Favorite

Memories of Townsend 

click to enlarge WOLFE IN THE 1970S: At an Arkansas Times photo shoot with Danny Morris (left) and Betsy Bell.
  • WOLFE IN THE 1970S: At an Arkansas Times photo shoot with Danny Morris (left) and Betsy Bell.

Vernon Tucker, musician and former Arkansas Times writer, asked for The Observer space this week to remember Townsend Wolfe. Why not? What follows is memory of early days at the Arts Center.

 From my viewpoint as an inhabitant of today's Age of Simulation, I look back with wonder at an era of innovative synergy in Arkansas, especially in Little Rock.

The Greasy Greens were in the Art Farm; the Clintons were in the Governor's Mansion (when they weren't sneaking out to participate in a Greens gig); the students at LRU were energized by the civil rights struggle and the Vietnam war; Arkansas Times (nee Union Station Times) was in its infancy; and Townsend Wolfe was running the Arkansas Arts Center, where some of the state's most creative, and raucous, conspired to celebrate the psychedelic revolution while gasoline was 40 cents a gallon. Cheap thrills abounded.

The photograph of Townsend accompanying this Observer was a reject from an Arkansas Times cover shoot. It affords a tidy way of viewing the vortex of cultural forces that drove the arts during the second half of the last century in Little Rock. 

The guy with the beard is Eureka Springs School of Art Artist in Residence Danny Morris and the model is Betsy Bell (nee Allee) of the Greens, where she sang like an angel as Morris played bass like the devil. When the Greens weren't in New Orleans, Eureka Springs or trying to play their way into being the first hippie show band featured in Art in America, they lived and worked at the Art Farm in Little Rock, a commercial ad agency that provided a lot of affordable graphics to the Times, like the front cover that came out of this shoot. 

The Arts Center's artists rocked the MacArthur Park facility built by Arkansas's Rockefellers and made it as wild a place to create and enjoy art as any campus in the world — until the rare night Jeannette Rockefeller wandered in and saw what all those crazy hippies were up to. Maybe it was the night the theater students fired off smokebombs and black-lit the gift shop. Very energetic and visually entertaining. She was not amused.

Despite Townsend's best efforts, it was never the same after that night, and coincided with the end of my love affair with Little Rock. Back to Eureka Springs. Bye-bye, Arkansas Times.

Each year the Arts Center hosts its "Delta Exhibition," which judges the year's best work by Arkansas and regional artists. The chosen pieces are displayed in a grand fashion in the Arts Center's beautifully lit main gallery. As good as these shows are, some of us yearned to also see the pieces rejected by the jury and find out what our peers around the state were making. 

During a break in the Times' photo shoot, I asked Townsend how about staging a salon de refuse´ prior to the official opening of the Delta. "Throw it all up on the walls for just one day."

He declined by objecting that the pieces deserved formal display, and if all the pieces were included they'd be jammed in frame-to-frame, denying the art the space it deserved.

I asked him how he displayed art in his home. His reply: "Frame-to-frame."

A man of gentle contradictions, elegance and good humor, he was the right "indispensable, irresponsible" man for the right job at the right time. His enduring contribution to Arkansas's culture of the visual and performing arts continues to inspire me through the work my friends began at the Arkansas Arts Center.

Thanks, Townsend.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of Townsend Wolfe, Vernon Tucker

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • I'm sorry

    I'm sorry we stood by while your generation's hope was smothered by $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, just because you were trying to educate yourselves enough to avoid falling for the snake oil and big talk of a fascist.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • Show and tell

    The Observer is an advocate of the A+ method of integrating the arts and using creativity to teach across the curriculum, an approach that the Thea Foundation, with help from the Windgate Charitable Foundation, is offering to schools across the state.
    • Feb 25, 2016
  • Yawp

    The Observer has been in a funk lately for a number of reasons: revulsions and slights, both foreign and domestic. We get that way most years as the winter drags on, once the tinsel and colored lights of Christmas drop into the rearview, soon after we come off the New Year's Day hangover.
    • Mar 24, 2016

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated its 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in The Observer

  • Dumb and smart, at the same time

    The Observer spent the week at a bar and thought a lot about a joke and its writer.
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • -30-

    A newspaper died up in Atkins a few weeks back, not with a bang or a whimper, but with the sound of change jingling in a pocket, just too little of it to keep the printing presses rolling.
    • Jul 13, 2017
  • Does she know?

    Did Kim Walker-Smith, when recording "Throne Room" for her new record "On My Side," truly understand the power of her music? Does she now know that her song was the one that played on the radio as Michael Reed thumped into the Ten Commandments monument on the state Capitol grounds and brought it on down?
    • Jul 6, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Ruth Coker Burks, the cemetery angel

    • Go Fund Me Page. https://www.gofundme.com/RuthCokerBurks

    • on July 22, 2017
  • Re: The ballad of Fred and Yoko

    • I grew up in Charleston and attended the College of Charleston, right around the corner…

    • on July 21, 2017
  • Re: A week at Midtown

    • Beautifully & perfectly written. Maggie & Mistown are definitely unique & awesome!!

    • on July 21, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation