Name Change Coming to Our Social Media


Soon, the Facebook and Twitter accounts currently labeled as “CALS Butler Center” will have a different name: CALS Roberts Library! No worries: it’s still the same account and will give you all the news and information you want from this branch of our library system, including the latest from the Galleries at Library Square and the Butler Center.

We officially renamed and dedicated our CALS Bobby L. Roberts Library of Arkansas History & Art in April 2019 to recognize the contributions of the library’s former executive director. The name of this building has caused a lot of confusion over the years! Many people called it “the Butler Center,” which is actually a department housed inside the building. So, to make everything clear and help people find our many wonderful programs, we are going to make sure that all our social media accounts use the accurate name for this CALS branch library location. This change is coming soon!

Tina Oppenheimer: An Unconventional Life Expressed in Crocheted Art

Tina Oppenheimer is an accomplished and prolific artist in crochet. Her pieces are arresting, often several feet wide, and frequently employ floral and geometrical motifs drawn from the mandala tradition.

Contemplative beauty in handcrafted work

Mandalas were introduced to the West by famed psychiatrist Carl Jung, who felt that creating these circular, natural patterns originating from Buddhist and Hindu culture was a soothing and healing activity. Mandala-type patterns are found in nature and also appear in the art of many other cultures, such as Celtic knotwork and Native American art.

In Oppenheimer’s crocheted wheels of flowers and recurring patterns, made one knot at a time, the viewer is reminded that in nature, there is still order and balance and beauty.

Such a centered, contemplative artistic perspective has become increasingly rare and countercultural in the rush and noise of the internet age. It takes an unconventional spirit to choose an art form so deliberately slow and subtle. Oppenheimer’s life story shows her determination to forge her own unique way and choose her own values.

A young wanderer picks up her hook

Oppenheimer spent a tumultuous adolescence moving between homes. She was born in Chicago, and credits her parents for supporting her art there in her youth despite significant challenges in other aspects of her family life. She sees her childhood classes at the Art Institute of Chicago as a formative influence, along with an art-focused school that she was later able to attend in Birmingham, England.


Once she moved to Birmingham, her life became nomadic, as she wandered back and forth between the USA and Britain. At the age of 17, when she was living out of a Land Rover in Scotland, she began to crochet intensively for many hours a week. Back in New York the next year, in 1971, she entered her work in the first American Crafts Council northeastern show. For several years, she continued to live a migratory life, picking apples while still creating crocheted works. Finally, after picking apples in Vermont for eight seasons, she settled down in the Ozarks with a husband to raise cattle and her three children.

The livestock and parenting duties didn’t leave much time for her artwork, but in the 1990s, Oppenheimer earned a degree in mechanical drafting from Westark College (now University of Arkansas Fort Smith) and created her company called Ozark Cards based on her drawing talent. She also began crocheting again in earnest.

ByCynthia1BankexhibitionNow she lives in Fayettevillle. In February 2018, her textile work was exhibited at the Bank of Fayetteville, where it caught the attention of the Galleries at Library Square.

Mastery born of years of dedication

When asked what has led to her decades-long dedication to crochet, Oppenheimer described many benefits of the craft. “When I was younger, I could draw for hours at a time, but now I have adult-onset attention deficit disorder. So, I have to be doing something with my hands. Crocheting is socially versatile: you can do it in public while you talk to people, or you can do it in public and be solitary. It’s meditative and it’s calming.

Oppenheimer said that some of her works are planned, and some are not. “My work called ’YOU ARE HERE’ started as a doodle on an envelope, then got thicker. ‘8 Principles of Boobism’ was going to be a flat mandala, but then I realized I could make it more dimensional. So I know my plans, but they evolve, Or, I plan the middle, and the rest just happens, sometimes depending on what yarn I have around.”

The technique of her work also evolved based on the materials available. “At first, I would only use one kind of yarn in my work, but when people started giving me yarn, I started blending different types in one project. I also use a technique where I chainstitch the yarn before I crochet. This makes it thick, and it’s why the textures are so blended.”

Tina Oppenheimer’s work will be on display in the Underground Gallery of the Galleries at Library Square, beginning with an opening reception on Friday, April 12 from 5:00-8:00 p.m. for Second Friday Art Night. The exhibition, entitled “EMBRAID,” also includes the work of Brandon Bullette and Octavio Logo, two artists also based in Northwest Arkansas. Light refreshments will be served and live music provided by Dogtown Ukulele.


(Source for mandala history:





Remembering Matt DeCample

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” Exhibition Brings Love of Nature to West Gallery

Bagworm nests hanging“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.

Barbarabagwormnests“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.

Dee Brown Typed Here: How an Arkansas Author Rewrote the West

DSC_1333Stained, 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.

photo by Charles Ellis

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?

BuryMyHeartGalleys.pngDee 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.

The Dee Brown Papers are open to the public in the Research Room at Roberts Library. The contents of the collection are listed at this finding aid:

For more on Dee Brown, see the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture here:


Blues, Jazz, Spirituals Bring the Cool Groove of Renowned Charlie Hunter Trio

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.

Listen to Dara sing “Wade in the Water” here at the 40 second mark!

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:

Artists Among Us: ALA Show Features Notable Regional Talent

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.

Show2016_4One 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.”

Show 2016

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.

Show2016_2Ms. 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.

Show 2016_3