#5WomenArtists – Reita Walker Miller

November Birds 
1980
22 x 29 1/2 in.
watercolor on paper
Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection:
Gift of the Mid-Southern Watercolorists Exhibition. 1980.008

Through their social media campaign #5WomenArtists, the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) asks, “Can you name five women artists?

In response to that, this month five artists with Little Rock connections will be highlighted throughout March.  The final one for 2019 is Reita Walker Miller.

Reita mainly paints in watercolor. She has long been active in the Mid-Southern Watercolorists and held many leadership positions within the organization; she is currently serving as an at-large board member.

In addition to being a talented artist, she is known as an educator and encourager of others whether it is in watercolors or another artform.  She helped establish the art program at the Central Arkansas Library System during her tenure on staff there. She was also a founding member of Little Rock’s Arts+Culture Commission.

Her artwork is in numerous collections. The Arkansas Arts Center has three of her pieces in its permanent collection.

The Arkansas Arts Center’s Kelly Fleming honored as Fundraising Professional of the Year

At the 2018 AFP National Philanthropy Day, Kelly Kinard Fleming of the Arkansas Arts Center was honored by the Arkansas Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals as the Fundraising Professional of the Year!

(This honor also garnered her the front cover of this month’s INVITING ARKANSAS – featured with this entry.)

As the AAC’s Director of Development, Kelly is a proven fundraising professional with a commitment to philanthropy.  She leads a staff which continues to surpass annual goals of approximately $2 million, as well as surpassing special event goals, and founded the Townsend Wolfe Society, a planned giving program.

Kelly is an integral part of the AAC’s recent completion of its strategic plan, its re-accreditation, and its aggressive building project and capital campaign.

Prior to coming to the Arkansas Arts Center, Kelly served in fundraising at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre and Heifer Foundation. She is a member of the Little Rock Arts+Culture Commission, and has been an active supporter of many Little Rock arts organizations.

Remembering Dr. David O. Belcher

As a undergraduate and later graduate student at then-Southwest Missouri State University, I first became aware of Dr. David O. Belcher.  I had several friends who were music majors, and they would speak glowingly of him.  Another friend, an accounting major, took piano lessons from him.

As the College of Arts and Letters had leadership vacancies, Dr. Belcher was tapped to fill them.  He was chosen because he was a visionary, a perfectionist, and a consensus builder.

My favorite memory of him during the time we were both in Springfield, however, is of him playing the piano portion of “Rhapsody in Blue” at the Grand Opening Gala of Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts.  Backed by the Springfield Symphony, he deftly handled this classic piece.  As a graduate assistant on the staff, I was able to listen to several rehearsals.  He always gave his all during every run-through.

A few years after I returned to Little Rock, I received a phone call from Jo Jones in the Chancellor’s office at UALR.  Dr. Joel Anderson was considering David to be his Provost.  Jo (a family friend) knew I had attended SMSU and wanted to know my thoughts about him.  I told her that due to the fact I was not involved directly in the music department, I had probably said fewer than 10 words to him, outside of “Hello” but then proceeded to tell her of his reputation, of what I had observed, and what I had heard from others.   A week or so later, she called to tell me that Dr. Anderson had just announced to the UALR faculty the hiring of Dr. Belcher.

I sent him an email to welcome him to Little Rock. Since he was a musician, and cultural affairs were part of my duties at the City of Little Rock, I was especially excited to have him come.  Some mutual friends asked me to also reach out to Susan. (I think they were not yet married but were engaged.) I was thrilled to do so.

Once they arrived, the Little Rock arts community embraced them, and they embraced it.  It was a definite mutual admiration society.  They became involved with the Symphony, the Rep, Wildwood, the Arts Center,  Accademia dell’Arte, and numerous music organizations.  They promoted the UALR arts to the community and supported on-campus efforts with their attendance and participation.  I was eventually able to convince David to serve on the City’s Arts+Culture Commission.  After service of  few months, he was asked to be the chair. Though busy with numerous major tasks at UALR, he agreed.

