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
Limited Number of Scholarships Available
Spring is in its early days, but registration is already underway for the Arts & Science Center’s 2019 summer camps.
Students ages 7-17 can explore topics such as art, engineering, technology, game design and development, filmmaking, and theatre.
Both camps include lessons in drawing, painting, printmaking, and sculpture with exploration of current ASC art exhibitions. Students will create 2D and 3D projects, and focus not only on artistic methods and working with different media, but also appreciating how to create and visualize art through nontraditional means. ASC Public Programs Coordinator Shakeelah Rahmaan will lead the art camps with workshops by guest instructors.
Art I will include a “puddle painting” workshop with guest artist Jeannie Stone. Art II will feature Build Your Own Altar with guest artist Suzannah Schreckhise. Both artists have works featured in the Our Front Porch exhibit, on view at ASC from April 25 through July 27.
In Filmmaking Camp (July 8-12), students ages 7-17 will experience all of the technological, creative and artistic aspects of filmmaking. They will explore storytelling as an art form, by developing a film idea, shooting the video, recording audio and editing their creation.
Eva Belle, mass communication instructor and debate coach at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, leads the camp.
One can see how much fun students had during the 2018 camp by checking out the films they created. (Last year’s camp films will also be shown at the 2019 UAPB Film Festival on April 10.)
ASC Digital Media Specialist Ashley Smith will lead the two STEAM camps, which are for ages 13-17.
Through hands-on building and experimentation, Engineering & Technology (July 15-19) students will be introduced to electric circuits, LEDs and switches, stop-motion animation, computer coding and apps, conductors and semiconductors, programming motors and app development.
Game Design & Development (July 15-19) students will use virtual development to learn the fundamentals of creating a game through computer programming and animation, creative problem solving, mathematics, storytelling and teamwork.
Students can enroll in both half-day camps for a full day of STEAM learning with a discounted fee.
Justin A. Pike returns to lead the theatre camps.
Theatre Camp is full-day, month-long (June 3-28) immersive camp for students ages 13-17. They will learn all aspect of theater production: from directing to acting, from scenery construction to light & sound design. Through theater, students will practice creativity and innovation while they improve their skills in performance, collaboration, and technology. The camp will culminate in a junior production.
Theatre Jr. Camp, a half-day, two-week (June 17-28) camp for ages 7-12, will introduce the basic concepts of storytelling, acting technique, and production tech. Students will have fun with lively drama games designed to support the budding thespian in your student. The camp will culminate with a skit performed for family and friends.
Pike is artistic director of The Studio Theatre in Little Rock, and director of the Young Players Second Stage program at The Royal Theater in Benton. Pike studied theater at the University of Central Arkansas.
A limited number of scholarships are available; eligibility is based on financial need, including household income and household size. The deadline for submitting scholarship applications is 10 days before the first day of the camp begins, but parents are encouraged to submit applications as soon as possible. Scholarship application forms are available online or picked up at ASC’s front desk.
Windgate Foundation, Ben J. Altheimer Foundation, and the June and Edmond Freeman Endowment are among the organizations graciously contributing to ASC’s scholarship fund.
Extended care is available for parents and guardians who need a little extra time to pick up their children from camp. Extended care lasts until 1 hour past the camps’ designated end time. Cost is $5 per day preregistered, or $8 per day unplanned.
Advanced registration is required for all camps. Camp registration and more details are available at the summer camp web page. For more information, email ASC Public Programs Coordinator Shakeelah Rahmaan at firstname.lastname@example.org or ASC Theatre Education Coordinator Lindsey Collins at or email@example.com, or call 870-536-3375.
The Arts & Science Center invites the community to explore traditional and modern Chinese fashion during its next adult education class, “Sumptuous Silks and Ancient Traditions: Exploring Chinese Fashion,” on Thursday, Sept. 20, from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Special guest Yunru Shen, fashion designer and instructor at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and will lead an engaging discussion on traditional and modern Chinese fashion. Participants will then have their turn to be creative as ASC Public Programs Coordinator Leonor Colbert guides them through making their own hand fans. Inspired by a variety of traditional Chinese hand fan designs, the silk brocade fans can be personalized to the makers’ taste. Participants can also enjoy a complimentary wine or beer while making their fans.
No experience is required, and all materials will be included. Advance registration is required and attendees must be at least 21 years old. The cost is $10 for ASC members or $15 for nonmembers.
Shen, who is originally from Shanghai, China, is a faculty member in UAPB's Merchandising, Textiles, and Design Program.
“I will talk about Chinese fashion from the 1920s qipao dress to today though history and culture change,” Shen explained. “I will also discuss three fashion cities: Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong in order to introduce today’s Chinese fashion trends with different major cities’ environmental influence.”
Shen will also show her own spring/summer 2019 collection.
