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Seussical Fun: 10 Events to Celebrate Dr. Seuss and Read Across America Day

Image by Shutterstock

It’s a wild and crazy time celebrating Dr. Seuss’ rhymes! Theodor Geisel “Dr. Seuss” introduced an original style to children’s literature during his 87 years. Honor the award-winning author’s birthday (March 2, 1904) at a fun event around town. Many of the events will also celebrate Read Across America Day (March 2), sponsored by the National Education Association.

Dr. Seuss Birthday Bash at McMath Library: It's a party to celebrate Dr. Seuss' birthday! 6 p.m. March 2. For info: (501) 225-0066, CALS.org. FREE!

Dr. Seuss Family Night at Terry Library: A family birthday party with stories, activities and fun! 6:30 p.m. March 2. For info: (501) 228-0129, CALS.org. FREE!

Dr. Seuss Family Night at Thompson Library: Lively family fun! 6:30 p.m. March 5. For info: (501) 821-3060, CALS.org. FREE!

Dr. Seuss Family Night at William F. Laman Library in North Little Rock: Fun stories and a costume contest—come dressed as your favorite Dr. Seuss character! 6-6:45 p.m. March 10. For info: (501) 758-1720, LamanLibrary.org. FREE!

Dr. Seuss on the Loose Party at Hillary Rodham Clinton Children's Library & Learning Center: It's a wild and crazy time enjoying Dr. Seuss' rhymes! 10 a.m. March 7. For info: (501) 978-3870, CALS.org. FREE!

“Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat” at Arkansas Arts Center Children's Theatre: It's a rainy day with nothing to do. Sally and her brother meet the Cat in the Hat, and he's just in time to show the kids a thing or two about fun. March 6-29: 7 p.m. Fri., 2 & 4 p.m Sat., 2 p.m. Sun.; Spring Break Performances 2 p.m. March 24-27. $12.50, members are $10. For info: (501) 372-4000, ArkansasArtsCenter.org.

Dr. Seuss Storytime at CALS Main Library: Lupe Pena Valdez leads a celebratory storytime. 10:30 a.m. March 7. For info: (501) 918-3000, CALS.org. FREE!

Dr. Seuss Week-long Birthday Party at William J. Clinton Presidential Center: Local celebrities read from their favorite books and share the joy of reading with elementary students in pre-k through third grades. Students are treated to a special theatrical performance, receive a book from the Dr. Seuss collection, and enjoy birthday cupcakes. In conjunction with the "Pigskin Peanuts" and "Heartbreak in Peanuts" exhibits, the festivities includes reading books featuring the work of Charles M. Schulz and his beloved Peanuts characters; students from Maumelle High School entertain the group with a performance of the musical "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." Make your reservations now, as space is limited. Reservations are required. 10 a.m. March 2-6. For info: (501) 748-0419, ClintonFoundation.org. FREE!

Read Across America Storytime at Barnes & Noble in North Little Rock & West Little Rock: Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss! Join the annual celebration at both locations with activities and readings of some of his most beloved stories. Dress Dr. Seuss-character-style for extra fun! 7 p.m. March 2. For info: (501) 771-1124 & (501) 954-7646, BN.com. FREE!

Read Across America Storytime and Celebration at Park Plaza Mall: Grab a hat and read with the Cat! Enjoy storytime events, crafts and more. Look for the Cat in the Hat to make an appearance, too! 4-7 p.m. March 2. For info: (501) 664-4956, ParkPlazaMall.com. FREE!

For more weekend events, browse our full online calendar here.

West Little Rock Local Guide Out Now

At Table 28, Chef Scott Rains creates dishes from the sea, ranch and farm from locally grown ingredients and organic produce.

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Once primarily forest and farmland and home to one small, historic neighborhood, west Little Rock is now a thriving community where locals live, work and play. In addition to being a great place to buy a home—with high-quality education and worship options—west Little Rock is also home to excellent restaurants, top-notch shopping and a lineup of salons and spas that are sure to help you unwind. Plus, its location at the westernmost edge of the city means it's also close to nature, providing plenty of opportunities for enjoying the great outdoors. 

