LR Culture Vulture turns 7

The Little Rock Culture Vulture debuted on Saturday, October 1, 2011, to kick off Arts & Humanities Month.

The first feature was on the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, which was kicking off its 2011-2012 season that evening.  The program consisted of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90, Rossini’s, Overture to The Italian Girl in Algiers, Puccini’s Chrysanthemums and Respighi’s Pines of Rome.  In addition to the orchestra musicians, there was an organ on stage for this concert.

Since then, there have been 10,107 persons/places/things “tagged” in the blog.  This is the 3,773rd entry. (The symmetry to the number is purely coincidental–or is it?)  It has been viewed over 288,600 times, and over 400 readers have made comments.  It is apparently also a reference on Wikipedia.

The most popular pieces have been about Little Rock history and about people in Little Rock.

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LR Women Making History – Florence Price

Florence-PriceFlorence Price was the first African-American female composer to have a symphonic composition performed by a major American symphony orchestra.  In 2016, when Robinson Center reopened, a new atrium was named in her honor. It is adjacent to the ballroom named after her childhood friend Dr. William Grant Still.  Having a space named after Price at Robinson is especially appropriate since one of the first concerts given there in 1940, by contralto Marian Anderson, featured songs written by Price.

Florence Price was born in Little Rock on April 9, 1887, to James H. Smith and Florence Gulliver Smith. Her father was a dentist in Little Rock, while her mother taught piano and worked as a schoolteacher and a businesswoman.

As a child, Florence received musical instruction from her mother, and she published musical pieces while in high school. She attended Capitol Hill School in Little Rock, graduating as valedictorian in 1903. Florence then studied at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, In 1907, she received degrees as an organist and as a piano teacher.

After graduation, Florence returned to Arkansas to teach music. After stints in Cotton Plant, North Little Rock and Atlanta, GA, Smith returned to Little Rock in 1912 to marry attorney Thomas Jewell Price on September 25, 1912. Her husband worked with Scipio Jones.

While in Little Rock, Price established a music studio, taught piano lessons, and wrote short pieces for piano. Despite her credentials, she was denied membership into the Arkansas State Music Teachers Association because of her race.

The Prices moved to Chicago, Illinois, in 1927. There, Price seemed to have more professional opportunity for growth despite the breakdown and eventual dissolution of her marriage. She pursued further musical studies at the American Conservatory of Music and Chicago Musical College and established herself in the Chicago area as a teacher, pianist, and organist. In 1928, G. Schirmer, a major publishing firm, accepted for publication Price’s “At the Cotton Gin.” In 1932, Price won multiple awards in competitions sponsored by the Rodman Wanamaker Foundation for her Piano Sonata in E Minor, a large-scale work in four movements, and her more important work, Symphony in E Minor.

The latter work premiered with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on June 15, 1933, and the orchestras of Detroit, Michigan; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Brooklyn, New York, performed subsequent symphonic works by Price. This was the first time a black woman had presented her work on such a stage. In this regard,

Price’s art songs and spiritual arrangements were frequently performed by well-known artists of the day. For example, contralto Marian Anderson featured Price’s spiritual arrangement “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord” in her famous performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939. European orchestras later played Price’s works.

This national and international recognition made her more popular back home, and in 1935, the Alumni Association of Philander Smith College in Little Rock sponsored Price’s return to Arkansas, billing her as “noted musician of Chicago” and presenting her in a concert of her own compositions at Dunbar High School.

In her lifetime, Price composed more than 300 works, ranging from small teaching pieces for piano to large-scale compositions such as symphonies and concertos, as well as instrumental chamber music, vocal compositions, and music for radio. Price died in Chicago on June 3, 1953, while planning a trip to Europe.

LR Women Making History – Faith Yingling Knoop

Faith Yingling Knoop was the first Little Rock First Lady during the City Manager era.  Her husband, Werner Knoop, served as Mayor from November 1957 until December 1962.

