Entry Category: Arts

Arkansas Bluebird of Happiness

aka: Bluebird of Happiness
The original Arkansas Bluebird of Happiness was created by Leo Ward at Terra Studios near Durham (Washington County). Since their introduction in 1982, over nine million bluebirds have been sold. Each bird is individually crafted from molten glass by artisans at Terra Studios and is signed and dated. Though Terra Studios creates glass birds in many colors, the bluebird has always been the most popular choice. While living in San Diego, California, in the early 1970s, Leo Ward discovered a passion for glass blowing. Along with his wife, Rita, Ward opened a gift shop and constructed a glass furnace on the premises. When a city inspector discovered this furnace, the shop was closed, and the Wards moved to Arkansas, where …

Arkansas Chamber Singers

The Arkansas Chamber Singers (ACS) is vocal ensemble dedicated to performing and promoting classical and contemporary choral repertoire. Membership in the nonprofit group is by audition. The ACS began when Bill Clinton, elected as the state’s governor in 1978, appointed Massachusetts resident Paul Levy to head the Arkansas Department of Energy. Levy’s wife was Barbara Abramoff Levy, director of the Newton Choral Society and the conducting assistant to the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, an adjunct to the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She wanted to continue her involvement in music, and in 1979, with the support of the Bill and Hillary Clinton, she joined the faculty of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) and organized a new chamber ensemble named the …

Arkansas Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts

The Arkansas Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts is composed of a group of well-connected Arkansas women who work to support female Arkansas artists. The committee focuses upon primarily visual art done by noted female artists in the state, though it also sponsors writers, poets, and songwriters. Learning about the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) while on a visit to Washington DC, Ed Dell Wortz, a member of the Wortz family, and Helen Walton of the Arkansas Walton family called together a group of Arkansas women interested in the arts on February 1, 1989, to develop plans for a state committee. The Arkansas Committee of the NMWA was organized in Little Rock (Pulaski …

Arkansas County Courthouse, Northern District

  The Arkansas County Courthouse in Stuttgart (Arkansas County) is a Classical Revival–style, brick building designed by J. B. Barrett and constructed by the Barrett and Ogletree firm in 1928. The courthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 20, 1992. Arkansas Post was the original Arkansas County seat after statehood, but, as Arkansas Post’s population waned, citizens wanted a more central location for the seat. DeWitt was chosen and served as the sole county seat until the early 1920s, when Stuttgart’s rapid growth, due to the railroad and the increase in rice and soybean production, brought additional civic and legislative responsibilities to the community. After several court hearings, it was decided that Stuttgart would be a secondary county seat, …

Arkansas County Courthouse, Southern District

The Arkansas County Courthouse for the Southern District in DeWitt (Arkansas County) was designed by Little Rock (Pulaski County) architect H. Ray Burks and constructed by E. V. Bird Construction Company. Built in 1931, this three-story building is a prime example of the Art Deco style used in many Arkansas buildings constructed during this time period. Located at 101 Court Square, the current Arkansas County Courthouse is the fourth courthouse built in DeWitt. First, three log courthouse buildings were built in 1855 by Colonel Charles W. Belknap, approximately one block from the current site. One building was for a courtroom, another for the clerk’s and sheriff’s offices, and the third for a jury room. This set of buildings was replaced …

Arkansas Craft Guild

The Arkansas Craft Guild, a cooperative of Arkansas craft artisans, seeks to promote excellence in both traditional and contemporary handmade crafts. Since its incorporation in 1962, the guild has been widely recognized as one of the most significant forces in the revival and preservation of pioneer crafts practiced by Arkansans. Originally incorporated under the name Ozark Foothills Handicraft Guild, the organization’s initial aim was to provide supplemental income for the people in the north-central Arkansas foothills. In 1960, the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service representative, Leo Rainey, along with officials in Stone County, began exploring ways to bring cottage industry into the area. Soliciting crafters to exhibit at local craft fairs, they found the members for the proposed guild. …

Arkansas Humanities Council (AHC)

aka: Arkansas Endowment for the Humanities
The Arkansas Endowment for the Humanities, known since its early days as the Arkansas Humanities Council (AHC), was formed in 1974 for the purpose of supporting and promoting the humanities in the state. The AHC and humanities councils for fifty-five other states and territories were established by Congress and operate under the guidelines of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), an independent agency of the United States government. While state councils were formed under NEH legislation, they are separate, independent entities. The AHC is a non-profit organization incorporated in the state of Arkansas. In its legislation creating the NEH, Congress gave the term “humanities” a wide-ranging definition. In brief, it may include history, literature, languages, philosophy, archaeology, jurisprudence, comparative …

Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts

The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in the MacArthur Park Historic District of Little Rock (Pulaski County) is an art museum with a children’s theater and a studio school. Its mission is to facilitate learning, inspiration, and creative expression for all ages and backgrounds. The seed for the museum was planted in 1914, when the Fine Arts Club of Arkansas was formed. In 1937, its core supporters and volunteers contributed to the creation of the Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock’s MacArthur Park. In 1959, in cooperation with the museum’s Fine Arts Club, the Little Rock Junior League, and the city of Little Rock, the future governor and first lady—Winthrop and Jeannette Rockefeller—agreed to help launch a statewide capital campaign …

Arkansas Repertory Theatre

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre (commonly called “the Rep”) was founded in Little Rock (Pulaski County) by Cliff Baker in 1976 and is the state’s largest nonprofit and professional theater company. The Rep’s mission is to “create a diverse body of theatrical work of the highest artistic standards. With a focus on dramatic storytelling that illuminates the human journey, the Rep entertains, engages, and enriches local and regional audiences of all ages and backgrounds.” The Rep first opened in the former Hunter Memorial Methodist Church at East 11thand McAlmont Streets. Its first play, The Threepenny Opera, was performed in November 1976. Approximately ten years after its founding, a major fundraising campaign was initiated in order to secure an almost $2 million loan …

Arkansas River Blues Society

The Arkansas River Blues Society (ARBS), based in Little Rock (Pulaski County), began its life as the Arkansas Blues Connection (ABC) in June 1984 as Arkansas’s first chapter of the National Blues Foundation. Based in Memphis, Tennessee, the National Blues Foundation seeks to “preserve blues heritage, celebrate blues recording and performance, expand worldwide awareness of the blues, and ensure the future of the uniquely American art form.” The Arkansas River Blues Society seeks to preserve the legacy of Arkansas blues and to provide a place for budding musicians to keep the blues alive. What became the Arkansas River Blues Society began in a Little Rock blues club. A group of local blues enthusiasts—including John Craig, Steve Logan, Jeff Weeden, and …

Arkansas State Capitol Building

The Arkansas Capitol building is the seat of the state’s government, housing its legislature as well as the staffs of six out of Arkansas’s seven constitutional officers. The monumental neo-classical structure gave rise to political controversy during its construction but has generally been praised since its completion in 1915. The current building is the second capitol built in Little Rock (Pulaski County). It replaced the State House (today’s Old State House Museum) erected in the 1830s between Markham Street and the banks of the Arkansas River in downtown Little Rock. During the 1890s, calls were raised for a new capitol, but sentiment and financial considerations, coupled with the lack of a suitable site, effectively blocked the project. By 1899, the …

Arkansas Symphony Orchestra

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, based in Little Rock (Pulaski County), provides opportunities for the residents of the state to hear and to perform quality instrumental music. The current orchestra, which incorporated in 1966, is the successor of several previous and shorter-lived attempts to create a sustainable performing group. Most reports of musical performances in early Arkansas history are of vocal performances, brass ensembles, concerts by amateur groups, recitals by pupils of individual teachers, or church-sponsored events. No regularly performing instrumental groups available for public enjoyment appear in reports until after the turn of the twentieth century. During the early years of 1900s, music clubs over the state, as well as individual music lovers, became vocal about the desirability of musical education for …

Arkansas Waltz

In 1917, the Arkansas General Assembly designated “Arkansas,” a patriotic anthem composed by Eva Ware Barnett, as the state’s first official song. It remained as such until the late 1940s, when a copyright dispute led to the state’s adoption of “The Arkansas Traveler” as the state’s musical symbol. In 1963, the dispute was settled amicably, and “Arkansas” resumed its former place as the state song—a title it would hold until the late 1980s. “Arkansas” was not, however, without its challengers during this second tenure. One challenger managed to garner a degree of legislative recognition: in 1971, the Arkansas State Senate voted to designate “Arkansas Waltz” by Bill Urfer of Heber Springs (Cleburne County) and Cletus “Slim” Jones of Benton (Saline …

