Arkansas Times | May 2021

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MAY 2021







10 A.M. TO 4 P.M.

EARLY BIRD TICKET HOLDERS GET IN AT 9 A.M. Tickets at the door: $5 Early bird tickets online for the best selection!

GET TICKETS AT CENTRALARKANSASTICKETS.COM Stop by the Rocktown Distillery tent to purchase craft cocktails! Enjoy Arkansas Made beers being sold at the Arkansas Made bar from Stone’s Throw, Diamond Bear, Lost 40, and Blade & Barrel, and wine from Rusty Tractor Vineyards. Plus more! Cash or CC accepted.

Enjoy Live Music from the Salty Dogs! 1:30 to 4 p.m.

Dizzy 7 plays music that ranges from Motown to Big Band, Latin to Dixie and more! 10:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.

NOW ACCEPTING ARTISAN VENDOR APPLICATIONS. Please contact Ian Beard or call 501-537-5207


Arkansas Made - Arkansas Proud Market


MAY 2021


ARKANSAS MADE: Everett Spruce’s modernist 1938 canvas, “Arkansas Landscape,” is among the works in Historic Arkansas Museum’s new two-volume collection.

The scourge of legislation passed this session will haunt us for years to come. By Austin Bailey



Meet this year’s stellar roster of high school seniors. By Rhett Brinkley, Griffin Coop, Noël Gieringer, Dwain Hebda, Lindsey Millar and Stephanie Smittle


Q&A: With Jeffrey Murdock, University of Arkansas music professor and winner of a 2021 Grammy Award for education. The Big Pic: A sampling from Arkansas Made, Vols. I and II. The Inconsequential News Quiz: The 2 Fast 2 Furious Edition.


Ballet at Argenta Plaza, Brian Martin at Northwoods Trails, Allman Betts Band in El Dorado, Henry Glover tribute in Hot Springs and more. 4 MAY 2021


18 NEWS & POLITICS The ignorance caucus. By Ernest Dumas



A guide to eating al fresco this spring. By Rhett Brinkley

News & Notes: Day camps, dance camps, museums and more. Feature: The path to becoming a foster parent. Meet the Parent: Priscilla Baxter




The post-pandemic art world is blossoming. By Leslie Newell Peacock

As more processors enter the medical marijuana market, edible and topical offerings expand. By Griffin Coop

Concerns about construction. ON THE COVER: Rep. Mary Bentley and Sens. Trent Garner, Missy Irvin and Bob Ballinger. Illustration by Kasten Searles.

Rap Squad



In the Arkansas Delta, students Montae and Ray join an after school club – the Central Rap Squad – and begin writing music to cope with personal traumas. When their rural town prepares to vote on a proposal that would raise property taxes in order to build a new public high school, the young men shift their focus from inner healing to social action, using their music and platform to fight for a more equitable future. Watch “Rap Squad” on Reel South, May 13, at 10 p.m.


Season 6 of “Reel South” tackles this moment in American life with nuance and camaraderie. This collection of films finds common ground through ritual and participation, with stories that face up to the past and bend to the future carving pathways away from absolution and toward equity.

Great exhibitions to come in the new academic year! Be in the know by bookmarking our website and signing up for a monthly e-newsletter at






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Arkansas has a 2021 Grammy Award winner on its hands with Jeffrey Murdock, the University of Arkansas assistant director of choral activities and assistant professor of music. Murdock won the accolade to recognize, in the Recording Academy’s words, “educators who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and who demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in the schools.” We caught up with him to learn more about his trajectory as a teacher, the importance of representation and about what he’s blasting on his car stereo right now. Tell me a little bit about your history as a music educator. I was raised in Biloxi, Mississippi. As a kid, I would beat on the tables and chairs and pots and pans and buckets and anything that I could find. My family thought that there was some musical talent there. A friend of my family took me to my first piano lesson and paid for it. And that lesson went very well. And the rest, as they say, is history. ... In my junior year I heard a choir perform Moses Hawkins. At that point I realized I wanted to be a music educator to be able to give people the same kind of opportunities that I had when I was coming up.

to choral music education, so I get to shape the teachers of tomorrow. ... The University of Arkansas provided an opportunity for me to be all of my musical selves, and to be able to do that in meaningful ways. Describe a meaningful teaching experience. I’ll give you two. One of them was when I was teaching in Memphis. I had a bass walk into the room. Well, he didn’t know he was a bass at the time, because he wasn’t interested in being in choir. He’d been dumped there because he needed a fine arts credit. He didn’t want anything to do with me or with music. I was able to reach that student on a personal level, and connect with them on a musical level and help them find their voice. In finding their voice, that student became one of the best high school students that I ever taught.

The other milestone was actually just about a year ago today, when the Inspirational Chorale AGE: 40 performed at the Southwestern American Choral Directors Association conference. We put toBIRTHPLACE: Biloxi, gether a program that was very edgy and pushed Mississippi the envelope a bit. We discussed topics like war, the war on drugs, Black Lives Matter and babies QUARANTINE FOOD in cages, as well as about finding one’s voice and CRAVING: Snow crab legs being a voice for those whose voices have been stifled. There are things that we can talk about in music and that we can sing about that go better on a concert stage — and through dramatiI had my first Black teacher when I was in middle school. Her name was zations of those visceral moments that occur when having a musical Felicia Cooper. She was my middle school choir director. I realize now experience that doesn’t go as well when you’re having an argument on that in those early moments, that representation really mattered for me. Facebook or having a back and forth at the Thanksgiving dinner table. It was Ms. Cooper who allowed me to see that there was a place for Black folks in music. So she kind of lit the fire. What are you listening to right now? This probably sounds weird, but anytime music is playing my brain is Tell us a little about your role at the University of Arkansas. working. I’m always analyzing and thinking about how things can be One of the things I love about the University of Arkansas is that it done differently, how things can be changed. I’m currently obsessed allows me to do many of the things that I do well. I’ve always been with Renaissance choral music. I’m learning more about it, how it works, passionate about gospel music. I’ve done that since I was a child. I sang various composers, the performance practice of it and how voices are in church and played in churches. When I taught high school in Memmanipulated to recreate that sound in performance practice. So if I’m phis, I became keenly aware of the ways in which music looks different blaring music in my car right now, I’m blaring some Renaissance comin different parts of town, the disparities that existed for poor students posers. Or maybe Cardi B. versus richer students. When I got my Ph.D. in music education, I became a fierce advocate for leveling the field of music education, such — Katy Henriksen that every child, every day has access to high-quality music education and experiences. At the University of Arkansas, I conduct gospel music with the Inspirational Chorale, but I also teach all things related Find the full interview with Jeffrey Murdock at ARKANSASTIMES.COM

MAY 2021 9


Flask, circa 1880, stoneware, attributed to Jacob Bachley of Texarkana Pottery Cream, cobalt and manganese slip depict these Elizabethan figures. “Her ballooning dress would reveal a bare underside when tipping the flask,” the book’s caption explains, “intended to make the drinker’s company laugh. Additionally, the words hot Spring are inscribed underneath the girl’s dress, either referencing the town Hot Springs or urination.

Hunzinger Style Chair, J.G. Miller and Co., Fort Smith (1891-1893) This drop-arm mahogany chair mimics the style of New York City furniture maker George Hunzinger, and is one of two pieces J.G. Miller and Co. created for display at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. 10 MAY 2021



“Clothed in Shadows,” silver gelatin print, Fernand Fonssagrives (1910-2003) Native Frenchman and fashion photographer Fernand Fonssagrives, whose work appeared in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, lived the last 30 years of his life in Arkansas.


In 1990 and 1991, when Arkansas was sashaying into the Southeastern Conference and the U.S. presidency was but a twinkle in Bill Clinton’s eye, researchers Swannee Bennett and Bill Worthen published a two-volume book set called Arkansas Made — a compendium of the material arts in Arkansas between 1819 and 1870. Bennett was then-curator of the Arkansas Territorial Restoration, the half-block of historic houses that would become the Historic Arkansas Museum in downtown Little Rock; Worthen was its director. Like the museum campus itself, the Arkansas Made volumes have since been meticulously expanded and revised through the efforts of those to whom Bennett and Worthen passed the torch. Now, three decades later, additions to the Arkansas Made project are documented in two gorgeous tomes of pre-1950 photography, fine art, textiles, quilts, ceramics, silver, weaponry and furniture — all of which, taken together, defy popular caricatures of early Arkansans and invite us to see artisans past as the real people they were. With vivid photography from Rett Peek and devoted attention paid to the makers’ techniques, and to the economic and cultural circumstances that framed their varied work, the books make Arkansas’s material history feel exactly as it should: textured and lively and tangible.


Museum’s hefty twovolume ‘Arkansas Made’ series captures the humor, surrealism and ingenuity of our state’s material history.


MADE IN ARKANSAS Historic Arkansas

Gelatin silver print, Gayne Preller Schmidt (1875-1955) Though commercial photographer Gayne Preller was doing business during the Jim Crow era, nearly half of her studio portraiture portrays African Americans. To avoid discrimination against women proprietors, she did business under her initials, “G.L. Preller.”



“Surrealist Motif,” etching with drypoint and gouache, Charles I. Okerbloom Jr. (1908-1999) Painter, cartoonist and printmaker Charles Okerbloom lived in Fayetteville for 46 years, where he taught art at the University of Arkansas. His work explored the sensual and the surreal and often grappled with social issues like mental health.

Woven shoe, rattlesnake master and hickory bark, circa 3000 BC-AD 1000 Rattlesnake master, a plant native to the Ozarks, was interlaced and formed into a single strip, which was then woven into this slip-on style shoe, tightened to fit the wearer’s foot with a strap of hickory bark.

“Wampoo-Style” decorative hunting horn, Dec. 25, 1899 This 11-inch relief-carved horn contains the names of two prominent Little Rock residents, Sheriff William Kavanaugh and physician Dr. Charles K. Mason. Its maker, a man known as the “ex-Confederate soldier,” lived in Wampoo Township between Little Rock and Pine Bluff and was one of only two known makers of this style of horn. ARKANSASTIMES.COM

MAY 2021 11



2PlayFAST 2 FURIOUS EDITION at home while humming Loretta Lynn’s ‘The Pill.’

1) Recently, the Arkansas State Library sent out a bulletin to libraries across the state, advising them to be on alert. What was the Arkansas State Library warning Arkansas libraries about? A) If they find people sleeping in their libraries, they’re probably just people trying to escape from their families for one moment of gatdamn peace after a year in quarantine. B) A recent, statewide infestation of ravenous Lesser Spotted Book Weevil. C) Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) may come in wearing dark sunglasses and a fake Duck Dynasty beard to check out books on ballet training for middle-aged men. Just pretend not to recognize him. D) They told libraries to keep an eye on their holdings of six Dr. Seuss books that were recently removed from publication by the author’s estate because of racist images because now that they’re no longer being published, they’re more valuable and may be targets of theft. 2) In more consequential news, Kevin Hamilton Jr., 40, was taken into custody by police in mid-March in the shooting death of Brian Britt, 47, of Conway. What, according to investigators, was very odd about where the shooting of Britt allegedly happened? A) It happened inside a public library. B) It happened in a church. C) It happened inside a bookstore. D) It apparently happened directly outside the CHI St. Vincent hospital emergency room, with witnesses saying the shooter drove up in a

pickup truck, fired several shots — apparently at someone inside the truck — then dumped Britt out in front of the emergency room entrance. Despite the immediate actions of ER doctors and nurses, he died of his wounds. 3) Second time was the charm in March for a bill by Rep. Aaron Pilkington (R-Clarksville) that allows pharmacists in Arkansas to dispense oral birth control without a prescription. What happened when Pilkington tried to get the bill to the governor’s desk the first time in 2019? A) It got bogged down in hours of debate over whether birth control pills were invented by country star Loretta Lynn. B) Sen. Bob Ballinger (R-Berryville) had to be rushed to the hospital for an emergency stomach pumping after he ate a whole pack of birth control pills “to see what they tasted like.” C) There were chuckles and “huh-huh-huh ... he said oral” from the House chamber every time Pilkington said “oral birth control.” D) It died in the Senate after the House passed it 54-29, but only after some House legislators spoke up from the year 1955 to argue that giving women free contraception would lead to increased promiscuity. 4) Elliot Stewart, 36, was arrested in a recent fatal stabbing in Forrest City, with police taking Stewart into custody after investigators alleged he fled from the scene and tried to hide in a very unusual place. Where, according to investigators, did Stewart try to evade the long arm of the law?

A) Inside the weirdly anatomically correct rectum of a large fiberglass bull atop a local Western wear store. B) He fled to the Arkansas State Capitol, where he tried to pass himself off as a Republican legislator by acting absolutely as cruelly as possible toward anybody who isn’t a white male. C) He was apprehended after arousing suspicion by wearing a mask inside a Walmart store in rural Arkansas, which is quite a rarity from what we’ve seen on our recent visits. #Freedumb? D) He allegedly shimmied down the chimney of a nearby house, but was found after the owner of the home called police to report a stranger stuck in their flue. 5) Little Rock is continuing to fight ongoing illegal drag racing in the city with an ordinance that stiffens the penalties for street racing. What’s the new penalty for going 2 Fast 2 Furious in Little Rock? A) Head-to-head for pink slips against Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. at the wheel of his 1,200-horsepower nitro funny car “Mayoral Mayhem.” B) Having their car crushed and melted as they watch, with the resulting metal recast into another sculpture of a dog taking a shit for Riverfront Park. C) They’ll be sentenced to drive a Toyota Prius for three full years. D) Up to a $1,000 fine.

ANSWERS: D, D, D, D, D 12 MAY 2021


Eric Cervini

THU | JUN 3 | 6:30 PM

In 1957, like many federal employees before him, Frank Kameny was fired for being gay. Unlike many others, he fought back. Harvard- and Cambridgetrained historian Dr. Eric Cervini reveals the secret history of the fight for gay rights that began a generation before Stonewall.

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Inspired by Anthony Bourdain’s posthumous World Travel: An Irreverent Guide, this loose tribute is a discussion of tastes, travels, and the man who brought us the best of both worlds. Guests include Chefs Donnie Ferneau and Gilbert Alaquinez, Tony Poe, Anthony Bozza, Abbey Rolfe, and Amy Bradley-Hole.

Sweating may be one of our weirdest biological functions, but it’s also one of our most vital and least understood. Everts takes you on a taboo-busting romp through the shame, stink, and strange science of sweating. Sponsored by UAMS Departments of Dermatology and Medical Humanities & Bioethics.

