Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


Happy 90th to former LR Mayor Buddy Benafield

Future Little Rock Mayor James Weldon “Buddy” Benafield was born on July 5, 1927 in Coy, Arkansas.  As a child he spent part of his time chopping cotton.  He graduated from England High School and then served in the U.S. Navy.  Following his stint in the military, he enrolled in Arkansas State Teachers College (now the University of Central Arkansas).

After college he returned to England.  From 1967 to 1974 he served as Mayor of England.  While in England, he also worked to establish a hospital there. While he was Mayor, Benafield also served as a legislative aide to Governor Dale Bumpers.

After moving to Little Rock, Benafield served as legislative aide to Governor Frank White.  He had been a donor to former Governor Bill Clinton, who had been defeated by White. Though a staunch Democrat, he remarked to the media at the time that he had been a friend of White’s and never declined a Governor’s request for help.

Long active in Democratic politics, he had served as Secretary of the State Democratic Party.  (One of his daughters, Dawne Benafield Vandiver has carried on the family tradition serving in several leadership positions in the State Democratic Party.  Most recently she was Executive Director of the party.)

In January 1982, Benafield was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Little Rock City Board of Directors. He ran for election to a full term in November 1982 and was reelected in November 1986.  From January 1983 to December 1984, Benafield served as Mayor of Little Rock.

After leaving the Little Rock City Board in January 1991, he has remained engaged in civic matters.  He served a term on the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Commission.  He was first appointed in January 1993 by Gov. Jim Guy Tucker to fill out the remainder of Rodney Slater’s term. Slater had resigned to to take a job in the Clinton Administration in Washington DC.  In 1995, he was reappointed, this time to a full ten year term.  This was only the second time a member of the Highway Commission had been reappointed.

Buddy Benafield is the only Little Rock Mayor to have also been a mayor of another Arkansas city.  He continues to be involved in farming and a variety of business ventures and has maintained his interest in politics.


Black History Month – Kristin Lewis & Christin-Marie Hill with Arkansas Symphony at Robinson Center

aso-mahler-soloTonight at Robinson Center, soprano Kristin Lewis and mezz-soprano Christin-Marie Hill will be soloists as the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra presents Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony.  The concert will be repeated tomorrow.  Under the baton of Music Director Philip Mann, these two ladies and the ASO will be joined by combined choirs from UA Little Rock, UCA, Lyon College, Hendrix College and the Arkansas Chamber Singers.  Yesterday the two soloists hosted a Brown Bag Lunch at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center as a way for the community to meet them.

Kristin Lewis is a native of Little Rock.  A lyrico-spinto soprano lauded for her interpretations of Verdi heroines, she began her vocal studies at the University of Central Arkansas under the guidance of Dr. Martha Antolik. After receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree, she continued with her Master of Music studies at the University of Tennessee with Ms. Kay Paschal and Mr. Andrew Wentzel. Her postgraduate instruction was led by Dr. Jonathan Retzlaff. She currently lives in Vienna, Austria, and is a student of Carol Byers.

A recipient of many honors, Ms. Lewis was recently awarded the 2015 College of Arts and Sciences Divisional Achievement Award for the Visual and Performing Arts from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She was awarded the Orazio Tosi Prize 2012, given by the Club Lirica Parma, at the birthplace of Giuseppe Verdi. Ms. Lewis was named the 2010 recipient of the Artist of the Year Award by the Savonlinna Opera Festival. In addition, she was voted a 2010 recipient of the coveted “Oscars of the Opera” by the Foundation of Verona for the Arena. She is a two-time National Finalist of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Competition. She has also been a finalist of the “XLVI Concours International de Chant de la Ville de Toulouse”, a winner of the “Internationalen Gesangswettbewerb Ferruccio Tagliavini” and a winner of the “Concorso Internazionale Di Musica Gian Battista Viotti”. Ms. Lewis also won the Opera Prize and the Audience Award in the “Concorso Internationale di Canto Debutto A Meran.  In 2015, she made her Carnegie Hall debut as a soloist with Mahler’s Second Symphony.