Read more about west Little Rock here.

 

And pick up your copy of Soiree's West Little Rock Local Guide at the following businesses:

1620 Savoy Little Rock Montessori
All Children's Therapy LRCVB
All Thru the House NYPD Pizza
Applause Oasis Tanning
Arkansas Baptist School System                    Painting with a Twist
Bank of Little Rock Paul Morrell Formal Wear
Beehive Pinnacle Point Hospital
Beyond Cotton II Pleasant Ridge Town Center
Culture Clothing Co. Pout
Curran Hall Reinvented Vintage
Everett Infiniti Salon Frisor Mina
Farmer's Insurance Santo Coyote
Fellowship Bible Church Security Ironworks of Arkansas
Fleet Feet Sports/Easy Runner The Janet Jones Company
Immanuel Baptist Church The Wonder Place
Jane White Cosmetics Inc. Touchstone Physical Therapy
Joel's Tracycakes
Just Blow: A Blowout Bar U.S. Pizza Co.
Kitchen's Pediatric Dentistry West End Cigars
Landers Fiatt Zen Studio Fitness
Learning Express Toys

 

Where to Find Marathon Specials Downtown (Even If You're Not Running)

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Ok, so there’s a chance that, by now, you might be tired of hearing about the Little Rock Marathon. You’re not running. You’re not volunteering. You’re not necessarily the cheerleader type. You’re probably annoyed by the amount of people coming into the city. You hate puppies. 

But that’s ok. You’re still invited to the Raid the River Market pirate-themed block party on Sunday, March 1. No tickets, just shopping, food, music and good vibes filling the streets as the River Market is shut down for a giant celebration for runners and non-runners alike. The swashbuckling shenanigans start at 4 p.m. and last until 8 p.m.

Also, there will be a pirate ship.

Here’s a look at some of the special offers and events that will be going on downtown.

 

The Flying Saucer: Kick things off early at 10 a.m. and stop in to enjoy beermosas, bloody marys and Captain Morgan drink specials all day.

Revolution Restaurant: Get comfortable with a special brunch starting at 10:30 a.m., complete with a Build Your Own Bloody Mary Bar. Catch Darril Harp on the steel drums at 3 pm. and take advantage of the drink specials.

Cache Restaurant: Opening at 11 a.m., Cache will offer a taco trio (chicken, beef and pork) for $10.95, a sliders trio with fries for $9.95 and Michelob Ultra for $3.

Willy D’s: One of Little Rock’s favorite nightlife spots, Willy D’s will open at 2 p.m. with a slew of food and drink specials all night. The dueling pianos start at 4 p.m.

The Rev Room: Along with various drink specials, Arkansas’ own The Greasy Greens, a favorite of President Bill Clinton’s, will perform courtesy of Whole Hog Cafe at 4 p.m.

Stickyz Rock N’ Roll Chicken Shack: Everyone loves a good patio show. Fire and Brimstone go on at 4 p.m. on the patio, then head inside for Mojo Depot at 7:30 p.m. There will be drink specials, of course.

Big Whiskey’s: Drink specials and a performance by Victoria Wells. Same song, different verse, but this song doesn’t get old. 

Ernie Biggs: Can’t get enough music? Hit Ernie Biggs for a streetside show by The Big Dam Horns at 4 p.m. Dueling pianos get going at 8:15 p.m.

And on the main stage: Enjoy the rock and country sounds of Canvas, an Arkansas-native band who will have you dancing in the streets, which is highly encouraged, by the way. 

 

That’s just a sliver (me timbers) of all the good stuff going on downtown to celebrate the Little Rock Marathon. So buck up, buccaneer, and enjoy the (a)vast array of festivities. Arg, or something. 

Menchie's Frozen Yogurt Opens in Promenade With Week-Long Celebration

Shutterstock

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Do you like delicious treats? Of course you do. Then you’ll be interested to know that Little Rock has a new frozen yogurt spot coming its way: Menchie’s.

