The Arts & Science Center held its annual Tinkerfest on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. This year’s Tinkerfest was full of engaging hands-on, sensory-exploring activities: Make-and-take sensory gel pads and stress balls, and an optical illusion station.Read More
The Arts & Science Center invites the public to its annual family-friendly event Tinkerfest from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7. This year’s Tinkerfest is full of engaging hands-on, sensory-exploring activities. The event will also feature a “Sensory Station,” designed to be a soothing, welcoming space for those who can experience sensory overload during public events.Read More
ASC, Pine Bluff Library Host Community Programming April 27
Home, place making, and hospitality are the central themes of a traveling exhibition making its latest stop at the Arts & Science Center.
Our Front Porch aims to encourage community dialogue and promote tolerance and hospitality through a selection of artwork, multimedia installations, and perhaps unexpectedly, rocking chairs.
The exhibition’s creator, Jeannie Fowler Rodriguez-Stone of Russellville, sees a need to make communities more welcoming places through encouraging friendly, civil discussions and sharing personal experiences. Stone — an artist, poet, university instructor, and Ph.D. student — uses the front porch concept to encourage this interaction.
The exhibition is now on display in ASC’s International Paper Gallery through Saturday, July 27.
Artwork is accompanied by a complete front porch setup with rocking chairs, along with video and audio installations. Visitors are encouraged to sit and rock, and chat and listen.
This year’s exhibition features artists Tim Jacob of North Little Rock, Angela Davis Johnson of Elaine, Suzannah Schreckhise of Fayetteville, Lourdes Valverde of Bentonville, and Stone herself. Vidoegraphers Katie Jacques, Meredith Martin Moats, William Wofford, and Stone share stories, anecdotes, and songs from Arkansans.
In addition to the exhibition, ASC and the Pine Bluff/Jefferson Co. Public Library will host family-friendly events and activities on Saturday, April 27, in conjunction with Our Front Porch.
Visitors to ASC can take part in craft and maker activities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. that will include:
Mixed-Media Sculptures and Jewelry Making: Explore ASC’s current exhibitions and then create their own mixed-media sculptures with found objects or jewelry-inspired art.
Bouki and Lapin Mask: Craft a mask of Bouki the fox or Lapin the rabbit from the traditional French Louisiana folktales.
Shadow Puppets: Create a shadow puppet and engage yourself with shadow puppetry.
Stop-Motion Animation: Learn to create an animated-film at one the stop-motion stations.
The Pine Bluff/Jefferson Co. Public Library activities will be from 12-3 p.m. Highlights include:
Arts and crafts
Fried chicken cook-off, with tasting from 2-3 p.m.
12-12:30 p.m. — Raffle drawing.
12-1:30; 2-2:30 p.m. — Live music from Dave Sadler.
12:20-2:45 p.m. — Kids and teen games (jump rope, Double Dutch competition, jacks, Hula Hoops, scavenger hunt).
12:30-1 p.m. — Writeous Poets, a slam poetry group from Little Rock.
1:30-2 p.m. — Storyteller Rex Nelson will share anecdotes and stories in “Arkansas Conversation.” Nelson is a senior editor and columnist at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. His writings can also be found on his blog, Rex Nelson’s Southern Fried.
1-1:45 p.m. — Discuss the lost art of train travel and hear the story behind Howard Fogg’s watercolor painting The 1947-1948 Freedom Train, which experts once thought to be lost. The train made its 100th stop in Pine Bluff.
1:30-1:50 p.m. — Jeannie Stone will discuss her painting Connection Found.
For more information on the activities at the library, please visit pineblufflibrary.org or call 870-534-4802.
The front porch, video installations, and select art from Our Front Porch will be at the library during Saturday’s event before joining the rest of the exhibition pieces at ASC.
The two most important elements of the program are the front porch and the “conversation circles,” Stone said. Visitors will be welcomed into the portico area of the library where they can sit in rocking chairs and enjoy lemonade.
