Imagine If Buildings Could Talk

Imagine If Buildings Could Talk 3D mapped video (film still), 2017. Photo © Scott Meador

The University of Central Arkansas has set three days of events commemorating the 60-year anniversary of the Little Rock Central High School integration for September 23-25.

“Imagine If Buildings Could Talk: Mapping the History of Little Rock Central High School” will mark the 90-year anniversary of the building of the school, hailed in 1927 as the most expensive, most beautiful, and largest high school in the nation.

The project is envisioned by Dr. Gayle Seymour, associate dean of the University of Central Arkansas’ College of Fine Arts and Communication, and Jennifer Deering, grant writer for UCA’s Sponsored Programs.

The centerpiece is a free-admission, 3D-mapped video screening (projected directly on the front façade of the school), nine minutes in length, which will run every 15 minutes, Sept. 23-24 from 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Through 21st-century visual effects, UCA video artist Scott Meador will transform the building from its familiar state from blueprints to construction to opening day in 1927. Through animation techniques, the iconic architectural figures—representing the attributes of Ambition, Personality, Opportunity, and Preparation—will come alive. Using images from school yearbooks and the Tiger mascot, the artist will immortalize Central’s essential school spirit. Meador will also use historical footage of the crisis to transport viewers back to 1957 to experience the gripping national drama of desegregation.

The video will end with hope for the future represented by artwork created by students across the state as well as symbols from the school’s educational mission.

“For a once-in-a-life time event such as the 60th commemoration, we wanted to find an artistic language that would speak to the widest possible audience and, figuratively, light the world,” said Dr. Gayle Seymour, associate dean of UCA’s College of Fine Arts and Communication. “The 3D-projection mapping video on the Central High façade will do just that. You don’t want to miss it.”

To punctuate the narrative elements of the video, herald the dramatic imagery, and draw viewers to the site, UCA composer Dr. Blake Tyson has created an original score for six percussionists performing on three marimbas, two vibraphones and one glockenspiel, which will be broadcast along with the video performance.

Tyson’s “The Surface of the Sky” will also be performed by 33 percussion ensembles from colleges and universities around the U.S., including those at Baylor University, Eastman School of Music, and Virginia Commonwealth University, to commemorate the 60th anniversary.

“We anticipate the score alone will become part of the standard repertoire of high school and college percussion ensembles and will live beyond the life of this project,” Seymour said. “The score will be supplemented by program notes and an accompanying demonstration video, ensuring teachers and students will continue to be engaged through music with the struggle for civil rights beyond the commemorative anniversary events.”

Partial grant funding comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Park Service, Mid-America Arts Alliance and the Arkansas Arts Council.

A complete listing of events, artists and images are included at this link: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0BxeiQP6nYV4ddkZGX0lrMTBUQnc?usp=sharing

“Imagine If Buildings Could Talk” will also include several other arts-focused public events that will also commemorate the 60-year anniversary of the desegregation of the school by the Little Rock Nine on Sept. 25, 1957, one of the defining moments in the history of the American Civil Rights Movement:

Central High School Architectural History Bus Tours
September 23-24, 12-4 p.m.
Loading at the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site Visitor Center and departing on the hour, coordinated by the UCA Department of History and the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (free tickets available at http://tinyurl.com/yaufz877 or by calling 501-450-3451). Tours will focus on the stories illuminated by the buildings, which tell of the disparities of the Southern “separate but equal” educational system and demonstrate the confluence of historical architectural influences in Arkansas, including the Gothic Revival Style splendor of Central High, the Art Deco severity of the 1929 African American Dunbar High, the Daisy Bates home with its 1955 mid-century modern flair, the Craftsman style modesty of the 1916 Earnest Green home, and the Southwestern vernacular of the 1920s Magnolia/Mobile Service Station, the rendezvous point for journalists covering the 1957 desegregation crisis. Interpretive spoken word artists from Central High School’s Writeous Poetry Club will perform on the Sunday tours to connect poetry to places and add creative dimensions to the tours.

