Creative Class of 2015: Reese Rowland

reeserArchitect Reese Rowland has literally changed the landscape of Little Rock.  He has designed some of Little Rock’s most recognized buildings, including Acxiom’s River Market Tower Headquarters, Bank of the Ozarks Headquarters, Heifer International’s Education Center, the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Arkansas Studies Institute and Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library.

Reese has been rewarded with over 60 National, Regional and State Design Awards in the last twelve years. His Heifer International World Headquarters design received the Nation’s highest honor for architecture, the 2008 AIA National Institute Honor Award, one of 13 awarded. The South’s first LEED Platinum building was also named a National AIA/COTE Top 10 Green Building in 2007. In 2011, his Arkansas Studies Institute design received a National AIA/ALA (American Library Association) Award of Excellence, one of five awarded in the biennial competition, honoring the best in library architecture worldwide. In 2015, his Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library won the same Award.

Arkansas Business named Reese to its prestigious list of “25 Entrepreneurs & Innovators of the last 25 years”, crediting his work with helping to transform downtown Little Rock through modern architecture. His work has been published in 25 national and international periodicals, as well as 13 books. AY Magazine named Reese to its list of “12 Powerful Men in Arkansas” for having influence, making a difference, and serving others. Additionally, Arkansas Times Magazine named him as one of “50 Influential Arkansans” as well in 2012.

In recognition of his commitment to design and the architectural profession, Reese was selected as a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 2014.  This designation goes to fewer than 4% of all architects.

14ish Cultural Highlights of 2014

2014 was a busy year.  Here are 14 cultural highlights. In no particular order. Except maybe once in while.

The Rep's Bob Hupp and Catherine Hughes flank NEA Chair Jane Chu

The Rep’s Bob Hupp and Catherine Hughes flank NEA Chair Jane Chu

Dr. Jane Chu visits Arkansas. Former Arkadelphia resident Dr. Jane Chu was appointed as the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. In October, she paid a visit to Little Rock and northwest Arkansas. While in the Rock, she participated in a discussion at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre and toured the new Creative Corridor spaces under construction for the Rep, Ballet Arkansas and Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. Dr. Chu was also the guest of honor at a reception hosted by the Arkansas Arts Council. While here, she had the chance to renew old friendships as well as make new ones.

Carroll Cloar exhibit at Arkansas Arts Center. The Arkansas Arts Center featured the works of Arkansas native Carroll Cloar. Much as the Biblical prophet who is ignored in his homeland, Cloar has long been better recognized outside of his native state.  The Cloar exhibit (which included a painting of future Little Rock mayor J. V. Satterfield playing football, a personal favorite of the LRCV) and the outreach by the AAC staff made great strides towards raising Arkansas’ consciousness about the works by the American treasure.

DSCF0011Robinson Center Music Hall closes for renovation. Opening in February 1940 as the Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium, the City’s prime venue for performances and civic gatherings needed an external and internal facelift at 74. The building closed in July 2014 for a two year renovation which will see the reconfiguration of the performance and audience space in the music hall, the creation of a new special events venue overlooking the Arkansas River, and the restoration of this historic main lobby and front façade to 1940 appearance. During this closure tenants such as Ballet Arkansas, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and Celebrity Attractions have temporarily relocated to other venues including the Pulaski Academy Connor Performing Arts Center and the Maumelle Performing Arts Center.

Ron Robinson Theater opens. Shortly before one Robinson closed, another opened.  The Central Arkansas Library System’s new Ron Robinson Theater opened. This multi-purpose venue has quickly become home to lectures (by the library, the Clinton School and others), films (in partnership with Arkansas Times, Little Rock Film Festival and others) and music (including the Arkansas Sounds series).  Named for famed Little Rock adman Ron Robinson, the public spaces pay tribute to his love of movies and music about Arkansas.