VIRTUAL AUTHOR SESSIONS In addition to our event in October, the Six Bridges Book Festival brings you authors and book discussions throughout the year. Register for these sessions at ARKANSASTIMES.COM

MAY 2021 13


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On the first and third weekends in May, Ballet Arkansas is taking its toe shoes and setting up shop on Argenta Plaza in the riverside Argenta Arts District for a series of free performances and educational workshops. Show up and shake your pandemic doldrums with a morning “Pilates at the Plaza” session or a “Stretch and Strengthen” cardio workout, stroll Main Street (which will be closed to traffic May 21) for a bite to eat, or catch matinee and evening performances from Ballet Arkansas dancers/choreographers Paul Tillman, Hannah Bradshaw and others, including a brand new work choreographed by Deanna Stanton, “Water Work,” featuring the Argenta Plaza water wall. For a full schedule and class descriptions, visit

Hot Springs’ Arts and the Park, an annual 10-day spring festival meant to highlight the vibrant city’s arts scene, this year honors native artist George Hunt and native musician Henry Glover (pictured at left), who would have turned 100 in 2021. A pioneering songwriter in his own right, Glover is best known for producing songs for James Brown, Levon Helm, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan and Grandpa Jones. He credits “the “unusual town” of Hot Springs, in part, for fostering his talent. Glover will be honored with an art contest, a songwriting contest, an induction into Hot Springs’ downtown Walk of Fame May 1 and a mayoral proclamation declaring May 21 Henry Glover Day. Elsewhere on the festival’s schedule: “Art Moves,” an outdoor art exhibit installed along the Hot Springs Creek Greenway Trail; “Art Springs,” a juried festival on Hill Wheatley Plaza May 1-2; “Studio Tours,” a free self-guided tour through the galleries and workspaces of local artists, May 8-9 and the monthly First Friday Gallery Walk through downtown Hot Springs, May 7. For details visit


SATURDAY 5/1-SUNDAY 5/2. ROBINSON CENTER MUSIC HALL. 7:30 P.M. SAT., 3 P.M. SUN. DONATION; $10 MINIMUM. Arkansas Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Andrew Irvin and violist Timothy MacDuff are at the forefront of this concert, one of ASO’s first ventures back into the world of live performance. Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 “Classical,” Mozart’s “Sinfonia Concertante” and Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 in C Major “Jupiter” finale — which ASO members collaborated on virtually during the pandemic as part of the “Bedtime with Bach” series — are on the program. “It will be a true joy to play such an iconic piece for a live audience almost a year after performing it virtually for our ‘Bedtime with Bach’ series, a project that has allowed us to stay connected with our community while we were off of the stage. A full-circle moment for sure,” Interim Artistic Director Geoffrey Robson said. Presented live to an in-person audience at Robinson and available for streaming on ASO’s website after 7:30 p.m. on May 8, tickets are pay-what-you-can, with a minimum donation of $10. For tickets, visit Social distancing measures will be in place and masks are required at all times in the building. ARKANSASTIMES.COM

MAY 2021 15

the TO-DO list


SATURDAY 5/1. FIRST FINANCIAL MUSIC HALL, MURPHY ARTS DISTRICT. 7:30 P.M. $40-$70. Seventies rock icons Duane and Gregg Allman left big shoes to fill. The likes of “Midnight Rider,” “Whipping Post” and “Ramblin’ Man” have been inspirational fodder for rockers of all stripes who grew up in the interim decades, not least of whom are the bandmates’ offspring — Gregg Allman’s son Devon; The Allman Brothers’ Dickey Betts’ son, Duane; and Allman Brothers bassist Berry Oakley’s son and namesake, Berry Duane Oakley. Playing what they call “Americana with teeth” and peppering their set with Allman Brothers gems, the Allman Betts Band is making a stop in El Dorado’s Murphy Arts District for a May Day concert at First Financial Music Hall. Get tickets at





SUNDAY 5/16. PULLMAN TRAILHEAD, HOT SPRINGS. 1 P.M. HIKE, 2 P.M. CONCERT. FREE. If you want evidence that the band Sad Daddy has an embarrassment of musical riches in its ranks, listen to bassist Melissa Carper’s “Daddy’s Country Gold,” or Carper’s perennially charming collaboration with fiddler Rebecca Patek of the Buffalo Gals. Or the one-man wonder that is Brian Martin. Martin, Sad Daddy’s guitarist, is part and parcel of Sad Daddy’s stage charisma, with a voice fit for old-time radio and the sort of quick wit that makes for snappy stage patter, whether he’s playing solo or in an ensemble. Catch him at this outdoor show, a kickoff for “Notes in Nature: Ranger-Guided Trail Concert Series.” A collaboration between Low Key Arts and the Hot Springs National Park, the series couples a hike with a subsequent concert — in this case, Martin’s set paired with a 1.3-mile ranger-guided jaunt out to Bethel Lake. If you want to skip the hike and catch the concert, plan on being at the Northwoods Trails lot at 300 Pineland Drive at 2 p.m.

16 MAY 2021


This outdoor dance performance from artists Caroline Sharkey, Moscelyne Parke Harrison, Elias Rosa and Blake Worthey of contemporary dance collective BodySonnet will be developed while the artists are in residence on Fayetteville’s sublime Mount Sequoyah, in partnership with composer Amos Cochran. The public is invited to see the results of that experiment. Accompanied live by Cochran, the collaborative work, Trillium states, “invites performers and audience members alike to consider collective memory, how we construct and recall memories, and how it can inform our relationship with ourselves, others, and the ground on which we live.” For tickets, visit


SATURDAY 5/1. WILDWOOD PARK FOR THE ARTS. $25. England-born, Nashville-based fingerstyle guitarist Richard Smith gives a concert at Wildwood Park for the Arts’ lakeside Butler Gazebo as a guest of the Argenta Acoustic Music Series, which has been on a pandemic-induced hiatus from its regular digs at North Little Rock’s The Joint Theater and Coffeehouse. Smith’s work veers toward the technical, but not the stuffy or the academic; expect lively originals and acrobatic takes on the work of Django Reinhardt, Jerry Reed and Chet Atkins. Bring lawn chairs and a blanket, and plan to bring some cash for refreshments and adult beverages, which are available for a donation. For tickets, visit

Presented by



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Official After Party Sponsored by Willy D’s! Food for purchase will be available from Low Ivy Catering and La Terraza Rum & Lounge



Questions? contact Abbie Gunther,



HOUSE OF CADS: Arkansas lawmakers did us all wrong in 2021.


18 MAY 2021


rom time to time, I’m being asked if in my many years of chronicling the Arkansas legislature, in person or by rummaging in the historical archives, I ever encountered a time when the ignorance caucus at the statehouse numbered a big majority of the lawmakers, as it clearly does now. If it were formalized in any way, the caucus would now have to include most of the Republican membership of the legislature, where they constitute more than 75% of both houses. Although the scales measuring ignorance and knowledge have obviously moved from the heyday of slavery and John C. Calhoun to Black Lives Matter and Bob Ballinger, I have to conclude that no, the ignorance caucus never before reached this pinnacle. This is especially remarkable considering the high barrier erected during the first legislature in 1837, when House Speaker John Wilson of Arkadelphia fatally plunged a Bowie knife into the chest of Rep. Joe Anthony of Pocahontas for teasing Wilson in a debate over the bounties paid for wolf pelts. Anthony joked that Wilson should have to sign the registration form for each pelt. A jury at Benton ruled that the murder was OK because Wilson needed to defend his honor from the wisecracker. My conclusions are based upon the flood of bills and resolutions in the 93rd General Assembly that are intended to make life miserable or impossible for transgender children and adults, to authorize teachers to instruct youngsters on the Genesis account of the creation of the universe in six days as the base of knowledge for biology and Earth studies, to halt all efforts to regulate murder weapons in Arkansas, to make it harder for minorities, the elderly and the poor to vote, to prohibit teachers and textbooks from suggesting that racial prejudice had any role in Arkansas history, and to make it a criminal act for a woman to get medical or pharmaceutical help to abort a fertilized egg, which Republican Supreme Court justices have repeatedly said was her constitutional right under the privacy and equal-protection clauses of the Constitution. Let me explain what I mean by the ignorance caucus. It is when the gov-

ernment goes about the due diligence of regulating society based not upon real knowledge, but upon old myths and prejudices, long since proven worthless by science or the informed analytics of democratic governments. A good place to start is the creationism business and the long history of the collision of science and theology. The courts already have twice declared it unconstitutional for Arkansas to instruct school children in science classes that God created the universe in six days, including building the first woman from one of sleeping Adam’s ribs, sewing him up and then banishing humans from the Garden of Eden forever because the silly woman listened to a serpent. Rep. Mary Bentley (R-Perryville) tried again this spring with HB 1701 to teach Genesis 1–3 as the basis of biology and physics. The House passed her bill 72–21, with seven other members ducking. It is a clear violation of the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the first anti-evolution law in Arkansas, but it had not been enacted by the legislature, which then — in 1927 — seemed too smart for that. As right wing as it has ever been, the legislature had refused to pass the anti-evolution bill, although it was pushed by Rev. James A. Comer, the exalted cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan and the most powerful Republican politician in the state. So Comer circulated petitions and got the measure put on the ballot, where it passed. The preacher thought Charles Darwin’s theories of natural selection were a plot to destroy Christianity. Darwin didn’t start the controversy, but apparently neither Comer nor Bentley knew that. When Copernicus and Galileo — the star-gazing astronomers and early physicists — published their findings 500 years ago that the stars and sun did not circulate around Earth’s skies, as Genesis suggested, they were considered to have assaulted the Bible and the whole foundation of Christianity. Galileo was attacked by the Catholic Church, convicted of heresy, forced to recant and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. The legislature this year didn’t propose to go that far. If Bentley’s bill becomes law, at least for the period before the courts invalidate it, teachers will be urged to teach Genesis at least through the 12th grade. The state medical schools, however, apparently will not have to teach Genesis as biology, so future doctors and nurses can continue to learn about the germ theory of disease — how rapid evolution of microbes like the coronaviruses must be combated by new antibiotics and vaccines — and they will not conclude like so many other Arkansans that viral epidemics such as COVID-19 are just communist hoaxes. While we’re on the subject of biology, it is at least heartening to see that the legislature seems to have given up trying to protect and increase the proliferation of carbon dioxide and



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other heat-trapping greenhouse gases after utilities and industrial plants resolved on their own to go along with the global-warming hoax and comply with President Barack Obama’s climate change rules. I prefer to think that many of the legislators have gone back and read the carbon cycle unit in their old biology books, which explained how the cycle of carbon use accounts for all life on the planet and how proliferating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is triggering devastating changes in the climate. Arkansas politicians apparently have now left the protection of air polluters to Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who played hooky the day at Southside High School when the biology teacher took up the chapter explaining carbon’s role in the Earth’s atmosphere and biology. She is suing in the federal courts to keep carbon industries pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Rutledge will never win a case, of course, but the taxpayers funding her litigation will pay no attention. By the way, the Mauna Loa Observatory on the big island of Hawaii last week recorded the concentration of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere at a record 420 parts per million. It will soon double its pre-industrial level. The most troubling of all the ignorance-based legislation are the bills punishing transgender kids and adults, gays, lesbians and others who, like millions before them, find that their bodies and minds stray from the gender roles assigned to them on their birth certificates. Proposed laws will bar them from the restrooms of their choice, require teachers and other school staff to call children only by the names on their birth certificates and not the names preferred by the kids and their parents, prohibit transgender youngsters from participating in school sports, prohibit doctors and nurses from assisting with their health care when it involves gender medical issues, and other forms of humiliation and punishment. All the laws violate the privacy, due-process and equal-protection rights of the victims. You have to conclude that all the measures are intended to stigmatize and make life unbearable for youngsters already haunted by depression and suicide. If you want to give the lawmakers the benefit of doubt, they are doing it only to score culture-war points with voters who know little more about human anatomy than we did 140 years ago when German scientists broke down the cells of animals and found that the cells of males had a Y chromosome. But identifying the X and Y chromosomes did not end the research on gender and sexuality. Discoveries about the infinite diversity of matter and of all forms of life — every aspect of a human from height, left-handedness, propensity for diseases and, yes, gender and sexuality — arrived yearly and now monthly. Even Republican lawmakers who no longer read newspapers, much less science journals, must have some sense of it. Yet when medical research discovers ways to help young-


making memories since 1958

UNHOLY: Preacher/Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) nabbed a big win with his total abortion ban. sters with issues of gender and sexuality, the politicians make medical assistance a criminal act. Concerns about human compassion won’t change things; only reprisals by the National Collegiate Athletic Association might do the job. Logically, stupidity should not account for the legislature’s torrent of bills to make it harder for people on the margins of the electorate to vote, who find it inconvenient to go to the polls when their opportunities to vote are narrowed and too much rigmarole is associated with it, such as standing in long lines, matching signatures, producing official photo identifications or filling out and then certifying provisional ballots. But what else could it be? It is understandable that Georgia, Arizona and other Republican states where Donald Trump did not lose too badly would want to discourage poor people from going to the polls again. But in solidly Republican Arkansas Trump, like nearly every other Republican, won by a landslide. What’s the point of shrinking voting opportunities? After all, Trump profited more than anyone by the expanded opportunity to vote that the state provided last year because of the pandemic, in Arkansas and in nearly every other state. Voting barriers might help Republicans win another office or two in Democratic counties like Pulaski, Jefferson and Phillips. A few sources, like the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial section, said the senseless rules to abort voting were worth the trouble because they were not so bad that they ought to be compared to the old Jim Crow laws. See, that is different from ignorance. Which brings us to the 2021 legislature’s most nonsensical crusade: to combat the rising scourge of gun violence by getting more and more devastating murder weapons into the

hands of more people in more and more situations and venues. In the short span of 40 years, two centuries of lawful efforts to regulate weaponry for the safety of the citizenry have been put aside because the gun lobby adopted the old shibboleth that the government was going to take away everyone’s guns so that the communists could run the country. Republicans actually made that claim in demanding that Arkansas stop federal agencies from enforcing protections from crooks using guns in Arkansas. You have to presume that they never heard of the supremacy clause or the scores of state and federal judgments against their legal arguments. Contrary to their claims, Arkansas, like Washington, has been regulating guns for nearly two centuries. For much of the 19th century after Arkansas got its statehood the legislature made it illegal to carry pistols. In 1923, the legislature, with the backing of the KKK and an affiliate of the National Rifle Association, required people to pay an annual fee and get a permit from the county clerk to own a pistol, although it was expected that the clerks would deny permits to Blacks. White people were put off by the fee so the lawmakers subsequently repealed it. In a number of cases, starting with the first Arkansas Supreme Court in 1842 (State v. Buzzard), the state held that the Second Amendment did not bar any state from regulating the ownership and sale of guns. Everyone in those days understood the basis of the Second Amendment and the rationale of its authors, like Patrick Henry. Who knows, the current Republican caucus may be aware of some of that history. But as we have come to recognize, knowledge is not necessarily wisdom.

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Arkansas lawmakers stick it to their own constituents. BY AUSTIN BAILEY ILLUSTRATIONS BY KASTEN SEARLES


year into a pandemic that stole jobs, lives and any sense of stability, Arkansans might have hoped for some help when lawmakers convened in January for the 93rd General Assembly. What they got was a kick in the face. Untethered by any check or balance on their hefty Republican supermajority, extremist lawmakers spent their time belittling and attacking their own constituents. For transgender children, renters, would-be voters, pregnant women or public safety advocates, Arkansas senators and representatives refused aid, offering insults and punishments instead. A few football fields to the right of Donald Trump himself, the leaders of this legislative session stuck it to Democrats any way they could. And with the 105-29 R-to-D ratio (plus one newly declared independent) there wasn’t much the Democrats could do about it. Republican lawmakers gleefully embraced unconstitutional bills on guns and abortion rights that they acknowledged will cost the state plenty in legal fees and will likely get bounced out of court. Spending an untold amount of our tax dollars is worth it if state senators get to bellow about states’ rights and “dead little babies,” apparently. But even after the ACLU notches inevitable wins to take unconstitutional laws out of play, plenty of damage will remain. Voting will be harder, getting shot to death will be easier and securing the right to reproductive health in Arkansas will be nearing close to impossible.

22 MAY 2021


Shockingly, and to Arkansas’s enduring shame, children bled the most in the 2021 culture war. Transgender children absorbed repeated body blows from elected adults who dehumanized and disregarded them. Rep. Mary Bentley (R-Perryville) called transgender children an “abomination” from the House well, which came to resemble the pulpit of a bad megachurch as lawmakers lined up there to defend their Christian bona fides and recite bastardized Bible verses as an excuse to exclude and abuse the least of these. Rep. Nicole Clowney (D-Fayetteville) captured the theme of the session on March 10, an ordinary Wednesday at the Capitol. Having already passed a “Stand Your Ground” bill that will put Black lives in more danger, and having buried any hopes of meaningful hate crime legislation for victims targeted because of their race, ethnicity, religion or sex, Arkansas lawmakers turned their focus to the nonexistent scourge of transgender girls on school sports teams. No matter that the bill’s sponsor couldn’t point to a single instance of any problems caused by transgender student athletes, or even any instances of transgender children playing on school sports teams in Arkansas at all. Here was another chance for legislators to be cruel to a vulnerable group ill-equipped to fight back. “So many people in this state need our help with housing, with jobs, with food,” Clowney said. “But we are again talking about another marginalized community and how we can make life harder for them.”


