Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area

Rock the Oscars, TRUE GRIT – Part 1

Fifty years ago, former Arkansas Gazette reporter Charles Portis wrote a novel entitled True Grit.  It is more than a work of literature, it is a work of art.  In April 2018, the Oxford American will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of the novel with a series of events.

In 1969, the movie was made into a movie starring John Wayne and Arkansan Glen Campbell.  Kim Darby, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Jeff Corey and Strother Martin are also in the cast.  The movie was directed by Henry Hathaway, produced by Hal B. Wallis, and written by Marguerite Roberts.  Wilford Brimley and Jay Silverheels are uncredited actors in the movie.

Though set in Arkansas and Oklahoma, the movie was filmed in Colorado.  Elvis Presley was the first choice for the part Campbell would play. But when his manager demanded top billing (over Wayne), he was bypassed and the part went to Campbell.

The movie was nominated for two Oscars: Wayne for Best Actor and composer Elmer Bernstein and lyricist Don Black for the song “True Grit.”  The latter had been sung by Campbell in the movie.

Wayne won the Oscar that night, his only win.  He would reprise the character of Rooster Cogburn in the eponymously named sequel in 1975. This film, in which he co-starred with Katharine Hepburn, was his penultimate film.

In 1970, Campbell teamed up with Kim Darby again in a film written by Roberts based on a Portis book. This time it was Norwood.  It also starred Joe Namath, Carol Lynley, Meredith MacRae, and Dom DeLuise.  It did not repeat the success of the earlier Portis based movie.


Rock the Oscars: Mary Steenburgen

It is Oscar month, so it is fitting to highlight at Arkansas’ own Academy Award winning actress, Mary Steenburgen on her birthday.  She was born on February 8, 1953, in Newport, Arkansas.  After moving to North Little Rock as a schoolgirl, she had her first starring role as Emily in the 1971 Northeast High School production of Our Town, which was the new school’s first play.

Her big break in the movies came when Oscar winner Jack Nicholson picked her to star opposite of him in Goin’ South.  This was followed by Time after Time before she appeared in Melvin and Howard.  For that film, she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.  It also marked the first of three times she starred with Jason Robards (the other two being Parenthood and Philadelphia).  Over the years, her films have run the gamut from period piece (Ragtime, Cross Creek) to sophisticated comedy (Romantic Comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy) to fantasy (Back to the Future III) to holiday comedy (Elf).  She has been hard to pigeonhole into a specific “type” of actor because she has played so many different types of roles.

Her upcoming projects include Book Club with fellow Oscar winners Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton and Richard Dreyfuss, as well as Oscar nominees Candice Bergen and Andy Garcia; and also Antiquities — filmed in Arkansas and featuring many members of the growing Arkansas film community.

Throughout her career, Mary Steenburgen has been a champion of the arts in Central Arkansas.  In 1986, she starred in and was executive producer of End of the Line, filmed in Central Arkansas, directed and co-written by Arkansan Jay Russell, and also starring Kevin Bacon, Wilfred Brimley, Levon Helm, Barbara Barrie and Holly Hunter.  More recently, Steenburgen has also been an active supporter of the Oxford American magazine as well as South on Main restaurant and performance venue.

2018 Grants announced by National Endowment for the Arts; includes 4 Little Rock groups

Four Little Rock organizations were announced today as recipients of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.  They are: Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music Society of Little Rock, and the Oxford American magazine.

Each year, more than 4,500 communities large and small throughout the United States benefit from National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grants to nonprofits. For the NEA’s first of two major grant announcements of fiscal year 2018, more than $25 million in grants across all artistic disciplines will be awarded to nonprofit organizations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. These grants are for specific projects and range from performances and exhibitions, to healing arts and arts education programs, to festivals and artist residencies.

“It is energizing to see the impact that the arts are making throughout the United States. These NEA-supported projects are good examples of how the arts build stronger and more vibrant communities, improve well-being, prepare our children to succeed, and increase the quality of our lives,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “At the National Endowment for the Arts, we believe that all people should have access to the joy, opportunities, and connections the arts bring.”


Arkansas Repertory Theatre Company
$10,000 Little Rock, AR
Art Works — Theater
To support a production of “The Call” by Tanya Barfield.


Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Society, Inc.
$12,500 Little Rock, AR
Art Works — Music
To support the Canvas Festival, which will combine visual arts and the performance of live symphonic music.


Chamber Music Society of Little Rock
$10,000 Little Rock, AR
Challenge America
To support a series of chamber music performances and related educational programming.


Oxford American Literary Project

$25,000 Little Rock, AR
Art Works — Literature
To support the publication and promotion of “The Oxford American” magazine.

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.

