Fall Arts Guide

28 reasons your autumn just got a little better, culturally speaking







Six feast-for-the-eyes exhibitions opening this fall


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The Art of American Dance

Opens Oct. 22 at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville

Ballet, ballroom, interpretive, indigenous, salsa, Jitterbug and swing—these forms of movement have shaped and been shaped by American culture throughout our nation’s history. In this nearly 100-piece exhibition, the curators of this traveling exhibition organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts explore the influence of dance on American culture from the 1830s to the 1960s. (crystalbridges.org; $10)

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Pulled, Pressed, and Screened: Important American Prints

Opens Nov. 11 at the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum

Americans have been surrounded by the fruits of printmaking for centuries, from the first crudely printed advertisements to today’s high-end boutique T-shirts. But how often do you stop to marvel at these seemingly utilitarian techniques—including lithography, woodcut, engraving, etching, screen printing and more—for their artistry? That’s the aim of this exhibition, which features work from American greats including Helen Frankenthaler, Jasper Johns, Alex Katz and, yes, Andy Warhol. (fsram.org; free for members; $5 for nonmembers)

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Shades of Green: Land and Cityscapes of Arkansas by John Kushmaul

Courtesy of John Kushmaul

Opens Sept. 9 at Wildwood Park for the Arts in Little Rock

If you’ve laid eyes on one of John Kushmaul’s technicolor depictions of Little Rock, you know what it’s like to feel the energy of the capital city course through the saturated, smudgy brushstrokes he uses to convey oh-so-familiar scenes—both the city’s official landmarks (like the Capitol building and Central High School) and the seemingly mundane (fire escapes, concrete overpasses, trolley tracks). Join Kushmaul for an opening reception on Sept. 15. (wildwoodpark.org; free)

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Cut, Pieced, and Stitched: Denim Drawings by Jim Arendt

Opened Aug. 5 at the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock; Reception and demonstration, Sept. 23

Wondering what to do with that stack of old jeans that have outlived their useful days? Michigan native Jim Arendt will take them. Levi’s and Wranglers are Arendt’s medium of choice these days, though to look at the deft portraits of friends and family he creates with them, you’d be hard-pressed to guess the origin of those shades of blue. Meet him in the flesh at an ACANSA Arts Festival-sponsored reception at the Arkansas Arts Center on Sept. 23. (arkansasartscenter.org; reception is $20, exhibit is free)

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Red Grooms: Traveling Correspondent

Opens Oct. 15 at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

Kat Wilson and family | Courtesy of Kat Wilson
Kat Wilson and family | Courtesy of Kat Wilson

Though work and education took Red Grooms to Chicago, New York and Provincetown, Massachusetts, it’s in his home state of Tennessee where you can see this retrospective collection of the artist’s signature 3-D paintings of both urban and pastoral life—so lifelike you can all but hear the honking of yellow cabs and the clunk of a rusty Ford pickup—in addition to prints, installations, films and more from 1961 to 2015. (brooksmuseum.org; $7)

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Habitats: Bentonville by Kat Wilson

Opens Nov. 4 at the Thea Foundation in North Little Rock

In her long-running Habitats series, Fayetteville-based photographer Kat Wilson features subjects staged in their everyday surroundings, stacks of their possessions blanketing the foreground. Collections of everyday items—books and records, tools and toys, shoes, plants and instruments—create a snapshot both intimate and anonymous, like reading a person’s diary while simultaneously exploring the pages of an I Spy book. Get to know Wilson at Thea’s quarterly The Art Department when Habitats: Bentonville opens. (theafoundation.org; $10 on opening night; free through November)

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You may have heard a little something about this (especially since, y’know, it sent shock waves down the contemporary art world’s collective spine), but last September, over the span of 10 days, 11 world-renowned street artists descended on Fort Smith of all places, turning downtown façades into large-scale canvases (including the murals below and at right) as part of The Unexpected Project. Curated by Charlotte Dutoit, the art initiative makes a comeback Sept. 2-11 with two returning artists and nine new faces.

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ALEXIS DIAZ is a Puerto Rican muralist whose painstakingly detailed pieces—usually, surreal renderings of sea creatures—look almost like pen-and-ink drawings

2 BORDALO II is a Lisbon, Portugal-based artist who uses found objects—namely, old tires, scrap metal and, well, trash—to create vivacious, three-dimensional murals of big-eyed animals.