Rare good news from this session: K-12 public education will receive the largest funding increase in more than a decade. The Arkansas Constitution requires that the state adequately and equitably fund public schools; ahead of each regular session, the Bureau of Legislative Research prepares a detailed study with recommendations. In recent years, lawmakers have routinely approved less than recommended. But in 2019 legislators narrowly voted to hire an outside consultant to do a deeper dive into education funding, the first such study since 2003, and somewhat surprisingly lawmakers didn’t ignore the consultant’s findings. The funding increase wasn’t controversial, but Sen. Mark Johnson (R-Little Rock) proposed a referred constitutional amendment that would have gutted the adequacy funding requirements. It didn’t go anywhere, but it’s a sign that public education advocates will have to stay vigilant in coming years. Lawmakers also overwhelmingly approved a measure to increase the median teacher pay by $2,000 over the next two years, from $49,822 to $51,822. This follows the General Assembly in 2019 voting up a plan pushed by Governor Hutchinson to gradually boost the minimum teacher salary from $31,800 to $36,000 by 2023. That’s all positive, but it could be largely undercut by proposed hikes in teacher insurance premiums. In a year when more than a dozen school personnel died of COVID-19, hundreds were sickened by the disease and all educators were faced with the stress of teaching in-person amid a pandemic, they are facing a 10% premium increase. The issue remained live at press time, but the legislature wasn’t expected to save the day. In keeping with the state government’s antipathy toward the Little Rock School District, a new law sponsored by Sen. Bob Ballinger (R-Berryville) prohibits collective bargaining by public employees; it includes exemptions for police and fire departments, which means it’s largely aimed at preventing the Little Rock School District Board from again recognizing the Little Rock Education Association during contract negotiations once (if) the district is fully released from state control. The LRSD has been under the state’s thumb for more than six years. A bill from several Little Rock Democrats that would have set a hard five-year cap for a district to remain under state control failed to advance out of committee. The teaching of creationism would be allowed thanks to legislation from Rep. Mary Bentley (R-Perryville). “Why would we do this when the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that it’s illegal?” Rep. Deborah Ferguson (D-West Memphis) asked her colleagues. Bentley suggested high court justices might change their minds. House Republicans were either ignorant enough to believe this or recognized the vote as a cynical red-meat play to the base. But the absence of several Republican senators in a committee meeting appeared to doom the bill at press time. A raft of bills from Rep. Mark Lowery (R-Maumelle) that he disingenuously portrayed as attempts to quell racial divisions but were indeed aimed at whitewashing curriculum and instruction largely failed to gain momentum. One of his bills would have prevented the teaching of curriculum developed by the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project, which argues that slavery and its consequences belong at the center of our national narrative. Another would have cut funding from public K-12 schools or institutions of higher education if they did anything to “promote division between, resentment of, or social justice for” a particular race, gender, political affiliation or class of people. Lowery’s last gasp at waving away the teaching or discussion of systemic or institutional racism had a chance of passage at press time after he amended it to allow school boards to decide whether they wanted to adopt such a policy, which many would undoubtedly do.

Rep. Mary Bentley dares to identify and speak out against the furry scourge in our schools.

“When we have students in school now that don’t identify as a boy or a girl but as a cat, as a furry, we have issues.”


MAY 2021 23

Groups representing Arkansas superintendents and educators again rallied to help defeat a massive expansion of school vouchers proposed by Rep. Ken Bragg (R-Sheridan). It would have allowed taxpayers to get up to $4 million in credits for designating their taxes to pay for private school vouchers for lower income families. It also would have automatically grown annually by 25% if the demand for vouchers wasn’t met. But a narrower one, without the automatic growth provision, appeared on its way to passage. Sponsored by Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy), its cap would be $2 million, which would provide vouchers for around 250 lower income students to attend private school. Like the existing Succeed voucher program for children with disabilities, the legislature will undoubtedly seek to grow it exponentially in the coming years. Eroding traditional public education is a long-term project for many Arkansas Republicans.



Sen Gary Stubblefield (R-Branch) sneered at health officials’ reticence to embrace hydroxychloroquine and other debunked COVID-19 cures. Stubblefield shared that he’s been dipping into the industrial dewormer Ivermectin to ward off infection.

Silent handmaids in their crimson cloaks stood vigil multiple times at the Capitol to bear witness as lawmakers attacked reproductive rights in Arkansas. The courts will surely make quick work of chucking out Senate Bill 6 to ban all abortions in the state, including for victims of rape and incest, with the only exception to save the life of the mother. Sponsors hoped to bait the U.S. Supreme Court’s attention with the ban, but should the court decide to take up the issue, other states’ challenges to the Roe v. Wade decision upholding the right to access abortion care will likely get first dibs. Other new impediments to abortion care might stick. Those include a new requirement that abortion clinics secure contracts with hospitals and ambulance services to provide care for any patients who need emergency treatment. The fact that complications from abortions are far less common than those from wisdom teeth extraction mattered not at all; this new law tangles clinics in more red tape and promotes the false assumption that abortions are dangerous. Women seeking to end their pregnancies won’t be able to do so without enduring cruel and unusual punishments at the hands of the state. The new “Right-to-Know-and-See Act” requires women to undergo ultrasounds where they will have to listen to medical descriptions of the fetus and be shown ultrasound images before they can have abortions. Rape victims who fail to realize or acknowledge early on that their trauma resulted in pregnancy have some new hoops to jump through if they choose not to carry a rapist’s offspring to term. These women will have to provide a police report if they seek an abortion after the 20-week mark. That banning access and education about reproductive health only makes things worse doesn’t appear to be a deterrent. Which is a shame. As Planned Parenthood Great Plains CEO and President Brandon J. Hill noted, “Health outcomes in Arkansas are among the worst in the nation. Under the ‘leadership’ of anti-abortion legislators and Gov. Hutchinson, Arkansas continues to see the highest rates of teen pregnancies, infant and maternal mortality, and sexually transmitted infections and diseases.”


State senators made their priorities known from the get-go, kicking off this year’s legislative session by passing a bill to allow Arkansans to kill anyone they feel threatened by, even if they could simply walk away instead. “Stand Your Ground” legislation, for years a priority for right-wing extremists at the Capitol, earned its blessing from state senators in the earliest days of the 2021 session. Opponents managed to snag the bill briefly on the House side when 24 MAY 2021


the diametrically opposed Second Amendment-rights group Gun Owners of Arkansas and gun safety advocates Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America inadvertently teamed up to defeat it. Gun Owners of Arkansas opposed the “Stand Your Ground” proposal because they said language in the bill created new restrictions on where and when they could carry weapons. Along with advocates for the homeless and people with mental illness, Moms Demand Action volunteers opposed the “Stand Your Ground” bill because similar laws enacted in other states leave a gory path of unjustified and often racially motivated homicides in their wakes. “Stand Your Ground” laws have not deterred crimes in states that adopted them. In fact, murder rates in many of those states actually increased. Proponents of a “Stand Your Ground” law in Arkansas have never been able to produce a case in which such a law would have saved a life, prevented a crime or kept someone who killed in self defense out of legal trouble. Conservative Republican Sen. John Cooper successfully stonewalled efforts to pass a “Stand Your Ground” bill in Arkansas in 2019, but paid a price. Turning to their usual playbook, Arkansas Republicans retaliated by primarying Cooper and replacing him with an obedient NRA foot soldier. The Jonesboro state Senate seat now belongs to former Rep. Dan Sullivan. (Sullivan sought fame in 2020 by suing Governor Hutchinson over mask mandates, crowd limits and other emergency measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The case didn’t make it far before a judge tossed it out). The governor signed the “Stand Your Ground” bill into law but qualified his signature with hopes that the legislature would counter the racist cloud by passing a hate crimes law to provide specific protections for commonly targeted groups. (Spoiler alert: It didn’t pan out.) Emboldened by their early success, gun extremists at the Capitol in 2021 went on to pass blatantly unconstitutional bills declaring Arkansas free from federal gun laws and enacting criminal liability for local law enforcement officers and agencies who deign to cooperate with the feds. There’s little chance these measures will stand up in court. But we’re likely stuck with a new law allowing guns in parks.


The legislature kept big-money interests at the top of the priority list. The passage of the demonic Senate Bill 666, which puts insurance companies in line to collect on pay-outs before accident victims are made whole, appeared headed toward passage at press time. And corporate nursing home owners got a nice reprieve this session, too. They will no longer have to keep records to prove their floors are adequately staffed to care for residents. For the first time, nursing homes

In leading that attack on transgender children, Sen. Missy Irvin compared gender-affirming surgery (which isn’t performed on children in Arkansas) to genital mutilation, a harmful, nonmedical procedure performed on young girls in certain cultures.


THE HUNT FOR COMMON SENSE A mysterious group called Pro Ovaries LLC launched a visually arresting public information campaign to let Arkansas voters know what their lawmakers were up to.


MAY 2021 25

will be able to count non-nursing staff as required “direct-care staff.” And even though staffing requirements are relaxed significantly, the new law erases any financial penalties for failing to meet them. Corporations notched another win with the class protection bill, aka the sham hate crimes bill, aka fake crimes bill. Arkansas Chamber of Commerce President Randy Zook crowed that this bill puts Arkansas in league with 47 states that have laws on the books providing enhanced protections for people of color, the LGBTQ community and other commonly targeted groups. Not true, say supporters of the original hate crimes bill filed this legislative session by Sens. Joyce Elliott (D-Little Rock) and Jim Hendren (I-Gravette). The Elliott/Hendren bill, which would have provided meaningful protections in the form of enhanced penalties for criminals who targeted victims based on religion or immutable traits, was met with scorn by a legislative body that is 89% white and 76% male. Zook and others hoping to attract investment dollars to Arkansas might claim differently, but the bill lawmakers ultimately adopted is no hate crime law, and it does next to nothing for vulnerable groups. Landlords also made out quite well during the 93d General Assembly, fending off efforts to force them to provide housing that won’t kill, sicken or maim. Renters and their advocates who came to the Capitol were met with hostility from legislators (many of them landlords themselves) who called them unclean and irresponsible and did little to hold abusive landlords to account. A landlord herself, Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R-Springdale) pushed back on a provision that would require landlords to provide extermination service, suggesting any pest problems renters encounter are their own fault. “I hate cockroaches,”she said, but “they only come when they’re invited.” Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Beebe), another landlord, pushed a compromise bill that he touted as a starting point, even as he conceded it falls far short of what tenants hoped for. Pressure from landlords, realtors and legislator-landlords like Lundstrum and Senate leader Jimmy Hickey (R-Texarkana) resulted in a bill that still includes no requirements for landlords to provide pest control or even functioning smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Testimony from a grieving mother whose son died this year because his apartment lacked a carbon monoxide detector was apparently not enough to sway them. Lundstrum and company successfully argued against any such requirements, saying that tenants too often removed the batteries to put in their children’s toys. Another victory for landlords came with the defeat of a bill that would end Arkansas’s status as the only state in the country to make a crime of failure to pay rent. Arkansas’s reign as the worst state in the country for tenants remains secure.


Force-feeding patriotism to Arkansas students while simultaneously eroding the voting rights at the core of our democracy? Arkansas legislators missed the irony. Students will get a daily dose of the Pledge of Allegiance and a weekly taste of “The Star-Spangled Banner” thanks to new state legislation, even as their parents’ ballots are less likely to be counted. A slew of bills curtailing voting rights glided through the Arkansas Capitol this year. They came largely from Pulaski County Republicans who felt burned after newcomer Democrat Rep. Ashley Hudson of Little Rock bested incumbent Jim Sorvillo by just a few votes. Republican Pulaski County Election Commissioner Kristi Stahr complained loudly and often about voting rights advocates’ successful efforts to ensure absentee ballots were rightfully counted, and indeed, Stahr was a driving force behind many of the new voter suppression laws that will be on the books in time to prevent 26 MAY 2021


The deadly “Stand Your Ground” law allowing Arkansans to shoot anyone they deem a threat doesn’t go far enough for Trent Garner, the pistol-packing senator from El Dorado. Once the victim of an armed mugging, Garner testified that if he had managed to grab the gun, he would have gladly shot the mugger in the back as he fled.

and erase an untold number of votes in 2022. It’s true that vote counting in Pulaski County took much longer than normal due to the sixfold increase in the number of absentee ballots pouring in as people voted from home because of the coronavirus pandemic. But pin any disorganization and delays squarely on Stahr and now dethroned Pulaski County Election Commission Chairwoman Evelyn Gomez, who spent as much time insulting election staff as she did reviewing ballots. In the end, though, the process held firm. Even the Hutchinson-appointed members of the Arkansas Claims Commission, asked to consider whether fraud or miscounting delivered Democrat Hudson a win, affirmed the integrity of the 2020 vote count. No matter. Sponsors of these voter suppression bills regurgitated debunked talking points from Trump’s “Stop the Steal” narrative that had riled the base into attempting murder and kidnap of members of Congress on Jan. 6. That no evidence of voter fraud emerged on either the national or local levels deterred Arkansas Republicans not at all in their efforts to make voting harder. Sponsors spewed disinformation to pass measures that will pull voting out of reach for Black and Brown people, rural communities, the elderly and people with disabilities. “These bills don’t just make it harder to vote, they also make it easier for partisan politicians to interfere with local election administrators, something that could have disastrous consequences for democracy,” ACLU Arkansas Director Holly Dickson said. “These bills will make it harder for all voters — of all political stripes — to make their voices heard.” Among the voter suppression bills that made their way into law is House Bill 1112 by Rep. Mark Lowery (R-Maumelle) to prohibit anyone without a valid state-issued form of identification from casting a ballot. Before this legislation, people who lacked an ID could sign a verification statement attesting to their identity

and have their votes counted. Indeed, more than 3,000 voters in Pulaski County alone did just that in 2020. Going forward, however, signatures will no longer be enough. This means residents of extended care facilities, senior citizens and other people who don’t maintain drivers’ licenses will have to either go through the process of obtaining an ID or forgo their voting rights. “To take away the optional verification of identity, that was the worst,” said Election Commissioner Joshua Ang Price, who represents Pulaski County Democrats on the three-person commission. His mother no longer drives, and will be among those either disenfranchised or inconvenienced by the new law. Sponsors of this bill couldn’t name any instances of fraud by people who verified their identity via signature rather than presenting ID, he said. “This is a legally binding document. Why is that not good enough?” Sen. Kim Hammer (R-Benton) passed Senate Bill 486, which mirrors a controversial new Georgia law banning volunteers from handing out snacks and water to people in long lines at the polls. Senate Bill 557 by Sen. Mark Johnson (R-Little Rock) will give partisan, part-time county election commissions supervision over the full-time election staff currently managed by election directors or other county employees. All of Arkansas’s three-person county election commissions comprise two members of the majority party and one member of the minority party, meaning that Republicans control all election commissions in blood-red Arkansas. The power of Arkansans to petition their government, a power which gave us a higher minimum wage and access to medical marijuana, is at risk from House Joint Resolution 1005 by Rep. David Ray (R-Maumelle). This measure, which will be referred to voters, would require 60% approval of citizen-led ballot initiatives before they could go into law. Currently those initiatives win approval with a simple majority. Had this structure been in place


Arkansas makes The Onion twice in a 72-hour span.


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in 2016, medical marijuana would not be legal in Arkansas, as it won only 53% of the vote. Meanwhile, a bill that would have been a shot in the arm for Arkansas’s abysmal voter registration and turnout rates failed to make it out of committee. House Bill 1517 by Rep. Justin Boyd (R-Fort Smith) would have allowed online voter registration, a vast improvement over the current system that requires people to register by snail mail. Forty other states already offer online voter registration. While it was mostly gloom and doom, workhorse Andrew Collins (D-Little Rock) teamed up with Sen. Breanne Davis (R-Russellville) on House Bill 1202 to make sure all Arkansas voters can access sample ballots on the internet beforehand so they’ll be prepared when they get into the voting booth.


Hate lives here. There’s simply no other explanation for the torrent of anti-transgender assaults lawmakers are lobbing from the Capitol. Never has a transgender person assaulted anyone in an Arkansas public bathroom. Nor have transgender student athletes ever snatched trophies and medals from the clutches of their cisgender competitors. Lawmakers didn’t let these facts stop them from codifying hate in the form of bans on transgender girls on school sports teams and a ban on life-saving, gender-affirming care that’s the first of its kind in the nation. A cavalcade of doctors lined up at multiple hearings to attest to the safety and strong track record of puberty blockers and other gender-affirming care. Legislators ignored the medical community on this, just as they had on reproductive rights issues. So wed to this ban on medical care were Arkansas lawmakers that they brushed off proof that it was driving transgender teens to suicide. “Don’t make me feel guilty because you made a choice to follow a different path,” Rep. Jim Wooten (R-Beebe) said after learning about the suicide attempts of three transgender children in Arkansas in the weeks since the legislature began its onslaught. “Don’t put a guilt trip on me.” Absorbing a barrage of meanness is not a novel experience for transgender residents in Arkansas, said Willow Breshears, an Arkansas native and an organizer for transgender rights. But enduring the laser focus of lawmakers who know little to nothing about the issue was tough, she said. “They’re trying to legislate an experience they know nothing about and don’t want to know anything about,” she said. Among the bills targeting transgender people is a “medical conscience act” that allows health care providers to deny nonemergency care for moral reasons, meaning a pharmacist could refuse to fill prescriptions for a transgender person and a doctor could deny them an appointment. Transgender people aren’t harming anyone, they’re not causing problems, so why all the attention? Breshears has a theory. “The legislature wants to send a very clear message to trans kids. They are not here to support them, they don’t value them, they don’t care about them.” Heartbreaking, yes, but hard to argue with when you consider the spate of new laws on the books. The governor’s unexpected veto of the ban on gender-affirming care for youth offered a tiny win, but lawmakers quickly overrode it. Will young people already taking hormones corresponding with their gender identity have to look to the black market or head out of state for care? Unless the courts strike Arkansas’s new law, the answer will be yes.