Oxford American Jazz Concert featuring No Tears Suite
September 23, 6-7:30 p.m.
Outdoor stage at Magnolia/Mobil Service Station, southeast corner of Daisy L. Gatson Bates Drive and South Park Street. Premiering at 6:00 p.m. is a new 30-minute large-ensemble jazz composition, titled the No Tears Suite, written by Little Rock pianist Chris Parker. Joining Parker will be guest star and multiple GRAMMY-winning drummer Brian Blade (Shreveport, LA), along with an exceptional lineup of professional musicians assembled from across the nation, including bassist Bill Huntington (Little Rock, AR), tenor saxophonist Bobby Lavelle (New York, NY), vocalists Kelley Hurt and I.J. Routen (Little Rock, AR), as well as trumpeter Marc Franklin and alto/baritone saxophonist Chad Fowler (Memphis, TN). The title, No Tears Suite is inspired by Melba Pattillo Beals’s memoir Warriors Don’t Cry, which recounts her experience as one of the nine black teenagers chosen to integrate Central High School in 1957. The ensemble will play an additional 60 minutes of Little Rock- and civil rights-inspired tunes, including works by Charles Mingus, Pharoah Sanders, Sam Rivers and John Stubblefield, and lead a master class for students while in town. Throughout the day on Saturday, Sept. 23, beginning at 12 p.m., student ensembles from area high schools and colleges will play sets on the stage, using music as a catalyst for community unity.

“Imagine the Inclusive School of the Future” art exhibit by Arkansas students in grades 6-12
September 1-30
A juried student art exhibit will feature winning works of art for display at the Historic Site Visitor Center during the commemoration events at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site Visitor Center, 2120 W. Daisy L. Gatson Bates Drive. The UCA College of Fine Arts and Communication; the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Little Rock Field Office; and the Historic Site coordinated the exhibit, and Brad Cushman, gallery director, UA Little Rock, juried student artwork. The awards ceremony will take place at the visitor center, Sept. 23 at 4 p.m.

“Civil Twilight: Reflections on Fear, Courage and Resilience”
September 24, 6-7:30 p.m.
“Civil Twilight” is a site-specific dance and spoken word performance that commemorates, in part, the Little Rock Nine, the nine African American students who courageously entered the all-white Little Rock Central High School on September 25, 1957. The presentation will take place in the Commemorative Garden adjacent to the school. Audience members will experience the performance as it winds along the garden path, past nine benches and trees, through the centerpiece: two free-standing arches, mirroring those on the school’s façade, which feature reflective photographic images from Central High yearbooks. To close the performance event, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Tania León, composer of the Little Rock Nine opera (scheduled for completion in July 2018), and garden designer and UA Little Rock professor Michael Warrick, will make brief remarks about the ability of the arts to create social change. Core Performance Company’s “Civil Twilight,” in collaboration with local spoken-word artists, LeRon McAdoo, Marcus Montgomery, and Central High’s Writeous Poetry Club, will give voice to the stories of fear, courage, and resilience that continue to resonate today as an extension of the Little Rock Nine story—conveyed through movement, theatre, and spoken word. (See https://acansa.org/ for additional information). The presentation will be held at the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site Commemorative Garden, northwest corner of Daisy L. Gatson Bates Drive and South Park Street and is coordinated by the UCA College of Fine Arts and Communication and co-sponsored by ACANSA.

An Evening with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Tania León: Turning History into Art
Sept. 25, 7:30 p.m.
Reynolds Performance Hall, UCA (tickets at uca.edu/tickets; $15 for general public; $5 for students, children, and UCA community). This lecture by historian and PBS personality Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Little Rock Nine opera composer Tania León includes a moderated discussion conducted by UCA journalist Dr. Donna Lampkin Stephens, a preview performance of one scene from the Little Rock Nine opera, and an audience Q&A. Singers include UCA graduates Nisheedah Dévré Golden (singing Elizabeth Eckford’s aria), Ronald W. Jensen-McDaniel (singing Jefferson Thomas’ aria), Candace Harris (singing Minnijean Brown’s aria), and Kendra Thomas (singing Melba Pattillo’s aria).

CFAC is committed to providing events that are accessible to the widest possible audience regardless of mobility, endurance or cognitive or sensory abilities. For information about accommodations, visit www.uca.edu/cfac/central60.