From time to time we would meet for lunch. Our conversations would veer between Springfield, Little Rock, and the arts in general.  They were always delightful.

In 2005, he was a finalist to become the next president at what would be Missouri State University.  At the time, I joked to Dr. Anderson that either way the selection went, I would benefit. He responded with a smile that he appreciated my response, but that he did not benefit if David left. He followed up by saying, “He is so good, I know I won’t be able to keep him here forever, but I want a few more years.”

While it was not meant for David and Susan to return to Springfield, he maintained many close ties. (He also poached several excellent faculty and administrators from Springfield to come to Little Rock.)

Alas for Little Rock, in 2011 he was hired by Western Carolina University to lead that campus.  Not only did it give him the chance to be a Chancellor, but it also took him closer to his family and his roots.

By all accounts, he was as dynamic and respected at WCU as he had been in Springfield and Little Rock.  Unfortunately, in 2016, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Through two years of treatments, surgery, improvements, and setbacks, he kept up as well as possible with his duties.

A page on the WCU website posted updates. He felt it was important for the faculty, students, and donors to know about his status.  A photo on that page shows hundreds of people standing in the rain at a rally to show support for him as he battled this.  On August 1, 2017, he announced the tumor had returned.  Later in the semester, he announced he would be going on medical leave effective December 31, 2017.

On June 14, 2018, the first update of the year was made. It noted he was in a care facility and receiving only family and close friends. It encouraged people to write notes and stressed that the Belchers wanted any tributes to be made for scholarships at WCU.

Following his death on June 17, 2018, his obituary also encouraged memorials be made to Furman (his alma mater), Missouri State University, and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.  Unselfish to the end, his last wishes paid tribute to the institutions which had prepared him to lead WCU.

Godspeed Dr. David O. Belcher.  The music will continue to play. But it will be a slightly different tune without your contributions.

Open Studios Little Rock today (6/2) from 10am to 4pm

The City of Little Rock Arts+Culture Commission is hosting the second annual Open Studios Little Rock on Saturday, June 2, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A map of participating artists is available here: 2018 OSLR Map FINAL.

Guests can gain access to over 20 artist studios and cultural institutions that will open their doors and give you a firsthand look at their creative process. The lineup of studios visits includes artists working in the visual and performing arts, plus cultural institutions that will open their respective studios for guided tours and demonstrations.

The public can participate in FREE, self-guided tours of art-related studios, live-in/work studios and homes, galleries, schools, and other creative spaces. (Please note, some of the participating cultural institutions may have admission fees for specific exhibits.)

Referred to as a city-wide exhibition, Open Studios gives you unparalleled access to artists living and working in Little Rock. Studio visits are free and open to the public.

Artists who are unable to welcome the public into their studios will showcase their work at the Alternative Space hosted at the Bobby L. Roberts Library of Arkansas History and Art at 401 President Clinton Ave.  A welcome station will also be set up there with maps of all the participating artists and information on them.

During Open Studios, the colorful “Open Studio” signs will alert you to Open Studio spaces.

Participating Artists:

  • Co-Op Art – 7509 Cantrell Rd (back side)
  • Creative Art Studio – 7509 Cantrell Rd (back side)
  • Jennifer Cox Coleman Fine Art – 2207 Hidden Valley Dr., Suite 203
  • Amanda Heinbockel – 1701 Louisiana St, Apt 2
  • The Little Rock Violin Shop – 316 E. 11th St.
  • McCafferty Academy of Irish Dance – 6805 W 12th Street, Suite D
  • Daniella Napolitano – 916 Scott St, Apt A
  • Jenn Perren Studio – 1701 Louisiana St, Apt 4
  • Catherine Rodgers Contemporary Art – 2207 Hidden Valley Dr., Suite 202
  • Liz Smith’s Ceramics Studio – 125 Dennison St.
  • South Main Creative – 1600 Main St
  • Michael Warrick – 19 Mohawk Circ.
  • Elizabeth Weber – 11901 Hilaro Springs Rd