Music Music Music

  • As noted above, Arkansas Sounds has switched from a concentrated music festival to instead offering a variety of music styles and genres throughout the year at the new Ron Robinson Theatre. The music has ranged from Big Band to Klezmer to Country to Rock to Rap.  This is only one of the new music offerings in Little Rock.
  • South on Main completed its first full year of the weekly Local Live free music series sponsored by the Oxford American and Landers Fiat. South on Main also started a Jazz on Main series as well as increased their bookings of other musicians ranging from Rodney Block to Rodney Crowell.
  • Meanwhile, The Undercroft completed its first full year of (mainly) acoustic music offerings at the corner of Capitol and Scott Streets.

New Works of Art.

  • New sculptures were added to the Vogel-Schwartz Sculpture Garden and Riverfront Park as well as the Bernice Gardens.
  • In what may be the first for any symphony in the US, the musicians of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra commissioned a new piece in honor of the ASO board of directors. The work, composed by Christopher Theofanidis, was entitled The Wind and Petit Jean.  It was well-received by audience and musicians alike.
  • Ballet Arkansas sponsored a choreography competition “Visions” which featured five choreographers competing to be selected for a full-scale commission.  The winner was Hilary Wolfley whose work will be seen at the spring Ballet Arkansas presentation.
  • Finally, in conjunction with the 175th anniversary of Christ Episcopal Church (the oldest church in Little Rock to be at its original location), a new choral piece was commissioned. Daniel E. Gawthrop’s “Haste the Day” premiered on December 7.

mod delaneyThe Tonight Show with Kevin Delaney. Because Jimmy Fallon is really just a big kid at heart, he wanted to include periodic “cool” science experiments when he took over the “Tonight Show.”  After being contacted by a producer of Fallon’s show and an audition process, the Museum of Discovery’s Kevin Delaney was booked to appear.  He debuted on May 5 performing experiment with Fallon and returned on November 7. When not a guest of NBC, Delaney performs the same types of “Awesome Science” experiments for tens of thousands of children and adults at the Museum of Discovery.

New Festival of Arts. Acansa, a new multi-discplinary, multi-venue arts festival, debuted this year in September.  Over a five day period, ACANSA Arts Festival brought together audiences and cultural resources to present unique and exciting visual and performing works which celebrate the unique influence of the south and champion excellence and innovation in artistry.  There was theatre, dance, instrumental music, choral music, puppetry and visual art.

14 14 4Gridiron Returns. The talk of the return of the Star Wars movie franchise was not the only welcome news of returns. Gridiron, the biennial attorney fundraiser which spoofs politics, current events, sports and everything that is “sacred” to the general populace, returned after a hiatus.  Once again this effort was under the watchful eye of producer Judge Mary McGowan, the creative leadership of Jana Beard, and the writing prowess of the anonymous committee.  As has been the case in the past, many of the targets of the show good-naturedly showed up and laughed along in the audience.

Sculptures Returned.  Gridiron was not the only welcome return. Earlier this year several sculptures were stolen from the Vogel-Schwartz Sculpture Garden in Riverfront Park. After a media blitz about the theft, some people strolling through the park stumbled across a bag containing the missing sculptures. The pieces are in the process of being restored and will be reinstalled soon.

14 14 3Clinton Center turned 10.  Proving that you can come home again, quite a few of the people who were present for the opening of the Clinton Presidential Center in 2004 showed up again in 2014 to take part in celebratory festivities.  Among events included several lectures; a day of service benefiting the Arkansas Food Bank; a barbecue picnic; and a concert featuring Nick Jonas, Kool & the Gang and others which was hosted by Kevin Spacey.  The Clinton School also celebrated 10 years of lectures and innovative programs.

