Arts Scene

Sundays at Noon on KLRE & at 5:30 p.m. on KUAR
  • Hosted by Ann Nicholson
  • Local Host Daniel Breen

Arts Scene explores what's happening in the arts in Arkansas. Since 1985, Ann Nicholson has produced and hosted this weekly fine arts magazine.

Where there is an arts performance, art exhibit, or a literary artist with a new book, Nicholson is there. She maintains close connections with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, UALR Artspree and Opera in the Ozarks at Inspiration Point Fine Arts Colony in Eureka Springs.

"I want our listeners to gain a new experience from each program. I look for persons in the arts that I think will not only indulge my interests, but also those in the audience. I try to give them a little bit of extra personal background that they wouldn't get anywhere else," says Nicholson.

Born in India, the daughter of a British Army Officer, and educated in India, Kashmir, Scotland, and England, Nicholson immigrated to Canada in 1958 and then to the United States in 1962. She received a double BA degree in music education and music history from Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas. Nicholson continued her graduate education in Musicology at the University of Kentucky. Ann was the recipient of the 2003 Aha! Cultural Spirit Award, in recognition of her years of work supporting the arts community in Arkansas.

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To understand more about the present, sometimes you have to look back to the past. 

That's exactly what Whit Barringer and Andy Vaught did, bringing back a form of performance from nearly 100 years ago to tackle the complex social issues of today. 

Now, in collaboration with the Ozark Living Newspaper Theatre Company, Barringer and Vaught are bringing their project "Theater of the Air" to the airwaves in central Arkansas. 

Barringer and Vaught joined Arts Scene to discuss their program's upcoming debut, on Aug. 8 at 4 p.m. on KABF 88.3. 


For multi-instrumentalist Ricko Donovan, the music is half of the experience. 

That's to paraphrase legendary director and screenwriter King Vidor, who said silent film wouldn't be what it is without the musical accompaniment. 

Now, Donovan is bringing his own take on silent film scoring to audiences in central Arkansas with his show "Ricko Meets Garbo." He'll perform his original score to the 1926 silent film "The Temptress" starring Greta Garbo. 

The show runs at the newly-reopened Central Theater in Hot Springs on July 31, August 1, and August 7 and 8. 

For more than 20 years, Phil Mariage has been attempting to bridge the gap between the generations, all while sharing it with an audience. 

His show "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow" recently celebrated its 21st year on the air at UA Little Rock Public Radio. 

Phil joins us on this week's Arts Scene to look back at his program's origins, and some of the more memorable moments from the more than 270 episodes recorded. 


Summer is upon us after a year indoors, but the sweet strains of chamber music make a convincing case to go back inside for a brief moment. 

The Chamber Music Society of Little Rock's new season offers four chances to hear some of the biggest names in chamber music, beginning on Sept. 25 with the Harlem Quartet at downtown Little Rock's Ron Robinson Theater. 

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

With life slowly returning to pre-pandemic normal, arts organizations across Arkansas are welcoming patrons back with open arms.

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre has been on hiatus since last year's production of "Ann" written by Holland Taylor and starring legendary actress Elizabeth Ashley. Now, The Rep is turning the spotlight on the stage again, albeit in a slightly more bucolic setting.

There's nothing more American than hitting the open road, but for Black Americans in the Jim Crow South, travel was a potentially life-threatening endeavor.

"The Negro Motorist Green Book," commonly known just as the Green Book, sought to ensure the safety of Black travelers, listing the interconnected web of businesses and other safe spaces in the South.

Now for the first time, a Smithsonian exhibit is traveling to central Arkansas, all about that life-saving book.


And now, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra presents finale to a season that's been anything but normal. 

One of the most recognizable pieces of the classical music canon, Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, brings a fiery close to the symphony's latest season. 

Also paired with it is Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout. The work by contemporary composer Gabriela Lena Franck conjures images of the high peaks of the Andes Mountains. 

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

In downtown Little Rock, a masterpiece is slowly taking shape. 

Formerly known as the Arkansas Arts Center, the newly-reimagined Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts is on track for a grand opening in May 2022. The new facility, designed by MacArthur "Genius Grant" winner Jeanne Gang, already cuts an imposing figure despite still being under construction. 

UA Little Rock

The UA Little Rock Art Gallery is soldiering on with new exhibitions, placing the work of women front-and-center. 

The Arkansas Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts presents their 5th exhibition of “Arkansas Women to Watch: Paper Routes.” The traveling exhibit will be at UA Little Rock from Jan. 29 to March 12 in the Brad Cushman Gallery on Level Two in the UA Little Rock Windgate Center of Art and Design. 

The sights and sounds of classical music are even more welcome after months without in-person concerts. 

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, while still abiding by public health guidelines, is taking full advantage of that with their new Masterworks concert, titled "A Lyric Return." 

ASO interim artistic director and associate conductor Geoffrey Robson returns to the Arts Scene to talk about the show, which includes works by Claude Debussy, Ralph Vaughan Williams, George Walker and Jessie Montgomery. 

The show is Jan. 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the Robinson Center.

Just south of Little Rock, a whole new world of arts, culture and heritage awaits. 

The Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas, located in downtown Pine Bluff, has been a cornerstone of the arts in the city for years. 

Now, like all museums and performance spaces, they've had to adjust their strategy to reach their audience safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The center's executive director, Dr. Rachel Miller, joins the Arts Scene this week to talk about the current exhibitions on display at the center. 

Ann Nicholson, longtime host of KLRE-KUAR's Arts Scene, on April 14, 2016.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

On this week's Arts Scene, we take time to pay homage to our program's founder. Ann Nicholson, who hosted the show for nearly 30 years, died this past week at age 88. 