“I created my newest fashion collection with new qipao style. It is a new Oriental/exotic American style,” she explained. She plans to wear the modern silk qipao dress for the event.
The qipao (and the similar cheongsam) first became popular in 1920s Shanghai. Characterized by its close fit and brocade fabric, the dress style can still be seen in 21st-century eastern and western fashions.
Shen has studied and worked in fashion on three continents. She earned a Bachelor of Design degree in fashion and apparel design in 2010 at Raffles College of Design and Commerce in Sydney, Australia. She worked in Shanghai — China’s the fashion and economic center — at KISMET+, a women’s fashion studio. She moved to the United States in 2011 to study at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, where she graduated in 2014 with a Master of Fine Arts degree in apparel design. She has also worked in a design team for Edun Americas Inc., a New York City-based fashion brand founded to promote fair trade in Africa by sourcing production within the continent.
Shen joined UAPB in 2014, and teaches classes covering textiles, apparel design, fashion illustration, fashion buying and merchandising, and the fashion industry.
By Shannon Frazeur
Students were immersed in the jazz and swing culture of the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s during ASC’s recent “Swing, Art, and All That Jazz” summer program. The camp, held July 30-Aug. 3, introduced seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-graders to the dances, music, and culture of this period.
Although dance and music were central, the camp wasn’t all about performance. The camp also incorporated art, history, and culture of the era — particularly pertaining to African-Americans — along with videography, into a multidisciplinary program which culminated in a video the students shot and edited themselves.
The camp was made possible by a grant from the Arkansas Department of Education, through its Academic Enrichment for the Gifted/Talented in Summer (AEGIS) program. The AEGIS programs provide unique learning opportunities in specific areas for gifted students in Arkansas. “Swing, Art, and All That Jazz” was one of eight AEGIS programs funded for 2018. The camp was open to students in Arkansas at no cost to them.
ASC welcomed special guest instructor Nick Davis of Eugene, Oregon, for the week. Davis is founder of a nonprofit swing dance organization, Track Town Swing, in Eugene. He is also a Frankie Manning Ambassador with the Frankie Manning Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and instruction of traditional swing dancing. Davis has traveled nationally and internationally to teach and DJ at swing dance events.
A swing and jazz era painting from ASC’s Permanent Collection served as inspiration and a point of context for the class. Palmer C. Hayden’s 1927 watercolor “Untitled (Dancers)" depicts two African-American couples dancing with a swing and jazz band. Note: “Untitled” (Dancers) is on display now through Oct. 27 in ASC's William H. Kennedy Jr. Gallery.
Each morning, the students learned a new dance style or routine, and in the afternoon, they discussed it as a group and decided what was the most interested part of what they learned that day — both in terms of the dance and the contextual information that they learned about it, ASC Public Programs Coordinator Leonor Colbert explained.
The students then split into two groups. One group returned to the stage with Davis to perfect the final choreography and record themselves performing the dance moves they learned earlier that day. The second group created a script, providing interpretive context for that particular dance move. Then they audio recorded themselves reading the script. With the support of ASC Digital Media Specialist Ashley Smith, both groups came back together to edit the video and audio clips. By the end of the week, they had completed a 3-and-a-half minute video that not only demonstrates dance moves they learned, but provided interpretation about African-American dance history, especially related to the period most relevant for the 1927 Hayden painting.
The first day of camp also included an art and behind-the-scenes tour with ASC Curator Dr. Lenore Shoults. The tour provided context on visual art as a means of working through challenging ideas and some of the politics of representation, especially art depicting African-Americans, Colbert said.
The discussion continued Tuesday with guest speaker Jimmy Cunningham Jr., CEO of the Delta Rhythm ‘n’ Bayous Alliance and author of two books focusing on southeast Arkansas’ musical and arts cultural history and heritage. Cunningham, a Pine Bluff native, discussed regional connections between swing music, Delta blues, and hip-hop music. He also spoke on how music has always been a means of working through and expressing intense emotion.
“He was talking about music on the edge — ‘super black music,’ as he called it, and how that has changed over the years,” Colbert said. “What’s pushing the boundaries — there always has to be something new coming after it, but that idea has been continuous. So he had an intergenerational panel that had folks that were involved in various dance scenes, ranging from the 1950s to the 1990s, and they talked about the music, the cultural scene, what people were wearing and doing and talking about how they danced to that music. And then the kids got the chance to share a little of the music of what they are listening to now. So it was a really nice intergenerational exchange; that continuity, even though the music styles sound very different.”
The students also created individual works of visual art inspired by the pieces they saw during their curatorial tour. They could choose to either make a figurative work of art (like the Hayden watercolor) or a more abstract work of art.
“They’re identifying a discrete source of inspiration — whether it’s photo or a dance clip or a piece of music,” Colbert explained. “And they’re deciding on their media, which is either acrylic or watercolor or collage. So there is a lot of choice. There is a lot of learner-driven experience in this, where we’re not forcing them into pigeonholes in which they have to all do the same thing.”
