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


Dedication of the Elizabeth Eckford Commemorative Bench: Honoring a Courageous American Life


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).

ColinandMilofromGeorge1Students 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.”

MsEckfordStudentsBenchBrighterZaria 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

MsEckfordPodiumMs. 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.BenchPhotofromGeorge Crop

Resources Related to Cooper v. Aaron, UALR Altheimer Symposium

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.

Encyclopedia of Arkansas: 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


UALR Altheimer Symposium Fall 2018


Fairy Tales in a Minor Key by Painter Amily Miori

An Art Exhibition for the Whole (Addams) Family

When you walk into the gallery, the oil paintings look like the best fairy tales: colorful, layered, and slightly too vivid for comfort. The scenes should be familiar bedtime stories, but instead each painting feels unexpected and off-kilter, to such an extent that you may take a moment to figure out which story the painting interprets.

MioriCinderellaWhen you look a little longer, you see that these vivid characters are coming out of their frames into our world.  These people won’t stay where they belong. And they don’t seem to know whether they’re living in two dimensions or three. So, like fairy tales, these paintings have an uncanny ability to get inside your head and stay with you.

The mystery and unsettling appeal of Amily Miori’s work aren’t surprising, coming from an artist who has always incorporated surrealist elements in her paintings.

Miori’s search for a universal theme

This series, exhibited as “Au Pair Don’t Care,” takes a new direction for the artist.

MioriMulan“I thought, what if I could do something a little more relatable, that could reach a wider audience?” Miori said. “And then I saw online some pages of very old, original fairytales, and I started to research them. And I was fascinated by all the changes in today’s tales since the original stories, which were often disturbing.”

She looked for the original illustrations, but found they were rare. “I decided I was going to paint some of those illustrations that should go with the darker, old stories,” Miori said.

MioriPinocchioThrough the Looking Glass

As she adapted her work to larger canvases, she found through a happy accident that her central scenes needed more framing. And that led to one of the most interesting features of the series, the trompe l’oeil embossed frames that suggest wood or leather. These frames, which could be covers or pages, present the surface of a much deeper world that these characters inhabit, like the other side of the looking glass. And behind the characters, as in many of Miori’s previous works, there are textiles or textile-like patterns: brocade, botanical prints, curtains, or even stylized trees or brick that create the same subtle interiority. Symmetry, repetition, and layering create a space that is simultaneously flat and deep.

A storyteller based on an old family photo

The exhibition is entitled “Au Pair Don’t Care” after its putative storyteller, a character based on an old family photo of a woman who looks as if she is going to tell “a dark story,” as Miori explains it. This storyteller, described as a rebellious au pair (or nanny), is the interpreter who has created these charming but unsettling works.

A perfect introduction to the allure of an artistic vision

MioriLittleRedRedingHoodIt takes a unique artistic gift to create a work that initially seems innocent and perhaps childlike, but contains subtleties that modulate its mood to a minor key. Though this exhibition is sophisticated and humorous enough for adults, it would also be appropriate for most children. The youngest won’t notice or understand the darker notes of the paintings, while tweens will get a kick out of discovering them. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a better exhibition to introduce young people to what it means to have an artistic vision, a particular way of seeing the world that draws others into the artist’s consciousness.

By taking these familiar stories and making them strange, Amily Miori has indeed created a spectacle with wide interest and appeal.

Amily Miori’s “Au Pair Don’t Care” opens this Friday, September 14, with a reception from 5:00 – 8:00 pm in the Galleries at Library Square.

Highly recommended for adults and children with parental guidance.

Starting Your Family History Research? Get the Basics Here

Who am I? How did I end up here?

A fascination with family history sometimes begins with simple personal curiosity. Most people don’t know their complete family trees, and a mysterious past naturally leads to questions: Were my ancestors rich or poor? Did they overcome hardship?  Did a certain talent or health problem run in my family?

Genealogy provides answers to questions of identity

FFquiltshelvesOur family histories can explain much about why we live in our current geographical regions, and our ancestors’ lives still influence our current values and beliefs. The cultures that formed previous generations of our family still leave deep imprints on our lives.

Once we have questions about our past that we want to answer, where do we start? With so many online and print sources available, knowing how to find reliable information can feel like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.