Ann was a true renaissance woman, one whose knowledge and curiosity seemed boundless. Her interviews, and interview subjects, ran the gamut; from South African drama with James Earl Jones, to nuclear nonproliferation with Admiral Stansfield Turner, Ann's skill as a host and interviewer was always on full display. 

Arkansas Symphony Orchestra

Arts organizations and audiences have been deprived of a performance experience during the pandemic. But, in the words of the immortal Freddie Mercury, the show must go on. 

Ballet Arkansas and the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra have heeded the call, and are presenting a collaborative performance adapted to the new normal in which we all live. 

Art direction by Carter/Reddy / Photograph of Elizabeth Eckford courtesy of The Will Counts Collection, Indiana University Archives

Melba Pattillo Beals, Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Thelma Mothershed, Terrence Roberts and Jefferson Thomas. 

Those nine Black Arkansans became part of Civil Rights history 63 years ago as the first to attend classes at the previously all-white Little Rock Central High School.

The story of the Little Rock Nine is a nuanced one; a story of bravery and torment that for some who lived it is a story too painful and harrowing to tell.

The Momentary / YouTube

Artists are a rare breed; seemingly the perfect mix of dreamer, thinker and doer. Nick Cave is by no means a stranger to those actions, but for this project, he's dreaming, thinking and doing BIG. 

Cave, described by the New York Times as the "most joyful, and critical, artist in America," is perhaps best known for his Soundsuits, which mix colorful, fur-clad outfits with otherworldly performance art for the viewer to analyze critically, without bias to the wearer. 

University of Arkansas - Pulaski Technical College / YouTube

After months of the "new normal," it can seem like there's no single aspect of daily life the coronavirus pandemic hasn't changed. Work has been replaced with Zoom, movie theaters with Netflix, and restaurants with take-out. 

But central Arkansans will soon get to experience live shows once again, with all of the necessary health precautions in place. 

Mosaic Templars Cultural Center

If you've heard the news in the past few months, you've probably heard that we're "living in historic times." But what exactly does that mean? 

While we generally think of history as the past, a new project by Little Rock's Mosaic Templars Cultural Center reminds us that history is all around us, even today. 

Opera In The Rock

Since 2012, Opera In The Rock has served Arkansas as the state's only professional opera company. But now, like all arts organizations, they're having to adapt to a wildly different way of life during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Christina Littlejohn has seen a lot in her tenure leading the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra; overseeing a major renovation, and now, the search for a new artistic director. 

Now, the symphony's 2020-2021 season is officialy set. It features some familiar names, like violinist Gil Shaham and Arkansan Kris Allen, winner of American Idol's eighth season. 

Perrion Hurd

Perrion Hurd's work is personal, but is kept alive by others. 

The founder of Hurdwired Studios, Hurd's work primarily consists of vibrant, energetic prints. 

Now, one of his most ambitious projects can be seen on the side of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in downtown Little Rock; three huge banners that adorn the building's façade. 

Arkansas Rep

In her career of 60-plus years in what she calls "the show rackets," Elizabeth Ashley has learned a thing or two. 

Speaking with Ashley, perched cross-legged on a leather couch in the Arkansas Rep green room, one becomes aware of her importance to the craft of acting. 

The Thea Foundation has been uplifting young artists in the Natural State for nearly 20 years. 

Now, the foundation is giving the (slightly) older generations a chance to show off what they've got. 

Arkansas Arts Center

The Arkansas Arts Center is in the midst of a transformation, more than 80 years since it first opened. 

The museum in Little Rock's MacArthur Park has undergone eight additions in its lifetime, but its original core still stands.

For nearly a decade, a gem of American art has been hidden in the landscape of the Ozarks.

Bentonville’s Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art cuts an unassuming figure at first. A squat façade sitting behind a glistening silver tree greets you as you round a circular drive, following a quick jaunt through the woods.

Sally Nixon

Sally Nixon is an expert at capturing the beauty of the mundane, and at times, the underappreciated. 

For being so unique and idiosyncratic, Nixon's works have a deeply personal, familiar feel to them.  You might recognize that overly-tanned grandpa from your trip to Miami Beach, or maybe you were once the little girl reading in a 1990s-era inflatable chair. 

Arkansas Cinema Society

We’re in the midst of awards season, and movies are naturally on the mind of many. But for Kathryn Tucker, film is always at the forefront.

Tucker founded the Arkansas Cinema Society in 2017 along with Little Rock-born film director Jeff Nichols. Since then, the ACS has been uplifting filmmakers in the Natural State through grants, public programs and screenings.

Arkansas Rep

If you find yourself in Little Rock for the Holidays, you don't have to be the richest man in the world to revisit a Christmas classic. 

The story of George Bailey, his guardian angel Clarence, and all the inhabitants of Bedford Falls has become something of a holiday tradition for many. 

Daniel Breen

The state of the arts in Arkansas is good, and that’s been largely due to the efforts of the Arkansas Arts Council.

For more than 50 years, the council has been dedicated to supporting artists in the Natural State through grants, education and special events.


The 2019 Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival has come and gone, and if you didn't make the trip to Spa City last month, we've got just the thing. 

UA Little Rock Public Radio's resident movie buff Sarah Kellogg is our guest this week, and breaks down some of the festival's 100 plus screenings. 


The worlds Matthew Castellano creates are full of color, activity, and intrigue. 

The south Florida native taught himself to draw, and hasn't stopped since. He's since moved into making prints, but continues to draw at a prolific pace.