With very fond memories, we honor our friend Matt DeCample, an immensely talented partner in our CALS podcasts and other projects of the Central Arkansas Library System. Matt was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2016 and passed away on March 3, having fought valiantly to the end with the tremendous heart and humor he was known for.
Though he was taken from us far too soon at the age of 44, no one will forget his characteristic blend of hilarious observations with deep kindness. He made a simple event like a CALS cosplay contest both side-splittingly funny and a spontaneous celebration of life. The generosity that led Matt to donate his time to good causes and helping others has also left an indelible record of his presence.
Matt served as a spokesman for Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, and a reporter at KATV, later working as a consultant and spokesman for the Arkansas Cinema Society and the Little Rock Film Festival. He was a founder of Improv Little Rock and appeared with The Joint improv comedy show in Argenta.
He will be greatly missed. We are all better for any time we were fortunate enough to have with Matt DeCample.
There will be a memorial service for Matt on Sunday, March 10, at 2:00 p.m. in the Great Hall of the Clinton Presidential Center.
“Part to Whole” opens this Friday and is full of natural wonders! If you love art, nature, or both, this exhibition offers an experience not to be missed. Breathtaking works of sculpture and painting will be exhibited by six members of an artist group including Mia Hall, Robyn Horn, Dolores Justus, Barbara Satterfield, Sandra Sell, and Elizabeth Weber.
We got a sneak preview from Barbara Satterfield as she supervised the installation of her work “Bits of Sticks.” Because the “Part to Whole” exhibition focuses on the artistic process, it was a treat to hear Barbara’s personal insights about her work. She described this original piece as an artistic interpretation of bagworm nests. “I have 23 of them, and they are all individually coil-built and rolled sticks that are put on pieces. Those nests are going to hang up there from the ceiling, because bagworms hang from trees,” she said.
“The nests vary in size, and vary in their specific decoration, so some have thick sticks, some have thin sticks, some are done in a circular or rotational position, and some are straight down. So you wonder, how does that female bagworm know what to do? It’s not like they get together and have a meeting about who’s going to do which nests. And they have no arms, they’re blind, and they’re tiny. When I saw my first nest, I thought, what is this? I went and did a little research, and I thought they were so amazing. I have a thing about nests anyway: two of my pieces feature birds’ nests, and others feature dirt-dauber nests. So I’m a nest woman.”
See more striking pieces by all six artists at our West Gallery on Friday evening, when guests will enjoy free light refreshments and live music. This is an exhibition full of surprises and delights, so come explore for yourself on Friday, March 8th from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 9 will also bring an artist talk by all six artists from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. A backstage look at the natural materials, inspiration, and inventive thinking that created this exhibition will make the talk valuable for art lovers and art students alike. Young artists are encouraged to join us and benefit from the insight offered by these accomplished creators.
Stained, a little battered, but still working—the typewriter of famed Arkansas author Dee Brown has emerged from the Butler Center’s archives. The machine now reposes grimy and authentic under glass at the Dee Brown Library of the Central Arkansas Library System. It may even be the typewriter Brown used to write his shattering, iconic history of the American West, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.
There’s something oddly gratifying about the preservation of a dirty, practical tool of a writer’s work, complete with what are probably Dee Brown’s smudgy fingerprints on the side. It reminds us of the arduous task that faces writers: the hours and hours of isolation, the figures flitting vividly through your head while you stare at the wall with unseeing eyes. That smudged machine is the silent witness to the wasted ink, the cluttered room strewn with books and papers, the visceral stretch to snatch the right verb from the torrent of words circling you like bats.
Dee Brown achieved what most writers do not—lasting fame. His popular history of the repeated betrayal and oppression of Native American tribes by United States soldiers and statesmen has sold over five million copies and has been translated into 17 languages.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee was a sensation when it first exploded into print in 1971, while Americans were grappling with the war in Vietnam. For the first time, large swaths of the public were willing to look beyond glamorous movies about heroic cowboys and soldiers in favor of a harder, tragic truth. Relying on tribal documents and government records, Dee Brown told the frontier story from the viewpoint of Native American tribes. His care for research and simple, stark narration made it all too clear that the frontier dream was frequently a reality of brutal mass murder, and morality abandoned for the sake of money.
