ACANSA: A Spoleto for Arkansas | Rock Candy

ACANSA: A Spoleto for Arkansas

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Some 100 volunteers have been working behind the scenes for months to bring a week of high culture to Central Arkansas. So when the invitations went out last week to a party — "Arts ExtravACANSA" — to raise funds to launch the previously unannounced ACANSA Arts Festival, some folks may have been wondering, did this event spring from the head of Zeus or what? 

"The concept sprang from Charlotte Gadberry," Linda Newbern, who is an associate director of the group organizing ACANSA, explained. "She went to Spoleto [in South Carolina] and came back saying, 'We've got to do this in Arkansas.' " Rep producing director Robert Hupp, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Director Philip Mann, Arkansas Arts Center Director Todd Herman, Argenta arts and economic booster John Gaudin and others agreed. I happened upon an ACANSA meeting several months ago at the offices of Argenta Wealth Management —Gaudin's business — in North Little Rock and sat in on the brainstorming on what performers and exhibitions should be a part of the festival. The two-week Spoleto Festival USA includes opera, plays, literary events, dance (and dance and more dance), musical performances, symphony performances (Spoleto has its own orchestra), choral performances, garden tours, art exhibits ... you name it. The ACANSA organizers want that here was well — national talent, "acts from outside that are new and exciting," Newbern said, as well as contributions from Little Rock's artists.

The group talked about a slight logistical problem in 2014: No Robinson Auditorium. The city's largest performance hall will be closed for renovations. UALR's Stella Boyle Smith Concert hall will be in use by students. The Rep will be carrying on with its regular seasons. That means performances will be held in smaller venues, such as the Argenta Community Theater, the theater in the Arcade (set to open in fall in the River Market), the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, The Rep's black box if its new space in the Arkansas building on Main Street is complete, and the Symphony rehearsal space in the old M.M. Cohn building next door. The Symphony will perform at First Security Amphitheatre in Riverfront Park ("that makes Philip a little nervous," Newbern said, as do all outdoor symphony performances), and Wildwood's theater will be available as well. In addition to the performing arts, there will be special art exhibitions and a "gallery hop," Newbern said, with shuttles to various arts venues in downtown and destinations further west.

Committees are still working on the performance schedule. Newbern said the group is working on grant funding and has "big asks" in. It has applied for non-profit status. "We don't have all the money yet," she said, but expects they will. Organizers have also met with Little Rock and North Little Rock leadership about contributions.

The "Arts ExtravACANSA" festival fund-raiser will be 6:30-9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, on the grounds of the Clinton Presidential Center. Rockin' Dopsie and the Zydeco Twisters will perform; tickets are $100 before Sept. 12, $125 at door.

Gadberry is chairman of the board for the ACANSA festival; Virginia Young is director. 


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