Located in The Promenade at Chenal, Menchie’s has a soft opening scheduled March 3, but the big confetti guns will come out for an entire week celebrating the grand opening of the shop March 7-13.

As if piling frozen yogurt and nonsensical toppings into a cup wasn’t enough for you, Menchie’s will have a different special every day. With flavors like Swiss Miss, Reece's and spiced chai latte, you'll want to be there. Here’s what week one will look like.

Saturday, March 7, 12 - 2 p.m.

  • The goods: Grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony with mascot Menchie, free 8oz cup frozen yogurt, free T-shirts for the first 25 guests and a balloon artist.

Sunday, March 8 at 1 p.m.

  • The goods: The first 25 guests receive a free plushie doll, free color-in t-shirt and free face painting

Monday, March 9, 5 - 6 p.m.

  • The goods: Our new fave thing, the $1 Yumm Hour where you fill up your cup for $1 (one per guest)

Tuesday, March 10, 2 - 4 p.m.

  • The goods: Kids 10 years of age or younger get a free cup of yogurt (up to 10 oz.)

Wednesday, March 11, 12 - 2 p.m.

  • The goods: Half off your lunchtime frozen yogurt purchase

Thursday, March 12 at 3 p.m.

  • The goods: The first 25 guests receive free dodge balls. 

Friday, March 13, 8 - 11 p.m.

  • The goods: Date night- buy one get one free (one per guest) 

Menchie’s normal hours will be 12 - 10 p.m. Sunday -Thursday and 12 - 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, so stop in for some brand new sweets.

Clinton School of Public Service Announces March Speaker Lineup

Image by Mauren Kennedy

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The Clinton School of Public Service recently released its list of March speakers, a variety of personas including professors, authors, a former White House chief information officer and more.

All events are free and open to the public. To reserve your seats, email publicprograms@clintonschool.uasys.edu or call (501) 683-5239. 

Here’s a rundown of what’s happening at the Clinton School this month.

 

Theresa Payton, former White House Chief Information Officer: “Privacy in the Age of Big Data”

Monday, March 2, 12 p.m. at Sturgis Hall 

As the first woman to hold the position of White House Chief Information Officer, Payton served under President George Bush from May 2006 until September 2008. She is now the CEO of an online defense force called Fortalice, and her session will focus on digital surveillance, data collection and the good and bad sides of both. There will be a book signing following the program.

 

Todd Moss: “The Golden Hour: Africa's Rise and the Challenge for American Diplomacy"

Wednesday, March 4, 12 p.m. at Sturgis Hall

Former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and current COO and senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, Moss will discuss his new fiction thriller, “The Golden Hour,” and its ties to the rise of African nations and the roles they play in the U.S. foreign policy agenda.

 

“Mary Poppins,” a panel discussion

Thursday, March 5, 12 p.m. at Sturgis Hall

You know the story and you know it’s coming up fast. Now come hear The Rep’s Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp and the cast of “Mary Poppins” as they talk about the show, the characters and how they brought the beloved story to life in The Rep’s biggest production to date.

 

Congressmen Martin Frost and Tom Davis: “The Partisan Divide: Congress in Crisis”

Monday, March 9, 12 p.m. at Sturgis Hall 

The massive divides in Congress might be old news, but these authors and congressmen bring the conversation back into play with a behind-the-scenes look at the political gridlock. There will be a book signing following the program.

 

Antonia Hernández, president and CEO of the California Community Foundation

Friday, March 13, 12 p.m. at Sturgis Hall

Hernández serves as a Scholar in Residence at the Clinton School of Public Service Center on Community Philanthropy in addition to her role as president and CEO of the California Community Foundation. In this session, she will discuss her work in the nonprofit sector of Los Angeles County and her research on “Community Philanthropy and Public Service; Practice models in giving, civic engagement and leadership.”