“We’re going to have an open conversation circle and volunteers will just come and sit with folks,” Stone explained. “We like to start by asking ‘Do you have stories about Pine Bluff or porches?’ So we like to ground it in place, making it neighborly talk. But just like all good front porch conversations, it can go absolutely anywhere. I think that’s the joy of it.”
Four of the Our Front Porch artists will take part in workshops in demos at the Arts & Science Center this summer:
Saturday, May 18, 1-3 p.m. — Tim Jacob: Unique Landscape Perspective & Process (FREE)
Saturday, June 15, 1-3 p.m. — The Micro and Macro of Landscape, by Lens and Brush, with Lourdes Valverde and Jeannie Stone. (FREE)
Suzannah Schreckhise and Stone will lead workshops during the summer camps.
Behind Our Front Porch
The concept of Our Front Porch sprang from Stone’s 501 (c)3 nonprofit organization, Traveling Arts Fiesta. “We would go to communities with art from Arkansas-based Latino artists. Our hope was to help make communities more welcoming places for all of the people who lived there,” she explained. TAF was founded on the belief that many people don’t know or realize that the Latino populations are made up of different groups and cultures, or that there are so many different Latino countries, she said.
“Our Front Porch came about with this desire as an Arkansan to bring the different factions together, even for a short while with the hope of planting a seed that it is important to practice the front-porch type of mentality where people are free to express in a civil manner their opinions and their thoughts. But I felt like if we grounded it in a place, that we would have a lot more success.”
Pine Bluff is the exhibition’s fifth stop since the season tour began in September 2018 in Fort Smith. In August, Our Front Porch moves to the Delta Cultural Center in Helena for its final venue of the year.
Programming is tailored to each community; for example, the April 27 programming includes discussions related to trains.
“What I think I makes Our Front Porch be so successful is that I just actively really work with the communities to get a collaborative effort going so each Front Porch event does mimic what that community is and what it’s all about,” she said. “Because even though you think almost everybody knows everybody in Pine Bluff — we need help in being neighborly.”
Our Front Porch is an outreach project of Traveling Arts Fiesta. The project is funded by the Mid-America Arts Allicance, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the state agencies of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas, including the Arkansas Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage. Additional funding is provided by Alternate ROOTS and The Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas.
The Arts & Science Center honored dedicated volunteers with an awards presentation and reception at the 2019 Volunteer Night on Thursday, April 11.
The awards and recipients are:
2019 Margaret Spearman Memorial Volunteer of the Year: Troy DeBill. “Troy has been an immense help over the years,” said ASC Executive Director Dr. Rachel Miller. “She tends to volunteer herself without even being asked, and her love of ASC is evident through the selfless contributions of her time.”
2019 Catherine M. Bellamy Award for the Performing Arts: Jonathan Hoover. “Jonathan’s service to The Arts & Science Center is without limits,” said ASC Theatre Education Coordinator Lindsey Collins. “Whenever a production or event is in need of any assistance, the one person you know you can always depend on is Jonathan. No job is too big or too small.”
2019 Good Egg Award recipients:
Charlotte England, for her work at receptions and special events;
Pam Holcomb, for her costume work for several ASC productions;
Bill Moss, for his behind-the-scenes volunteerism and unwavering advocacy for ASC;
Donna Oates, for her costume work for several ASC productions;
Yunru (Rachel) Shen, for her work on Second Saturday Family FunDay and TinkerFest programming.
A new award was introduced this year, the tongue-in-cheek “Volun-Tolds” — a special recognition of Scottie Abernathy, Jeff Collins, Rich DeBill, Kenny Fisher, Michael Healy, Mike Kline, and Mike Lake “for their continued patience and willingness to be volunteered by their significant others for countless ASC events, productions, and programming.” The honorees received personalized beer “huggies” from NovelTs.
A compilation of videos submitted by past and present volunteers was shown following the awards presentation. Volunteers — which also included past ASC production cast and crew — were asked to submit short videos of themselves sharing their volunteer contributions to ASC.
Pine Bluff Sand & Gravel Co. and MK Distributors sponsored the event.
