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.