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A Closer Look at the Little Rock Arts and Culture Commission

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization. 

By Benjamin Paley
February 23, 2019

For those who are working in a particular field or those who have a hobby they are very well tuned into, local governments often have committees that meet to discuss issues related to that field. These committees are within the jurisdiction of the local government you would be volunteering your time with. Local governments look for educated and experienced people in the community to be members of these committees and assist the city or county commission with critical decisionmaking.

These committees also provide volunteers with an opportunity to learn how government business is conducted, and how government decisions are made. Volunteers will see and experience how government meetings operate, as well as some of the ins and outs of working with elected officials vs. career government employees.

In this column, I will take a closer look at a city committee that oversees one particular department within local government that I find the most intriguing.

From January 2016 until June 2016, I resided in Little Rock, Arkansas as a City Year Corps Member. Throughout my time in Little Rock, I got involved in numerous volunteer opportunities.

One of those volunteer opportunities was at the Arkansas Arts Center, where I assisted with projects geared towards children to give them an appreciation of the arts.

Now that I have returned to South Florida and received my Master of Public Administration degree, I wish to discuss the government body in Little Rock that makes decisions regarding arts and arts activities for the city: The Arts and Culture Commission of the City of Little Rock.

I have always had a profound appreciation for the arts, and the positive impact it can have for the public at large. For local governments, arts programs provide one way to bring the community together to make, discuss and showcase works of art made by and for the community. And the Arts and Culture Commission brings expert experience and opinion to arts programming in the city.

According to the Arts and Culture Commission’s webpage, the commission is, “Established to promote policies and encourage endeavors for the appreciation and enhancement of the arts and culture resources of Little Rock.”

The commission’s members are, “Appointed by the Little Rock City Board of Directors by recommendation from their nominating committee and shall consist of 5 members who are senior administrative staff or board member of a cultural institution; not eligible for reappointment and eight (8) At-Large Members.”

In total, the commission has 13 members. Currently, the members of the board are:

  • Alice Allred
  • Eliza Borne
  • Charles Cliett
  • James Doyle
  • Kelly Fleming
  • Denise Ennett
  • Allyson Pittman Gattin
  • Wanda Hoover
  • Corey Huffty
  • Christina Littlejohn
  • Mimi San Pedro
  • Ray Scott
  • Janet Wilson
  • Vice-Mayor Kathy Webb
  • City Director Doris Wright

The Arts and Culture Commission of the City of Little Rock receives its authority from the City of Little Rock Code of Ordinances Sec. 22-90, which also lists the tasks of the commission.

In upholding their role as shepherds of the arts for Little Rock, the commission has engaged in planning several projects. One of those projects, which is now in its third year, is Open Studios Little Rock.

According to a press release for the second annual Open Studios Little Rock, “Guests can gain access to over 20 artist studios and cultural institutions that will open their doors and give you a firsthand look at their creative process…The public can participate in FREE, self-guided tours of art-related studios, live-in/work studios and homes, galleries, schools, and other creative spaces… Open Studios gives you unparalleled access to artists living and working in Little Rock.”

For more information about this event, you can check out this 2017 KTHV-TV video clip with two members of the Little Rock Arts and Culture Commission.

As can be seen, the Arts and Culture Commission of the City of Little Rock has been able, through programming and other activities, to bring arts and culture to the city for its residents to appreciate and enjoy. Arts and culture commissions exist all over the United States as a way for local governments to promote a myriad of artistic interpretations of the world around us.

For example, in my hometown of Hollywood, Florida, the City Commission has established the Artwork Selection Committee. This committee helps to play an integral role in artwork selected for public showcase in government buildings.

Author: Benjamin Paley is a member of the South Florida Chapter of the ASPA. He graduated in 2018 from Florida Atlantic University with a Master of Public Administration degree. He currently works at Temple Beth Sholom in Miami Beach, Florida as their Social Justice Fellow.
Email: [email protected].

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