 

Don Cogman: “Run Mitch, Run”

Monday, March 16, 6 p.m. at Sturgis Hall 

What is it like to consider running for President of the United States? What questions do you face, decisions must you make? Cogman follows then Governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels as he went on the journey of will-he/won’t-he candidacy in 2009. There will be a book signing following the program. 

 

Michael Sparer: ”The Politics of Health: From the ACA to ACOs”

Tuesday, March 17, 12 p.m. at Sturgis Hall

Currently working on a book on American Federalism and the Affordable Care Act, Sparer writes about and studies health care politics. His major focus is on low-income populations and health care and insurance.

 

“National Gallery,” a documentary screening

Wednesday, March 18, 6 p.m. at Ron Robinson Theater

In partnership with the Little Rock Film Festival, Frederick Wiseman’s “National Gallery” gives audiences a glimpse into the world of a London institution filled with priceless masterpieces, including the people who staff it.

 

Josh Ruxin: “A Thousand Hills to Heaven: Love, Hope and a Restaurant in Rwanda”

Thursday, March 19, 6 p.m. at Sturgis Hall

Based in Kigali, Rwanda, Ruxin wears many hats. He serves as an assistant clinical professor of Public Health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health; is the founder of Health Builders, which constructs health centers and facilities across the country; and is the director of the Access Project, Rwanda Works and the Millennium Villages Project in Rwanda. His extensive work in the health sector of Rwanda makes for a fascinating story. There will be a book signing following the program.

 

Amir Dossal, executive director of the United Nations Office for Partnerships

Tuesday, March 31, 6 p.m. at Sturgis Hall

In this session, Dossal will discuss his experiences as executive director of the United Nations Office for Partnerships, the UN representative for public and private partnerships, overseeing the UN Democracy Fund and all that comes along with those roles.

 

Mary Ellen Irons Shares Secrets from Arkansas Arts Center's Permanent Collection

Gallery by Jason Masters

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Mary Ellen Irons is not your typical accountant. She doesn’t dress like you might expect an accountant to dress. There are stripes painted on the walls of her office at JPMS Cox, where she is a partner. The shelves hold small sculptures and the walls are covered with artwork. Some might think that art and numbers don’t always mix, but Irons couldn’t have one without the other.

“I started painting as a hobby a couple of years ago,” she says, gesturing to a large oil painting hanging on the wall. “I painted that, and the first painting I ever did was of my dog.” She points to an impressively lifelike portrait of a Boston terrier hanging next to her computer. “Art isn’t just for artists. Painting is a good balance for me personally, because I am tense all the time,” she laughs. “Whether I’m running a business, pursuing clients, serving clients, or meeting deadlines, when I go home and start painting, two hours will pass and I don’t even realize it. No one’s yelling ‘You put too much blue in that, Mary Ellen!’”

That passion for art drove Irons to the Arkansas Arts Center (AAC), where she now serves as board president. “Here at JPMS Cox, they’ve always told us to find something you love to do and give back to your community.” Irons believes that bringing art to the masses is integral to the development of young minds in her community. “There are a lot of people here that will never go to London or Paris. Some might never even leave our town. Art provides a safe place to experience something that’s beyond the walls of our city. It creates a possibility, and events like Tabriz help to make those possibilities available to others.”

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Tabriz, the AAC’s biennial fundraiser, is not only a highlight of Arkansas’ black-tie event season; funds raised at the event are funneled into an Acquisitions Fund held by the AAC Foundation, which allows the AAC to acquire new pieces of art for its permanent collection. While the AAC runs and operates the museum, children’s theater and the museum school, the AAC Foundation is a separate organization that holds the art collection and allows the AAC to display the works. The Foundation’s art committee, which oversees the acquisition of new pieces for the collection, is comprised of Irons, AAC executive director Dr. Todd Herman, AAC board chair Chucki Bradbury as well as members of the Foundation board. “We acquire works a few different ways,” Irons explains. “Patrons give or loan us works to display, and when you walk through the galleries, you’ll see their names on plaques next to the artwork. We also get works of art by buying them directly from galleries or artists.” Finally, the Acquisitions Fund sets aside dollars for annual purchases based on recommendations from Herman and the head curators, who are the most familiar with the AAC’s collection.