3 CYRCLE is a two-man collective from Los Angeles working around the world, focused on exploring “life, duality and the human condition” through typography and bold use of color.

4 D*FACE, who painted in the inaugural festival, is an English street artist whose Pop-art-inspired work seeks to satirize modern culture.

5 FAITH47 is a South African visual artist—and a prolific muralist—whose raw, intimate work depicts the strength of women, often in environments that are male-dominated.

6 JAZ & PASTEL are a pair of Argentine muralists whose collaborations meld the artists’ unique styles—anthropomorphic characters and floral imagery, respectively—into one.

7 MASER, back for a second time at The Unexpected, is an Irish abstract muralist now living in the U.S. whose large-scale projects take him around the globe.

8 OKUDA SAN MIGUEL is a Madrid-based artist whose work is characterized by geometric shapes hued in psychedelic colors.

9 GUIDO VAN HELTEN is an Australian-born artist who paints large-scale portraits that read almost like archival images.

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Five perfect date nights—dinner and a show, anyone?—to plan this season (Trust us: Your plus one will be impressed)


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For those familiar with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s first show of the season—Spamalot, a stage adaptation of the 1975 British comedy—probably needs no introduction. But for those unfamiliar, we’ll just say this: Expect a silly, irreverent, Tony Award-winning parody of the Arthurian legend that’s bound to leave you in stitches (and quoting the show for days upon end). “This group is insanely funny,” says director Melissa Rain Anderson, “and who doesn’t love a flying cow, a rubber chicken and showgirls?” (therep.org; $30+)

MAKE A NIGHT OF IT: Treat yourselves to a pre-theater meal at Bruno’s Little Italy (for a visual endorsement, see page 106). Because seriously, who can laugh on an empty stomach?

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The 2016 ACANSA Arts Festival kicks off at the Junior League of Little Rock’s headquarters building with Ballet Arkansas at center stage. Set against the backdrop of the building’s gorgeous Renaissance Revival-style ballroom, 13 dancers will show off both pointe and modern dances. Bonus: In the spirit of artistic collaboration that is at the core of ACANSA, a quartet from the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra will provide musical accompaniment. Double bonus: There will be drinks and heavy hors d’oeuvres from Trio’s before the show. (acansaartsfestival.org; $75)

MAKE A NIGHT OF IT: After the show, have a nightcap on the balcony at the Capital Hotel. You’re dressed up on a weeknight—might as well make the most of it, right?

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If ballet isn’t really your cup of tea—you’re more of a shot-of-espresso type, anyway—check out the energy-packed performance by world-renowned contemporary dance company Parsons Dance at Pulaski Tech’s Center for Humanities and Arts. Founded in 1985 by David Parsons, the company is currently composed of nine dancers with a repertoire of more than 80 works. Their worldwide tour brings them to The Natural State for one performance only, which starts at 8 p.m. on the second night of the ACANSA Arts Festival. Keep in mind that it might be a late night—a post-show discussion often follows Parsons performances. (acansaartsfestival.org; $15+)

MAKE A NIGHT OF IT: Begin your evening with a romantic meal at Argenta’s Ristorante Capeo. You’ll need stamina to make it through that post-show discussion, and we can’t think of a better way to prep than a healthy portion of Duck Valentine.

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It may have a small cast (two actors!), but I and You packs a punch, deftly capturing the thrill and and trepidation of teenage life. “It’s been on our radar for a while,” says Bob Ford, artistic director for TheatreSquared. “It’s smart and loaded with the sort of imaginative twists that play out beautifully onstage.” No wonder, then, that it nabbed the New Play Award from the American Theatre Critics Association. Don’t miss it during its three-week run in Northwest Arkansas. (theatre2.org; $15+)

MAKE A NIGHT OF IT: Savor this last bout of patio weather by dining al fresco at Bordinos, which just so happens to be across(ish) the street from the Studio Theatre. (Pro Tip: Tell your waiter you’re headed to the play and you’ll get a complimentary dessert with the purchase of an entree.)

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Odds are, if you’ve driven downtown in the past two years, you’re well aware of historic Robinson Center’s 21st-century facelift. (Probably because of, y’know, traffic.) However. Guys. It’ll be soooo worth it. Expect improved acoustics, seating and sightlines, to say nothing of the renovated back of house and lobby. To celebrate its reopening, this downtown icon welcomes the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra back with a much-anticipated homecoming performance of Respighi’s Pines of Rome. (arkansassymphony.org)

MAKE A NIGHT OF IT: Sip a glass of champs at Cache before the show, and then indulge in a post-symphony dinner at One Eleven (grilled Maine lobster, anyone?). This calls for celebration, after all!

