18 Cultural Events from 2018 – Windgate Center for Art + Design opens at UA Little Rock

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Photo of Windgate Center (courtesy UA Little Rock Department of Art and Design)

2. In February, the new WIndgate Center for Art + Design opened on the UA Little Rock campus.  This 65,000 square foot building put, for the first time, all of the art and design programs under the same roof.  In addition to classrooms, it features two gallery spaces.

The Windgate Center of Art + Design building is physically divided into two distinct architectural forms based on the distinctly unique use of the spaces. However both forms are connected and share common building utilities and circulation patterns. The Applied Design area of the building is a single story high bay industrial style space that lends itself to 3 dimensional forms of art. The Visual Arts portion of the building is a 3-story structural steel framed building to house the typical classrooms, galleries, lecture hall, admin area and other miscellaneous spaces that make up the visual arts program.

The Windgate Center of Art + Design building is designed to have a strong community presence to help strengthen the various community partnerships that have been forged over the years. Access for gallery shows, art festivals and other events is an important component in the building design.

Sustainable measures are fully integrated into the building orientation, exterior envelope and support systems to support energy and long-term maintenance efficiencies. The building will pursue LEED Gold and is currently being registered in the LEED Certification program.

As part of the Windgate Foundation’s commitment to the project, the University pledged to raise $3 million in scholarships for art students.

In October of 2018, a new seven foot tall wooden sculpture by Robyn Horn was installed at the entrance to the building and dedicated.

Architects of Little Rock the focus of June’s Legacies & Lunch

Architects of LR bookCharles Witsell and Gordon Wittenberg, retired principals of Little Rock architecture firms and co-authors of the newly released Architects of Little Rock: 1833-1950, will discuss Little Rock’s architectural history at Legacies & Lunch on Wednesday, June 4, noon-1 p.m. in the CALS Main Library’s Darragh Center, 100 Rock Street.

Witsell and Wittenberg are retired principals of WER Architects/Planners (Witsell, Evans and Rasco) and WD&D (Wittenberg, Delony and Davidson). Architects of Little Rock: 1833-1950 profiles thirty-five architects, including George R. Mann, Thomas Harding, Charles L. Thompson, and more. Famous buildings such as the Arkansas State Capitol, St. Andrews Cathedral, the Pulaski County Court House, Central High School, and Robinson Auditorium are showcased as well. Copies of the book will be available for purchase; Wittenberg and Witsell will sign copies after their talk.

Legacies & Lunch, the Butler Center’s monthly lecture series, is free, open to the public, and supported in part by the Arkansas Humanities Council. Programs are held from noon-1 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month. Attendees are invited to bring a sack lunch; drinks and dessert are provided. For more information, contact 918-3033.

Book on LR Architects celebrated tonight

Architects of LR bookTonight, the Historic Arkansas Museum will be hosting a lecture and book signing for the recently released Architects of Little Rock: 1833–1950, penned by Little Rock architects, Charles Witsell and Gordon Wittenberg.

The evening will begin at 5:30 with a special presentation and lecture discussing the book. Speakers will include Bill Worthen, Historic Arkansas Museum; Tom Adams, WD&D; John Greer, WER Architects/Planners; Bobby Roberts, Central Arkansas Library and a special presentation will be given by Wesley Walls, President AIA Arkansas.

A reception and book signing will begin immediately following the lecture. All are invited to attend this special evening. “There are many ways of knowing the built environment. In their Architects of Little Rock, Mr. Witsell and Mr. Wittenberg explore the always complex relationship between buildings and the visionary thinkers—sometimes ordinary craftsman— who produced them. In so doing, they not only have uncovered the design rationales and circumstances of production that influenced a wide spectrum of Little Rock architecture but moreover have written a significant work of architectural scholarship that addresses the history of the architect’s profession,” Ethel Goodstein-Murphree, architectural historian and professor of architecture, University of Arkansas.