28 MAY 2021


Arguing against allowing victims of rape and incest to access abortions, Sen. Bob Ballinger talked about a close family friend who is the product of incest. “Should he have been killed because his dad was a creep?” Lawmakers went on to pass a total abortion ban, with the only exception being to save the life of the mother.

Defenders of transgender rights kept showing up at the Capitol despite so many setbacks, and managed to stall a proposed new bathroom bill that would have required people in publicly owned facilities to use gender-neutral bathrooms or bathrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates. Construction costs to add gender-neutral facilities to schools, arenas, municipal buildings, etc. would be in the millions, and committee members said they wanted a solid estimate before moving forward. Next steps for securing civil rights for transgender Arkansans aren’t clear. But an army of families, educators, doctors and other advocates are standing firm. “We’re not giving up,” pediatrician Chad Rogers said at a rally on the Capitol steps, where he and other members of the medical community vowed to protect their patients. “We love you and we will take care of you.”



“EVERY VOTE IS SOMEONE’S HOPES AND DREAMS.” Pulaski County Election Commissioner Joshua Ang Price

The main takeaway for Arkansas Republicans from the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly 6,000 Arkansans and nearly 600,000 Americans, apparently was that public health is a pain in the ass. Governor Hutchinson ended the state mask mandate, but allowed schools or cities to continue to impose them. In the waning days of the session, lawmakers snatched away that local control under the guise of uniformity (hospitals and the correction department are exempt). Another bill speeding toward passage at press time from Sen. Trent Garner (R-El Dorado) would prevent businesses from conditioning entry or services on whether someone has been vaccinated. Garner and other senators who tried repeatedly this session to flex their “we’re a co-equal branch of government!” muscles tried to toss out Health Secretary Jose Romero, a nationally respected public health expert who Governor Hutchinson tapped to lead the department amid the pandemic. The Senate technically has confirmation power over the governor’s cabinet appointments, but it has historically approved them pro forma. Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) quoted Proverbs (“Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall”) and complained about Romero’s failure to embrace hydroxychloroquine as a low-cost miracle cure. Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R-Branch) scoffed at Romero’s fidelity to prescribing only drugs proven to be effective. Stubblefield shared that he’s been dipping into the industrial dewormer Ivermectin that he keeps on hand for his cattle herd, and that it has helped him ward off any COVID-19 infection. Romero was narrowly confirmed. It feels almost like a miracle today that Arkansas was, in 2014, the first state in the South (along with Kentucky) to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Today, it and Louisiana remain the only states in the deep South to provide coverage to most all lower income residents. As a sop to restive conservatives, the Hutchinson administration created a work reporting requirement for participants, but it ran into problems with courts and the Biden administration. The new plan, passed this session and dubbed ARHOME, is a similar play. It tries to encourage work and health improvements by creating certain criteria for beneficiaries to receive private insurance plans, paid for by Medicaid, which is standard in Arkansas’s unique version of Medicaid expansion. Those who don’t meet the criteria would be enrolled in traditional Medicaid, which potentially limits beneficiaries’ access to care. In other words, Republicans believe poverty is a symptom of laziness and don’t mind creating a bureaucratic morass to punish them. It remains to be seen if the Biden administration will recognize as much and deny the framework. Lindsey Millar contributed reporting. ARKANSASTIMES.COM

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The 2021 Arkansas Times Academic All-Star Team, the 27th team the Times has honored, includes quiz bowl savants, budding novelists, future engineers and doctors and championship athletes. There’s rarely a B on the transcripts of these students in not just this, their senior year, but in any year of their high school careers. Read on for stories of inspiration in these troubled times. And see lists of All-Star finalists and nominees. Traditionally, the All-Star team is made up of 10 boys and 10 girls, but this year’s class of boys was so strong our judges, retired school counselor Sam Blair and nonprofit leader and former State Board of Education member Mireya Reith, insisted on 11 boys. ARKANSASTIMES.COM

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Hometown: Springdale High School: Springdale High School Parents: Argelia Obispo and Miguel Bahena College Plans: University of Arkansas at Fayetteville The role of law enforcement in American lives has been under some intense scrutiny over the course of the last year, and Alondra Bahena has stepped into that dialogue with purpose and intention — not to mention two languages in which to carry out the conversation. “It’s such a blessing,” she said. Fluency in both English and Spanish, Alondra said, helps her feel like she “can connect and relate to twice as many people.” Alondra will graduate first in her class, and as a member of Bentonville’s Law and Public Safety Academy and a scholar in her school’s Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America, she hopes to keep making those connections as an attorney, helping people understand their rights and navigate legal systems that can present daunting barriers for people who aren’t fluent in English. “I want to help others,” Alondra said, “to represent the underrepresented, to advocate for those that cannot. ... People need help when it comes to that. They need a lawyer who they can trust will have their best interests at heart.” What opened her eyes to the field of law — and the disparities in and around the field — was part fiction, part reality. In her own experience, Alondra had a close friend with whom she shared an academic trajectory, and who was equally committed to excelling in school. “It came up one day that she doesn’t have legal documentation; she’s not a United States citizen. And whenever college discussions came up, it was really upsetting to hear her not pursuing the same universities that I’d be able to, or the same scholarships, because of her status.” The other factor? Criminal justice shows on television — initially CBS’ “Criminal Minds.” Law, Alondra said, is complicated, and when the general population isn’t educated on how the law applies to them, it can sow division and tension. “I want to be a mediator,” she said, someone who can instead sow trust. SS 32 MAY 2021



Hometown: Bentonville High School: Haas Hall Academy Bentonville Parents: Sonali Batra and Samit Batra College Plans: University of Texas-Austin When times get tough, the tough examine the times, evidently. Shiuli Batra’s senior AP Capstone Project was titled “The Negative Mental Health Impacts of Social Isolation in Teenagers,” inspired by real-life experiences she and her peers had as a result of the pandemic. “Adults were affected economically, obviously — jobs were taken away, which is obviously awful. But for teenagers, we’re in such a fragile part of our life where our brains are sort of being molded and formed, if something so impactful happens, it could have a long-term effect on our mental health and how we end up behaving as social creatures.” One section of her project examines social media behaviors. Before the pandemic, Shiuli said, “social media was sort of an escape. But now that school and everything is online, too, the line between the virtual world and reality has been blurred.” Shiuli was raised in India as the daughter of a military officer, and lived there until she was 15, when her family moved to the United States. During her early education, she was introduced to economics, and fell in love. “Not like algebra. When am I ever going to use the quadratic formula in the real world? Economics’ basic principles play into so many everyday things,” she said. Shiuli will pursue a degree in business with a minor in psychology, though her studies have ranged far and wide; she concluded a virtual undergraduate degree in a type of classical Indian dance called Kathak, she’s a varsity tennis player, a member of Girls Who Code and a dedicated volunteer who’s organized blood drives, clothing drives and service projects with a local children’s shelter as vice president of her school’s Interact program. “My mom is in the corporate world, so just looking at her, my dream is to become a strong female leader figure, an executive of some sort. Particularly, I’d like to pursue international business.” SS


Hometown: Maumelle High School: Maumelle High School Parents: Kelly and Tom Boothe College Plans: University of Arkansas at Fayetteville One of Clayton Boothe’s proudest high school achievements came not long before the statewide school closures last spring. He was awarded first chair in trumpet at the Arkansas All-State band auditions. He’s a member of his school’s marching band, which due to the pandemic, hasn’t marched or played outside of Maumelle in 2021. Clayton writes music “constantly” and has played the piano for more than a decade. He writes solo music on the piano and also composes music for full band and orchestra. He also writes poetry and finds inspiration through travel, which he hopes to get the opportunity to do again soon after having different camps and trips canceled over the course of the past year. He plans on entering the architecture program at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where opportunities to study abroad are incorporated into the program. Some places he’d like to visit: Scandinavia, United Arab Emirates, France and California. Clayton is No. 1 in his class with a 4.32 GPA. He was a virtual attendee of Arkansas Governor’s School, captain of his school’s quiz bowl team and a National Merit Semi-Finalist. He loves math and science and has been able to attend two STEM competitions this year: the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts’ Governor’s AllState Coding Competition and the ASMSA High School Hack. His teams won first place in both. He’s also the president and founder of the chess club at Maumelle High. When playing chess, he said, you have a strategy and have to remember it for several moves to come while having other ones going. There’s a lot of internal multitasking, a skill he’s been forced to hone in his senior year. “I’ve had to do that quite a bit recently, especially with the pandemic because a lot of stuff has been on my own time instead of all together, so I’ve had to figure out when to do what and be able to juggle several things at once.” RB

Congratulations to Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts senior Catherine Kwon of Little Rock on being named an Arkansas Times Academic All-Star! Catherine is among the state’s top young researchers as well as its most talented artists. She has qualified twice for the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair, the world’s most prestigious high school science fair, and her artwork has been selected three times for exhibit at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion as part of the Governor’s Young Artist Competition.

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Hometown: Little Rock High School: Little Rock Central Parents: Renjith Davis and Reshmi Jose College Plans: University of Arkansas at Fayetteville

Age: 18 Hometown: Little Rock High School: Little Rock Central High School Parents: Veysel Erdag and Gulay Ciler Erdag College Plans: University of California, Berkeley

Hometown: Springdale High School: Springdale High School Parents: Kimberly and Patrick Espejo College Plans: University of Arkansas at Fayetteville

Each year growing up, Robin Eluvathingal participated in the Arkansas Kerala Association’s Onam festival to mark the yearly harvest festival in Robin’s parents’ home state of Kerala in southern India. His attire would vary by year — it might be a kurta or a ’70s disco suit, “but the purpose was the same: to put on a show.” It was with the AKA, he said, “that I learned to create, not with text or ink, but with my words and actions.” Robin is first in his class with a 4.52 GPA. He’s an AP scholar, he won the state championship at the Arkansas Ethics Bowl and he was the second-place finisher at the Arkansas State Science and Engineering Fair. But Robin’s proudest accomplishment came during the pandemic when he completed his Eagle Scout project installing fishing benches around the lake at Boyle Park. “My Eagle Scout project was the first time that I’ve used my knowledge and my experience to help other people. And the physicality of it, there’s something there that will last for a while that I have done and people will be able to use. I feel like that is pretty important.” Robin volunteered 30-plus hours a year with the National Honor Society and roughly 16 hours a week at Baptist Health North Little Rock as a part of the Volunteen program. He started a free tutoring program for kindergarten through eighth-graders in affiliation with the Thompson Library. It mimicked a program at Central but focused on younger students to give them a strong foundation for their high school careers. Robin’s plan is to major in biochemistry. “I’m definitely majoring in some STEM field. That’s something that always appeals to me. It’s sort of a way to answer the questions that the world presents.” RB

While her friends may describe Deniz Erdag as adventurous or spontaneous, she’s also intelligent, dedicated and ready to take on her future. Since moving to the United States from Turkey when she was in seventh grade, Deniz has succeeded not only in academics, but in Olympic-style archery using the recurve bow. Deniz has the drive to learn and the ingenuity to teach herself, whether that is improving her archery skills or teaching herself to play the flute. Her varied interests also include ballet, piano and volunteering at Camp Aldersgate. In the academic world, Deniz’s main area of interest is the sciences, and she plans to major in physics or electrical engineering in college to prepare her for studying astrophysics in graduate school. She knows the foundations of physics and the hands-on experiences of engineering will both prepare her for research in astrophysics and possibly even craft her own machinery for her future research. This love of science blossomed from a memorable lab lesson when Deniz was a freshman at Little Rock Central High School. When she realized “the fact that I saw something I couldn’t understand” in this lab lesson about the scale of the universe, Deniz knew that was the field for her. Her interest has since grown in understanding more about modern physics and the study of the universe. Deniz’s science fair project about her beloved sport of archery took her all the way to the international level of competition, giving her a chance to build confidence in her presentation skills along the way. NG

The opening line of Ryan Espejo’s All-Star student essay: “Growing up with cerebral palsy imposed many challenges in my daily life, but I was not going to let that stop me.” He hasn’t. Ryan is third in his class and has a 4.2 GPA. He’s also captain of his school’s tennis team and gives lessons to beginners. A combination of the gifted and talented program and a field trip to Springdale High School’s Engineering Academy piqued his interest in STEM when he was in elementary school. When Ryan entered high school, he enrolled in the Engineering Academy and now mentors students in engineering. The program’s annual STEM Day was canceled this year, so Ryan took it upon himself to see it through by using grant money from the program to gather materials and do a virtual STEM Day for kids. He also tutors virtual students outside of school.“I feel like the more people you inspire to get involved in STEM [the more people] you can help,” he said. His senior project for engineering is designing a door opener that would work on a variety of door handles to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Ryan developed an interest in the stock market in elementary school and won the Economics Arkansas Stock Market Game his fourth-grade and seventh-grade years. He currently uses the Robinhood app to invest, which he plans to continue to use through college. He also wants to use A.I. to build a portfolio to fund startups around Arkansas to promote STEM. He plans to get into research and work with people with disabilities to help improve their lives and overcome their everyday challenges. “It’s really personal to me because I do have a disability, and I’ve thrived in education. So I’m going to use my abilities and what I’ve been able to accomplish to help other people who are not as fortunate as I am.” RB

34 MAY 2021


ALWAYS A ROCKET Pictured Left to Right: Lucas Bozeman, Senior Class President; Roshan Ranaraja, Senior Class Secretary; Alex Davis, Senior Class Vice President

Congratulations to the Catholic High School For Boys Class of 2021! “Remember the Lord in all that you do, and He will show you the right way.” Proverbs 3:6

The Catholic High Difference Integrity • Duty • Faith Apply Today | ARKANSASTIMES.COM

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Hometown: Dardanelle High School: Dardanelle High School Parent: Neil Finkenbinder College Plans: Harvard University or Swarthmore College

Age: 18 Hometown: Mountain View High School: Mountain View High School Parents: Tyler and Jennifer Fowlkes College Plans: Vanderbilt University

A self-proclaimed introvert with a fear of public speaking, Michael Finkenbinder joined the debate team his freshman year at the suggestion of his oral communications teacher. He’s now the captain of the team and has won first place in various events at Arkansas State Speech and Debate tournaments. He has competed nationally and won reserve champion at the Western National 4-H Roundup. Michael placed as a national semifinalist at Depauw University’s Ethics Bowl Invitational. He’s first in his class, scored a perfect 36 on his ACT and has been accepted to Harvard and Swarthmore College. But Michael’s proudest accomplishment of the last four years has been his work in the community. He secured donations from local businesses to construct, plant and maintain two raised-bed vegetable gardens for a food pantry that provides food for more than 1,900 nutritionally insecure families across three Arkansas counties. He collected 45 pairs of shoes for distribution in developing nations. He volunteered more than 150 hours and helped raise over $10,000 for Equestrian Zone, a nonprofit therapeutic riding center. Michael said volunteering his time and efforts has been eye-opening. “It kind of forces you to do a little bit of a double take as to what’s going on around you. You can’t necessarily be absorbed just in what’s happening in your immediate vicinity and what’s happening directly to you. It really brings in those perspectives of the people around you that are maybe a little more disadvantaged that have had challenges in their life that you haven’t had to face, and it really brings a new perspective to life as a whole.” RB

If participants in the Arkansas Governor’s Quiz Bowl wore jerseys and high schools retired them, Will Fowlkes’ number would surely be hanging in the rafters of Mountain View High School. He’s had a sterling career: His team won two state championships in junior high school and and two in high school (the 2020 tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic). He’s been the MVP of every tournament he’s played in since 10th grade and his career high school record was 111 wins and only 11 losses. What are his strengths? Pretty much all topics, save sports and film. That includes what’s known in the quiz bowl world as “list learning.” For example, Will can name every U.S. president, first lady and vice president. He can draw and label the periodic table from memory and name the location of every national park. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he’s a hungry learner with strong opinions. He led the school’s chess club, which also won a 2021 state championship, and he’s used its meetings as forum for discussion of hot button topics. In his spare time, he takes online college-level classes from The Great Courses Plus, most recently on Japanese culture and history. This summer, he hopes to teach himself Japanese and learn multivariable calculus. His future is hazy for philosophical reasons. “I really don’t have a clue what I want to do. In 10 years, I don’t want to have a clue what I want to do either. The thought of doing one thing for a plurality or even a majority of my life seems preposterous. Every few decades I want to do something new or recycle something old that really challenges me. At some point, if you keep doing the same thing over and over, it’s like your life is put on autopilot.” (Editor’s note: Ouch!) LM