Art Krewe, a volunteer group of community art lovers who have hosted ASC’s receptions for more than 25 years, hosted the reception.
Volunteer Night Set for Thursday, April 11
Like many nonprofit organizations, the Arts & Science Center could not serve its community and fulfill its mission without dedicated volunteers.
ASC’s Volunteer Night, set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 11, is a celebration of the those who have given their time at the Arts & Science Center over the past year.
The event, sponsored by Pine Bluff Sand & Gravel Co., is free and open to the public. A reception will follow and is hosted by Art Krewe, a volunteer group of community art lovers who have hosted ASC’s receptions for more than 25 years.
“As a small staff museum with a lot to offer, our volunteers are essential to the success of ASC's events, programs, and day-to-day operations,” said ASC Executive Director Dr. Rachel Miller. “These community members' willingness to help wherever help is needed is absolutely invaluable. Their support and love of ASC and what we provide our community keeps us strong and relevant.”
The 2019 recipient of the Catherine M. Bellamy Award for the Performing Arts is Jonathan Hoover.
“Jonathan’s service to the Arts & Science Center is without limits,” said ASC Theater Education Coordinator Lindsey Collins. “Jonathan is, without a doubt, the man you call if you need help in the theatre. Whenever a production needs assistance, you can always depend on Jonathan to show up and help. Whether it’s directing a show or running a spotlight, he’s willing to pitch in anywhere the theatre needs it.”
Hoover regularly works with ASC’s theatrical programs and events such as Potpourri. He is a logistics analyst at the Pine Bluff Arsenal.
The 2019 recipient of the Margaret Spearman Memorial Volunteer of the Year award is Troy DeBill. “Troy has been an immense help over the years,“ Miller said. “She tends to volunteer herself without even being asked, and her love of ASC is evident through the selfless contributions of her time.”
DeBill, who is the past Chair of ASC’s Board of Trustees, regularly leads classes at ASC such as Canvas & Cork and Wood & Wine. She served as co-Chair for ASC’s biennial fundraising gala, Potpourri, in 2018. She is the EAST facilitator at White Hall Middle School.
ASC will also give out Good Egg Awards. “Those are people who also have really gone above and beyond for their volunteer work,” Collins said.
Good Egg Award recipients include Pam Holcomb and Donna Oates for their work on costumes for several ASC productions; Charlotte England for her work at receptions and special events; Bill Moss for his behind-the-scenes volunteerism and unwavering advocacy for ASC; and UAPB Merchandising, Textiles & Design faculty member Yunru (Rachel) Shen, for her volunteer work on Family FunDay and TinkerFest programming.
The Good Egg awards are crafted by glassmaker James Hayes.
The final award category is a bit tongue-in-cheek.
“This year, we’re adding a special recognition of a few men for their continued patience and willingness to be volunteered by their significant others for ASC events, productions, and programming,” Collins said. Those awards will go to Mike Kline, Michael Healey, Rich DeBill, Jeff Collins, Kenny Fisher, Mike Lake, and Scottie Abernathy.
During Volunteer Night, a video will be shown featuring interviews with volunteers who have donated their time over the past 50 years with the Arts & Science Center. Volunteers are asked to submit a video of 5 minutes or less of themselves sharing their volunteer contributions to ASC. The videos may be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org by Saturday, April 6.
“I can’t stress enough how important volunteers are, especially with the theatre and a lot of the things that go on here at the center. Volunteers are important. We need them,” Collins said.
Family-Friendly Programming Highlights African American, French, and CHinese Communities’ Contributions through Story, Music, Food and Film
By Shannon Frazeur
The Arts & Science Center invites the community to learn more about the area’s cultural heritage during the 2019 Crossroad Festival, ASC’s three-day, family-friendly cultural celebration. This multi-program event explores Jefferson County and Southeast Arkansas’s cultural heritage through the interpretive lens of story, music, foodways, and film.
All festival events are free and open to the public with no tickets or reservations required. Families are encouraged to attend.