Architects of Little Rock: 1833–1950, is being released this month. The book is co-written by Little Rock architects, Charles Witsell and Gordon Wittenberg and edited by Marylyn Jackson Parins. Architects of Little Rock provides biographical and historical sketches of the architects at work in Little Rock from 1833 to 1950. It is the story of the people behind the city’s most important buildings. Thirty-five architects are profiled, including George R. Mann, Thomas Harding, Charles L. Thompson, Max F. Mayer, Edwin B. Cromwell, George H. Wittenberg, Lawson L. Delony, and others. Famous buildings, including the Historic Arkansas Museum, the Old State House, the Arkansas State Capitol, St. Andrews Cathedral, Little Rock City Hall, the Pulaski County Court House, Little Rock Central High School and Robinson Auditorium are showcased, bringing attention to and encouraging appreciation of the city’s historic buildings.

Charles Witsell and Gordon Wittenberg are retired principals of the Little Rock architecture firms WER Architects/Planners (Witsell, Evans and Rasco) and WD&D (Wittenberg, Delony and Davidson), respectively.

Septaquintaquinquecentennial of Christ Church in Little Rock (that means 175 years)

christchurch_scaledThough there have been several churches and institutions in downtown Little Rock for over a century, Christ Episcopal Church has been at Scott and Capital Streets since 1840. That marks probably the longest continuous single use of one location in Little Rock’s history.

Today, the church marks its Septaquintaquinquecentennial.  The first church service was held on March 10, 1839, at Little Rock’s Presbyterian Church, which was then on what is now Second Street. The Rt. Rev. Leonidas Polk, missionary bishop of Arkansas, conducted the service.  After it was concluded, a group met in the home of Senator Chester Ashley and organized Christ Episcopal Church, named after Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia, of which several of those present had been members.

Among the early members of the church were several future Little Rock Mayors including Lambert J. Reardon, John Wassell, Samuel Webb and Gordon Peay.  Nicholas Peay, Gordon’s father and a member of the church, served on the Little Rock City Council.  Future Little Rock Mayor William Ashley was the first Little Rock resident to be married at Christ Church.

The first sanctuary was constructed in 1840-1841 and was later destroyed by fire in 1873 (most likely due to a lightning strike).  After meeting in a variety of places, a chapel was constructed on the property and served as the church’s primary place of worship while the new sanctuary was being built.  It opened in 1887.  It was in the chapel that future General Douglas MacArthur was baptized as an infant while his family resided in Little Rock.

In 1928, a Parish Hall was built. This was one of the first church buildings in the South which featured a gym and other spaces available for use not just by church members but by the entire city.  It would later serve as the temporary sanctuary of Christ Church.  On October 1, 1938, the second sanctuary burned just as a renovation had been completed.  Though there was no official cause of the fire, it was most likely due to spontaneous combustion of construction materials.

The cornerstone for the third, and current, sanctuary was laid on October 1, 1940.  Construction was completed in 1941.  It was designed by Edwin Cromwell with the unofficial assistance of the then-Rector, Rev. Dr. William Postell Witsell. (Dr. Witsell appreciated architecture and the arts. He was very instrumental in the design of the stained glass windows which hang in the church today.  Charles Witsell, one of the founders of the Witsell, Evans, Rasco firm, is a grandson of Dr. Witsell.) In the 1980s, an addition was built along Scott Street to connect the sanctuary with the Parish Hall.

Along with the revitalization of downtown, Christ Church has been active in implementing innovative programming in a variety of areas including sustainability and the arts. The Rector, Rev. Scott Walters, and Associate Rector, Rev. Dr. Kate Alexander, often pepper their sermons with references to poetry, music (both sacred and secular), writers, artists and even comedians.

The Arts at Christ Church program has brought such varied artists as Mavis Staples, Baltimore Konsort and the Vienna Boys Choir to Little Rock. In 1990, Nichols & Simpson, a Little Rock based organ builder of international renown, constructed a new organ for the Christ Church sanctuary replacing a 1954 organ.  While used in worship, it is also used for a variety of organ recitals throughout the year.  Christ Church has been a sponsor of the Arkansas Literary Festival for the past several years and participates in the 2nd Friday Art Night with a rotating gallery of Arkansas artists. In addition, the Undercroft debuted in late 2013. This intimate music space is located underneath the sanctuary and offers a venue for acoustic music.

To mark the 175th anniversary, Rt. Rev. Larry R. Benfield, the thirteenth Bishop of the Diocese of Arkansas will be conducting an Evensong service this evening.  Prior to being named Bishop, he served as Rector of Christ Church.