Preservation Concentration – The Quapaw Quarter Association marked the 50th Spring Tour this year. The event was co-chaired by First Lady Ginger Beebe and lifestyle expert P. Allen Smith.  Later in the year, the QQA hosted its first Mid-Century architecture tour highlighting some of Little Rock’s buildings from this style. They ended the year with the news that they had purchased the William E. Woodruff House in east Little Rock. One of Little Rock’s oldest houses, it was built by the founder of the Arkansas Gazette.  They will shore up the building to try to ensure no further decay as the building is readied for its next phase.


  • 14 14 2Reese Rowland, architect and principal at Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects of Little Rock, was named a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, awarded to fewer than 4 percent of AIA members.
  • Little Rock native Will Trice earned his third Tony Award in three years, this time for producing All The Way, the Best Play of 2014. His previous Tonys were for Porgy and Bess (Musical Revival-2012) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Play Revival-2013).
  • Arkansas native and frequent Little Rock performer Al Green was one of the 2014 Kennedy Center Honorees.
  • Little Rock’s Creative Corridor continued to rack up honors. The UA’s Community Design Center, which includes faculty and staff members from the school, won a 2014 Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects for its work on the Creative Corridor, on which it collaborated with Marlon Blackwell Architect of Fayetteville. The project also received the American Society of Landscape Architects Honor Award for Analysis and Planning.


  • 14 14Sharon Priest, a longtime cultural advocate as a City Beautiful Commission member, Little Rock City Director, Little Rock Mayor and Arkansas Secretary of State announced her retirement after 12 years as Executive Director of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership.  Over the past dozen years, she has continued her cultural advocacy.
  • One of Priest’s successors as a member of the Little Rock City Board, Stacy Hurst, was named by Gov.-Elect Asa Hutchinson to be his choice to lead the Department of Arkansas Heritage. She will oversee seven agencies including three Little Rock museums: Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, Old State House Museum and Historic Arkansas Museum.
  • Following the closure of Starving Artists Cafe, the weekly Tales from the South program (which originated from there) had to scramble to find a place.  After several weeks of a completely nomadic existence, it is now settling into a rotating list of locations. The Arkansas Arts Center’s Best Impressions restaurant has been designated a “permanent” site for the first Tuesday of each month.
  • The free outdoor Movies in the Park celebrated its 10th season this year. Founders Blake Rutherford, Heather Allmendinger and Ben Beaumont were honored at the start of the season.  A few weeks into the season, the series screened the film Frozen and set a new record for attendance by logging over 7,000 attendees.
  • After the closure of the Riverdale cinema in 2013, the space sat vacant.  In June 2014, Matt Smith moved the Market Street Cinema operations into the Riverdale space. He upgraded the equipment at Riverdale (which was also a vast improvement over the equipment at Market Street).  The new Riverdale 10 shows a mix of first-run blockbusters as well as the independent films for which Market Street had been beloved.
  • The Studio Theatre was launched adjacent to the new Lobby Bar in downtown Little Rock.  In addition to producing its own performances, it is also the new home of the Community Theatre of Little Rock and Precipice Theatre.
  • Weekend Theatre founder Ralph Hyman retired as the Artistic Director of that group. He will continue to direct productions from time to time.