She was a nationally known author of children’s books.  She also wrote short stories, THE Arkansas History Book which was used for decades in the state, and more than 250 articles.

Viewing her writing as a hobby instead of a career, she nonetheless was a dedicated author who spent hours researching her books. Many of her books were biographies.  One of her most notable one was 1950’s Zebulon Pike, which was reviewed in The New Yorker magazine.

In addition to writing numerous books, Knoop penned many short stories for magazines such as Highlights for ChildrenAmerican GirlWee Wisdom, and American Red Cross.

At the time a school teacher, she wrote Arkansas: Yesterday and Today in 1935 after not finding an adequate Arkansas history textbook.  It was used in classrooms for over twenty-five years.

Among her many accolades were  won first prize in the 1948 National League of American Pen Women’s Contest and being named the 1955 Alumni of the Year Award from Trenton State College.

LR Women Making History – June Freeman

June Biber Freeman, born and reared in New Jersey, came to Pine Bluff from the University of Chicago, where she had met and married her husband, Edmond Freeman, a Pine Bluff native.

Long interested in the arts, she was instrumental in establishing the Little Firehouse Community Arts Center. Serving as its unpaid director until, with her continued vision and help, it morphed into the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas (ASC).  In 1973, she conceived and organized the  Women and the Arts: A Conference on Creativity,  the first of its kind in the region. Governor Dale Bumpers appointed her to the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women.  In 1975,  Freeman was  hired by  Townsend Wolfe as the Arkansas Arts Center’s Director of State Services, a job  she held for the next five years.

In 1982, she was instrumental in establishing Pine Bluff Sister Cities.   She has served on the Little Rock Arts+Culture Commission as well as the boards of the Arkansas Arts Center, the Mid-American Arts Alliance and the Arkansas Arts Council. (In view of her background in psychology, she has served as a longstanding member of the UAMS Advisory Board of the Psychiatric Research Institute.)

Freeman is the founding director of the non-profit Architecture and Design Network (ADN) which got underway in 2003. Securing the support of the Arkansas Arts Center, the UA Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design (FJSAD) and the central section of the Arkansas chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Freeman launched a series of free public lectures by distinguished architects.  Retiring as director at the end of 2016, she continues to serve as a board member. She was named an honorary member of the FJSAD Dean’s Circle and, in 2013, was given an Award of Merit by the state Chapter of the AIA at its annual meeting. In 2016 the ADN board named the lecture series for her.

In 2017, she was inducted into the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame.  In 1995, she received the Governor’s Arts Award for Outstanding Patron.  In 2018, she became a rare two-time award recipient of a Governor’s Arts Award as she received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Freeman and her husband, who retired as publisher of the Pine Bluff Commercial, moved to Little Rock in 1995. The couple has four children and six grandchildren.

LR Women Making History – Kathy Webb

While Kathy Webb has had many titles over her career in public service, Advocate for Others probably encompasses all of them.

One of the most important committees at the Arkansas General Assembly is the Joint Budget Committee.  It is chaired by a senator and a representative.  In 2011 and 2012, as a state representative, Kathy Webb became the first woman to chair the committee.  

Considering that the first woman to be sworn in to the Arkansas General Assembly (Erle Chambers) was from Little Rock, and the first woman to chair a standing committee of the General Assembly (Myra Jones) was from Little Rock, it is fitting that the first woman to chair Joint Budget was also from Little Rock.

While women had been chairing committees for two decades, no female had ever led this committee.  During her tenure, Rep. Webb received praise from people in both houses and both parties for her leadership.  She served in the Arkansas General Assembly from 2007 until 2012.  During that time, she was also named the most effective legislator by Talk Business

Now, she is Vice Mayor of Little Rock.  Vice Mayor Webb is in her first term representing Ward 3 of Little Rock.  She will be vice mayor until December 2018.  Vice-Mayor Webb grew up in Arkansas and graduated from Little Rock Hall High. She earned a degree from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and attended graduate school at the University of Central Arkansas. She has also participated in the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

After working in political advocacy in Washington D.C. and throughout the U.S. for several years, she spent over 20 years in the restaurant industry in Illinois, Tennessee, and Arkansas.

