UCA Awarded $25,000 for Little Rock Central High Festival

The University of Central Arkansas has been awarded a $25,000 grant to fund an integrative arts festival at the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site in the fall of 2017, according to a UCA press release. The grant, which is from the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the National Park Service, is one of 51 grants given to organizations in 27 states.

The Imagine Your Parks grants were given in support of projects that will, through the arts, get people more involved with historic sites and parks within the National Park System.

‘If Buildings Could Talk’ will be UCA’s contribution to the national historic site at Central High and will take place September 22-24, 2017.

Associate Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication Gayle Seymour and Jennifer Deering chose Central High as the site for this project because the festival will coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Central High Crisis in 1957. They also commissioned the opera Little Rock Nine, composed by Tania Leon, for the occasion.

The highlight of the festival will be a 3D projected mapping video created by UCA professor Scott Meador.

“With this video,” Seymour said, “the artist will be able to create the illusion of it being built in 1927, evoke memories of thousands of students who walked up the entry steps, animate the four allegorical figures on the exterior and, most significantly, recreate the moment the nine African American teenagers entered the school under armed guard.”

The 3D video projection will be designed by Meador, Jim Lockhart and Jonathan Richter.

The video will be projected onto the side of a building at Central High, and will create illusions that are based on the architecture of the building itself, Meador said. The illusions in the video will make it appear as if the building is changing shape and color.

Blake Tyson, professor of percussion at UCA, will compose the soundtrack for the video projection. Some parts of the composition will symbolize the Little Rock Nine, Central High School and the events of that time.

“I hope the piece will help those who hear it remember the bravery and dignity of the Little Rock Nine as they were transformed from young children, who just wanted to go to school, into international symbols in the fight for racial equality,” Tyson said.

Seymour said the festival would also consist of bus tours of civil rights landmarks in the neighborhood, a “Pop Up” with jazz musicians, fashion and culinary artists and a remembrance ceremony to be held in the Central High memorial garden.

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