Arts Center, studioMain present lecture on Bauhas tonight.

bauhaus

Photograph by Gordon Watkinson
Bauhaus Building – ‘Bauhaus Sign’

The Arkansas Arts Center, the state’s premiere center for visual and performing arts, together with studioMain, presents a special symposium, “From the Bauhaus to Our House,” discussing the history and influence of the Bauhaus movement to be held Friday, May 24, at 5 p.m., in the Arkansas Arts Center Lecture Hall. This symposium is in conjunction with the Arts Center’s current exhibition, Bauhaus twenty-21: An Ongoing Legacy – Photographs by Gordon Watkinson, on view May 24 – September 1, in the Winthrop Rockefeller Gallery.

“The Arts Center is pleased to be hosting such a notable panel of expert speakers,” said Arkansas Arts Center director of education Lou Palermo. “The Bauhaus movement was inspired by a world-changing vision to unite artists and craftsmen, and we will take a deeper look into that vision with the upcoming symposium. We are so excited to be partnering with studioMain to be able to offer this event to our friends and members of the Arkansas Arts Center.”

There will then be an hour break for viewing the exhibit and refreshments, followed by a 7 p.m. discussion with a panel of architectural experts in the design fields. Admission is free and no ticket required. The symposium will feature four of the top speakers in the state to discuss this important movement in architectural history. They are as follows: Dr. Floyd Martin (UALR, Art History), John Greer (WER Architects and Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas), Mia Hall (UALR, Applied Design) and Dr. Ethel Goodstein-Murphree (UA Fay Jones School of Architecture).

This exhibition conveys the lasting philosophies of the Bauhaus, a German expression meaning “house for building” and the name of an important German School principle of architecture and design. The Bauhaus school was founded by Walter Gropius in 1919 and introduced the sleek, functional architecture that is found in many of today’s modern buildings.

The exhibition is comprised of photographs, plans and elevations, and furniture that capture the essence of Bauhaus design and its influence on architecture. By pairing Bauhaus buildings with contemporary examples by leading architects, Gordon Watkinson explores the legacy of such modern ideas as passive solar, radiant heat and prefabricating housing.

A Double Dozen of Cultural Milestones of 2012

Happy New Year!  Here are a double dozen of the Culture Vulture’s Cultural Milestones from 2012 (in no definitive order but a rough chronilogical order).

Home1 – The year kicked off with the reopening of the Museum of Discovery. In 2011, the museum was gutted and redone from top to bottom. The result is three new galleries with 85 interactive exhibits as well as a high profile streetfront entrance.  A $9.2 million grant from Donald W. Reynolds Foundation provided the primary underwriting for the renovations, which also brought a subtitling of the museum as the Donald W. Reynolds Science Center.

Hupp

2 – Arkansas Rep Producing Artistic Director Robert M. Hupp received two honors in the first quarter of the year.  In February, he was named Arkansas Business Non-Profit Executive of the Year.  The next month Hupp received the Diamond Award from the Arkansas Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.  Hupp has been at Arkansas Rep since 1999.  He currently serves on the board of the Theatre Communications Group, the national service organization for non-profit theatres.

Landesman

3 – Rocco Landesman, the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, visited Arkansas in March.   While in Little Rock, he participated in a panel discussion with Bob Hupp of the Arkansas Rep, Warwick Sabin of the Oxford American, Joy Pennington of the Arkansas Arts Council and Beth Wiedower of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Landesman, a Tony winning Broadway producer, was named the 10th chair of the NEA in 2009.   He announced his plans to retire later in the year.

4 – Polk Stanley Wilcox architectural firm was awarded the American Architecture Award for its design of the Heifer International Murphy Keller Education Center in March.  It is the third American Architecture Award the firm has won in the last five years. The firm also won for designing the Acxiom Data Center and the Heifer International Headquarters, also in Little Rock. Heifer broke ground in the $7.5 million Keller Education Center in 2007. The building 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.

Kaiser

5 – Michael Kaiser, president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, presided over the 2012 Arkansas Arts Summit in April at the Clinton Presidential Center.  The programmatic arm of the conference was developed and presented by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the Kennedy Center, and provided practical training for board members and arts administrators. The event was sponsored by the Arkansas Arts Council.  Little Rock designer and business owner Kaki Hockersmith, who serves on the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts for the the Kennedy Center, was instrumental in organizing the event.