Her community involvement includes service on the UAMS College of Medicine Board of Visitors, Arkansas Hospice, and First United Methodist Church of Little Rock. She was the founding president of the Chicago-area affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Vice Mayor Webb has been honored by the Arkansas Kids Count Coalition, Just Communities of Arkansas, Arkansas Judicial Council, National Association of Women Business Owners, Sierra Club, Arkansas AIDS Foundation, Arkansas Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, Pulaski County CASA, Interfaith Alliance for Worker Justice, Arkansas AARP, Arkansas Hospitality Association, Arkansas Municipal League, Hendrix College and Black Methodists for Social Renewal.

She is the Executive Director of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance. The Alliance is the statewide umbrella organization for Feeding America food banks, food pantries and agencies and hunger activists and the education and advocacy clearinghouse on hunger issues in Arkansas

LR Women Making History – Lucy D. Dixon

Photo courtesy Little Rock School District

Lucy Dixon was elected to the initial Little Rock Board of Directors in November 1957.  She previously had served for six years on the Little Rock School Board.

Mrs. Dixon is the only woman to have served on both the governing boards of the City and the school district.  Mrs. Dixon chose not to seek a second term and left the City Board on December 31, 1960.

With her election in 1957, Mrs. Dixon became the first woman to be elected to a City position without her husband having previously held that position.

Her father had a lumber business, in which she worked off and on throughout her lifetime. She served not only as an officer of the business, but had a desk at the office and participated in the daily business.  She was also very active in Methodist Woman functions in Little Rock and Arkansas.

LR Women Making History – Pat Lile

Pat Lile has worked to make Little Rock, and indeed all of Arkansas, a better place.

A native of Hope, she attended Hendrix College.  After marriage and her husband’s law school, Pat and John Lile settled in Pine Bluff.  For nearly three decades she devoted herself to improving that city. She served in many volunteer leadership positions, so it is no surprise that in 1981, she and John founded Leadership Pine Bluff to help cultivate the next leaders.  She served as its executive director for nine years.

In 1990, the Liles moved to Little Rock.  From 1990 to 1995, she was the Executive Director of the Commission for Arkansas’ Future.  Then in 1996, she became President and CEO of the Arkansas Community Foundation.  Until her retirement in 2007, she led that organization as it grew.  Since her retirement, she has not slowed down.

Among the organizations she has founded or co-founded since the 1970s include Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas, and the Arkansas Non-profit Alliance.  She is on the Board of Trustees of Philander Smith College, U.S. Marshals Museum and Joseph Pfeifer Kiwanis Camp. She is also very active in her church, First United Methodist.

Lile has received a number of other honors including the Arkansas Community Foundation’s Lugean Chilcote award in the late 1980’s and the “Roots and Wings” Arkansas Benefactor award in 2008. Entergy, Inc. awarded her its “Distinguished Leadership Award” in 1997. Appointed by then President Bill Clinton, she was the only Arkansas delegate to the 1999 White House Conference on Philanthropy. In 2004 the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Arkansas Commission named her the recipient of a “Salute to Greatness” Community Service Award. In March of 2009 Lile was named by Arkansas Business, the state’s premier weekly business publication, as one of the top 25 Arkansas women leaders over the past 25 years, one of only two from the philanthropic sector. In March of 2010 Lile was presented the Father Joseph Biltz award from Just Communities of Arkansas (JCA).  In 2016, she received the James E. Harris Nonprofit Leadership Award.

The real reason Pat Lile has been successful is her determination and dedication. She is an encourager who works to bring out the best in others. Whether she is serving as a Brownie leader in Pine Bluff or attending a White House summit, Pat Lile believes that everyone in the room has the capacity to change lives by showing love for others. And then she does not give up!