36 MAY 2021



Age: 18 Hometown: Greenwood High School: Greenwood High School Parents: Jeff and Amy Ivey College Plans: University of Arkansas at Fayetteville Jonathan Ivey loves to provide a helping hand. From volunteering around Greenwood to cleaning up after a community fireworks celebration, he enjoys doing the little things to help out in his community. He even wants to pursue a career in data science rather than cyber security because he believes it provides more opportunity to impact people’s lives. “In cyber security, you can protect people’s data, but in data science, you can really make a difference in a more humanitarian effort,” Jonathan said. But he doesn’t seek attention for helping out, like the time he single-handedly cleaned up a Fourth of July celebration in the early morning hours without anyone knowing. “I cannot help but wonder how many similar stories I haven’t heard about this young man,” his school counselor, Lisa Dean, said. The Greenwood senior excelled in numerous AP classes, robotics competitions and chess and helped the quiz bowl team win a state championship. Jonathan says he always gave his best no matter how difficult or easy the subject matter in a particular class might have been. “I always felt like I wanted to put in extra effort to make sure I did my best job while I was there,” he said. Ranked first in his class of 264 at Greenwood High School and with a 36 on the ACT, Jonathan will attend the University of Arkansas and major in data science, which the university added as a major last year. “I just get to jump right in to doing what I’m really interested in,” he said. “I’m really excited about that.” GC





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Age: 18 Hometown: Calico Rock High School: Calico Rock High School Parents: Brian James and Lisa James College Plans: University of Arkansas at Fayetteville To visit with Macy James is to meet a joyful young woman passionate about music. She found her people with band in seventh grade and shortly after set a goal to become a music teacher. Being blind, Macy began to understand the elements of music education that needed accommodation for other students who are blind or visually impaired. She has had wonderful teachers and says she “could not have succeeded without band directors who were willing to accommodate for me.” While she has been able to compete and excel in both instrumentation and singing, she has also been an advocate for elements like braille music being available at competitions so that blind students can compete in every event. During the pandemic and the rise in virtual education, Macy was able to help develop content for other blind and visually impaired students throughout Arkansas. It should be no surprise that with these passions for music and learning, Macy plans to major in music education to eventually teach music at a school for the blind. Not only will she be studying music, but Macy will also be joining the Arkansas Razorbacks marching band this fall and is excited to go from a 12-piece band to the 350-piece marching band. While she has won academic awards, recognition as a musician, and the honor of singing the national anthem at many community sporting events, she says her friends along the way are what have made high school special. Macy describes the love and support in her group of friends as her biggest source of joy in high school. NG

WE WERE LUCKY TO TEACH AN “ALL-STAR” Love from your NLRHS teachers past and present.


Whitman “Will” Fowlkes! We believe in our students, ourselves, and our future. MOUNTAIN VIEW HIGH SCHOOL

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Age: 18 Hometown: Greenwood High School: Greenwood High School Parents: Brad and Sandy Johnson College Plans: Hendrix College Volleyball has been a passion throughout Anna Johnson’s high school career. She loves the team chemistry that develops and all the friends she made through the sport. In fact, some of her proudest moments include being voted by her peers to serve on the volleyball leadership council and later receiving an MVP award. Anna called this special award an “accumulation of three years of hard work that paid off.” Hard work is something Anna is familiar with in her academics as well. She has excelled in her coursework, standardized tests and extracurricular opportunities, including the Arkansas State Beta Convention. Beta Club has been one of Anna’s favorite organizations in high school because of all the various volunteer opportunities, like her school’s Veterans Day recognition. Combining her drive, her spirit of volunteerism and her love of sports has made coaching Little League a perfect outlet for Anna. She described loving “being around little kids’ energy and how happy and bubbly they are.” Balancing all of her commitments is possible with Anna’s steady, organized personality and her support system. Her parents, both doctors, have inspired her to combine her love of learning and helping others into her future career goal: medicine. Anna plans to study math at Hendrix College before pursuing medical school. After a high school course load full of AP classes, she is set to thrive in the next steps of her education. Her school counselor said, “The thing that impresses me the most about Anna is her kind and caring spirit. I have seen her sit with a struggling student until she is able to help that student understand. ... Anna has the background and motivation to make a difference in the world of tomorrow.” NG 38 MAY 2021



Age: 18 Hometown: Little Rock High School: Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts Parents: Yeil Kwon and Changsuk Ahn College Plans: Yale University Daye Catherine Kwon’s resume includes a long, impressive list of achievements; she says she finds joy in learning and challenging herself. From her freshman biology class, Catherine felt drawn to the life sciences and eventually found a passion for neuroscience. She plans to study both neuroscience and art at Yale University this fall. She is well-equipped for both courses of study, having achieved excellent scores in high-level classes and academic competitions, along with winning art competitions such as the 2021 Thea Foundation scholarship. While painting is one talent Catherine possesses, she hopes to learn more about digital design in her college studies. One reason art is a passion for this 4.0 student is because it helped Catherine to connect with other students as she moved schools several times, including moving to the United States in first grade. Along with art club, opportunities like the Brain Bee neuroscience competition gave her other chances to connect with like-minded peers. She volunteers much of her time at the Korean School in Little Rock, where she co-teaches Introduction to Korean as a Language and Taekwondo. Catherine takes pride in working at the school and spreading her love for Korean culture to young children. Her persistence to excel is the characteristic Catherine is most proud of; one reason she enrolled at ASMSA for the last two years of high school was to take dynamic classes she could enjoy while truly challenging herself. NG


Hometown: North Little Rock High School: North Little Rock High School Parents: James and Danette Lawson College Plans: University of Arkansas at Fayetteville If Fred Rogers’ counsel to “look for the helpers” is good advice for difficult times, count Jada Lawson as a sharp observer. Watching the way medical professionals responded to the pandemic over the last year helped shape her path of study and her career aspirations. “That’s when something in me lit up,” Jada said. “I want to be one of those people who can actually help. But I’m not the most talkative person. So I was thinking I’d do something that deals less with communication with patients and more with the technical side, with math and science, which are my two strongest [academic areas.]” As a biomedical engineer, Jada dreams of creating and maintaining “equipment for diagnosing and treating medical problems that could possibly help save millions of lives, from coming up with new vaccines to building legs for my amputee uncle.” Jada’s school counselor, Gwen Leger, described her as “a true leader among her peers, who often look to her to set the tone. ... Because she leads by example, her classmates have a great deal of respect for her unassuming, nonjudgmental manner.” Jada is a volleyball star, and a huge part of being a student athlete, she notes, “is managing your time. To play volleyball every night and then come home and do homework and study for tests, I’ve learned how to multitask and pretty much manage my time.” No doubt that skill’s been an asset to her; Jada’s also a member of the NAACP and of her high school’s chapter of Mu Alpha Theta, National Honor Society and Student Council, a mentor to pre-K children through her school’s peer leadership program and a volunteer with the school district’s Literacy Bus, a mobile tutoring program aimed at increasing literacy levels among elementary school students. SS


Age: 18 Hometown: Fayetteville High School: Fayetteville High School Parents: Linda Liu and Xiaoqing Liu College plans: University of Pennsylvania Kevin Liu spent the summer of 2018 talking on the phone. But he wasn’t chatting with his friends. He was talking to voters in Missouri about one of the mostly hotly contested elections of the year. A native of Rolla, Missouri, Kevin interned for the U.S. Senate campaign of then-Sen. Claire McCaskill, who was locked in a reelection battle with Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley. Kevin called voters on the phone, knocked on their doors and worked alongside the field director and he got to see a political campaign from the inside. “It gave me a much more nuanced view of a normal voter away from how it’s depicted on major news networks,” he said. Although McCaskill lost the race, Kevin’s interest in public policy continued. He went on to serve as vice president of the Young Democrats and co-president of Model UN at Fayetteville High School. Kevin will study business economics and public policy at the University of Pennsylvania this fall. He excelled at FHS, where he is ranked first of 627 students in his class. He scored a 36 on the ACT, was named a National Merit Finalist, won economics competitions and qualified for the National Science Bowl. Despite his achievements, Kevin has a humble outlook on his academic success. “I think it was just a lot of work and a lot of studying, if I’m being totally honest,” Liu said. “It was just putting in the effort, making some sacrifices in terms of my time to focus on the ACT or to focus on my classes.” GC

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Age: 18 Hometown: Springdale High School: Har-Ber High School Parents: Andres and Susy Manon College Plans: Undecided

Age: 17 Hometown: North Little Rock High School: eSTEM Public Charter High School Parents: Brandon Markin and Mariella Hernandez College Plans: MIT or the University of Chicago

Pedro Manon’s transcript contains the usual academic excellence and extracurricular involvement of a driven young man. But it’s his appreciation for the qualities of others that sets the 18-year-old child of Mexican immigrants apart. “I go to a high school with a lot of diversity,” he said. “I’d say that our school is a lot more diverse than most in the entire country.” Har-ber High’s student body, Pedro reports, is 40 percent Hispanic, maybe 7-8 percent Marshallese. “I feel very fortunate to go to a school where there is a large mix of people. I feel proud I can go to a school where I can meet a lot of different people. Arkansas is not some enclosed area; we will eventually leave the state, maybe, or people will come to us. We will have to learn to get along with others and learn how others function outside of Arkansas. Going here has definitely exposed me to different cultures in the world and has got me excited to learn about others.” Pedro has been a straight-A student since eighth grade en route to being the topranked student in his class. Among his honors are National Merit Finalist, National AP Scholar, National Hispanic Recognition Scholar and Hispanic Scholar Finalist. Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Duke, Washington University in St. Louis and Texas A&M are all potential landing spots after graduation. “I want to go to one of these universities and major in computer science and hopefully become a software engineer in the future,” he said. “I believe that software engineers are going to have a lot more impact in the future than they currently do in the present. And they currently have a tremendous impact. I want to be at the forefront of this field, of this industry, so that hopefully I can make an impact on it for the better.” DH

How has Sergio Markin, who will graduate at the top of his class with a 4.43 GPA and a perfect 36 ACT score, managed a near flawless academic career? There’s hard work, of course. But Sergio chalks much of it up to his disposition. “I’m lucky enough to really enjoy all the things I’ve studied in school. I’m just fascinated with almost anything. I always have too many interests, and it’s hard to divide my time.” He’s a talented artist. Science and math have always captured his attention, and, if pressed, he’ll say physics is a likely major in college, though he’s eager to explore. And writing fiction has been something he’s felt compelled to do since he was young, “the way that some people dance or play a sport,” he wrote in his All-Star essay. It’s an immersive way for him to express himself — and a way to blend passions. Some of his stories take place in a space station, others in a future world with advanced technology. Meanwhile, he’s active in eSTEM’s Quiz Bowl and robotics teams, both of which he said he joined largely because he enjoyed the company of his teammates. Outside of school, since ninth grade he’s trained at Unity Martial Arts, where he’s earned a green belt with one brown stripe. He likes the physicality of it, but it’s the philosophies that underpin martial arts he’s found especially useful. Thinking of discipline beyond its pejorative connotations has helped him not get down on himself when he makes mistakes. “When we talk about discipline at the dojo there’s more of an emphasis on thinking of it as constantly correcting yourself,” Sergio said. “Not punishing yourself if you do wrong, but always moving back to the right thing. The visual I like is ... a straight path toward your goals. Sometimes you stray from your path. If you’re working out, you may have a cheat day and eat things you’re not supposed to. The point of discipline isn’t to get mad at yourself if you make those mistakes, but to come back to the path if you’ve strayed.” LM

40 MAY 2021



Age: 18 Hometown: Hermitage High School: Hermitage High School Parents: Jose and Alicia Martinez College Plans: University of Arkansas at Monticello Edwin Martinez will be the first in his family to attend college. The oldest of four siblings, he’s had to blaze an academic path for all of his family in tiny Hermitage (Bradley County), population 870. That’s come through books, online research and help from teachers. Most of his advanced placement classes have been online. Still, he’s not only the first person in his family to graduate high school, he’s Hermitage’s valedictorian with a 4.1 GPA and a 33 on his ACT. His favorite class was anatomy, and it’s that impulse that has him planning a pre-med path at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, followed by medical school at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. He’s leaning toward becoming a family practitioner for the schedule flexibility and the opportunity to connect and form meaningful relationships with patients. Edwin looks after his own health by staying active in soccer and track, where he specializes in endurance events. He’s also a longtime member of the school’s quiz bowl team and has been a multiyear nominee for the Quiz Bowl Tournament of Champions. His counselor, Shelly Wolfe, said that Edwin is the pride of Hermitage High. “He can do anything he sets his mind to in the future,” she said. LM

Congratulations to

Edwin Martinez on behalf of

hermitage high sChool. BROOKE MAYER

Age: 18 Hometown: Fayetteville High School: Fayetteville High School Parents: Bill and Lisa Mayer College Plans: Duke University Asked what experience stands out from a decorated high school career, Brooke Mayer pointed to the time she spent helping others. “The heartbeat of my high school experience was the time I dedicated to volunteering,” she said. “Recognizing that I come from a background of extreme privilege, I utilized the skills that I’ve gained as a student to give back to all the people in my community, specifically through tutoring and mentoring.” Her service included working with Potter’s House, Beautiful Lives Boutique and 99 Balloons, among others. Through these organizations, she gravitated toward helping children and youth, some with special needs. “I had been poured into myself by all the teachers of my growing-up experience,” she said. “High school taught me to recognize the gifts that I have and realize how I can utilize them to help those around me.” Brooke, who ranks first in her graduating class with a 4.4 GPA, was also involved with a number of clubs and organizations, including being co-president of Model United Nations and the Interact Club, secretary of National Honor Society and attaining multiple academic honoraries. She’s also an award-winning member of her school’s speech and debate teams. Next year, Brooke will attend Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, where she will study either economics or public policy. She said the work ethic she developed in high school will serve her well at the next level. “The Brooke coming into high school was naive enough to think you can go pretty far on natural instinct, but I’ve learned you really have to push yourself,” she said. “I challenged myself by taking 15 AP courses throughout the course of my high school career which meant having to persevere through obstacles and manage all the things on my plate I was juggling. It’s been a busy four years of high school, but I’m really happy to be where I’m at today.” DH

HERMITS LEAD THE WAY! Hermitage High School | Home of the Hermits


Jenny Zeng & James Quirk! Bentonville High School Class of 2021 ARKANSASTIMES.COM

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Age: 18 Hometown: Little Rock High School: Episcopal Collegiate School Parents: Solomon and Ifeoma Mogbo College: Undecided When Adanna Mogbo joined the school newspaper staff, it was an organization just finding its legs. Thanks in part to her participation, which included serving as editor-in-chief in her junior and senior years, it’s a very different paper today. “When I first joined the newspaper, it had just started. We had never had a school newspaper before,” she said. “I think it was me, one of my best friends, and then like seven or eight other people. We really were just figuring this all out by ourselves. By 11th grade, when I became editor of the newspaper, we had 22 staff writers and we competed in the Arkansas Scholastic Press Association. We put our articles in the newspaper up for competition and we won a lot of awards. I think that’s the single thing that I’m most proud of, being able to see all of the hard work pay off.” Journalism is just one area of accomplishment for Adanna. She’s also talented in the sciences and plans to study some combination of health sciences, biotechnology and economics in college, which she’s narrowed down to Yale University, Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania. “I recently have been very interested in how science intercepts with economics,” she said. “I think before, I just wanted to go to medical school and become a surgeon. But the more I realized the barriers that come with accessing health care in this country in particular, I’m considering maybe branching out and doing something in that field.” Among her many academic accolades, Adanna is a U.S. Presidential Scholar Finalist and National Merit Semifinalist. Last summer, she also landed a medical research internship for Arkansas Children’s Hospital through the Stella Boyle Smith Trust. She assisted with obesity research, much of it remotely, which was published in Critical Care Medicine, where she is listed as a co-author. DH

42 MAY 2021




Hometown: Bentonville High School: Bentonville High School Parents: Brendan and Leigh Quirk College Plans: Dartmouth College

Hometown: Bentonville High School: Bentonville High School Parents: Aihong Wen and Pingsheng Zeng College Plans: Johns Hopkins University