 Alternative Space (401 President Clinton Avenue):

  • Jericho Way Art Class
  • MNHenry Artwork
  • Paintings by Glenda McCune
  • Sheri Simon
  • Michael Ward

 Participating Cultural Institutions:

  • Arkansas Arts Center
  • Esse Purse Museum
  • Historic Arkansas Museum
  • Mosaic Templars Cultural Center
  • Old State House Museum

The Little Rock Arts+Culture Commission cultivates connections between diverse audiences and the City’s creative community. More information (including maps and artist bios) available at https://lrartsculturecommission.com/open-studios-little-rock/.

LR Women Making History – June Freeman

June Biber Freeman, born and reared in New Jersey, came to Pine Bluff from the University of Chicago, where she had met and married her husband, Edmond Freeman, a Pine Bluff native.

Long interested in the arts, she was instrumental in establishing the Little Firehouse Community Arts Center. Serving as its unpaid director until, with her continued vision and help, it morphed into the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas (ASC).  In 1973, she conceived and organized the  Women and the Arts: A Conference on Creativity,  the first of its kind in the region. Governor Dale Bumpers appointed her to the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women.  In 1975,  Freeman was  hired by  Townsend Wolfe as the Arkansas Arts Center’s Director of State Services, a job  she held for the next five years.

In 1982, she was instrumental in establishing Pine Bluff Sister Cities.   She has served on the Little Rock Arts+Culture Commission as well as the boards of the Arkansas Arts Center, the Mid-American Arts Alliance and the Arkansas Arts Council. (In view of her background in psychology, she has served as a longstanding member of the UAMS Advisory Board of the Psychiatric Research Institute.)

Freeman is the founding director of the non-profit Architecture and Design Network (ADN) which got underway in 2003. Securing the support of the Arkansas Arts Center, the UA Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design (FJSAD) and the central section of the Arkansas chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Freeman launched a series of free public lectures by distinguished architects.  Retiring as director at the end of 2016, she continues to serve as a board member. She was named an honorary member of the FJSAD Dean’s Circle and, in 2013, was given an Award of Merit by the state Chapter of the AIA at its annual meeting. In 2016 the ADN board named the lecture series for her.

In 2017, she was inducted into the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame.  In 1995, she received the Governor’s Arts Award for Outstanding Patron.  In 2018, she became a rare two-time award recipient of a Governor’s Arts Award as she received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Freeman and her husband, who retired as publisher of the Pine Bluff Commercial, moved to Little Rock in 1995. The couple has four children and six grandchildren.

Central to Creativity – Eliza Borne

Eliza Borné was named Editor of Oxford American magazine in October 2015.  She had been the Managing Editor of the magazine, prior to that appointment.  Under her leadership, the magazine has won the 2016 Ellie – National Magazine Award in General Excellence.

A Little Rock native and graduate of Central High School, she wrote Children’s Theatre reviews for the Arkansas Times while in high school.  While a student at Wellesley College, she interned for OA.  After graduation, she was an associate editor at BookPage.  In February 2013, she joined the OA as an editor.  When he was in Little Rock earlier this year, author Harrison Scott Key praised Borné’s skills as an editor.  At that appearance, he also lauded her skills as an interviewer. She has also used these skills serving as a moderator for the Arkansas Literary Festival.

While her talents as a writer and editor have been honed through hard work, she is also carrying on a family tradition in promoting Little Rock’s cultural life. A great-grandmother, Adolphine Fletcher Terry, was a member of the Little Rock Public Library Board (a forerunner of CALS) for decades.  Much could be written about what various ancestors have done to help Little Rock, but Borné is not one to rely on the family name as she forges her own career.  Instead, she uses her skills and love of Little Rock to promote good writing, good music, and good living.

Since 2016, Eliza has served on Little Rock’s Arts+Culture Commission.