Arkansas Gives today from 8am to 8pm

If you are like me, you’ve been receiving notifications about Arkansas Gives Day for months.  Well, today is the day!  From 8am until 8pm, you can help grow the love for Arkansas’s nonprofit organizations by making a donation to the charity of your choice.  The event is sponsored by the Arkansas Community Foundation.

As a special incentive to give, each gift made through ArkansasGives on April 6, 2017, will be matched with additional bonus dollars; the more you give, the more bonus dollars your favorite charity will receive.

Nonprofit organizations and other tax-exempt charitable organizations may participate if they:

  • Are headquartered in Arkansas or have a base of operations in Arkansas.
  • Have 501(c)(3) tax exempt status under IRS code AND are qualified as a 509(a)(1), (a)(2) or (a)(3) organization or as a private operating foundation.

The minimum amount is $25; there is no maximum amount you may give. You may designate up to 10 charities per transaction.

Accepted Forms of Payment: Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express credit cards online.
You will receive an email receipt of your gift; please retain it for tax purposes. Unless you choose to remain anonymous, your donor information will be sent to the nonprofits to which you give.

Here is a list of cultural organizations which offer services within the boundaries of the City of Little Rock.


There are MANY MANY MANY other worthy nonprofits which are participating. But since this is a culture blog, only the cultural institutions are listed.  But please consider visiting the website and perusing the entire list.

2017 National Magazine Award nominations include Oxford American

2e6b4_1320267846-oxa_logoThe Oxford American has been nominated for a 2017 National Magazine Award: Zandria F. Robinson’s “Listening for the Country” is a finalist in the Essays and Criticism category.
In her feature essay from the 2016 Southern Music Issue, Robinson writes of her experience planning her father’s funeral in Memphis and wrestling with her complicated memories of their relationship—all while listening to the music her father loved. Written with precise compassion and vivid insight, “Listening for the Country” is an unsparing portrait of a family caught between city and country, love and loss.
This is the Oxford American’s fourteenth National Magazine Award nomination since the magazine’s founding in 1992. The Oxford American has been awarded four National Magazine Awards in its 25 years, most notably for General Excellence in 2016.
Zandria F. Robinson and the Oxford American are nominated alongside four other esteemed writers and publications in the Essays and Criticism category: Michael Chabon for GQ, Andrew Sullivan for New York, Sam Anderson for The New York Times Magazine, and Becca Rothfeld for The Hedgehog Review.

The winners of the 2017 National Magazine Awards will be announced on Tuesday, February 7, in New York City.

The OXFORD AMERICAN received $25,000 Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts

2e6b4_1320267846-oxa_logoLittle Rock-based Oxford American magazine was announced as a recipients of funding by the National Endowment for the Arts.

National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu has approved more than $30 million in grants as part of the NEA’s first major funding announcement for fiscal year 2017. Included in
this announcement is an Art Works grant of $25,000 to the Oxford American to support the publication and promotion of the magazine in 2017.

“We are honored to receive National Endowment for the Arts funding through their Art Works program,” said Oxford American executive director Ryan Harris. “Art Works excels at providing democratized support opportunities for organizations like the Oxford American to continue their work. We are humbled to be amongst a select group of grant recipients.”

The Art Works category focuses on 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. “The arts are for all of us, and by supporting organizations such as the Oxford American, the National Endowment for the Arts is providing more opportunities for the public to engage with the arts,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Whether in a theater, a town square, a museum, or a hospital, the arts are everywhere and make our lives richer.”

The award granted to the Oxford American—a national magazine dedicated to featuring the best in Southern writing—will fund the publication of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry by both emerging and established authors.

“An investment in nonprofit publications like the Oxford American is an investment in the future of American letters,” said editor Eliza Borné. “We are grateful to receive funding from the National Endowment for the Arts for the second year in a row.”

Oxford American is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts organization and national magazine dedicated to featuring the very best in Southern writing, while documenting the complexity and vitality of the American South. The Oxford American is committed to the development of young individuals aspiring to work in the publishing industry and to the production and presentation of multidisciplinary arts events in and around Little Rock.

Billed as “A Magazine of the South,” it has won four National Magazine Awards—including the 2016 Award for General Excellence in the category of Literature, Science and Politics—and other high honors since it began publication in 1992. The magazine has featured the original work of such literary powerhouses as Charles Portis, Roy Blount, Jr., ZZ Packer, Donald Harington, Donna Tartt, Ernest J. Gaines, and many other distinguished authors, while also discovering and launching the most promising writers in the region. The magazine has also published previously unseen work by such Southern masters as William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Walker Percy, James Agee, Zora Neale Hurston, James Dickey, and Carson McCullers. In 2007, the New York Times stated that the Oxford American “may be the liveliest literary magazine in America.” The Oxford American is published from the University of Central Arkansas.