Influential Arkansans 

We highlight more than 50 who shape our state.

Page 2 of 24

After Project Runway, Momolu began showing at New York Fashion Week and having international shows in Nigeria and the Cayman Islands. Last year, she held a show in Monrovia. It was the first time she'd returned to the country of her birth in 21 years. After visiting overflowing orphanages — the result of two wars — Momolu founded Gracie's Gift, to collect clothes and school supplies for these children.

Momolu now splits her time between Little Rock and Manhattan. She's preparing for Fall Fashion Week 2012, and for the first time, she has financial backers. "I'll be able to sell to stores," she explained. "If you get orders, you have to be able to produce the stuff wholesale. I've shown every season so the fashion community doesn't forget who I am, but this is the first season that I'm doing a full, ready-to-wear collection. My past collections have just been drama, like gowns that you'd wear to these great events. Now I'm doing separates, offering more colors, appealing to the masses."

When she's in Little Rock, Momolu works in her River Market studio and focuses on her husband and 8-year-old daughter. "Arkansas is like Liberia to me. It's about family, and it's about loyalty. You don't have to be born here, but if you show love for this state, you can be part of it. I'm African all day long, but I feel like I'll always have a home here. And that's huge because, for the longest time, I didn't have a place to say, 'Oh, I'm going home.' "


Master bladesmith Jerry Fisk of Lockesburg is the Yoda of Arkansas when it comes to the artist's relentless, self-sacrificial pursuit of perfection.

Years ago, a reporter for Arkansas Times visited Fisk's shop. By then, he was already one of the greatest knife makers in the world, the pre-paid waiting list for his work seven years deep. During that visit, he showed the reporter several blades, each amazingly beautiful, that hadn't quite lived up to his incredibly demanding standards. He'd spent more than 30 hours collectively on those castoffs — hours spent on Hell's doorstep, so hot his denim work shirts would sometimes disintegrate — but said that they'd be taken around behind his shop and pounded into the ground with his forging hammer.

"I can go up here at the Historic Arkansas Museum, and I can see knives that are 200 years old," Fisk said. "Some of those may be the only knife that survived from a particular maker. If only one knife I make survives, what's it going to look like? I don't want to be known for a mistake."

And that is how you become the best in the world.

A former machinist, Fisk has been making knives for more than 25 years. These days, he takes his craft and vocation as seriously as any religion, traveling all over the world to absorb new techniques and skills. The best of his art simply must be seen to be believed: incredible fantasies of tusk, gold, jewels, silver, horn, bone, or ivory, all delicately inlaid and engraved, with blades of Damascus steel — layers of metal folded hundreds or thousands of times, creating patterns that look like moonlight on water.

Named a National Living Treasure by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington's Museum of World Cultures in 1999, Fisk is still going strong at 58.

"I don't know what to do about the orders," he said. "It's getting to be a problem. If a man on the street places a regular order, it'd be nine, 10, 11 years before I could get to it. ... I could probably work three years for just the Chinese, or work two years just for one particular client down in South America. It's kinda like having to ration it out. I can only do so much as I get older."


Speaking of...

  • Arkansas gets poor score on LGBT rights in Human Rights Campaign's state equality index

    February 3, 2016
    The Human Rights Campaign today released its 2015 State Equality Index. Arkansas, along with twenty-seven other states, was ranked in the lowest-rated category, “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality.” /more/
  • State must face an old issue in pending charter applications

    January 23, 2016
    The spate of new charter school applications in Little Rock raises again the question of state actions that contribute to school and housing segregation in Little Rock. What will Commissioner Johnny Key do? /more/
  • Horn, Sell sculpture exhibit to kick off new gallery at Pulaski Tech

    January 20, 2016
    Pulaski County Technical College opens its new Center for Humanities and Arts next Tuesday, Feb. 2, and follows that with a public reception for the exhibition, "Merging Form and Surface," the first in the building's new Windgate Gallery, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Feb. 3. /more/
  • Judge approves Jacksonville school facilities plan

    January 14, 2016
    Saying "we must not let the perfect become the enemy of the good," federal Judge Price Marshall today approved a facilities plan for the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District over objections from lawyers for black children who said it would continue substandard elementary schools for black children. /more/
  • Tech Park predicts November-December opening

    January 13, 2016
    Tech Park executive director Brent Birch reported to the board that in response to several inquiries from various companies about the park and when it will be open, he's been saying November or December. Construction is to begin in March. The work is to begin on the top, sixth, floor of the building, known as the Annex. Leasing will begin before the work on the building is complete. /more/
  • Search committee named for successor to UALR Chancellor Anderson

    January 12, 2016
    University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbitt has announced the search committee that will consider candidates to succeed the retiring Joel Anderson as chancellor of UALR. /more/
  • Museums increase holdings in African-American art

    December 30, 2015
    New York Observer writer Daniel Grant follows the New York Times in his reporting on the move by museums to acquire art by African Americans in his Dec. 22 article, "In 2015, Art Museums Scrambled to Beef Up Holdings of African-American Artists." New York Times writer Randy Kennedy beat Grant to the punch with the great Nov. 28 piece, "Black Artists and the March into the Museum." Both articles reference Arkansas: Grant mentions Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art's acquisition of the Faith Ringgold painted quilt, "Mayas Quilt of Life," from the estate of Maya Angelou for $461,000, and Kennedy interviews former Razorback basketball star Darrell Walker about his collection of African American art, specifically Sam Gilliam. /more/
  • Rome junket for UA Board cost $23,000

    December 19, 2015
    A reader inquires on the tab for the October 10-15 junket to Rome taken by University of Arkansas President Donald Bobbitt and five members and spouses of the UA Board of Trustees. Happy to oblige. /more/
  • Library Board chooses Nate Coulter as next director

    December 10, 2015
    Little Rock lawyer Nate Coulter has been selected to succeed Bobby Roberts as director of the Central Arkansas Library System. /more/
  • Tech park agrees to terms of $17.5 million from consortium

    November 16, 2015
    The Little Rock Technology Park Authority board this afternoon signed off, with one nay vote, on the terms of two loans totaling $17.5 million offered by a consortium of Little Rock banks led by Centennial Bank. The authority board also agreed to extend the deadline for Richard Mays to accept its offer of $845,000 for his building at 415 Main St. to noon Friday. The deadline had been noon today. /more/
  • More »


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