Each year, the festival highlights different cultural groups that have made a lasting impact on the history, culture, and traditions of Southeast Arkansas. This year’s event features programming on the African American, French and Chinese communities’ regional cultural heritage.
“It’s not a festival in the contemporary sense with food and product vendors,” said ASC Executive Director Dr. Rachel Miller. “Instead, it’s a celebration.”
The festival kicks off Friday, March 1, at 7 p.m. with a program incorporating African American folktales and slave narratives into an interpretative performance involving musicians and actors from the community. Saturday, March 2, features two family programs featuring folklore and food, with hands-on activities. The event caps off Sunday afternoon, March 3, with a screening of the 2006 animated film The Adventures of Brer Rabbit, with director and Pine Bluff native Byron Vaughns.
The 2019 Crossroad Festival is supported in part by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and sponsorships by the Pine Bluff Advertising & Promotion Commission and Simmons Bank.
This is the second year for the Crossroad Festival. Last year’s festival focused on the region’s Quapaw Indian, French, and African American cultural heritage.
The Crossroad Festival was inspired by ASC’s Heritage Detectives project. A historian and artist were placed in Pine Bluff, Dumas, McGehee, and Lake Village classrooms to work with students on uncovering and depicting the diverse cultural influences of Southeast Arkansas through pictorial histories.
The festival idea percolated after ASC staff attended cultural programs at other institutes.
“The event was first initially conceptualized after staff attended the FUSION: Arts & Humanities Arkansas festival hosted by the Clinton Presidential Center in February 2017,” explained ASC Executive Director Dr. Rachel Miller. “In discussion with members of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma Cultural Committee, it was determined that there would be an audience for a similar event, but specifically focusing on the Quapaw’s history and legacy in Jefferson County.”
Shortly thereafter, ASC staff attended a screening of the documentary film First Cousins: Cajun and Creole Music in South Louisiana documentary, and met with the film’s producer and scholar Dr. Elista Istre about influences of Cajun and Creole culture in Delta regional music.
“All agreed that Pine Bluff, a city originally settled by Joseph Bonne, who was half French and half Quapaw Indian, would be ideal central location to host a cultural event that explores the county's French and Quapaw roots through primary sources,” Miller said.
In June 2017, ASC hosted a free screening of the AETN documentary, Dream Land: Little Rock’s West 9th Street. “We received an overwhelming response from the audience to host more similar events that focus on the area's African American heritage,” Miller said. Subsequently, ASC reached out to Jimmy Cunningham Jr., executive director of the Delta Rhythm & Blues Bayous Alliance, about organizing an event exploring Jefferson County’s African American history through music.
Friday, March 1, 7-9 p.m. — Tricksters, Tall Tales, and Blues Notes
This year’s festival kicks off with a night of lore, music and interpretation with the program Tricksters, Tall Tales, and Blues Notes. The event will combine living history, folklore, and musical performance in exploring African American experiences in Southeast Arkansas. Jimmy Cunningham Jr., with whom ASC collaborated during last year’s festival, writes and directs this program featuring regional actors and musicians.
The program is presented in four parts, and will explore four themes: folk heroes, prison folk music, animal folktales, and urban folklore.
Saturday, March 2, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. — Folktales & Foodways Family Fun
The festival’s second day will comprise two family-friendly programs, with lunch available for purchase.
In the morning session, Heritage Studies and Living History Interpretation scholar Dr. Elista Istre will lead Folktales Family Fun — a family storytelling, hands-on program. She will share traditional French Creole stories of the characters of Bouki (a fox) and Lapin (a rabbit), which are similar to the “Brer Rabbit” tales. She will also explore the links between West Africa, the Caribbean, and the American South. The program will include a craft workshop in which the children can make a mask of Bouki or Lapin to take home with them.
Ilstre is the founder of Belle Heritage, offering consulting, programming, and tours that inspire individuals and organizations to celebrate the beauty of heritage. Last year, University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press published her book Creoles of South Louisiana: Three Centuries Strong, which began as a dissertation during her time in Arkansas State University’s Heritage Studies program. She will have her books available for purchase at the festival.