Rockefeller

6 – May 1 marked the 100th birthday of former Arkansas Governor Winthrop Rockefeller.  In addition to being a political leader, he was a cultural and philanthropic leader.  Perhaps his most obvious impact was helping to transform the provincial Little Rock Museum of Fine Arts into the first rate Arkansas Arts Center.  He and his family were generous donors of money and art to this effort.  Through the effort of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, many cultural institutions have received funds for programming which has reached into every county and every corner of this state.  For instance, one of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s string quartets is the Rockefeller Quartet.

Sabin

7 – Later in May, Oxford American publisher Warwick Sabin won a primary for the Democratic nomination for District 33 of the Arkansas House of Representatives. He was unopposed in the November election and will take office in January 2013.

8 – As May ended, Riverfest turned 35.  Among the headliners were Boyz II Men, Lynard Skynard, Staind, Third Eye Blind, Joe Walsh, Snoop Dogg, Rodney Block, and Trout Fishing in America.  Since beginning, Riverfest has contributed over $1 million to promote and upgrade parks in Central Arkansas.  Approximately 250,000 festival-goers attended the 2012 event, with an estimated economic impact of $33 million on the community.

oxfordamerican9 – In June, the Oxford American received a $290,000 ArtPlace Grant for its “South on Main” Project.  The space will include a restaurant that will celebrate Southern culinary culture. Accompanying the food will be nightly cultural programming that will feature the best of Southern arts and culture across a variety of formats including literature, music, film, art and drama. The Oxford American will focus on community-oriented programming developed through partnerships with local organizations and institutions.  It is slated to open in the first quarter of 2013.

Selz

10 – Also in June, Nan Selz, who has led the Museum of Discovery since 2004 and revitalized the once-struggling museum announced her intention to retire at the end of 2012.  Since joining the Museum in February 2004, Selz used her leadership to ensure that the Museum has become central Arkansas’s premier math, science and technology center. She has nearly 50 years executive, development and teaching experience having worked in corporate, non-profit and education sectors.  In December, Kelley Bass was named to succeed Selz.

11 – Ann Richards’ Texas a documentary about the colorful former Governor of Texas won the WGA Documentary Screenplay Award at the AFI SilverDocs festival in June.  The brainchild of Keith Patterson and Arkansans Jack Lofton, Susan Altrui, Eric Wilson and Dr. Jordan Cooper, the documentary received a screening at the Paley Center in New York City in October.

12 – The Laura P. Nichols Cheetah Outpost was officially dedicated at the Little Rock Zoo in July. Mayor Mark Stodola and City Manager Bruce Moore were in attendance for the opening remarks and ribbon cutting ceremony. Zoo Director Mike Blakely introduced special guest, Anne Schmidt-Kuentzel, research geneticist and assistant director for animal health and research at the Cheetah Conservation Fund, a world-wide non profit dedicated to saving the wild cheetah and its habitat. She thanked the zoo for supporting the cheetahs.  The cheetahs, Zazi and her daughter Maggie, come from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Virginia.

Hodge

13 – Roger D. Hodge, former editor of Harper’s was named as the new editor of the Oxford American magazine.  Mr. Hodge is the author of  The Mendacity of Hope a critique of President Obama published by HarperCollins in 2010, and is currently working on another book focusing on life in the borderlands of West Texas.  A native of Texas, he studied comparative literature at Sewanee in Tennessee, and began his career as a freelance writer in North Carolina.
operainrock14 –  Opera in the Rock launched and hosted its first event – “Opera on the Rocks” out at Wildwood Park for the Arts. Opera in the Rock is focused on returning live opera performances to Little Rock on a regular basis. The company has announced plans for a performance in February at the Clinton Presidential Center.

15 – The Central Arkansas Library System’s Butler Center for Arkansas Studies launched Arkansas Sounds, a music festival, in September.  The festival featured over twenty events (concerts, lectures and other special programs) over an extended weekend.  Focusing on Arkansas music and musicians both past and present, Arkansas Sounds will also work to get musicians and songwriters involved in local schools, create songwriting workshops for kids and adults, and host related performances and events throughout the state. Arkansas Sounds is the second festival sponsored by the Butler Center. They also produce the Arkansas Literary Festival in the spring.