Armstrong III, Ralph Waldo

Ralph Waldo Armstrong III photographed the African-American community of Little Rock (Pulaski County) for more than fifty years. Between 1951 and 2006, a period of dramatic social change, he accumulated an invaluable archive of thousands of photographs of Little Rock’s black citizenry, houses, churches, schools, and professional and civic organizations. Ralph Armstrong was born on February 23, 1925, in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Ralph W. Armstrong II and Callie Armstrong; he had one older half-brother and two younger sisters. His father worked in a Little Rock furniture factory, and his mother took in washing to help the family meet expenses during the Great Depression. Later, she, too, worked in the factory. Armstrong developed an early love for classical music …

Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas

The Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), accredited by the American Association of Museums (AAM), is the hub for fine arts, performing arts, arts and science classes, and hands-on children’s science exhibits for the ten-county area of southeastern Arkansas. The mission of the Arts & Science Center is to “provide opportunities for the practice, teaching, performance, enjoyment and understanding of the arts and sciences.” The Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas traces its history to March 4, 1968, when two local community arts groups merged by ordinance of the Pine Bluff City Council and assumed the name of Civic Center Arts Museum. Soon afterward, the center grew to include performing arts, science exhibits, …

Arts, Culture, and Entertainment

Arkansas’s cultural record may begin on the state’s eastern edge, with a painted buffalo skin made by the Quapaw, nine figures in a line, the one at the left with a rattle. Or perhaps it begins still earlier, with fragments of cane flutes and whistles from ancient Ozark Indians. These offer only the briefest of hints, a mere glimpse of Arkansas’s earliest peoples, but enough to make it clear that they entertained themselves, that there were dancers, musicians, and artists among them. A millennium later, Arkansans entertain themselves at Riverfest in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena-West Helena (Phillips County), or maybe the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. They celebrate the successes of home-grown authors, …

Ashley, Hubert Carl (Hugh)

Hubert Carl (Hugh) Ashley lived a life revolving around country and western music and public service. He wrote and recorded some of the earliest known recordings of Ozark folk music, was one of radio’s original “Beverly Hill Billies,” and wrote songs for five members of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Hugh Ashley was born on September 27, 1915, near Wiley’s Cove (Searcy County). He was the first of four boys born to Hobart Ashley and Lillie Holsted Ashley. Music was a part of Ashley’s life from an early age. At seven, he rode a mule five miles from Sulphur Springs (Searcy County) to Leslie (Searcy County) for his first piano lesson, and at thirteen, he joined his father’s musical …

Audubon, John James

John James Audubon, a frontier naturalist and artist, is famous for illustrating and writing The Birds of America. He visited Arkansas Territory in 1820 and 1822 and documented Arkansas’s birds, including the Traill’s flycatcher, also known as the willow flycatcher, which is the only bird originally discovered in Arkansas. John Audubon was born Jean Rabin on April 26, 1785, in Saint-Domingue (Haiti). He was the illegitimate child of Jean Audubon, a ship’s captain, and Jeanne Rabin, a French chambermaid. His mother died in 1785 or 1786, and Jean Audubon and his children returned to France after a slave revolt. Along with his sister, he was adopted by his father and stepmother in 1794. Audubon stayed with his father and stepmother …

Babcock, Lucille (Lucy)

Lucille (Lucy) Babcock was a noted actress in theater and television who established the first community theater in Little Rock (Pulaski County). She also fostered the literary organizations her grandmother, writer Bernie Babcock, founded. Lucy Babcock was born Lucille Thornburg on September 30, 1921, to Frances Babcock Thornburg and John Thornburg. She had one sibling. While she was still an infant, her father deserted the family. Her grandmother had purchased Broadview, a wooded acreage that overlooked Little Rock, and the family moved into her barn-cum-house. At school, she was often in trouble for defending the underdog, recalling, “No one ever told me fighting was wrong.” Her circumstances and the area where she lived branded her as “white trash.” She attended …

Baker House

Located at 109 5th Street in North Little Rock (Pulaski County), the Queen Anne–style Baker House was constructed in 1897 by A. E. Colburn. The structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as one of the last surviving Victorian houses in North Little Rock. This Victorian home was constructed in 1897 (completed by 1898), according to Arkansas Gazette articles in late 1896 and early 1897, by A. E. Colburn and Henry Glenn. The home is approximately 4,156 square feet in the twenty-first century, having undergone renovations and had a cottage added. Henry Glenn was a native of Little Rock (Pulaski County) and a contractor. Colburn was a native of Little Rock as well. Some sources incorrectly claim …