Architecture of new LR library focus of talk tomorrow night

READThe Architecture and Design Network presents architect Reese Rowland and Dr. Bobby Roberts in a conversation tomorrow night. (Tuesday, May 14)
Entitled “CALS Children’s Library and Learning Center: a New Paradigm,” Rowland and Roberts will discuss the process to design and build this innovative facility. The program begins at 6pm following a 5:30pm reception.  It will take place at the new Children’s Library and Learning Center located at 4800 West 10th Street.
Five years in the making, Little Rock’s new children’s library and learning center offers a range of participatory experiences designed to encourage the growth, development and well-being of its young patrons.
Situated on a six acre, landscaped tract that borders a  residential neighborhood just south of Highway 630, the 30,000 square foot facility is like no other in the region. Designed by award-winning  architect Reese Rowland, the twelve million dollar glass, steel and stone structure houses a collection of more than 21,000 books, CDs and DVDs. Among its special features are a computer lab; a spacious meeting room; a teaching kitchen; a series of study rooms and a multi-use,165-seat  theater. A greenhouse and teaching garden, set apart from the main structure, are  part of the complex which also includes an outdoor amphitheater.
Roberts will talk about how the idea for building a combined   children’s library  and learning center came about. He will also tell  how its  location was selected.  He and Rowland will discuss their roles, as client and architect, in the project’s design. They will talk about the kinds of programming  envisioned for the  facility and discuss  ways in which it plans to  engage with other  institutions and organizations in the community to serve children and their  families.
The event, part of  ADN’s Art of Architecture lecture series,  is free and open to the public. Series’  supporters include the Central Arkansas Chapter of the AIA, the Arkansas Arts Center,  UA’s Fay Jones School of Architecture and CALS. For additional information contact


Another elite architectural award for a Little Rock firm and building

Polk Stanley Wilcox of Little Rock was awarded the American Architecture Award for its design of the Heifer International Murphy Keller Education Center in Little Rock.

In the last five years, PSW has won this award for both the Acxiom Data Center and the Heifer International Headquarters.

The Murphy Keller Eduction Center provides a place for visitors, staff, volunteers and the international development community to come together to learn about world hunger and poverty and current solutions to these problems.

It features an interactive learning center that includes exhibit space, a conference hall, a fair trade gift market and food service area.

“This recognition is proof that good design matters, and can contribute to getting an organization like Heifer’s message out into the public eye, which is critical for their humanitarian efforts,” Reese Rowland, the project’s principal architect, said. “We are also excited to bring more national exposure to downtown Little Rock as well.”

The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design, together with The European Centre for Architecture Art Design & Urban Studies and Metropolitan Arts Press Ltd., selected the Polk Stanley Wilcox design for the award, one of 46 given this year.

The American Architecture Award aims to celebrate the “most outstanding new architecture” designed and built in the United States by American and international architects.

About 1,000 projects from around the world were considered for the award.

Arts & Humanities Month: Rowher Art Exhibit at Arkansas Studies Institute

The Arkansas Studies Institute (ASI) is a collaboration between the Central Arkansas Library System’s Butler Center for Arkansas Studies and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Rohwer Camp #23 artist unknown

In addition to being a repository for historical collections, the ASI houses four art galleries, , featuring the work of Arkansas artists and art related to the state. The exhibit galleries feature rotating exhibits including works from the CALS permanent collection.

Currently on display is the multi-media exhibit entitled “The Art of Living: Japanese American Creative Experience at Rowher.”  Curated by Butler Center staff from the Mabel Rose Jamison Vogel/Rosalie Santine Gould Collection, it showcases art created by internees at the Rohwer Relocation Center in Desha County and tells the story of creativity in the face of dire circumstances. It is on display through November 26.


Also on display at the ASI are the following exhibits:

  • Thomas Harding, Pinhole Photography – October 14 – December 31
  • Arkansas Pastel Society’s National Exhibition – October 14 – January 14
  • Leon Niehues: 21st Century Basketmaker – October 14 – January 28

Designed by the architectural firm of Polk Stanley Wilcox, the ASI campus is comprised of three buildings from three different centuries which were combined seamlessly.  In recognition of this effort, the Arkansas Studies Institute (ASI) received the 2011 AIA/ALA Library Building Award—one of only five awards given worldwide. The award, presented every two years by the national American Institute of Architects and the American Library Association, honors excellence in the architectural design and planning of libraries.

“We worked diligently to design a facility that would both connect the public with Arkansas’s rich history and enliven the streetscape, drawing people in,” said Reese Rowland, project design principal with Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects. “This national recognition is a testament to the public’s trust and continued investment in one of our community’s most critical assets, the public library. Our firm takes great pride in contributing to that trust. It’s always an honor to work with the visionary leadership at CALS.”