Christin-Marie Hill previously sang with the ASO in Verdi’s Messa de Requieum and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.  Career highlights  include singing with the Minnesota Opera, Oper Frankfurt, Carnegie Hall, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Kansas Opera Theater, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Tanglewood Festival, and as a soloist with the Mark Morris Dance Company.  An avid concert and oratorio soloist, Ms. Hill’s extensive list of concert credits include appearances with the Memphis Symphony, Richmond Symphony, Utah Festival Opera Orchestra, and Atlanta Symphony.

A native of Evanston, Illinois, her distinctions include a fellowship in voice from the University of Illinois as well as career grants from the San Francisco Opera, the Rislov Foundation, the Kaplan Foundation, and the 2005 Elardo International Opera Competition. Ms. Hill holds bachelor’s degrees in French literature and sociology, and a master’s degree in vocal performance from the University of Illinois.


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.


Creative Class 2016: Hunter Brown

cc16-brownHunter Brown was born and raised in Little Rock. His mother was always painting and his father was always working with his hands building and creating. While he did not originally envision himself as an artist, he discovered sculpture as a student of the University of Central Arkansas. After graduating Hunter gradually built a design and sculpture studio, where he would continue to explore with sculptural forms. Today Hunter is the owner and operator of Innovative Sculpture Design Studio where he creates fine art full time, traveling throughout the country to fine art shows and festivals.

His work moves between the figurative and the abstract, modern and contemporary styles. While many sculptors fabricate their forms with flawless craftsmanship and machine-like precision, he chooses to exploit the natural characteristics of materials and the fabrication process. By experimenting with finishes, grind patterns, tool markings, welding techniques, and even slag from the torch, Hunter has developed a style that captures his process and leaves his imprint in the work.

Having installations throughout the U.S., Hunter was one of the artists in the 2016 Sculpture at the River Market show.  Year round his work can be found at the Matt McLeod Gallery.


Creative Class 2016: Chad Bradford

cc16-bradfordActor and director Chad Bradford started appearing on Little Rock stages while he was still a student at Hall High School.  Since then, he has appeared Off Broadway, in national tours, and in numerous regional theatres throughout the U.S.  While often appearing in Shakespeare or other classical plays, he is equally at home in farce, musicals, and drawing room comedies.  In 2015, he played the title character in the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre production of Puss in Boots. In other words, he is a versatile actor.

Earlier this year, he directed Twelfth Night for Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre (while also appearing in their productions of West Side Story and A Midsummer Night’s Dream).  Twelfth Night was later remounted at Shake on the Lake Shakespeare in New York and returned to Conway for another appearance.  (This is not his first show to originate in Little Rock and be performed throughout the US. In 2013, he helmed David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries here before it played elsewhere.)  In 2015, National Arts Strategies named him a Creative Community Fellows recipient.

He is currently in rehearsals directing David Ives’s The Liar on the UCA Mainstage.  It plays October 20-22, and 27 & 28.


International Jazz Day – Bryan Massey’s JAZZ PLAYER

Massey JazzApril 30 is International Jazz Day.

In commemoration of that, here is Bryan Massey, Sr.’s Jazz Player.  It is located in the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden in Riverfront Park.

Massey, who is an artist and art professor at the University of Central Arkansas, created this piece in honor of Bill Clinton and his love of jazz.  It was sculpted in 2009 in honor of the fifth anniversary of the opening of the Clinton Presidential Center.

The sculpture is placed next to another piece of Massey’s called Uptown Saturday Night which depicts a couple dancing to music.  Together they present a celebration of music, dance, and having fun.


The Oxford American presents the UCA Dixieland Band tonight at South on Main

SOM UCA jazzTonight (March 1) at 7:00 PM, the Oxford American magazine presents the UCA Dixieland Band at South on Main.

This event is free and open to the public. Call ahead to South on Main to make your reservations and ensure a table: (501) 244-9660.

 

The UCA Dixieland Band was founded in 1976 by Professor Patrick Hasty. The group has a long tradition of performing all styles of Traditional Jazz at venues across campus and in the Central Arkansas area. Merging the instrumentation of Early New Orleans Style and Chicago Style jazz, the group utilizes clarinet, tenor saxophone, trumpet, trombone, piano, banjo/guitar, sousaphone/bass, and drum set. The ensemble studies original and contemporary recordings and prepares their own arrangements with an emphasis on collective and individual improvisation, and is currently coached by Dr. Jackie Lamar.