Ballet Arkansas

As Arkansas’s only professional ballet company, Ballet Arkansas has enjoyed much success in bringing professional dance to the region. While classical ballet serves as the core of the curriculum of the professional company, other forms such as contemporary, modern, and jazz are explored as well. Ballet Arkansas began with the work of Little Rock (Pulaski County) native Donald Cater Cranford, who moved back to Little Rock from Dallas, Texas, in the mid-1960s. In 1957, he and his wife Lorraine Albert Cranford had founded the Cranford House of Ballet, which developed dancers for the Dallas Civic Ballet. The Dallas Civic Ballet was anchored by an annual performance of the Christmas standard ballet, The Nutcracker. D. Cater Cranford founded the Little Rock Civic …

Band Museum

The Band Museum in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) housed an extensive collection of wind instruments and offered a history of the American band movement. Beginning as the personal collection of its founder, the museum grew to approximately 1,500 antique instruments and was, before its closure, the only museum in the United States devoted entirely to the history of band music and instruments. Jerry Horne, founder of the Band Museum and a member of the American Musical Instrument Society, began collecting unusual instruments when he purchased the Wallick Music Company in 1970. His first was an old helicon (similar to a sousaphone), made by the C. G. CONN Company in 1925, which he found in the Wallick family’s garage. Soon, he began scouring …

Bank of Carthage

The Bank of Carthage is a historic building located in Carthage (Dallas County). Designed by Charles Thompson and constructed in 1907, the same year Carthage was incorporated, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 22, 1982. Carthage was founded as a stop on the Chicago, Rock Island and Southern Railroad. Early residents included members of nearby Lea Ridge (Dallas County), an African-American community founded by former slaves. Many nearby residents moved to Carthage after it was first platted in 1906, attracted by the community’s proximity to the railroad. Railroad-related businesses, timber production, and other agricultural endeavors drove the economy of Carthage in the early twentieth century. With the growing economy, the Bank of Carthage …

Bank of Malvern Building

The Bank of Malvern building is a historic structure located at 212 South Main Street in Malvern (Hot Spring County). Constructed in 1889, the building was renovated in 1896 after a fire. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 13, 1987. The Bank of Malvern was founded on June 4, 1889, and received a charter from the state on June 24. The bank prospered in the growing town and survived multiple so-called panics and economic downturns, leaving it the oldest chartered bank in the state by the mid-twentieth century. Founded by O. M. Nilsen and F. M. Smith, the bank was housed in a two-story building on the site of the present structure. The second …

Barnes, Bruce “Sunpie”

Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes is a musician, writer, naturalist, park ranger, ethnographic photographer, and actor from Saline County. He also played for National Football League (NFL) for a time. Along with his band, the Louisiana Sunspots, Barnes pioneered a unique mixture of zydeco (a créole musical style originating in Louisiana), blues, gospel, jazz, and African and Afro-Caribbean music into a musical gumbo that he dubbed “Afro-Louisiana” music. Barnes plays accordion, harmonica, piano, trombone, rub board, and various other instruments. Bruce Barnes was born on May 18, 1963, in Benton (Saline County). The tenth of eleventh children, (five whole and five half siblings), Barnes grew up in what is now Benton’s Ralph Bunche community. Barnes’s parents were sharecroppers who worked on various …

Barron-Craig House

The Barron-Craig House, the oldest structure still standing in northern Saline County, is located at Paron near the intersection of Arkansas Highway 9 and Kanis Road (12th Street). It is one of only a few antebellum homes still found in Saline County. A single-pen log structure, it survived the destruction of the Civil War and the ravages of time. James Barron moved to Saline County from South Carolina circa 1835 and settled in Union Township, later designated Holland Township, near what became Paron. His son, John T. Barron, born in 1828, married Sarah Pelton in 1856 and began a farmstead nearby. In 1857, John Barron built a single-pen log structure with a gabled roof on a foundation of stone piers …

Bartlett, E. M.

aka: Eugene Monroe Bartlett Sr.
With the exception of his protégé, Albert E. Brumley, no other Arkansas figure contributed more to the development of the Southern gospel music genre than singer, songwriter, and publisher Eugene Monroe Bartlett Sr. E. M. Bartlett was born on December 24, 1883, in the small community of Waynesville, Missouri, according to Barlett’s World War I draft card, though historians have variously placed his year of birth in 1884 and 1885. He and his parents eventually relocated to Sebastian County, Arkansas. Educated at the Hall-Moody Institute in Martin, Tennessee, and William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, Bartlett received training as a music teacher. In 1917, Bartlett married Joan Tatum; they had two children. As an aspiring songwriter, Bartlett became an employee …