She was also involved with the 2018 Crossroad Festival. She and her sister, Dr. Moriah Istre, screened their documentary film, First Cousins: Cajun and Creole Music in South Louisiana, and sat on a panel that discussed the French connections within Louisiana and Arkansas. She lives in Lafayette, La.
For the afternoon program, Istre will join Food Studies and Material Culture scholar Kevin Kim to expand the festival theme of cultural diffusion and adaption with Foodways & Tales. The program will provide a historical context for the foodways of South Louisiana’s Creole people, and Southeast Arkansas’s Cantonese communities, and address how both cultures have negotiated the fine lines between assimilation and isolation within the larger mainstream American culture.
Both scholars will share family stories and recipes. In a cooking demonstration, children from the Jefferson County 4-H Club will cook greens the Creole way to compare and contrast with how the Cantonese prepare greens as demonstrated by Kim.
Kim is a doctoral student in the Department of American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he also teaches courses on material culture and popular culture. His research interests focus on the cultural politics of food in American life, with a special emphasis on Asian American foodways. His work has been featured on National Public Radio (NPR). He has held curatorial internships at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and has worked with the Southern Foodways Alliance. He was born in South Korea and has lived in Los Angeles and Little Rock.
Pop’s Place food truck will be at ASC from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. so visitors can enjoy lunch between the programs.
Sunday, March 3, 1-3 p.m. — The Adventures of Brer Rabbit Screening and Q&A with Director/Animator Byron Vaughns
Continuing the exploration of African American folktales, ASC will close the 2019 festival with a screening of the 2006 animated Universal Pictures film The Adventures of Brer Rabbit. A question-and-answer session will follow with the film’s director, Byron Vaughns.
A Pine Bluff native and a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Vaughns has worked on many classic animated television shows including Alvin & the Chipmunks, The Smurfs, Animaniacs, and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. He won an Emmy in 1993 for directing Tiny Toon Adventures, which was selected for best animated daytime series. Vaughns lives in White Hall after residing in the Los Angeles area for more than three decades.
Windgate Foundation Grant to Help Fund Renovations of ‘The Annex’ for The ARTSpace for Creative Thinking & Entrepreneurship
The Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas has received a $2.2 million grant from the Windgate Foundation in support of ASC’s expanded community engagement initiative, The ARTSpace for Creative Thinking & Entrepreneurship.
ASC Executive Director Dr. Rachel Miller made the announcement Saturday, Dec. 1, during the Potpourri Gala fundraising event held at ASC.
The grant will make it possible for the Arts & Science Center to renovate and utilize the building known as “The Annex” as a multi-use space to support The ARTSpace project. The ASC Endowment Fund owns the historic two-story commercial building at 623 S. Main St. near the Arts & Science Center.
“We are immensely grateful to the Windgate Foundation for their long-time support and investment in the Arts & Science Center’s public arts education programming,” Miller said.
The Windgate Foundation is a private grant-making foundation with primary funding interests including projects that promote visual art and crafts in the United States.
New programming in the updated space will be funded by grants, designated donations and supported by in-kind partnerships.
The renovation will provide designated office and studio spaces for an arts education community support partner and extended teaching artist residences; more classrooms to simultaneously accommodate multiple school groups, support theatre youth workshops, and art entrepreneurial-themed workshop series; a public gallery space for University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff art students, area school youth and regional artists; and a community gathering space to host ASC’s arts-integrated healthy living initiative and monthly art night events.
Future programming will be in partnership with the UAPB’s Economic Research and Development Center (also known as The Incubator), area schools, and The Delta Consortium for Arts and Innovation.
For 50 years, ASC has provided neighborhood stabilization. The institution’s current location has served as a cultural anchor for downtown Pine Bluff for almost 25 years, Miller said.
The ARTSpace will contribute to the revitalization of downtown and serve as an already established entry point for the planned development of an arts and entertainment corridor.
The target date for renovations to begin is June 2019, with the goal of opening The ARTSpace by the end of 2019, Miller said.