But Dee Brown also achieved something that most writers desire more than fame—he told a story so powerful and so important that his work opened minds and touched hearts. Archivist Frances Morgan of the Butler Center says that Brown’s work changed her life. She first read the book in 1973, while surrounded by family members who did not approve of college education for women. The book moved her so profoundly that she immediately knew that “it didn’t matter anymore what other people thought—I was going to college.”
After that epiphany, she began a years-long, unlikely journey that led her not only through a bachelor’s degree but beyond to a master’s and then, in a stroke of fortune, to be the chief caretaker of the Dee Brown Papers at the Butler Center. Morgan agrees with the assessment of many scholars that Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is one of the 100 greatest books of the last century.
If you stop by the Dee Brown Library, this typewriter may ask you a question or two. Why does it matter that we preserve this concrete memory of a writer? Why do authors spend so many hours with these grungy typewriters or crumby keyboards?
Dee Brown’s most famous book suggests the answer. A very few times in our lives, we readers encounter books that shake us and change who we are. They make us kinder, wiser, and gentler to others. They make us want to know more. And to do that, they sometimes break our hearts. To paraphrase Emily Bronte, these books stay with us ever after; they go through and through us, like wine through water, and alter the color of our minds.
Someone had to create those few, extraordinary books. Someone gave up months or years of life for you, the reader, thinking of you the whole time, even though the author could not see your face. And that’s what is in Dee Brown’s typewriter. Making books is a lonely, hard, smeary task full of frustration and imperfection and jammed keys, driven by the faith that at the end, when there are no more smears and smudges, when all has been cleaned and wrapped in covers and put in your hands, there will be a flash of light and understanding.
That’s not just Dee Brown’s typewriter. That’s your typewriter, reader.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is available in print, in audiobook format, and as a DVD film adaptation from the Central Arkansas Library System. www.cals.org
With a career spanning more than 25 years and 20 albums, renowned guitarist Charlie Hunter consistently pleases audiences as an innovative writer and bandleader. Accompanying Hunter on this tour stop in Little Rock are celebrated jazz vocalist Dara Tucker and Grammy Award–winning drummer and percussionist Keita Ogawa.
Charlie Hunter speaks on the joy of intimate concerts, simple settings, and timeless music:
Music has changed a lot in some ways over the years that I’ve been playing, but not in others. The spectacle has changed: a lot of people are using multimedia in performance now.
But I still do what people were doing 100 years ago: I play using my narrative ability and my instrument.
I’ve always been kind of a small, boutique musician. I think it can be a more human experience and a more primal connection between the musicians and the audience–a connection we’ve been making throughout the evolution of music.
It’s a deeper, more personal, and immediate experience to attend a simpler concert. As we get involved in social media in everyday life, it’s nice to have that deeper connection in a musical event.
As crazy as it sounds, as much as I have toured this country over decades, I’ve never played in Little Rock. So I’m looking forward to playing in the Ron Robinson Theater. We usually play at venues from 100 to 500 seats in our concerts, so the Ron Robinson is right in the middle.
On the rewards of a musician’s life
Every day that I get to go to my shed and practice—that’s my reward. And the other part of the reward is when the audience shows up and wants to be part of what we’re doing that night.
I’ve done total improvisation before for entire concerts, but for this concert, it will be improvisation within a framework. Dara Tucker, who will be singing with us, is a great singer.
Instead of doing my own works this time, we’ll be focusing on blues, spirituals, and jazz standards.
Most of the time, I’ve done instrumental music in the past. But in 2017, I did a record with singer Silvana Estrada where we had the singer, percussion, and me. Unfortunately, Silvana was then denied a cultural performer’s visa to come tour with us. My friend Lucy Woodward stepped in initially to sing in her place, and now Dara will be singing here in Little Rock.
Touring’s not as intense as it used to be when we would go on the road for 8 months at a time. Now I’ll do two weeks on, two weeks off. We’re going through North Carolina, Texas, New Orleans and Atlanta. Then in December we’ll head to the West.
Catch the Charlie Hunter Trio at their first-ever Little Rock performance, this Friday night, November 9 at the Ron Robinson Theater! Tickets are $10 and available here: cals.org/event/charlie-hunter-trio/
The community of artists in Arkansas will be represented with style and originality in the Arkansas League of Artists’ Show, opening on Second Friday Art Night in our Galleries at Library Square.
One of the joys of a show created by the regional artistic community is the sheer variety of works on display. According to president Sharon Franke, the Arkansas League of Artists is a working artists’ group open to artists in all kinds of visual arts media. The current group of members tends to work in oils and acrylics, but watercolors, inks, pastels, photography, digital art or 3D art forms are also welcome.
“What makes us unique is that we are an inclusive artists’ group that supports many types of artwork,” Ms. Franke said.
Sharon Franke and Patrick Edwards are co-chairs of this year’s show.
The juror for the 2018 show is Jason Sacran, who is an award-winning contemporary representational artist living in Arkansas. He has received many awards from organizations such as the Oil Painters of America and the American Impressionists Society, and his work has been featured in numerous art magazines. Mr. Sacran evaluated the ALA’s submitted artworks initially in digital form to select the works that would be included in the show.
“A lot of work goes into this show,” Ms. Franke said. “One of our ALA members takes the digital photos of all the works and labels them for submission.”
The day before the show’s opening, Mr. Sacran views the works in person and picks the award winners. Awards will be presented in five categories, and Art Outfitters, a local art supply store, will also present the People’s Choice Award which earns an Art Outfitters gift certificate for the winner of the popular vote. Cash and prizes will be awarded with a value between $3,000 and $5,000.
Ms. Franke said that the Arkansas League of Artists was founded in the early 1970s and has been going strong ever since. Membership hovers around 100 members. At every monthly meeting, each artist may submit a work for the monthly contest. The group then votes to select the top 5, which are then awarded display spaces around the city.
“We have a great relationship with Cantrell Gallery,” Ms. Franke said, “And so the number one artwork for the month gets to occupy the easel at Cantrell Gallery.”
In addition, group members also see live demos or presentations from artists at their monthly meetings. Several times a year, a critique will be offered. The goal of the ALA is to support working artists and offer them community and resources to encourage their work.
ALA Show sponsors for 2018 include corporate-level sponsor Business World and family-level sponsors AquaJava, Art Outfitters, and Kraft Claims Service.
The Arkansas League of Artists 2018 Show will open this Friday, November 9, at our Galleries at Library Square, 100 Rock St. in downtown Little Rock. Join us from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. for light refreshments and music from Arkansas Sounds.
On September 4th, 2018, Elizabeth Eckford walked slowly down Park Street to sit on a special commemorative bench dedicated in her name. Surrounded by an applauding crowd of over 300 people, Ms. Eckford was escorted with honor by students, including the team from the Little Rock Central High Memory Project that led the effort to create and install the bench. Ms. Eckford reflected on her historic experience after the racially diverse group of students presented their work to an audience that included numerous community sponsors and civic leaders. The moving event was covered by local and state press and featured in the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Honoring a civil rights hero, healing the wounds of history
The dedication ceremony took place on the sixty-first anniversary of the day when a young Ms. Eckford rushed down the same street to sit on the original city bus bench. That day in 1957, she was pursued by an angry white mob that opposed allowing her to integrate Central High School as a member of the Little Rock Nine. The bench now dedicated to her is a faithful replica of the one at which she took refuge from the mob.
The iconic, painful photographs of Ms. Eckford, only a girl at the time, have etched themselves into American history, a permanent record of the sacrifices endured by civil rights pioneers. That day was only the beginning of a long year of abuses from white students who objected to attending school with black students. In her speech at the bench dedication, Ms. Eckford referred to her long struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder after her high school years, but she added an unforgettable postscript. “I don’t cry anymore when I talk about the past, and that is because of the efforts of students,” Ms. Eckford said. “It is very, very endearing when students want to know about the past.”
Students design bench, mobile app for living history walking tour
The students on the Memory Project team researched and edited a living history walking tour adapted as a mobile app for digital devices. Now, visitors to the Little Rock Central High Historic Site can listen on their cell phones to the sounds of the time and hear about the desegregation crisis moment by moment as they retrace Ms. Eckford’s steps. The Memory Project student team also participated in the bench construction, and they are still at work on an ongoing oral history podcast project.