Unlike many dance-based programs, there was no public performance.
“We are learning some routines that are from performances, but a lot of what they are learning are vernacular art forms or social art forms that are meant to be improvised or meant to be experienced with people and not on a stage in front of somebody. It loses a lot of the spontaneity that makes it special when you codify it in a package to be performed.”
Colbert, a longtime dancer herself, developed the curriculum and program proposal.
“It’s something that I’ve always really loved and appreciated its ability to bring very diverse people together. It’s just a very joyful, fun thing.”
Colbert also saw the potential for the program to introduce weightier topics.
“I particularly wanted to do this kind of camp that was focusing on interdisciplinary aspects, using dance and music as an entry point for larger conversations, especially as it relates to race, race representation, commodification of racial art and how it is consumed, and the power dynamics that come into play with African-American art forms,” she said. “Because in recent years, in the jazz and swing dance community nationally and internationally, there have been a growing momentum in the conversation about race and racism in the dance scene because it is a historically African-American art form, that is largely appropriated and performed by white people.
“So I felt that was something that was really important to a large community of artists, jazz dancers and jazz musicians, and I thought that the Arts & Science Center was uniquely well-positioned to start that conversation,” she said.
Nick Davis' ’Crazy Journey’
Nick Davis’ love for swing and jazz dance has taken him beyond the U.S. borders, as far away as Sweden.
His interest began in 1998 in Eugene after he started taking hip-hop and R&B dance classes. Those classes led him to other styles and, eventually, Lindy Hop swing.
“I found out that I really liked that kind of music,” he said.
Noticing his interest, his dance teacher told him there was a fellow teacher in town who specializes in swing. Denise Steele was a prominent teacher on the scene in the early 2000s, and would bring swing dance pioneer Frankie Manning to Oregon to teach workshops. Manning is widely considered the grandfather of Lindy Hop.
Although Manning was in his late 80s when Davis began taking class, he was still very active in the dance community and still teaching workshops.
“He would come to Oregon once or twice a year to pass on his wealth of knowledge to people. It was a pretty exciting time for me. So that helped me get connected to the dancing — not just to the dancing, but get connected to it from a cultural point.”
Davis connected to swing and jazz in a way that he didn’t with more contemporary dance and music styles.
“For me, I like hip-hop and all that stuff but it didn’t really resonate with me personally, and so hearing this style of music and this style of dance, to me, it felt much more elegant. It was something that was easier for me to get behind than just music that really, it paints a picture of more hardship than just kind of a lot of violence and a lot of things that I, personally, I understand but I’ve never really experienced. But with jazz, hearing more, getting more exposure to that, to me, it was more about songs about love and just trying to connect. And so I was like, OK, I feel this, this is resonating with me. So I was very happy to get connected to some swing dancing and jazz music.”
After the swing dance scene in Eugene faded, Davis returned to performing more contemporary jazz styles and hip-hop dance, he said. After Manning died in 2009 at age 94, Davis realized he wanted to return to the older dance styles.
“He definitely lived a good life, but that touched me to be like, ‘Oh, this person who I’ve been so inspired by is now no longer here — what does that mean for me?’” Davis said. “I was still dancing with my other group at the time but eventually the pull of ‘Let’s go back to swing dancing. Let’s try to connect with a person instead of just performing to seek attention, seek adulation.’ Getting back into social dance really helped me to feel like I was connecting with people on a more personal level.”
There still wasn’t much of a swing and jazz scene in Eugene but In 2012, Davis and a handful of other dancers began practicing together. Two or three people become 12 people, and when they held their first dance, 80 people showed up for what would become Track Town Swing. “So basically, I just put all my other dance stuff aside and focused on this ever since then.”
Davis was looking for ways to improve his teaching and applied for and was awarded the Frankie Manning Ambassador Scholarship, which included a three-week trip to Sweden, site of the world’s largest vernacular jazz dance camp.
“After that, I felt very inspired,” he said. From that opportunity, they were able to build up the scene in Eugene, and right now, Track Town Swing hosts five classes a week and regular dances.
Davis’ swing and jazz expertise goes beyond the dance floor. Although he still teaches quite a bit, he mostly works traveling as a DJ.
“For swing dance, what you want is to be able to have a live band play at your event,” he said. “It’s more fun, there’s a person there giving you something. You can’t always afford that, so obviously it’s really nice if you can get a person who is decent and knows enough about the music to rock the party by pressing play.”
Davis has worked as a DJ in the Pacific Northwest and Colorado. “And a few weeks ago, I was actually in Sweden as a DJ. So once again, we have this crazy situation where somehow I was able to get from Eugene, Oregon, to a village in Sweden where there is going to be hundreds of people staying up all night dancing, and I’m one of the people who is helping make that happen. It’s a crazy journey.”