it.”

Of all her brothers, Abby was closest to Winthrop. The other brothers, at best ignored, and at worst, antagonized the two.  Given the complicated relationship of Rivera with members of the Rockefeller family, it is not surprising that if Abby were to have purchased this piece, she would donate it to a facility with close ties to Winthrop.  (Though the Rockefeller brothers had Rivera’s mural at Rockefeller Center destroyed, he maintained a cordial relationship with Abby Aldrich Rockefeller — well as cordial as an anti-social Communist could be with the doyenne of capitalist NYC Society.)

The Arkansas Arts Center has several other works of art in their collection with ties to Mexico. Some are by Mexican artists. Others are inspired by Mexico. They have several by Elsie Fruend depicting scenes in Mexico.


2015 In Memoriam – Tillie “Mumaw” Anderton

1515 Mumaw

In these final days of 2015, we pause to look back at 15 who influenced Little Rock’s cultural scene who left us in 2015.

She was never a resident of Little Rock, but for the last several of her 101 years, Tillie Anderton was a frequent visitor.  She would often be found at Arkansas Arts Center events or attending the Arkansas Repertory Theatre while in town to visit her grandson Laine Harber.

Mumaw, as she was known to everyone, enjoyed seeing the art, attending a Children’s Theatre performance, or taking part in the crafts. She also enjoyed the chance to socialize with her many well-wishers who stopped by to chat with her.  As longtime Arts Center supporter Jeane Hamilton once remarked, “I want to be her when I grow up!”

Mumaw loved to learn, so she viewed a trip to the Arts Center or the Rep as a chance to learn more – both from experiencing the art and from visiting with people.

On the occasion of her 100th birthday, “Tillie ‘Mumaw’ Anderton Day” was declared in Little Rock in recognition of her contributions as a participant in, and ambassador of, Little Rock’s cultural life.


2015 In Memoriam – Fred Poe

1515 Poe

In these final days of 2015, we pause to look back at 15 who influenced Little Rock’s cultural scene who left us in 2015.

Fred Poe was a world traveler who spent his lifetime sharing his love of travel with others.

Poe’s first solo trip at age nine on the Rock Island’s “Doodlebug” from Little Rock to El Dorado, Poe visited 168 countries (a country being defined as one which issues its own postage stamps) include such arcane destinations as Tristan da Cunha, the Faroe Islands, Afghanistan’s Wakkan Corridor and Upland Togo. Poe Travel was the first American travel agency to arrange tourist travel to the Peoples’ Republic of China as that nation’s Cultural Revolution wound down with son Tony Poe led an early group of Americans to North Korea. He loved automobile trips and drove in each of the 50 states and every province and territory of Canada save Nunavut which he visited only by air.

After growing up in Little Rock, he graduated from Vanderbilt University where he wrote the college musical comedy. Upon graduation he moved to San Francisco becoming part of the Beatnik subculture and playing ragtime and jazz piano in clubs. Drafted, he served as a translator in Germany in the US Forces and did graduate work at Mainz University in Eastern European History. In 1961, he opened Poe Travel in Little Rock, likely the youngest travel agency owner in the US at the time.  The firm continues today.

Poe was active in the Civil Rights Struggle among other accomplishments having sat-in at the Memphis Airport Restaurant which resulted in its racial integration. He is a member of the ACLU, a former president of the Little Rock SKAL club made up of travel professionals and was a lifetime member of the Country Club of Little Rock. As a travel writer he enjoyed great success in local publications, published at Bicentennial Guide to the USA for the German speaking market and was frequently quoted in such publications as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Travel and Leisure, and Conde Nast Traveler.  He was a serious scholar with a fine library on the subject of the Nazi Holocaust and a dedicated art collector with especially significant items from the Russian Avant Garde and 20th Century Austrian schools.

With Jeane Hamilton, he led Arkansas Arts Center patrons on many trips including to China, Egypt and Cuba.  Just weeks before he died, he was in the front row at the Clinton School as Jeane Hamilton and Skip Rutherford discussed her lifetime support of the Arts Center. Jeane often referred to Fred in to fact check when they discussing some of the travel seminars.

 


2015 In Memoriam – Kula Kumpuris

1515 Kumpuris

In these final days of 2015, we pause to look back at 15 who influenced Little Rock’s cultural scene who left us in 2015.

Kula Kumpuris owned every room she entered.  Whether she was holding court at Satellite Café or at the Capital Hotel, her sparkling eyes, generous smile and warm spirit entranced everyone.

She was devoted to her family and friends, always wanting to know the latest achievements or funny stories. Her zest for knowledge also extended to learning from books and keeping up with current events.

Born in Pine Bluff, she retained her girlhood friends throughout her life. She never shed friends, she only added to them through the various stages of life.

In 2006, her sons and daughter and their families established the Frank and Kula Kumpuris Distinguished Lecture Series at the Clinton School of Public Service in honor of Kula and her late husband.  In announcing the gift, son Dean Kumpuris noted that his parents, always believed “that through understanding, teaching and discussion, the world could be a better place, and they taught us that giving back to the community and the world is important and worthwhile. So, we decided that in keeping with our parents’ teachings, the Clinton School of Public Service was a perfect place to give back.”

For many years, Kula would be on the front row at the lecture series with an open mind awaiting the information from the speaker, and an engaging smile.

She was also a fixture at the annual Sculpture at the River Market show and sale. She charmed artists and arts patrons alike. Even as she found it harder to get around in later years, she was still a regular presence at the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, usually with her friend Jeane Hamilton.

A longtime and active member of the Little Rock Garden Club, Kula Kumpuris cultivated friendships with people from all walks of life as easily as she cultivated plants and flowers.