“Imagine If Buildings Could Talk: Mapping the History of Little Rock Central High School” is made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, marking fifty-one years of excellence, and the National Park Service, celebrating its 101st birthday. Imagine Your Parks is a grant initiative from the NEA created in partnership with the NPS to support projects that use the arts to engage people with memorable places and landscapes of the National Park System.

This project is also generously funded by grants from the Mid-America Arts Alliance (Artistic Innovations Program), and the state arts agencies of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. Additional grant funding is provided by Mid-America Arts Alliance (Regional Touring Program) and the Arkansas Arts Council (Collaborative Support Program), an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Other funding sources include ACANSA, American Institute of Architects Arkansas Central Section, American Society of Interior Designers, City of Little Rock, Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, Stella Boyle Smith Trust, UCA College of Fine Arts and Communication through the UCA Arts Fee, UCA Department of Occupational Therapy, UCA Disability Resource Center, UCA Foundation, UCA Office of Institutional Diversity, UCA Public Appearances at Reynolds Performance Hall, UCA Sponsored Programs, UCA Student Services, Windgate Charitable Foundation, Inc., and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.

Sponsoring partners include Arkansas Flag and Banner, Blick Art Materials, Comfort Inn West, Pediatrics Plus, and Pyramid Art, Books, and Custom Framing/Hearne Fine Art.

Collaborating partners include Arkansas Arts Center; Arkansas Historic Preservation Program; Arkansas Promise; Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub; Butler Center for Arkansas Studies; Dunbar Magnet Middle School; Federal Bureau of Investigation, Little Rock Field Office; John Cain Foundation; L.C. & Daisy Bates Museum; Liberty Hill Baptist Church; Little Rock Central High School; Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site; Mosaic Templars Cultural Center; New Africa Alliance; Opera in the Rock; Oxford American; Pyramid Art, Books, and Custom Framing/Hearne Fine Art; Rock Region METRO; St. Mark’s Baptist Church, UCA College of Fine Arts and Communication; UCA Department of Film, Theatre, and Creative Writing; UCA Department of History; UCA Department of Music; UCA Department of Occupational Therapy; UCA Disability Resource Center; UCA Office of Institutional Diversity; UCA Outreach and Community Engagement; UCA Physical Plant; UCA Public Appearances at Reynolds Performance Hall; UCA Sponsored Programs; UCA Grants Accounting; UCA Department of Family and Consumer Sciences; and UCA University Relations and Creative Services.

The UCA College of Fine Arts and Communication includes the Departments of Art, Music, and Film, Theatre and Creative Writing as well as the School of Communication. The college’s primary mission is the preparation of the next generation of artists, educators and communicators. For more information about CFAC, visit uca.edu/cfac or call 501-450-3293.

More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 417 National Parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. To learn more about the National Park Service, visit www.nps.gov.

Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Go to arts.gov/50th to enjoy art stories from around the nation, peruse Facts & Figures, and check out the anniversary calendar.

Mid-America Arts Alliance, a nonprofit, regional arts organization serving Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas, focuses on strengthening communities and improving lives through extraordinary cultural experiences. M-AAA is especially committed to enriching the cultural life of underserved communities by providing high quality, meaningful, and accessible arts and culture programs and services.

The Arkansas Arts Council advances and empowers the arts by providing services and funding for programming that encourages and assists literary, performing and visual artists in achieving standards of professional excellence. The Arkansas Arts Council also provides technical and financial assistance to Arkansas arts organizations and other providers of cultural and educational programs. This statewide programming and assistance ultimately provides cultural, educational and economic opportunities for the benefit of all Arkansans.

Oxford American is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts organization and national magazine dedicated to featuring the very best in Southern writing, while documenting the complexity and vitality of the American South. The Oxford American is committed to the development of young individuals aspiring to work in the publishing industry and to the production and presentation of multidisciplinary arts events. Billed as “A Magazine of the South,” it has won four National Magazine Awards—including the 2016 Award for General Excellence in the category of Literature, Science and Politics—and other high honors since it began publication in 1992. The Oxford American is published in partnership with the University of Central Arkansas. For more information, visit OxfordAmerican.org.