“Tabriz was created at a time when the AAC was just getting off the ground,” Irons says. “At the time, [former executive director] Townsend Wolfe asked, ‘What can we afford?’ which is how the AAC came to have a nationally renowned collection of works on paper. We got exposure to a lot of artists at a lower price point than if we’d been trying to collect oil paintings. It became our niche.”

However, works on paper introduce their own set of challenges for the AAC. According to Herman, these pieces are particularly vulnerable to light and humidity, and despite how carefully they are handled, damage is cumulative. Once that piece of artwork is damaged beyond repair, it’s gone forever. “Think about old family papers that you might have at home,” Herman says. “They turn brown over time. The same can happen to artwork on paper as it’s exposed to light.” To keep these works on paper in top form, they are displayed in low light and kept on a strict rotation schedule of six months on view in the galleries. Then for two years, these pieces are stored in the darkness of the vault.

The AAC’s vault contains roughly 10,000 pieces of original artwork, with only a few hundred on view in the galleries at any given time, and people like Herman, Irons and the AAC’s curators are constantly working to add to it. In addition to its collection of works on paper, the AAC has a well-known collection of contemporary craft. “We’re always looking to fill gaps that exist in these collections — things like Surrealism, 19th century British landscape — in order to present as comprehensive a picture as we can,” Herman says. Recently, the AAC received more than 290 drawings and watercolors by American Modernist John Marin, which gives them the largest holdings of his work outside of the National Gallery in Washington D.C. “Even so,” Herman says, “there are a few periods of his production that are not represented in that gift, so we’ll work to fill those gaps.”

Pieces from the permanent collection are also used to complement curated and traveling exhibitions, such as the upcoming 30 Americans, which features artwork from renowned African American artists, and Our America, an exhibition of modern and contemporary Latino artists. The AAC also loans pieces from its permanent collection to museums around the country. At the moment, the AAC’s Diego Rivera cubist painting “Two Women” is being featured in a show at the San Antonio Museum. “In return,” Irons says, “they might send us a piece from their permanent collection that we could add to a show or use to collaborate with pieces that we have.”

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Tabriz, a two-night event chaired by Del Boyette, kicks off on Thursday, March 12 with the Bazaar of Tabriz at the AAC. For the price of a $50 ticket, guests enjoy a silent auction, casual food and cocktails surrounded by Tabriz’s signature exotic decor. The black-tie gala will take place Saturday, March 14 and feature a seated dinner accompanied by fine wines and spirits, as well as live and silent auctions.

“There are so many people in this community that can receive a direct impact from what we’re doing,” Irons says. In addition to the galleries, the AAC offers poetry slams, tango dancing, lectures, art and photography classes for anyone who is interested in learning or participating. “Art gives people the ability to think and create and understand,” she continues. “If we can enrich a kid’s life and give them the ability to think outside the box, then I’ve checked all the boxes on my day.”

Bazaar of Tabriz
When: Thursday, March 12
Where: Arkansas Arts Center
Tickets: $50 per person

Gala of Tabriz
When: Saturday, March 14
Where: Arkansas Arts Center
Tickets: $750 per person
(Includes Bazaar admittance)

Info: 372-4000, ArkArts.com

StudioMain, Create Little Rock Shape Up Downtown

Forward focus: As part of the Little Rock Vision Report, StudioMain submitted proposals to increase the usefulness of several tracts of land, including the one shown here, which is proposed to be Hanger Hill, a transitional senior housing development, which would offer residents the opportunity to “age in place.”

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Tactical urbanism sounds like military terminology, but it is actually a design movement that’s been occurring in Little Rock for the past three years. The movement involves an ambush makeover for a community. Bike lanes, tree-lined medians, additional public transit routes and vendors and restaurants housed in once-vacant storefronts appear overnight. Then just as quickly, usually over a weekend, they vanish. These temporary makeovers, known locally as Pop Up in the Rock, aim to show the city how it can implement certain urban design changes to better utilize its existing infrastructure.