The initial momentum for the project came from student Adaja Cooper, who realized she could design the bench on her EAST classroom computer. Adaja spoke at the National Rotary Club meeting in Central High’s library on Martin Luther King Day, and the Rotary Club was inspired by her speech to pledge a generous $15,000. Stella Cameron (LRCH media specialist), Tamara McCormack (EAST Lab Facilitator) and David Kilton (NPS Ranger) worked with students to plan the event. CALS Butler Center historian George West mentored the team throughout the project. Many other individuals and organizations contributed time and financial support (see endnote).
Students gain insight, context from historical project
Jessie Bates, a junior at Central High, worked with the National Park Service and Oncell to create the app to house the walking tour, including an audio transcript and historical photos. She found her work rewarding. “The project provides a more personal view of the history we’re so familiar with,” she said. “Textbooks often gloss over it, but reading the primary sources in the words of the students who were there helps us connect to the history.”
Zaria Moore, also a junior working on the Memory Project, said that she enjoyed coming up with ideas to “bring history back,” such as the bench. “I appreciate getting to meet people who made history, like the Little Rock Nine,” she said. Zaria is related to another member of the Little Rock Nine, Thelma Mothershed-Wair, a connection that reflects the personal relevance of the 1957 crisis to so many people still living in Little Rock.
Words of courage and grace
Ms. Eckford conveyed dignity and peace as she described her successful decades-long journey to come to terms with her past experiences at Central High. Her stated desire to continue working toward “true reconciliation” exemplified the engagement and grace that has made her a beloved figure in the city. The CALS Butler Center salutes Ms. Eckford for her contribution to Little Rock and to American society. Thanks to the student team on the Memory Project for the successful completion of this well-deserved monument to a life of sacrifice and bravery.
The Elizabeth Eckford Commemorative Bench project was a collaboration between the Central High Memory Project and the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site (administered by the National Park Service). Other community partners included the Central Arkansas Library System’s Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, Bullock Temple C.M.E., Central High School and their EAST LAB, the Little Rock School District, the City of Little Rock, Good Earth Garden Center, Friends of Central High Museum Inc., Home Depot, Little Rock Club 99 and other Rotary International Clubs, Washitaw Foothills Youth Media Arts & Literacy Collective, Unity in the Community, Central High Museum Inc., and others.
Sixty years ago, John and Thelma Aaron and others filed suit in federal court in Arkansas for the purpose of integrating Arkansas schools.
The resulting U.S. Supreme Court case, Cooper v. Aaron, established the supremacy of the federal constitution as well as the supremacy of the Supreme Court in interpreting the Constitution.
The issues raised by Cooper are still the subject of vibrant debate. Increasingly, state and local officials seek to avoid enforcing or following federal mandates ranging from the same-sex marriage decision in Obergefell v. Hodges to the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate in NFIB v. Sebelius.
The Altheimer Symposium on September 28 will discuss the history and impact of Cooper v. Aaron, the local significance of the case, and its continuing vitality in an age of political and legal polarization.
The experts at the Butler Center’s Encyclopedia of Arkansas have compiled a list of our most helpful entries to provide background on Cooper v. Aaron.
Books Relating to the Landmark Cooper v. Aaron Supreme Court Decision
Anderson, Karen. Little Rock: Race and Resistance at Central High School. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009.
Freyer, Tony. The Little Rock Crisis: A Constitutional Interpretation. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1984.
———. Little Rock on Trial: Cooper v. Aaron and School Desegregation. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2007.
Jacoway, Elizabeth. Turn Away Thy Son: Little Rock, the Crisis That Shocked the Nation. New York: Free Press, 2007.
Kilpatrick, Judith. There When We Needed Him: Wiley Austin Branton, Civil Rights Warrior. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2007.
Kirk, John A. Beyond Little Rock: The Origins and Legacies of the Central High Crisis. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2007.
———. Redefining the Color Line: Black Activism in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1940–1970. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002.
Kirk, John A., ed. An Epitaph for Little Rock: A Fiftieth Anniversary Retrospective on the Central High Crisis. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2008.
Reed, Roy. Faubus: The Life and Times of an American Prodigal. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1997.
Stockley, Grif. Daisy Bates: Civil Rights Crusader from Arkansas. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2005.
The Symposium is open to the public and will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Reception to follow, 4:30 – 6:00 p.m., Butler Center, 401 President Clinton Ave