Mann

16 – Philip Mann, music director of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, was honored by the Arkansas chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators honored Arkansas communicators in October. He received the IABC/Arkansas 2012 Communicator of the Year, honoring Mann for his innovative communication in creating connections between music and audience. Mann is in his third season as director of the symphony, which has seen audience and artistic growth and financial health under his leadership.

17 – Construction began on the new Arcade Building in Little Rock’s River Market district.  This three story building will be home to the Little Rock Film Festival offices as well as additional space for the Central Arkansas Library System and the Clinton School of Public Service.  One major focus of the building will be the 325-seat theatre auditorium for film and lectures.  A restuarant and office space will also be in the building.  The Arcade Building was designed by architect Rick Redden not long before he died earlier in 2012. A statue of Redden will be placed in front of the building.

Brent, Craig Renaud

18 – Also in October, two of the co-founders of the Little Rock Film Festival – Craig and Brent Renaud received an Edward R. Murrow Award for their work in Haiti for the New York Times.  he Renaud Brothers produced a series of reports for the Times beginning days after the earthquake in Port-au-Prince, and followed the story of survivors for more than a year.

Cole

19 – Sericia Cole, who had been serving as interim director of Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, was named the permanent director in November.  Before joining the museum, Cole served as director of minority affairs for Gov. Mike Beebe’s office for two years. Prior to that, she was director of public relations at Philander Smith College.  She has extensive experience in public relations and non-profit work. Since joining the museum in March, she has introduced several new programs and secured a major grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in Washington, D.C.

Worthen

20 – In November, Bill Worthen celebrated 40 years as Director of Historic Arkansas Museum.  When he started at the institution, it was known as the Arkansas Territorial Restoration and took up roughly half a city block.  Under his leadership, the museum has expanded into permanent galleries as well as increased its historic structures and demostrations.  HAM now takes up one whole city block and two partial blocks.  He is the longest serving musem director in Little Rock history.

Matthews

21 – Also in November, Cathie Matthews announced her upcoming retirement from the Department of Arkansas Heritage.  She has led that state agency for fifteen years and is the longest-serving director.  A Little Rock native (and daughter of former LR Mayor Pratt C. Remmel), she has led the department through the opening of two new museums, the renovation of two existing museums and the creation of new programs in the other agencies. Matthews oversees the Arkansas Arts Council, Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Delta Cultural Center, Historic Arkansas Museum, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, and Old State House Museum.

Belew

22 – Late in November, Arkansan Cody Belew was eliminated from the TV show “The Voice.”  Born and raised on back country roads, Cody Belew grew up singing in rodeo arenas and gospel church houses. Pulling influence from his southern roots, Cody’s voice is a mix of southern rock, R&B, gospel, soul, and a little mountain twang. He’s been on enough stages, and in front of enough county fair crowds to understand what it takes to entertain an audience.  Before moving to Nashville in 2011, he was a fixture on the Little Rock music scene; he still comes back to perform from time to time. His most recent appearance was at Robinson Center Music Hall last weekend.

Stodola

23 – In December, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola together with the Downtown Little Rock Partnership hosted a meeting to discuss plans for “The Creative Corridor – A Main Stree Revitalization.”  The plan was developed by the University of Arkansas Community Design Center working with Marlon Blackwell Architect for Little Rock.  It was a fulfillment of a National Endowment for the Arts Our Town grant.

photo (7)24 – Plans for upgrading and renovating Robinson Center Music Hall are moving forward.  Following presentations by four firms in November, the Advertising and Promotion Commission narrowed it down to Ennead Architects of New York, partnered with Polk Stanley Wilcox of Little Rock and Witsell Evans Rasco of Little Rock, partnered with LMN of Seattle.  The concept, which was first unveiled in June, could cost around $65 million.  Presentations by the final two firms will be made in January.  Once completed, the renovated Robinson Center will benefit numerous organizations including the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Arkansas, Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau and Celebrity Attractions.  In related performance space news, First Security Bank made a contribution toward the renovation and reconstruction of the amphitheatre in Riverfront Park.