When James was a freshman in high school, his father took him to the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport to see a C-5 Super Galaxy, a massive military transport plane. It sparked his curiosity and James asked if he could take what’s called a discovery flight through Central Arkansas Flying Service to learn more about airplanes. His first flight was on a single-engine, fixed propeller Cessna 172. James loved seeing Little Rock’s landmarks and hearing the radio calls between his flight instructor and the air traffic controller. After the flight, he went home and memorized the phonetic alphabet, to prepare himself for being a pilot himself. At 17, he did just that, earning his private pilot’s license. His family moved to Bentonville after his freshman year of high school and since then he’s taken solo flights to Springfield and elsewhere in southwest Missouri. The path to becoming a pilot “taught me the merit of hard work, the responsibility I have for my actions, the importance of problem-solving, the weight of independence and the excitement that comes with learning,” James wrote in his All-Star essay. While he could see a future in aerospace engineering, he’s eager to pursue other academic paths in college. He credits his parents and older sister, Lily, for his insatiable curiosity and desire to meaningfully impact the world. “They only wanted me to make decisions because I wanted to. Some people have this looming presence from their parents: ‘You have to be the best, do the best at all times.’ ” James’ parents and sister imparted on him the idea that “you get to take your path for the reasons you want; we’re just stepping stones.” Alice Haney, Bentonville High’s post-secondary adviser, said James is a regular in her office, tutoring his peers and offering help on the college application process. “He has a brilliant mind and his brain is constantly absorbing and analyzing the world around him, but he does not allow his academic success to supersede his relationships,” Haney said.“He is wholly invested in his friends and his peers. Once he has mastered a concept, he will go out of his way to make sure his classmates understand the material, too.” LM

Scientific research doesn’t always go in a straight line. Sometimes it meanders. Luckily for any lab that might employ her in the future, Jenny Zeng is willing to follow it diligently to see where it goes. As a participant in Boston University’s Research in Science & Engineering program for high school seniors, Jenny spent weeks debugging code in a computational model designed to investigate hallucinations experienced by Lewy Body Dementia patients, and had to reinvent their entire project the evening before the program’s final symposium. “I walked away with valuable lessons,” Jenny said. “Research doesn’t always work out; what’s important is to keep your head up and try again.” That approach has clearly worked wonders so far; Jenny will end her senior year with multiple certifications in the health care field thanks to her enrollment in a professional studies program called Ignite. She will also have the Arkansas Seal of Biliteracy for her fluency in English and Chinese, with over 400 hours logged as a volunteer English teacher for students in underserved parts of China through the Princeton Learning Experience program. She’s sixth in her class, a National Merit Finalist and Advanced Placement Scholar, a pianist, a competitive archer and the founder of her high school’s mock trial program. Maybe most impressively, Jenny’s been able to find meaningful connections between her field of study and her cultural identity that bode well for her path in the medical world. “The importance of collectivism within Asian cultures,” Jenny wrote, “has ingrained a fear of social disapproval, giving birth to public stigmas that have discouraged psychological counseling and resulted in a deficit in proper health care” — something Jenny experienced in her own family with her father’s sister, whose mental illness, Jenny said, has been trivialized and misunderstood. In her career path, Jenny said, she wants “to become someone trying to give everyone a chance at life, both in the lab and in the clinical setting. I want to bring my dad hope.” SS

2021 ACADEMIC ALL-STAR FINALISTS These students made the final round of judging for the 2020 Arkansas Times Academic All-Star team.

ZOYA AHMER Pulaski Academy JADYN FLEMING Rogers High School JACOB HOLMES Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts SOPHIE LAIR Joe T. Robinson High School SAMANTHA LEWANDOWSKI Har-Ber High School (Springdale) JULIAN SANKER Haas Hall Academy (Fayetteville) HASSAN SARDAR Pulaski Academy KARSEN UECKER Rogers High School OLIVIA WYLLIE Don Tyson School of Innovation (Springdale) | Participating locations: Ft. Smith, Conway, Little Rock, Sherwood, & Jonesboro




MAY 2021 43

Here are the students nominated to be Academic All-Stars. ALPENA BRYCE MARTIN Alpena High School AMITY VIVIAN ANGELES Centerpoint High School ASHDOWN JOSHUA LINNETT Ashdown High School ADDISON SMEDLEY Ashdown High School BALD KNOB JONATHAN HARRELL Bald Knob High School MIKAYLA SHAW Bald Knob High School BEEBE TAYLER APPLETON Beebe High School




RACHEL MURPHREE El Dorado High School



CAMDEN MELANIE PURIFOY Camden Fairview High School



TUESDAY MELTON Benton High School




CONNOR HELSER Haas Hall Academy


NIKHIL PAI Bentonville West High School NITIN PAUL Bentonville West High School


JAMES QUIRK Bentonville High School


JENNIFER ZENG Bentonville High School

KENNON JONES Dumas High School

44 MAY 2021


FARMINGTON CAMBRY PARRISH Farmington High School OMAR QEDAN Farmington High School FAYETTEVILLE OLIVIA GIBERT The New School MARLEIGH HAYES The New School ETHAN KARNATZ Fayetteville Virtual Academy KEVIN LIU Fayetteville High School ASHLYN “BROOKE” MAYER Fayetteville High School JULIAN SANKER Haas Hall Academy RHIANNON SWEENEY AMORY Fayetteville Virtual Academy HAILEY YOUNG Haas Hall Academy FORDYCE MADISON GRAY Fordyce High School FORT SMITH PARIS MCCANN Southside High School KALE SHEETS Southside High School FOUNTAIN LAKE JOSEPH FLORINI Fountain Lake Charter High School GRACIE PETERS Fountain Lake Charter High School


Little Rock School District 2021 ViPS Award Nominees & Winners*

JOHN MAXWELL Hamburg High School HAMPTON RYLEE GRIFFIS Hampton High School HARRISBURG KLOEY HARLSON Harrisburg High School

Charlene Kirk 2021 Jane Mendel Award

RICHARD WRIGHT Harrisburg High School HERMITAGE EDWIN MARTINEZ Hermitage High School CINDY WILKERSON Hermitage High School HOT SPRINGS SAVANAH GODWIN Lakeside High School JACOB HOLMES Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts DAYE CATHERINE KWON Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts GREGORY HAYES WHORTON Lakeside High School HOXIE MYA PINKSTON Hoxie High School JONESBORO HELENA ALLEN The Academies at Jonesboro High School EMMA HIGGINS Valley View High School

Jennifer Ronnel 2021 Jane Mendel Award Gordon Allison * Aus�n Bailey Jay Barth Josh Bazyk * Jason Burt Stephanie Crowell Kiara Dancy Michelle Davis * Lori Ducey Kisha Dunn Wendy Glover * Wes Gross * Correna Hampton * Joe Homan Ben Honaker Melinda Kinnison *

Chiquita Lasiter * Gautami Lohakare * LeRon McAdoo Nicole McCain Earnest McGee * Sheila McKinnis Jamie McRae Cameron Menzies, Sr. Kevin Murry Mary Carol Pederson Peter Powell Dr. Richard Rolleigh Cecelia Schneider * Pamela Smith * Jennie Stewart Anna Yates *



100 Black Men of Greater LR, Inc. Center for Healing Hearts and Spirits * Central AR Alumnae Chapter Delta Sigma Theta * Don's Pharmacy Feed AR Kids - Church at Rock Creek * Fellowship Bible Midtown First United Methodist Church - LR * G.E.M.S. * Geyer Springs First Bap�st Church Grab-and-Go Meal Partners: * The Clinton Founda�on City of Li�le Rock Central AR Library System Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance World Central Kitchen Herron Horton Architects, Inc. Hunter United Methodist Church * Junior League of Li�le Rock Kids Hope - Fellowship Bible Church Li�le Rock Chapter of The Links, Inc. * Li�le Rock Church Loblolly Creamery Mabelvale United Methodist Church Metro Construc�on Technology Class New Faith Church Li�le Rock O�er Creek Assembly of God Church O�er Creek Community Church * Park West Pharmacy PHMS PTA Panther Prowl Commi�ee Redeemer Community Church The Mercy Church Tiffany Hoffman Smith, Realtor Trinity United Methodist Church Wal-Mart on Baseline Road Water Drive 2021 - Joshua Hill 'Your College Guidance Coach'

Volunteers in Public Schools



MAY 2021 45

AARISH JIWANI Nettleton High School

MELIH KARABACAK LISA Academy West High School

BRETT JONES Valley View High School

SOPHIE LAIR Joe T. Robinson High School

COLBY KETCHUM Valley View High School

KALEB LYONS Parkview Arts and Science Magnet High School

VICTORIA NICHOLS Nettleton High School RYAN ROUSE The Academies at Jonesboro High School JUDSONIA ASHLYN MULLINS White County Central High School JUNCTION CITY OLIVIA CREAGER Junction City High School CHASE FENNELL Junction City High School LINCOLN NOAH MOORE Lincoln High School KEARA WALLACE Lincoln High School

SERGIO MARKIN eStem Public Charter High School ARYAM MARTINEZ Parkview Arts and Science Magnet High School

MARION MALEA BARLOW Marion High School JACKSON HARRIS Marion High School MAUMELLE CLAYTON BOOTHE Maumelle High School EVELYN BERCHER Maumelle High School ETHAN CHRISTMAS Maumelle Charter High School

ADANNA MOGBO Episcopal Collegiate School

JIE LOKEN Maumelle Charter High School

QUYNH-GIAO NGUYEN LISA Academy West High School


ROSHAN RANARAJA Catholic High School for Boys CHLOE RICHARDS Arkansas Virtual Academy High School HASSAN SARDAR Pulaski Academy

ISABELLA LOVE Melbourne High School MENA BLAKE CASTOR Mena High School

ANNA-GRACE “GRACIE” SWINDLE The Baptist Preparatory School

MONETTE JONATHAN BACHELOR Buffalo Island Central High School

ALEXANDER SWINDLE The Baptist Preparatory School

MAKAYLA BOLSTER Buffalo Island Central High School

ROBIN ELUVATHINGAL Little Rock Central High School

MAKAYLA WASHINGTON Little Rock Southwest High School

DENIZ ERDAG Little Rock Central High School




SUZANNA HAUSER eStem Public Charter High School BRETT GASTMAN Joe T. Robinson High School CHLOE GOURDE Mount St. Mary Academy


JORDAN HARRIS Little Rock Southwest High School

SHELBY VANGINHOVEN Mammoth Spring High School

EDWARD “TEDDY” JONES Episcopal Collegiate School


46 MAY 2021


MOUNT IDA WILL COLE Mount Ida High School MOUNTAIN VIEW WILL FOWLKES Mountain View High School AUBREY ISBELL Mountain View High School NEWPORT JAKAYLA DIXON Newport High School BENJAMIN RUTLEDGE Newport High School

NORTH LITTLE ROCK ELYSIA CHANG Central Arkansas Christian School JADA LAWSON North Little Rock High School HANNAH MUNZBERG North Little Rock Center of Excellence ABDELRAHMAN SUID Lisa Academy North High School AUSTIN STRAWN North Little Rock Center of Excellence REICHAEL WIDE-MILLER Lisa Academy North High School WILLIAM WALKER Central Arkansas Christian School

DILLON WOOD North Little Rock High School

EMMA GRAHAM Greene County Tech High School


MATTHEW WELLS Greene County Tech High School POCAHONTAS KESLIE OGDEN Pocahontas High School


PRAIRIE GROVE KNOX LAIRD Prairie Grove High School ELLA NATIONS Prairie Grove High School


eHS School Motto

ZEBULAN DILL We Paragould High School

PRESCOTT JAYCE CRAYNE morning knowing that Prescott High School

rise every there are no limits to greatness.

We navigate through school committed to being the absolute best version of ourselves.

College Ready. Career Ready. We understand every obstacle we WorldthatReady. encounter is a disguised opportunity for us to become even more amazing.

Congratulations To Sergio Markin! We are students. We are educators. We are fearless. We are eStem. ARKANSASTIMES.COM

MAY 2021 47

KARSEN UECKER Rogers High School


LOGAN VAUGHN Rogers New Technology High School

DANIEL STUCKY Rison High School

SEARCY ZION LOYD Riverview High School

ROGERS DIEGO AGUILAR Arkansas Arts Academy

SPRINGDALE ALONDRA BAHENA Springdale High School RYAN ESPEJO Springdale High School KACEY HAWS Shiloh Christian School

KATHRYN REARDON Searcy High School

GAVIN LITCHFORD Shiloh Christian School

JADYN FLEMING Rogers High School



FINLEY LAWRENCE Rogers New Technology High School

CHARLES SAWATSKI JR. Sylvan Hills High School

ALEXZANDRA O’NEAL Arkansas Arts Academy


DEQLYN BUTTREY Rogers Heritage High School

ALEXIS PUCKETT Haas Hall Academy at the Lane ZACHARY TANNAHILL Haas Hall Academy at the Lane

NICOLE PHAN Siloam Springs High School

PEDRO MANON Har-Ber High School OLIVIA WYLLIE Don Tyson School of Innovation VALLEY SPRINGS MAURA MOORE Valley Springs High School WEST FORK SAMANTHA SMILEY West Fork High School





Schedule a visit and see for yourself at

48 MAY 2021


A Special Advertising Section

Join us as we celebrate Nurses across the state WHO have devoted their lives to the betterment of the lives of others. Given everything this year has thrown at nurses and other health care workers in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic, there isn’t a better or more appropriate time to focus on recognizing, appreciating and investing in our incredible nurses across the state of Arkansas and the globe!


National Nurses Week begins

May 8

National School Nurse Day with special attention to student nurses

May 12

International Nurses Day and Florence Nightingale’s Birthday


MAY 2021 49

A Special Advertising Section

JEFFERSON REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER At Jefferson Regional, we’ve always known our nursing staff is exceptional, but COVID-19 has created a new level of respect and appreciation. On March 11, 2020, our hospital was the first in the state of Arkansas to have a patient diagnosed with the virus. We were as prepared as possible, but no one was ready for the daily challenges of dealing with such a deadly, sustained pandemic. However, our nurses went into overdrive and adjusted to every single change COVID-19 brought our way. They were worried, they were tired, some even contracted the virus and became patients for a while — but they kept coming back to ensure the very best patient care possible. To say we are proud of them doesn’t even scratch the surface. The nurses at Jefferson Regional are the lifeblood of this organization, and they are proof that care and compassion will always triumph in the end.

CARELINK CareLink, Central Arkansas’s Area Agency on Aging, has been caring for families together since 1979. A nonprofit headquartered in North Little Rock, it is our mission to connect older people and their families with the resources to meet the opportunities and challenges of aging so that they may live safely, independently and happily in their own homes. Meeting the aging community where they need us, our services include in-home care, Meals on Wheels, family caregiver support, pet assistance and so much more. For more than 40 years, we have given families peace of mind and confidence by serving the older community with kindness and admiration. If you or someone you know could benefit from CareLink, give us a call at 501-372-5300 or toll-free at 800-482-6359. 50 MAY 2021




Nationally recognized for Quality Care, Compassion, and Team Work

US News and World Report #1 Hospital in the state of Arkansas

2020 HealthImpact DAISY Team Award for ‘Advancing Compassion through Policy’

If you want a nursing career where nurses are valued and supported, consider UAMS. Apply now! Visit UAMS.Info/NursingCareer or call 501-686-5691, ext. 1.


MAY 2021 51

A Special Advertising Section



METHODIST FAMILY HEALTH This April marks the World Health Organization’s 70th World Health Day. The health organization has designated 2021 the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife for the critical roles these professionals play in our health care. The global response to COVID-19 has called many of these healers to fight on the front lines with great risk and personal sacrifice. WHO states: “Quite simply, without nurses, there would be no response.” This year and every year, Methodist Family Health appreciates the untiring support the nurses throughout our statewide continuum of care provide for the Arkansas children and families we serve. If you’re a nurse who loves children, we invite you to join us. Visit and click on “careers” for information and job listings. ARKANSAS CENTER FOR NURSING The Arkansas Center for Nursing Inc. is the state’s nursing workforce center and is a member of the National Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers. One of the primary goals of the ACN is to collect and report data related to the supply, demand and educational capacity of the nursing workforce in the state. The ACN also aims to recognize and foster leadership excellence and to encourage and support educational advancement among nurses and nursing students in Arkansas. We believe that our nurses are well equipped and should be leaders in advancing the culture of health in our state. We are planning our upcoming celebrations of the 2021 “40 Nurse Leaders Under 40” ceremony and a commemorative signing event to celebrate our most successful legislative session to date. Nurses and non-nurses alike are encouraged to join our organization. Please visit our website at for more information.

UCA NURSING START A REWARDING CAREER The School of Nursing at the University of Central Arkansas is committed to educating undergraduate and graduate students to become leaders in delivering quality health care and advancing the profession of nursing.