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The 10 can’t-miss music shows of the season

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Goo Goo Dolls with Collective Soul | Sept. 6 | Walmart AMP, Rogers

intFor fans of: Matchbox 20, Stone Temple Pilots

After headlining Riverfest in June, the Goo Goo Dolls make their second trip to Arkansas this year, this time sharing the stage with fellow ’90s alt-rockers Collective Soul in Northwest Arkansas. (arkansasmusicpavilion.com; $35.50+) Dixie Chicks with

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Dixie Chicks with Elle King | Sept. 9 | Verizon Arena, North Little Rock

For fans of: Pistol Annies, The Band Perry

In one of the most anticipated tours of the year, the ladies of the storied country-music trio bring their three-part harmonies and bluegrass sensibilities to Verizon’s Wide Open Spaces—their first North American tour in a decade. (verizonarena.com; $53.50+)

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Shakey Graves | Sept. 9 | Rev Room, Little Rock

For fans of: Shovels & Rope, J. Roddy Walston & the Business

Expect Austin, Texas, native Alejandro Rose-Garcia (better known by stage name Shakey Graves) to fill the intimate Rev Room with a head-bobbing, foot-stomping, hip-shaking crowd—it’s impossible to keep still to the infectious beat of that signature suitcase drum accompanying Rose-Garcia’s growling vocals and rock-Americana guitar licks. (revroom.com; $18+)

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Nitty Gritty Dirt Band | Sept. 22 | UCA Reynolds Performance Hall, Conway

For fans of: The Charlie Daniels Band, Alabama

Few acts can boast a resume with as much longevity and experience as the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the country-rock act formed five decades ago in Long Beach, California, and responsible for making famous Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Mr. Bojangles.” The band’s golden-anniversary tour stops in Conway for a night of rollicking roots tunes, and—though we can’t promise anything—we bet you won’t walk away without hearing the legend of Bojangles. (tickets.uca.edu; $17+)

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The Lumineers with BORNS and Rayland Baxter | Oct. 1 | Walmart AMP, Rogers

For fans of: Mumford & Sons, The Avett Brothers

It’s been four years since The Lumineers burst onto the indie-folk scene with “Ho Hey,” and now the trio is touring in support of their much-anticipated sophomore album, Cleopatra. Electro-pop multi-instrumentalist BORNS and singer-songwriter Rayland Baxter open. (arkansasmusicpavilion.com; $29.50+)

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Amanda Shires | Oct. 6 | Stickyz Rock ’n’ Roll Chicken Shack, Little Rock

For fans of: Shovels & Rope, Hurray for the Riff Raff

This Texas singer-songwriter’s gorgeous, thoughtful lyrics are matched only by her skills as a violinist and sometimes-staccato vocals, creating an often haunting sound entrenched in emotion. (stickyz.com; $12+)
Bobby Bones and

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Bobby Bones and The Raging Idiots | Oct. 7 | Fort Smith Convention Center, Fort Smith

For fans of: Flight of the Conchords, The Lonely Island

You know him as DJ of the nationally syndicated Bobby Bones Show, but namesake Bones has also built a legion of followers with his goofy pop-country tunes about subject matter that includes waking up early enough to pick up a Pumpkin Spice Latte and bingeing Saved by the Bell on Netflix. Idiotic? Maybe. Highly enjoyable? Absolutely. (fortsmithconventioncenter.org; $26+)

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The Avett Brothers | Oct. 7 | The Theater at Verizon Arena, North Little Rock

For fans of: Dawes, Old Crow Medicine Show

It’ll be true happiness for fans of The Avett Brothers when the North Carolina folk band revisits North Little Rock for another intimate showcase (last time they came through town, the Brothers played a sold-out show for some 2,676 fans, a fraction of Verizon’s 18,000 capacity) of songs off their ninth studio album, True Sadness, released in June. (verizonarena.com; $48.50+)

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Ray Wylie Hubbard | Oct. 13 | George’s Majestic Lounge, Fayetteville

For fans of: Billy Joe Shaver, Jerry Jeff Walker

Born in Oklahoma and raised in Texas, Hubbard is no stranger to The Natural State. The country singer-songwriter’s success in recent, um, decades (he’s been around since the ’70s, took a break in the mid-’80s, returned in the ’90s and kind of hit a new stride with a younger generation) is due in part to his relentless touring, which almost always includes a stop in Arkansas. (georgesmajesticlounge.com; $20)
Kris Allen &

