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Arkansas’ 10 Unmissable Art and Culture Events in Summer 2014
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Arkansas’ 10 Unmissable Art and Culture Events in Summer 2014

Picture of Sasha Frost
Updated: 9 February 2017
As summer begins to get into the swing of things in Arkansas this year, local museums and festivals are preparing for another cracking line-up of cultural events. From art exhibitions of French masterworks, to riverbank celebrations of music and an annual watermelon festival, from Hot Springs to Little Rock, these are ten of the best local events taking place in Arkansas in summer 2014.


Music | Hot Springs Music Festival

1 – 14 June

Hot Springs Music Festival takes place every summer in the Ouachita mountains of central Arkansas. A unique festival of classical music, Hot Springs brings together world-class musicians with budding performers and rising stars from all across the genre. The result is more than 20 concerts and 250 open rehearsals over a two-week period, giving classical music lovers the chance to see some of the best orchestral, chamber, vocal, choral and opera performances around. On top of all this, the downtown area of Hot Springs National Park is an artistic haven, with over 30 fine art galleries, hundreds of resident artists and home to a celebrated annual documentary film festival.

Hot Springs Music Festival, 468 Prospect Ave, Hot Springs, AR, USA, +1 501 623 4763


Theatre | The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)

4 – 29 June

Shakespeare has been credited for writing close to 40 plays; some shorter, some longer. Some have been etched deep into the global cultural consciousness (Romeo and Juliet), and some have not (Cymbeline). Distinctions of length and popularity are irrelevant to the Arkansas Repertory Theatre cast, who romp through every single one of The Bard’s plays in under two hours. This helter-skelter comedy sprint was first performed at the Edinburgh Fringe and later had a successful run in the London Criterion Theatre. As a loving yet irreverent take on the Complete Works, the production manages to polish off Hamlet in 43 seconds – it is worth bearing in mind that some actors have taken longer than that to get to the end of: ‘To be, or not to be’.

Arkansas Repertory Theatre, 601 Main St, Little Rock, AR, USA, +1 501 378 0405


Music | Wakarusa Music Festival

5 – 8 June

The Wakarusa Music Festival has been going for over ten years and after relocating from Kansas, is now held on Mulberry Mountain, deep in the Ozark National Forest. Growing in size year on year, the four-day event offers over 150 acts performing across six stages. Headliners for this year’s festival include The Flaming Lips, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and The String Cheese Incident. Offering more than just music, Wakarusa is home to all manner of pop-up art installations across the festival grounds. This is a festival to which all you need to bring are your friends, your camping gear, and a pair of boots in case the rains come in.

Wakarusa Music Festival, 4117 Mulberry Mountain Loop, Ozark, AR, USA, +1 785 749 3434


Music | Eureka Springs Blues Weekend

12 – 15 June

Eureka Spring is in northwest Arkansas and over the centuries has been a destination for hopefuls of one kind or another. It was long sought out for the health benefits its waters were said to offer, and seekers of leisure came to Eureka in droves once the city was expanded as a holiday resort in the late 1800s, replete with Victorian-style houses and winding mountain lanes. The gorgeous setting and well-preserved buildings have resulted in Eureka Springs being added to a list of distinctive places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. As for when to visit, a mid-June arrival would coincide wonderfully with the Eureka Springs Blues Weekend. Blues players from different regions and playing styles are converging in Eureka for a weekend of music, grilling and good times.

Various locations in Eureka Springs


Music | Fort Smith Riverfront Blues Festival

20 – 21 June

The Fort Smith Riverfront Blues Society formed over two decades ago in order to maintain and promote blues music as an intrinsic part of American cultural heritage. Every summer a festival is put on to support artists and give residents and visitors of Fort Smith two nights of riverside blues performances. The event has become known as ‘The Best Little Bluesfest in America’, and while small, it has featured big acts over the years. Headlining this June will be Paul Thorn, and Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials. For two days of contemporary blues, music lovers just need to head down to the Harry E. Kelly park and get boogie chillin’.

Riverfront Blues Festival, Riverfront Park, Fort Smith, AR, USA


Art | The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism

Until 7 July

A visit to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is enough to warrant a trip to northwest Arkansas. The museum is surrounded by over 100 acres of Ozark forest and the architectural designs blend beautifully with the surrounding countryside. A series of walking trails lead off from the exhibition buildings to encourage visitors to see the natural surroundings as an extension of the museum. William S. Paley, the founder of the Crystal Bridges Museum, began collecting art in the 1930s and continued to do so for four decades. Paley bequeathed to the museum his impressive collection, which contains works by the French modern masters. The exhibitionm which runs until early July, features paintings, drawings and sculptures by Paul Gaugin, Heni Matisse, Paul Cézanne, and Pablo Picasso.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, 600 Museum Way, Bentonville, AR, USA, +1 479 418 5700


Art | Paul Signac Watercolors and Drawings: The James T. Dyke Collection

Until 20 July

The Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock is currently hosting an exhibition featuring the works of the French neo-impressionist painter Paul Signac. The industrialist James T. Dyke, a native of Arkansas, collected over 100 works during the course of his lifetime, and at the turn of the century gifted them to the Arts Center. The works on display are a combination of drawings and watercolours, a medium Signac predominantly worked in towards the end of his career. A contemporary of Van Gogh and a champion of promoting the movements of Cubism and Fauvism, Signac is cherished for vividly capturing the colours of coastal life in France. The artist was an avid sailor and spent his later years living in the south of France, all of which is reflected in the brilliant harbour scenes on display in the Arts Center.

Arkansas Arts Center, 501 E 9th St, Little Rock, AR, USA, +1 501 372 4000



Food | Hope Arkansas Melonfest


Every August in Arkansas, Hope is home to the annual Watermelon Festival. First held for a brief period in the 1920s, the festival was revived in the late 1970s and has continued to grow in popularity ever since. Slices of ice-cold watermelon are sold all around the festival, and melon-centric activities abound with the likes of a seed-spitting contest and a watermelon eating competition. There is also a large gathering of around 300 arts and crafts vendors, who come in from the surrounding states. A light-hearted event where the focus is on celebrating the harvest and having a good time with family and friends, there are plenty of worse places to cool off in high summer than at the Hope Watermelon Festival.

Hope Melon Festival, Hope, AR, USA, +1 870 777 3640


History | Civil War in the Arkansas Delta


The Delta Cultural Center in Helena, Arkansas, houses an exhibition dedicated to giving visitors a feeling for what Helena was like under Union occupation. The exhibition, entitled The Civil War in the Arkansas Delta, covers the everyday life of inhabitants of the area and the infamous 1863 ‘Battle of Helena’. Helena was a Union stronghold in a Confederate-controlled area during the American Civil War, and the centre is just one of the many places around town which give its people and visitors a detailed picture of its history. The cultural centre is also home to a sound archive which allows visitors to listen to the music and musicians of the region.

Delta Cultural Center, 95 Missouri St., Helena, AR, USA, +1 870 714 2844


Local Culture | Heifer Ranch

All summer

Heifer Ranch is a non-profit organisation promoting sustainable solutions to worldwide hunger, poverty and environmental damage. The ranch offers programmes and activities which allow visitors to come into contact with water buffalo, camels, goats and llamas. The organisation aims to inform visitors about the initiatives they undertake in some of the world’s most impoverished countries, and to show how donations given to Heifer International make a tangible difference to families’ lives on a day-to-day basis. Programme lengths vary from two hours to five days, and include activities such as gardening, rope-making and milking goats.

Heifer Ranch, 55 Heifer Road, Perryville, AR, USA, +1 855 343 4337



By Sasha Frost