• Flat rate tuition of $285/credit hour with no additional fees • Complete in 12 months

Master of Science in Nursing* • Nurse Educator with Clinical Specialty (NECS) • Complete in 5 semesters


Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) • BSN to DNP (Family Nurse Practitioner) • Post-master’s DNP

Our BSN to DNP (FNP) and Post-master’s DNP graduate programs have been ranked in the top 5 most affordable in the country ( and OnlineU). *100% online programs.

INTEGRATED HEALTH SCIENCES BUILIDING Opening fall 2021 Speak with our nursing education counselor (501) 450-3119 ARKANSASTIMES.COM

MAY 2021 53

A Special Advertising Section

ARKANSAS DERMATOLOGY SKIN CANCER CENTER May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and worldwide. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. More than two people die of skin cancer in the U.S every hour. Having five or more sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma. When detected early, the five-year survival rate for melanoma is 99%. Arkansas Dermatology Skin Cancer Center has locations in Little Rock, North Little Rock, Heber Springs, Cabot, Stuttgart, Conway, Searcy and Russellville.

UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS FOR MEDICAL SCIENCES This past year has been an extraordinary one for nursing as our profession has been propelled into the spotlight, highlighting our advocacy, compassion and sacrifice. It has been no different for nurses at UAMS. This year, in honor of our nurses and staff, UAMS will join the American Nurses Association and others around the nation in May, celebrating Nurses’ Month, themed “Nurses Make A Difference.” Activities will focus on self-care, recognition, professional development and community engagement to recognize UAMS Nurses and staff for the difference they make for our patients and families every day of the year. If you want to make a difference, come join us! You can “live chat” with our nurse recruiter, email, or visit our website,, to learn why nurses choose UAMS! Sign-on bonus information is also available for nurses who meet eligibility criteria for critical areas. Follow us on Facebook @UAMSNurses.


families in Central Arkansas since


1979. Whether you’re looking for

Top 50 ENT care in the nation!

respite, someone to care for an

High performing care for COPD, Colon Cancer Surgery, Lung Cancer Surgery, Heart Failure, Hip Replacement and Knee Replacement






aging loved one, or someone to care for you, CareLink has the resources to help caregivers care for






training to make sure those in need get quality assistance. Call






& to

find out if in-home care is the right choice for you or a loved one at 501.372.5300. 54 MAY 2021


A Special Advertising Section

1600 West 40th Ave., Pine Bluff, AR 71603

It Takes Courage to Change Whether you are a recent graduate or seasoned veteran, the path towards becoming a healthcare professional is challenging. Perhaps even more challenging is the role of the nurse charged with changing the lives of others. The BridgeWay is seeking licensed professionals who possess the courage to change the lives of children, adolescents and adults.


Quality Care Rooted in Arkansas

21 Bridgeway Road • North Little Rock, AR 72113


Owned by Universal Health Services, a Fortune 500 Company, The BridgeWay offers exceptional benefits including: • Medical insurance by United Healthcare • Dental insurance by Delta Dental • Prescription benefits by CVS Caremark • Life insurance • Short- and long-term disability insurance • Retirement program (401K) by Fidelity • Option to purchase UHS stock at a 10% discount

For job listings and preferred qualifications, visit us at: or scan the code. ARKANSASTIMES.COM

MAY 2021 55

56 MAY 2021



News & Notes 58 | Foster Parent 60 | Meet the Parent 63



MAY 2021 57


Summer camps

There’s so much going on in May, what with Mother’s Day (May 9) and National Frog Jumping Day (May 13), but we’re setting our sights on summer in this News & Notes. The school year — such as it is — will come to an end before we know it, leaving the procrastinators among us scrambling for summer activities. What follows is an incomplete list of day camps and programs. Many are still in the planning stages — with dates and details to be determined. Check social media for updates. (Scholarships are available for many of these camps.)

THE ARTS Arkansas Academy of Dance Camps & Intensives

10301 N. Rodney Parham Road, Little Rock, 501-786-0784 Dates: Summer Intensive: June 7-19 Summer Sessions: July 6-30; Camp II (Studio): Aug. 3-6 Students will explore various dance styles and work with costumes and props, all while building confidence and developing creativity,

Ballet Arkansas’ Summer Programs

Story Time, Junior Intensive and Summer Intensive camps. Visit for all the details.

Camp PIG

The Painted Pig 5611 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock, 501-280-0553 Dates: Weekly camps from June-August Rising Grades: 1-8, Cost: $35-$45/session Kids will experiment with different mediums like clay, glass fusion and tie-dye to make cool, keepsake-quality projects. Pandemic protocols will be in place, with temp checks and smaller class sizes,

Ballet Arkansas’s “Live at the Plaza” — Held the first and third weekends of May 2021, this two-weekend educational and performance program at Argenta Plaza in NLR includes live performances of classical and contemporary dance by worldrenowned choreographers. Recreational classes, sponsored by ACANSA, will be accessible for all ages and abilities. Reservations are not required. Arkansas Department of Health guidelines will be enforced for a safe learning and viewing experience. Attendees will be asked to practice social distancing and wear masks when closer than 6 feet. Dancers will be masked and will maintain appropriate distance from audience members. For ages 4 and up,

SPORTS First Tee Youth Summer Golf Camp

1 First Tee Way, Little Rock, Middle school: June 8-11; 15-18; 22-25; June 29-July 2; July 13-16 High school: July 20-23; 27-30; Aug. 3-6 Ages: 7-17 Cost: Nonmembers, $140; Members, $90. The camps are open to beginners, intermediate and advanced players,

Increased Height Gymnastics

Gymnastics Fun Camp and Day Camp 1021 Jessie Road G,H,I, Little Rock, AR 72202, 501-593-1139 Ages: 5-12 girls only 8 a.m.-5 p.m. There are eight weeks of Gymnastics Fun Camp and eight weeks of Day Camp. Day Camps are different from gymnastics camps — more of an alternative to ordinary daycare,

Wildwood Academy of Music & the Arts

20919 Denny Road, Little Rock, 501-821-7275 Ages: 6-18 Wildwood is serious about the arts and safety. In that spirit, strict protocols will be in place. There will be sessions with limited registration in the following areas: advanced strings, piano, dance (beginners and intermediate/advanced), beginner musicians and visual arts, 58 MAY 2021


River City Gymnastics Sports and Educational Summer Camp

5310 S. Shackleford Road, Little Rock, 501-407-8000 Tentative Dates: June 7-Aug. 13 Ages: 5-12 Activities over the 10 weeks include weekly field trips, arts and crafts and games — all with a focus on health and fitness,

ANIMALS Zoofari On-grounds & Virtual Summer Camp

1 Zoo Drive Little Rock, AR 7220, 501-661-7229 Dates: June 7-Aug. 20 | 9:30-11:30 a.m. Ages: 5-11 “Eco Olympics” and “Conservation Connection” are but two of the in-person camps offered by the zoo throughout the summer. There are also programs for 12-14-year-olds. Early drop-off and late pick up are available for additional costs. The zoo is also offering Virtual Summer Camps all summer long with live interactive learning. Visit for details.

HISTORY & SCIENCE Old State House Museum Summer Fun Youth Enrichment Program

300 W. Markham St., Little Rock, 501-324-8641 Dates: Call for information. Grades: K-12 Cost: Call for information. This fun-filled weeklong workshop provides hands-on activities and lessons for history-minded kids.

Museum of Discovery Summer Camps

500 President Clinton Ave., Suite 150, Little Rock, 501-396-7050 Dates: Weekly camps from June 7-Aug. 6 Ages: 6-13 Cost: $300/session Discovery Camps are on! Join MOD for weeklong sessions full of fun and learning that include topics like Pokemon-ology, LEGOville Engineer, Unicorn Biology and CSI: Discovery. MOD is also offering a FREE Girls in STEM program (six sessions) for ages 12-15!

NATURE Arkansas Outdoor School Summer Day Camps

1 Four-H Way, Little Rock, 501-821-6884 Dates: Weekly camps from June-August Ages: 7-15 Kids in this learn-by-doing program will get connected with nature in a dynamic, fun atmosphere with more than 220 acres of fields, forests, creeks and a lake.



MAY 2021 59




n honor of National Foster Care Month, we talked to foster parents around Central Arkansas about their experiences and soon detected a common thread: All felt that becoming a foster parent was a kind of calling. And though the configuration of each family looked different, they all believed that their lives had been enriched by opening up their homes. When the pandemic hit, Arkansas, like many states, saw an uptick in its foster care caseload as fewer children’s cases worked their way through the court system. Statistics from the Arkansas Department of Human Services’ Division of Children and Family Services show that the number of children in foster care at the end of 2020 grew to 4,663. Children are placed in foster care for a variety of reasons, including neglect and abuse or if a parent is incarcerated or hospitalized and there’s no one to care for the child during a parent’s absence. Placement in foster care is usually temporary, and reunification is always the goal. Most children return home to their families; when they cannot, they find permanence through adoption, guardianship or other means. There continues to be an urgent need for caring, loving foster families in Arkansas. It’s been proven that children in foster care fare far better in homes with families than in facilities. Here we share two stories about the road to becoming a foster parent: one of a nuclear family with three kids of their own, the other of a single career woman who became a parent in the process.


With two kids out of the house and one in high school, Leigh Edmondson of Benton could have chosen to ease into the next stage of life, one with fewer responsibilities and cares and more time. But that’s not what’s happened, and she couldn’t be happier about it. “We have three biological children, one of them married and out of the house — he’s in med school at UAMS — a daughter who is a senior in college and a 16-year-old sophomore in high school. We’re sort of your atypical foster family because we’re a little bit older.” 60 MAY 2021


So with an empty nest within reach, what inspired this decision two and a half years ago to open their home to foster children? Edmondson’s voice was full of emotion as she recalled this seminal moment: “Many years ago, I taught school in Texas when I first got married and had a situation where a kiddo went into foster care. I was 21 at the time and felt very helpless. And so we knew all through our married life that we would one day foster, and I think God just said, ‘I’m tired of you saying no to me. It’s time.’ ” And that’s when she connected with The CALL (Children of Arkansas Loved for a Lifetime), whose mission it is to recruit and educate families to become foster and adoptive families. The nonprofit experienced a setback in its efforts when the pandemic hit but managed to successfully pivot to an online platform. It had formerly relied on in-person informational meetings. It was at one such event a couple of years ago that Edmondson and her family officially took the plunge: “We just felt that tug once again and said we just can’t turn our back this time.” So the family went to The CALL’s meeting in Saline County. “My husband and my daughter attended with me; they were excited about it. And when we left, my husband said, ‘Sign us up,’ and so we signed up that night. “The CALL is such a wonderful organization. They work closely with our local church and have been an amazing support for us. When we get a kiddo, [The CALL’s] first question is, ‘What do you need? What can we do for you? Do you have clothes? Do you have a car seat?’ ” That support enabled the Edmondsons to foster 13 kids over two and a half years. “We’ve had some for a couple of nights; some for a couple of weeks; some for many months; and some for a year and a half. It just depends on what is needed.” Helpful too is the support of Edmondson’s immediate and extended family. “Our 16-year-old has been around for every one of our kiddos,” she said. And their older children also make it a point to return home to meet each foster child. “I have a very large extended family, and to see the way they have welcomed every kid we’ve taken in ... that’s been so cool. And it’s been so neat to see that love and empathy from my own children. ... It’s just been one of the best experiences ever for our family, one of those things where you say, ‘What took so long?’ ”

The Edmondson family just completed another certification process in January — recertification is required each year — indicating they have no plans of closing their doors anytime soon. Leigh Edmonson feels passionate about spreading the word to others that fostering kids in need can be a great experience, and that there’s so much support available to make it as easy as possible for all involved. “There’s so many kiddos who’ve had trauma in their lives through no fault of their own, and they just need somewhere safe,” she said. “I wish more families could see the impact they could make.”


We caught up with Brandi Hinkle on a break from her job at Entergy to talk about her path to fostering which, at its outset, took an unexpected (and welcome) turn. Hinkle recalled, “I always thought I would have three or four children of my own. That’s not what happened. And so I thought, what can I do to effect change in a positive way? That’s why I decided to start fostering in my mid-30s. I first opened my home as a foster home in 2010 or 11. I had gotten approved right before Christmas, and I was really busy at work when the new year started. So I asked DHS to not call me for a while.” A few weeks passed, then her phone rang on a Friday afternoon. “They said, ‘We’ve got a 3-year-old little girl,’ and I said, ‘OK, bring her to me!’ And they brought her about 5:30. Her name is Emma. She is my very first foster placement, and we were a total ‘foster failure’ because I ended up adopting her!” “We were meant to be,” added Hinkle, a smile in her voice. “We both joke about it … she’s got curly red hair like me, a little round face. And so people who don’t know assume she’s my natural-born child, and people who do know just remark on how much we look alike.” The duo seemed meant to be from the beginning,” Hinkle said. “I’m single. I’ve never been married. And Emma said, ‘Well, you need a roommate, and I need a mom!’ So here we are.” Though the percentage of kids adopted from foster care in this way (around 13%) is on an upward swing, it isn’t common and can often be problematic. “She’s been with me nine years now; March was our initial anniversary,” Hinkle said. “Our ‘gotcha’ anniversary is in November each year. That’s when I finalized her adoption, but her case was a little complicated; most of them are. The whole process took about two and a half years.”

Check out The Arkansas Heart Gallery, a collection of artful photographs of waiting children and teens, taken by professional photographers from every corner of the state. The photographers donate their time and talents to capture the beautiful faces of kids looking for forever homes. The gallery is a part of Project Zero, an organization that works to pursue out-of-the-box ways to find families for kids in foster care,

Great Things Happening at LRSD



Visit: – Student Registration (K-12) or (Pre-K) Great THINGS are still happening at LRSD! The Little Rock School District is proud of its 3,500 dedicated professionals who remain committed to meeting the needs of each student, even during a pandemic. From rigorous academic engagement for those identified as gifted and talented to support for those facing learning, speech or physical challenges, LRSD — the state’s second largest district — offers unique, comprehensive educational approaches for pre-K to 12th-grade students.

programs, including pre-AP, AP, classes with local universities and the District’s EXCEL program, provide multiple options for families. These programs allow students to align their educational experience with their interests, preparing them for college and career and equipping them to meet the challenges of a global society. LRSD consistently places among the top tier of state schools with National Merit Semifinalists, as well as Commended, National Hispanic and AP Scholars.

LRSD takes pride in its highly qualified teachers — nearly half of all classroom teachers have a masters or doctoral degree and 155 have National Board Certification — among the most in the state. LRSD continues to operate the state’s only K-8 STEM campus, eight magnet schools and a uniquely-focused language and literacy elementary academy, and last year, continued to expand Little Rock West High School of Innovation, adding a 10th grade class. Subsequent grades will be added each year for a 9-12 delivery. Little Rock Hall STEAM Academy was also introduced, enhancing its focus on science and engineering academies under the Academies of Central Arkansas (Ford NGL) umbrella. High school college preparatory

LRSD is proud of its highly accomplished students and the community partnerships that enhance their educational experiences. Students will continue taking their learning to the next level at the newly constructed career-focused Little Rock Southwest High School.