The organizations responsible for Pop Up in the Rock are Create Little Rock and StudioMain, a nonprofit collective of members of the local design community. Through StudioMain, architects, designers, developers, contractors, furniture makers and landscape architects, just to name a few, have all come together under one organization to volunteer their time and work toward better urban design in Arkansas.

“We are all competitors during our day job,” says Chris East, president of StudioMain and an architect with Cromwell Architects Engineers, “but we come together because of our passion for design. We want to find a way to work together for the common good of our city.”

Pop Up in the Rock is StudioMain’s most visible project, but it is hardly its only high profile local design endeavor. The organization was influential in luring the Little Rock Technology Park to downtown and is currently working with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to redesign University Avenue and University Village. They are also consulting with developers on the best way to revitalize the Financial Quarter.

“This is where people really see us as a resource,” says StudioMain co-founder and architect with WER Architects/Planners James Meyer. “We can be a sounding board for ideas. Where else can you get 12 architects, all from different firms, together in one room?”

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Projects that educate and challenge convention only scratch the surface of what StudioMain hopes to accomplish. The organization has been instrumental in advocating for better urban design practices. Most recently, the group’s efforts include supporting the complete streets ordinance for the city of Little Rock. Complete streets provide multimodal transportation for walkers, bikers, vehicles and public transit. With renewed momentum, the ordinance went before the city board on January 20 and was delayed for 90 days.

“There is significant demand from people who would love to live in a walkable community,” says East. “North Little Rock and Conway both have complete streets policies. We are about 10 years behind.”

East believes there is not yet enough diversity in the downtown residential market and StudioMain hopes demonstrations like Pop Up in the Rock and its Envision Little Rock competition, an open competition for designers to create concepts for neglected downtown landscapes, can serve as an impetus for people to move downtown.

The idea for Pop Up in the Rock came from the Better Block project, with the goal that short-term action in a community can lead to permanent change.

Some of these provisional changes are becoming permanent. South on Main used the inaugural Pop Up in the Rock in 2012 to test its Southern gourmet restaurant concept on the local community before opening its doors on Main Street. There has also been an overwhelmingly positive response to the demonstrations from business owners, residents and city leaders who can realize the full potential of these communities.

“With Pop Up in the Rock, people can instantly visualize what we are talking about,” says East. “They see how it would work.”

StudioMain hopes once people see the potential, they will serve as advocates for implementing these changes in their communities. The 2015 Pop Up in the Rock will be held this fall on Ninth Street between State and Broadway. This demonstration will be unique because it will not only be showcasing better ways to utilize the available infrastructure, but it will also be highlighting the historical significance of the area. Once a popular African American community, this area was devastated by urban renewal in the 1960s and 1970s and has yet to return to its prime.

“This is a significant part of town that has been forgotten,” says Meyer. “We hope to celebrate the history of this place and will be doing a series of interventions talking about what used to be there and what could be there in the future.”

Education is a major objective for StudioMain, which evolved after opening its doors in 2011 as a location for the University of Arkansas’ Fay Jones School of Architecture to offer design classes in Little Rock. The group wanted to offer the space up to the community when students were not in class. Now open to the public, StudioMain has an office and exhibit space located at 1423 South Main Street offering design outreach.

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For a city the size of Little Rock, StudioMain is a unique organization combining services that usually exist under several organizations.

“We’ve taken public interest design services that we’ve seen in other cities that were working that we were lacking here in Little Rock and housed them all under one roof,” says Meyer.

Moving forward, StudioMain hopes to expand its reach statewide. Having assisted with pop up events in Hot Springs, Jonesboro and Rogers, the organization hopes to reach out to more rural parts of the state, specifically the Delta region, and offer its design services. For a young organization, the demand for its services has been high. The challenge for its members now seems to be balancing the workload with their day jobs.