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Barrett BaberOct. 28 | UCA Reynolds Performance Hall, Conway

For fans of: Ben Rector, Hayes Carll

Reality shows might have made them famous, but the University of Central Arkansas made them college grads. Kris Allen and Barrett Baber visit their alma mater, along with fellow musical alumni Matthew Huff, Adam Hambrick and Hannah Blaylock. (tickets.uca.edu; $25)

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Six ways to grow your mind (and impress your cinephile friends)

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El Dorado Film Festival

Sept. 15-18 at Stars Cinema 6 in El Dorado

Now in its third year, the El Dorado Film Festival already has a global draw, with a lineup featuring 57 independent films from 14 different countries. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a focus on local filmmakers—this year, the fest has teamed with the Oxford American and North Little Rock native Joey Lauren Adams to curate and judge a “Southern Made” category, which celebrates some of the most vibrant films coming out of the region. (eldofilmfest.com; $30+)

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Distinguished Speaker Series: Judy Chicago

Sept. 16, 7 p.m. at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville

Artist, author and educator Judy Chicago is perhaps best known for her revolutionary installation The Dinner Party—a triangular banquet table with 39 place settings for extraordinary women in history—but her broader influence on art as a vehicle for social change eclipses any one piece. She’ll speak with curator Chad Alligood about women in art, followed by a book signing. (crystalbridges.org; $10)

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Public Programs: Kevin Merida

Sept. 20 and 21 at 6 p.m. at Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock

Kevin Merida covered U.S. politics at The Washington Post for two decades and was the newspaper’s first black managing editor. He’s authored two books, been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and won numerous awards for his journalism from the National Association of Black Journalists. Now, Merida seeks to make his mark as editor-in-chief of ESPN start-up The Undefeated, a website where sports, race and culture intersect. (clintonschool.uasys.edu/events; free)

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Pulitzer Prize Lecture Series: Arkansas Gazette Lecture featuring Ray Moseley

Oct. 4, 7 p.m. at Ron Robinson Theater in Little Rock

George Takei

To commemorate the Pulitzer Prize’s 100th anniversary this year, the Arkansas Humanities Council has been presenting lectures given by prize winners with Arkansas connections. In this third installment, journalist Ray Moseley—who spent time as a reporter for the Arkansas Gazette and the Detroit Free Press, and as a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune—will lecture about the coverage of Little Rock’s school integration, which earned the Gazette the Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Service and Editorial Writing in 1958. (arkansashumanitiescouncil.org; free)

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George Takei

Oct. 27, 7:30 p.m. at UCA Reynolds Performance Hall in Conway

George Takei might be best known for his portrayal of Hikaru Sulu in the original Star Trek series, but the 79-year-old actor is more than a one-hit wonder. He’s become a social activist and something of a social media star, having used his popularity to raise funds for disaster relief and support for LGBT causes. What may especially resonate with Arkansans, however, are the childhood years he spent at a Japanese internment camp in Rohwer, Arkansas, during World War II. (uca.edu/publicappearances; $15)

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Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival

Oct. 7-16 in downtown Hot Springs

Twenty-five years after a handful of Hot Springs arts enthusiasts decided to screen 10 Oscar-nominated documentaries and call it a festival, the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival has every right to break out the champagne for its silver anniversary. Despite having survived against the odds (documentaries only? In an Arkansas town with population 35,000?), HSDFF has gained notoriety across the globe as the continent’s oldest all-documentary film fest and an Academy Award qualifier.

“There are now over 7,000 film festivals worldwide, and to stay healthy and flourish, a festival has to continue to stand out and continue to adapt to stay relevant,” says Courtney Pledger, executive director of HSDFF. It’s safe to say whatever Pledger and organizers are doing with HSDFF, it’s working—even though some of that magic might come naturally with the setting.

“Our location—the Spa City of Hot Springs, rich in the natural beauty of Arkansas—is unique among film festivals,” Pledger says. “Additionally, HSDFF is an all-walk festival. Hosting the festival within a concentrated area, the Hot Springs Downtown Historic District, creates a unique kind of intimacy.” And it’s that intimacy that Pledger says keeps people coming back year after year, building a community that she hopes can support the fest for another 25 years. (hsdfi.org; $8+)

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