Free introductory how-to sessions at the Butler Center

The Butler Center offers free, expert help every month from our resident genealogist, Rhonda Stewart. In her small group presentation, “Finding Family Facts,” Rhonda introduces new researchers to the process of finding reliable information and to the many resources at the Butler Center.

A complex legacy of migration has brought people from all over the globe to the USA. Some Americans know that their families have only been in this country for two or three generations, and so they must trace their ancestry back across oceans.

RYanDonnabookshelfcropbrightMary H., who came to a recent “Finding Family Facts” session, was in exactly that position, having recent immigration in her family history.

“I had my DNA tested,” Mary said. “And the DNA confirmed our main family stories, which was really good because some of those stories conflicted! We didn’t know if we were Italian or French, but we’re Italian.”

In response to Mary’s specific research needs, Rhonda was able to recommend resources such as Social Security applications that are helpful for seeking ancestors who are recent immigrants to the USA.

Years of experience equip Stewart with many tips for seekers

Rhonda Stewart has been working in genealogy for many years, and has a talent for being able to get through “brick walls” when a trail of information seems to vanish.

“My mother’s sister said that our family stories weren’t true, so I set out to prove her wrong,” Rhonda said with a smile. “And here I am, thirteen years later, working in genealogy.”

laurenmicrofilmcropThe work of family research is often creative detective work, which is why many people fall in love with the process.

“Sometimes, your relative’s friends will really tell you the truth after your relative passes,” Rhonda said. “Have a cup of tea with one of those friends and say, ‘tell me what Mamaw was really like–you know you used to get up to trouble back in the day!’ You may be surprised at what you learn.”

The Butler Center offers extensive local history resources for those who may have roots in Arkansas. The research collection also contains print resources that address wider genealogy and history questions, as well as public computers and microfilm readers. A tour of the research room is part of “Finding Family Facts.”

“Finding Family Facts” takes place on the second Monday of each month from 3:30-5:00pm. The next session will occur on September 10 on the second floor of the Roberts Library (formerly known as the Arkansas Studies Institute) in Library Square.




An Artist in Prison is Still an Artist

Installing “Arrival at Jerome” by Henry Sugimoto

He was an award-winning artist with a BFA in painting, and he lived in California.

He had studied the French masters in Paris.

His paintings had appeared in prestigious shows such as the Salon d’Automne.

And in 1942, he was taken from his California home, along with his wife and children, and imprisoned behind barbed wire in an Arkansas camp.

His crime? Being of Japanese descent in the United States of America.

Americans descended into wartime paranoia and racism after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. As a result, over 100,000 Japanese Americans were deprived of their homes, their jobs, their belongings and their pets, as they were imprisoned in camps across the country by the federal government.

The artist, Henry Sugimoto, was incarcerated first at Jerome, Arkansas, and then at Rohwer, Arkansas from 1942 until 1945. The two camps collectively held 17,000 people.

After arriving at Jerome, devastated from the trauma of losing his life’s work, Henry Sugimoto began to create sketches of life at the prison camp. He rediscovered a sense of purpose as he decided to document through his art the incarceration experience of Japanese Americans.

“Arrival at Jerome,” one of his powerful camp paintings, was exhibited in 1944 at Hendrix College, while Henry Sugimoto was still incarcerated. This exhibition was the result of the advocacy of several Hendrix art faculty members including Louis Freund, Elsie Freund, and Floyd K. Hanson, who had visited Sugimoto at the Jerome prison camp.

Now “Arrival at Jerome” joins artworks from others imprisoned at the Rohwer Camp in “A Matter of Mind and Heart,” the Butler Center’s ongoing exhibition at Concordia Hall.

See  “Arrival at Jerome” and “A Matter of Mind and Heart: Portraits of Japanese American Identity” at 2nd Friday Art Night’s reception, August 10 from 5pm to 8pm.


This project was funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program.

The Butler Center thanks Hendrix College for loaning Henry Sugimoto’s work to “A Matter of Mind and Heart,” as we honor and commemorate those Japanese Americans incarcerated in Arkansas during WWII. We are also indebted to the research and source material from Hendrix that informed this piece.