Artober – Public Art: Henry Moore’s Large Standing Figure Knife Edge

Arguably Little Rock’s most famous piece of public art is Henry Moore’s 1961 creation Large Standing Figure: Knife Edge, which is known locally as “The Henry Moore Sculpture.”

The original model was created in 1961; this sculpture was cast in 1976 and purchased in June 1978 by the Little Rock Metrocentre Improvement District.

The purchase price was $185,000 — a princely sum at the time but now a bargain for a Henry Moore sculpture. (Adjusted for inflation, that amount would be the equivalent of $705,000 today.)

A committee consisting of Townsend Wolfe (then the director and chief curator of the Arkansas Arts Center), James Dyke and Dr. Virginia Rembert traveled to England to meet with Moore about the sculpture.

It was originally placed on Main Street when the street had been bricked over as part of the Metrocentre Mall pedestrian mall plan. As portions of the street became unbricked and reopened to vehicular traffic, it was moved to the intersection of Capitol and Main. Finally, when the last segment was reopened to vehicular traffic, it was put at its current location of the southeast corner of Capitol and Louisiana. Because it was purchased by the Improvement District, it must stay within the boundaries of the district.

On March 20, 2018, the City of Little Rock and the Metrocentre Improvement District swapped the Henry Moore sculpture for the land on which the District’s parking deck stands. The City will relocate the Henry Moore piece to be in front of the Arkansas Arts Center once that reconstruction project is completed.

A replica of the sculpture is featured in the 1980s classic The Breakfast Club.

Advertisements

Arkansas Arts Center Goes to China – Sept. 1, 1975

TIna Poe, Raida Pfeifer and Jeane Hamilton at the Great Wall of China (photo from collection of Jeane Hamilton)

On September 1, 1975, a group from the Arkansas Arts Center left Little Rock for a study tour of China. This was the first non-governmental group from the United States who had been authorized to tour the People’s Republic of China.

Fred Poe, of Poe Travel, and Jeane Hamilton were the organizers of the trip.  It was part of the annual travel seminars the Arts Center  would take to locations throughout the world to learn more about art and culture.  It took many months of planning as wells as mounds and pounds of paperwork to get this trip underway.

Persons interested in the trip had to apply and be approved by the Chinese government in order to participate in the trip.   The Chinese government selected eighteen AAC members from submitted applications and the group visited Beijing, Shanghai, Changsha, Kweilin, and Guangzhou.

The AAC Traveling Seminar participants in front of Mao’s birthplace. (Photo from the Jeane Hamilton collection.)

Little Rock Look Back: Birth of longtime Arkansas Arts Center director Townsend Wolfe

Townsend Wolfe, who led the Arkansas Arts Center for 34 years, was born on August 15, 1935.  He was hired to lead the Arkansas Arts Center 50 years ago this month.

Though not the founding director of the Arkansas Arts Center, Wolfe was the director for well over half of the institution’s 57 year history. Hired in 1968 at the age of 32 (making him one of the youngest art museum directors in the US at the time), he retired in 2002.  That year he was honored with the Governor’s Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Arkansas Arts Council.

A native of South Carolina, Wolfe held a bachelor’s degree from the Atlanta Art Institute and a master’s degree from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. He also received a certificate from the Harvard Institute of Arts Administration, and honorary doctoral degrees from two other institutions.  After teaching some classes and seminars at the AAC in the early 1960s, he was recruited to return full-time to the Arkansas Arts Center by Governor and Mrs. Winthrop Rockefeller.

During his tenure at the Arts Center, he first was responsible for creating financial stability. After drastic cost-cutting measures, he refocused programming which led to the creation of the current Museum School, a focus of works on paper for the collection, cultivating a thriving collectors group, establishment of a children’s theatre, expansion of statewide services, and several additions to the physical structure.  He encouraged others to collect art and expanded Arts Center programming into Little Rock neighborhoods.

In addition to serving on the National Council of the Arts, Wolfe was a member of the National Museum Services Board and the board of the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts in New York. He was curator for an exhibition in the First Ladies’ Sculpture Garden at the White House in 1995, and was the recipient of the 1997 Distinguished Service Award (outside the profession) by the National Art Educators Association.

Over the years, Wolfe has served in a variety of capacities for the Association of American Museums, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Wolfe, who died in 2017, was posthumously honored by the Arts Center in 2018 with one of its Portrait of a Patron awards.  In 1973, he received the first Winthrop Rockefeller Memorial Award from the Arkansas Arts Center.

Celebrating Henry Moore’s Birthday with a look at Large Standing Figure, Knife Edge

British sculptor Henry Moore was born on July 30, 1898.  He became connected with Little Rock 80 years after his birth.

It was 1978, Bill Clinton was making his first run for Governor, Dallas and Robin Williams both made their TV debuts, disco was dominating the music scene, and Little Rock received its first major piece of public art.

Arguably Little Rock’s most famous piece of public art is Henry Moore’s 1961 creation Large Standing Figure: Knife Edge, which is known locally as “The Henry Moore Sculpture.”

The original model was created in 1961; this sculpture was cast in 1976 and purchased in June 1978 by the Little Rock Metrocentre Improvement District.