Vanessa McKuin Finds Sense of Place Preserving Arkansas' Rich Architectural Heritage

Image by Jason Masters

Vanessa McKuin works to preserve the state’s most historic places, like the beautiful Pulaski County Courthouse, shown here. McKuin says the HPAA listed the courthouse on the 2012 list of Most Endangered Places and has helped to advocate for increased funding for the repair and maintenance through the County Courthouse Restoration Sub-grant Program of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. McKuin’s makeup
by Antonio Figueroa.

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Vanessa McKuin has always had an interest in history, but it was when her parents bought the homestead of her great-great-grandparents in Newton County that she discovered her love for preservation.

As McKuin says herself, there’s not a lot of written history about Newton County. That required a lot of interviews and research to accomplish her parents’ goal of getting the location on the National Register of Historic Places. McKuin, then about 19 years old, was immersed in the research and exposed to the importance of historical places.

“I started realizing how important typical places are to community, to our identity, both as individuals and also as a culture and society,” she says.

Following that experience, McKuin volunteered at the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas (HPAA), while she worked at the Old State House Museum. Eventually, she developed an interest in architecture-based preservation programs, and ended up in New York City at the Pratt Institute. Her path then led her back to Little Rock and HPAA as director.

It all worked out perfectly, she recalls.

Now, for the past six years, she’s made a career out of her love of preservation.

On any given day, McKuin could be answering inquiries about the National Register of Historic Places, digging up information on various locations across the state or explaining the state’s rehabilitation tax credit. Then, sometimes, there’s actually going out and exploring old buildings, which is still her favorite part of the job. Regardless, there are not many typical days.

Despite her role, McKuin doesn’t consider herself a traveling encyclopedia of knowledge on old buildings in Arkansas.

“Every day I learn about some place I did not know existed, and some place that has this really fascinating history. And I think, ‘Okay, well, I thought I knew all the places,” she says.

The daily occurrence reinstills in McKuin that there is more history to be shared, documented and preserved throughout the state.

In her time at HPAA, there has been much done to restore locations across the state. McKuin credits a lot of the success to the passing of the Arkansas Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit in 2009. Since then, it’s resulted in $8.69 million, which McKuin says has leveraged $72.8 million in private investment.

There have been a lot of restoration projects that stick out in her mind as well, like the St. Joseph Orphanage in North Little Rock, the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home in Dyess and the White-Baucum House in Little Rock.

McKuin still has projects she’s interested in. There’s the Little Rock Central District, the William Woodruff House and the Lee Theater. Whatever the project, she is still driven to preserve historic sites for future generations.

“It’s about community,” she says. “It’s about the places that we identify with, and it’s about passing on that history from one generation to another.”

No Place Like Home

Soirée: Please tell us about your own historic home in the Central High district.

Vanessa McKuin: Our home was built circa 1901 in the Colonial Revival Style, but it has some Craftsman-style elements, too. We think it was partially remodeled in the 1920s when the back porch was enclosed and some other changes were made. The house was built by Thomas M. Clifton, who was at one time listed as a police captain in the city directory.

We found several old medicine bottles under the back of the house in an area that we had to dig out to create a larger crawl space. I have those displayed in the kitchen window, just above where they were disposed of many years ago.

One of my favorite things about the house is that you can see dents from high heels in several spots in the original hardwood. I love the patina that an old house has and the layers of history, hidden and exposed, from all the different lives that have happened in that house.

SO: What was the most interesting thing you discovered while researching your family’s Newton County homestead?

VM: The homestead was originally a single pen log cabin. A frame addition was built on around 1900. When we took the wall board off of the inside of the cabin walls during rehabilitation, we found a little cubby above the door into the frame addition with a pair of tiny old leather shoes. We found out that they belonged to Murle, my grandmother’s first cousin who died in 1915 at 5 years old. We discovered that when a child died, a custom was to put her shoes above a door in the house to prevent another child from dying in the same way. Murle is buried in the nearby Ben’s Branch Cemetery. We left her shoes in the cubby above the door.

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