The purchase price was $185,000 — a princely sum at the time but now a bargain for a Henry Moore sculpture. (Adjusted for inflation, that amount would be the equivalent of $727,000 today.)

A committee consisting of Townsend Wolfe (then the director and chief curator of the Arkansas Arts Center), James Dyke and Dr. Virginia Rembert traveled to England to meet with Moore about the sculpture.

It was originally placed on Main Street when the street had been bricked over as part of the Metrocentre Mall pedestrian mall plan. As portions of the street became unbricked and reopened to vehicular traffic, it was moved to the intersection of Capitol and Main. Finally, when the last segment was reopened to vehicular traffic, it was put at its current location of the southeast corner of Capitol and Louisiana.

In March 2018, ownership was transferred to the City of Little Rock.  Plans call for it to be relocated to the Arkansas Arts Center when it reopens in 2022.

A replica of the sculpture is featured in the 1980s classic The Breakfast Club.

Women Making History – Jeannette Edris Rockefeller

Jeannette Edris Rockefeller only lived in Arkansas for about fifteen years. But her impact on the cultural life of Little Rock and all of Arkansas continues to be felt today.

Born and raised in Seattle, as a young mother she met Winthrop Rockefeller while both were in New York.  He moved to Arkansas in 1953; after their 1956 marriage, she joined him. They split their time between Little Rock and Petit Jean.

In 1959, she was asked to become involved in plans for a new art museum in Little Rock.  She became a tireless advocate and fundraiser for the new Arkansas Arts Center.   In 1960, she assumed the role of president of the Arkansas Arts Center Board of Trustees, a position she held until 1968.  During that time period she oversaw the planning, construction and opening of the building.  She also invited Townsend Wolfe, who she had met when he taught some classes at the Arts Center, to apply to become the museum’s first executive director.

From 1967 to 1971, she was First Lady of Arkansas.  In that capacity, she supervised renovation of the Governor’s Mansion and started the tradition of displaying art on the walls.

Shortly after her 1971 divorce from Rockefeller, she relocated to California.  She continued to be a supporter of the Arts Center.  One of the galleries in the Arts Center is named in her honor.  In addition, one of the sculptures on the lawn of the Arts Center, Standing Red, was dedicated in 1970 in recognition of her service on the Arts Center Board.

Little Rock Look Back: First night of first TABRIZ

After over a decade of the Beaux Arts Bal (it was spelled the French way with only one “L”), a change was afoot in 1971. Because of the need to raise more money for the Arkansas Arts Center, the Fine Arts Club decided to replace their evening of dining and dancing with an auction event.

While there had undoubtedly been thrift sales and small-scale bidding on items to raise money in Little Rock, this effort would be the first large-scale endeavor to use an auction as part of a fundraiser.   In order to maximize the fundraising potential, it was decided this would be a two-night event. The first night (Friday, February 12) would be casual with a silent auction while the second (Saturday, February 13) would be formal.

There were two major reasons the Fine Arts Club needed to raise more money.  The National Endowment for the Arts had issued the Arts Center a challenge grant which required a $10,000 match. In addition, the Arkansas Arts Center was trying to build up an endowment for future purchases.  (This was less than three years after the facility had been faced with closing its doors.)

The name Tabriz was chosen because it was the name of a cultural city in the Mideast known for its marketplace.  The first edition had the tagline of “A Persian Market of All Things.”

The logo was designed by Jim Johnson of the firm then-known as Cranford/Johnson Associates. The decorations echoed the exotic theme employing palm trees, ferns, ceramic elephants, paisley fabric swaths, and turbans.

Among those working on the first Tabriz were Jane McGehee Wilson, Betty Mitchell, Betty Terry, Frances Cranford, Feetie Hurst, Tina Poe, Annette Connaway, Willie Oates, Phyllis Brandon, Jane Wolfe, and Mary Worthen.

Over 650 people attended the Friday night event. Admission of $5 provided sandwiches (conflicting newspaper accounts indicate either coldcut sandwiches or hot dogs) and beer.  Mixed drinks were an additional $1.

Newspaper coverage indicated that men wore “sports outfits,” suits without ties, or colorful parkas. It attracted men with “longhair and beards” and “conventional haircuts.” (Depending on who the writer was, “longhair” could have meant anything over one inch.)  The women that Friday favored maxi or midi skirts. There were no mini skirts on hand, but a Gazette reporter noted that some women were wearing hot pants which might make a mini skirt look long.

Music was provided by the trio of Tom, Jerry, and Barbara.

Because a Silent Auction was such a new thing, newspaper coverage pointed out that the rooms were actually quite full of sound as people chatted with each other both about bidding on the items and socializing in general.

To give people a preview of the auction items, the Arts Center galleries had been opened for viewing on the Sunday and Monday prior to the Friday and Saturday events.  An auction catalog was also available for pickup in advance of Friday.

Among the items up for bid were tennis and golf lessons, visits to beauty salons, credit at a pharmacy, a tour of the Municipal Courts building and lunch with city prisoners, a tour of the Little Rock Zoo, jewelry, artwork, tickets to Razorback games, a football jersey worn by Lance Alworth, a week in Las Vegas (one of only three items with a minimum bid), and a subscription to an answering service.

When all was said and done, the evening raised $9,500 for the Arkansas Arts Center.