Little Rock Central High School

LRSD is also the state’s largest provider of public preschool programs with certified teachers in every class. The District’s pre-K students continue to outperform students who do not use LRSD’s pre-K program in every skill area. The District maintains its mission to provide students with equitable access to educational opportunities, equipping them with what they need to succeed.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School


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“People say, ‘I could never foster. I would get too attached.’ Well, that’s what these kids need . . . people to love and support them unconditionally . . .” After adopting Emma, Hinkle decided to close her home for a while so they could adjust. “We needed some time just for us,” she said. After taking that time, she has since fostered seven girls, “some of them have just been for a night or two. In fact, I had one this week for one night. The others were for a couple weeks, and they were from out of the county and were trying to find somebody closer to home. The only sibling group I’ve had I had for 21 months ... and I only foster girls. I’m a girl mom, a girly girl.” Hinkle finds particular joy in fostering preschoolers. “Three-yearolds are my weakness,” she said. “It’s such a fun age. They’re just soaking up everything, they’re curious, and you’re still at that point where you can make a very positive impact,” she said. “You can teach them about familial relationships and what to expect from grownups and that the world can be a safe place.” After adopting Emma, Hinkle took a job as deputy chief of communications at DHS. There she was privy to a constant stream of information that served as a grim reminder of just how dire things can get for kids. “I was always amazed at the awful things humans will do to others,” Hinkle recalled of her time there. “I still felt such a burden for foster care kids, but I knew that I couldn’t emotionally handle the work I did every day and then being a foster parent as well. So I started looking for other opportunities within state government.” She later moved on to the Economic Development Commission. When she decided to foster again, she contacted The CALL. So impressed was she with the organization that she became one of their certified trainers. This offered a way for her to help children even if she wasn’t taking them into her own home. “I thought, if there comes a point when I can’t foster anymore, at least I can train other families and prepare them to do it.” Hinkle wants potential foster parents to know this: “People say, ‘I could never foster. I would get too attached.’ Well, that’s what these kids need; they need people to love and support them unconditionally because a lot of them are broken. They come from terrible situations. That’s one reason why the background checks and all the training is so rigorous within DHS, because they need to know that these kids are not going to another broken place. They need to be someplace that has the resources to help them heal. Not all of them have been abused, but many of them have; not all of them have been food insecure, but many of them have.” She also wants potential foster parents to know that remaining flexible and patient is key. “My home may be the only one that they’ve ever had that has structure and shows them what healthy relationships between a parent and child or siblings looks like and what you can expect from a grown-up ... where there’s someone who cares whether you get up and go to school in the morning, whether your teeth are brushed, whether you get a bath and healthy food.” Hinkle admitted that it can all be draining; in addition to working full time, being a mom and fostering, she also volunteers for The Centers for Youth and Families and is on the board of Arkansas Repertory Theatre. And, of course, the pandemic proved particularly hard for many foster parents. “This has been an especially tough 62 MAY 2021



year because of COVID, but I have a super support system. I have a group of family and friends that comes to my aid when I need it.” There was little they could do, though, when things first shut down. For the first five months of the pandemic, Hinkle was at home with three kids — her 12-year-old daughter and two toddlers — and had just started a new job. “I couldn’t get any help because we were trying to isolate. Really, the whole thing is just a blur,” she recalled. The rewards, however, far outweigh the challenges, she said. “There are days when I think, ‘Am I doing the right thing — not only for my own child but for this child who is in my home for a season?’ I think good parents question their parenting. We also have to come to the realization that we’re all doing the best we can. I try very, very hard to help kids see the good in their parents even if they’ve been removed for whatever reason. Ninety-nine percent of these parents, they may have made some bad choices, but they still love their kids.” Many parents find themselves trapped in generational cycles of poverty, food insecurity and addiction. “I have had kids in my care whose parents were in foster care at one time,” Hinkle said. She’s hoping to do her part in breaking that cycle. Thinking back over the past 10 years, Hinkle reflected, “I still keep in touch with a couple of my former placements. There will be some that I will never hear from again, but they’ll always have a place in my heart, and I’ll always wonder about them and hope the best for them. Being a foster parent is just something that I feel called to do, and it’s just one kid at a time.” To find out more about fostering, visit or

Meet the Parent:


The Baxter family are busy bees and the bee’s knees and any other bee idiom you may be tempted to apply. They really are! Here we meet Queen Bee Priscilla Baxter and her beautiful brood. This honey-making, hen-loving, homeschooling family are a true inspiration. Please tell us a little about your family and your business/work life. We are Jonathan and Priscilla Baxter. We’ve been married 16 years and have three wonderful, adventurous children named Logan (age 11), Bella (age 6) and Ellie (age 5). Jonathan is a Purple Heart veteran who now works as a private lands biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I have a double degree in elementary and special education, but chose to begin homeschooling our children back in 2016 when we moved to Arkansas. A year after starting our homeschool journey, we began a small backyard beekeeping hobby with just three beehives. Jonathan’s passion for bees and diligence in holistic practices has allowed us to expand to 65 hives while also making us the only certified naturally grown apiary in the state of Arkansas. Even though your kids are young, are they able to participate in the life of the apiary? Absolutely! Our son, Logan, is such a hard worker! He loves to catch honeybee swarms, collect bee pollen, extract honey and photograph all our beekeeping adventures. Our girls also help with the extraction process and enjoy labeling honey bottles for our customers. Prior to COVID, they would join us at various markets and loved talking to customers about our honey. They especially loved helping people find the queen in our observation hive. What do they think of the bees — and, perhaps most importantly, the honey? The kids never cease to amaze me with their bravery, willingness and interest to work and play around the bees. They have had our honeybees flying around them for four years now, so they are pretty comfortable with them at this point. It is not unusual

to see them holding honeybees while we harvest honey. They absolutely love the raw honey, and as the seasons change they are always so excited to taste the different flavors and see the different colors of the honey. How has starting the apiary enriched their lives and yours? What lessons have you learned? Starting an apiary has been an awesome journey for us. As a homeschool family, we love giving our children meaningful experiences and lots of time in nature. They have been able to witness the life cycle of honeybees firsthand, the way pollination works and the brilliance of queens and their workers. It has also been an opportunity for them to learn the value of hard work, community and serving others. We learn new things every day and continue educating ourselves on the best sustainable practices for 100% treatmentfree beekeeping.


When not tending to the bees, what are your favorite “family time” activities? When we are not working and tending to our bees, we love fishing, gardening, making art together and tending to our beloved hens. These kiddos are crazy about their chickens! What’s helped you keep your sanity during the pandemic? We’ve been extremely grateful for all the extra time we’ve had together throughout this pandemic. Even though it was a time of uncertainty and hardship, we tried to focus on the positive and press into what matters the most. We spent a tremendous amount of time outdoors exploring and playing board games. We also established some new routines and found new ways to make school more fascinating. Any parenting advice or wisdom you’ve gleaned over the years? I would have to say to let kids be kids! The wonder and magic of childhood is just a small, precious portion of their lifetime, and ours. Encourage them to play, get dirty, explore their passions, discover things in nature, take risks and enjoy freedom. It’s a beautiful thing! ARKANSASTIMES.COM

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CULTURE OPENING IN JULY: Crystal Bridges celebrates its 10th anniversary this year with the exhibition “Crystal Bridges at 10,” featuring more than 140 works, including Deborah Roberts’ mixed media on panel “He Looks Like Me.”






Join us for our GRAND RE-OPENING CELEBRATION as we showcase our fine artists in our new SoMa location!! THE FACE OF THE FUTURE: The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts opens in 2022 with a new facade, an expanded and reconfigured interior and a new name.


hat the immediate future holds for our museum-going life is still a bit murky, thanks to the unknowns of the pandemic. But what is certain is that big things are on the post-pandemic horizon, with a spruced-up and expanded Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts coming in 2022 and a 100,000-square-foot expansion at Crystal Bridges Museum of Fine Art in 2024. Crystal Bridges announced April 7 its plans for expansion of the Bentonville museum on the 120-acre grounds of the museum. The addition, which will feature two new galleries — one for the permanent collection, which now stands at 3,000 artworks, and one for temporary exhibitions — and new classroom and public spaces, will extend north into the ravine in which the 10-year-old museum is nestled. Renowned architect Moshe Safdie, designer of the original museum, has also drawn the plans for the addition, which will also make use of local building materials. The expansion will further elevate Crystal Bridges’ status in the museum world, which initially scratched its head when Alice Walton announced she would build a world-class museum in Northwest Arkansas. Upcoming exhibitions at Crystal Bridges: “Crystal Bridges: The First Decade,” July 10-


FROM 6-9PM May 7th from 6pm-9pm Reserve your time today: 6-7, 7-8 and 8-9.

Sept. 27. The exhibition will feature more than 40 works of art from the museum’s collection with programming including a tableau vivant of Maxfield Parrish’s “The Lantern Bearers,” selfportraits by local students paired with works in the show and the creation of an artwork in the galleries. “In American Waters,” Nov. 6-Jan. 31, 2022. This museum-curated exhibition, scheduled to open in the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, in May, will feature maritimethemed work by such modern artists as Georgia O’Keeffe, Norman Rockwell, Paul Cadmus, Winslow Homer, Jacob Lawrence and Stuart Davis, as well as contemporary artists Amy Sherald and Kay Walkingstick. “Cross Pollination: Heade, Cole, Church, and Our Contemporary Moment,” Nov. 20-March 21, 2022. Along with 80 works of art, the show will feature photographs and natural history specimens collected by the artists. Another culture-altering event will occur sooner than 2024, when the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts (nee the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, before it was renamed the Arkansas Arts Center in the 1960s) reopens in MacArthur Park, the culmination of a more-than-two-year, $140 million upgrade. When an idea floated in 2015 to build a new

May 8 from 6pm-9pm Reserve your time today: 6-7, 7-8 and 8-9. 501.454.6969 or 501.664.0030


June 4-19 New works by Winston Taylor and Kathy Bay June 25-July 10 Art by Dennis, Connie and Jason McCann July 16-July 31 Paintings by Ray Parker 1501 South Main Street, Suite H Little Rock, AR 72202 ARKANSASTIMES.COM

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ON THE INSIDE: The new AMFA reorients the entrances to the galleries and museum school and (at right) features a glass-fronted second story over the entrance that will be a community gathering space. Director Victoria Ramirez (left), architect Jeanne Gang and AMFA Board President Van Tilbury welcomed the press on a tour April 15.

Arts Center North Little Rock on the banks of the Arkansas River sank, trustees decided to revitalize the facility in its original home in MacArthur Park. With a contribution from the city of $35 million, the facility will honor its past by restoring its 1937 Art Deco facade at the entrance and welcomes future visitors with additional gallery, Museum School and public spaces. The pandemic year has been hard on museums. The Momentary closed just weeks after it opened in 2020, though both it and Crystal Bridges eventually reopened with limited attendance by reservation. AMFA scheduled only one exhibit when construction began in 2019 on the new building and the Arts Center offices and museum school moved to a former grocery store on Cantrell Road. Because of the pandemic, classes were canceled in March 2020 and losses from tuition revenue amounted to half a million dollars, requiring furloughs of a third of its employees. Like the rest of the world, the museum turned to the internet, hosting its annual “Delta Exhibition” online and holding virtual classes. The museum is keeping mum on what the first exhibit in the new AMFA will be. But, Director Victoria Ramirez said, the public will not have to wait until the reopening in May 2022 66 MAY 2021


to celebrate the new AFMA: Before opening day, AMFA will invite the public to take part in creating an art installation so that “everyone can take part in the grand opening and be a part of history.” Details will be announced this summer. When reopening day comes, Arkansans will enter a snazzy museum designed by national firm Studio Gang, with an overlapping petalshaped roof allowing in natural light, five galleries, a new “glass box” theater and a gathering place for the community overlooking the park as well as classes and Children’s Theatre. Along with the as-yet-unannounced opening exhibition, works in all media from the permanent collection will occupy new gallery space. This summer, though, Ramirez is unsure whether in-person classes will resume at the ersatz museum in Riverdale. “I’m not comfortable yet,” she said, saying the museum must continue to look out for the health of staff, faculty and guests even as people get vaccinated. Increasing public participation is “critical” to the museum, Ramirez said, and behind the scenes the staff has been working to “answer the question who are we and what do we care about” and how to apply that “visitor-centric”

identity to its offerings. The openness that implies would create more support from a public that has paid millions of dollars to the museum over its lifetime. Even the trustees have been left out of decisions impacting this facility on city land: Though a name change from the Arts Center to the Museum of Fine Arts had been discussed with consultants in previous years, the board didn’t learn of the official name change until it was unveiled at a press conference called to announce an expanded capital campaign goal. The secrecy was required to create a “grand moment,” Ramirez said, but the museum still wants to be as “inclusive as it possibly can.” “When we open, it is my sincere hope that the community sees our values reflected in the programming we offer,” Ramirez said, that the museum is a place that is “welcoming, engaging, inspiring and enlightening.” *** Offering the public some form of the visual and performing arts during the plague year has required patience, grit and creativity. “Pivot was the word of 2020,” Historic Arkansas Museum curator Carey Voss said, as museums had to rethink classes, reschedule exhibits and revamp

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events normally held in person and essential to public support. In 2019, the Historic Arkansas Museum, a place that celebrates contemporary art on its historic block in downtown Little Rock, hosted 27 exhibits. In 2020, it had five shows in the galleries and two blogged exhibits, Voss said. “I probably rescheduled the whole thing [exhibits] four times,” she said, and had to cancel some. With people finally getting a vaccine for COVID-19, Voss is feeling hopeful she’s redone the extended schedule for the last time. HAM is limiting occupancy on the grounds to 30 people, the territorial period houses are not open and the hugely popular 2nd Friday Art Night events and “History is Served” dinners are still virtual, but Voss said things could change “at any time,” depending on what the state instructs. Here’s HAM’s exhibition lineup for the next few months: “Chromophilia,” May 14-Aug. 22, Trinity Gallery. Color and high-spirited playfulness are the focuses in this exhibition of paintings by Susan Chambers and ceramics by Aaron Calvert. Using highly saturated colors confined within drawn lines, Chambers paints garden scenes, some with whimsical 3D additions — a woodpecker, a birdhouse — to the frame. Calvert, who won a Grand Award at the 60th “Delta Exhibition” at the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts (then the Arkansas Arts Center), creates stoneware animals on which high-gloss images have been drawn. “Photographs from ‘Arkansas Made,’ ” June 11-Nov. 2023, 2nd Floor Gallery. Rett Peek’s photographs of the objects in HAM’s permanent collection that illustrate the two-volume “Arkansas Made” released in March will be on exhibition. “Conspicuous Consumption,” Aug. 13-Feb. 2023, Arkansas Made Gallery. The objects featured in this semi-permanent exhibition — including a top hat made by a Little Rock milliner, a portrait by Henry Bird and silk dresses — give the lie to the notion that 19th century Arkansas was a backward place without refinement. (See also Peek’s photographs on the second floor to reinforce this truer history.) “Tim Hursley, James Matthews, Peter Scheidt,” Sept. 10-Jan. 23, 2022. This exhibition illustrates that there is beauty in the banal, with photographs of rural Arkansas by Hursley, quilts from castoff clothes by Matthews, and modified found wooden objects by Scheidt.



BRUNCHFEST KICK-OFF CELEBRATION Saturday, May 22 Heifer Village | 10am-2pm Free admission with lunch available from food trucks, free mimosas for the first 100 people, music by B98.5 and more!

Purchase your BrunchFest PASS at BrunchFest Pass coupon book offers are valid from May 22 to August 31 at participating restaurants. BrunchFest proceeds are invested in The Centers’ residential programs serving school-aged youth in Arkansas.

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MAY 2021 67




he COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of outdoor dining. Last spring, around the same time restaurants started opening up with phased restrictions, studies started to come out suggesting that the coronavirus didn’t spread as easily outdoors. Restaurants already equipped with patios had an advantage, as many noted when driving past Hill Station’s lawn-style patio on Kavanaugh Boulevard last summer. Last June, the city of Little Rock announced an outdoor dining initiative allowing restaurants to expand outdoor dining into parking lots, sidewalks and lawns. Some restaurants started thinking outside the box. Flyway Brewery in Argenta lined its parking lot with tents and tables along West Fourth and Maple streets. Soon after, the Argenta Downtown Council took advantage of a law passed the year before allowing the establishment of entertainment districts to section off blocks on Main Street for an outdoor dining district to increase business for local restaurants. Jack Sundell, owner of The Root Cafe, along with help from the Downtown Little Rock Partnership, turned the parking lot at 1301 Main St. into the SoMa Outdoor Dining Room. A year later, give or take, even though many Arkansans have been vaccinated, some still are not ready to fully embrace our pre-pandemic social lives. Dining al fresco, whether it be on a veranda overlooking the Arkansas River or in a parking space, is still very much in demand. We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite outdoor dining spots. Please remember that many restaurants are understaffed now and trying desperately to hire; be patient and tip generously. Unless otherwise noted, wear your mask until you’re served and leave the dog at home.

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PATIOS APLENTY: (Clockwise from top left)Picnic tables replaced parked cars at Leo’s Greek Castle, Ciao Baci added seating on its grounds, Heights diners can watch the Kavanaugh traffic from the Scallions patio and Brood & Barley recently opened a large, wellappointed patio in Argenta.


@ The Corner greatly expanded its outdoor dining during the pandemic. On most weekends now, there’s a line to grab brunch at one of the 12 tables skirting the entire front entrance of the same building that houses the Arkansas Times at 201 E. Markham St. The entryway patio is covered, and it was heated in the wintertime with several propane gas patio heaters. And the frigid temperature this past winter did not stop people from brunching. The staff at @ The Corner has to break down the entire set up daily. 201 E. Markham St. Dog friendly.

dog-friendly courtyard-style patio. The Root has more open-air seating than most Little Rock-area restaurants, but it’s also very popular, so you’re still advised to come at off times to ensure you get a seat. 1500 Main St.


You can sample South on Main’s new menu of elevated Southern cuisine on its large back patio. There’s plenty of plants and it’s surrounded by a high fence that makes you feel tucked in amid the hustle and bustle of SoMa. 1304 Main St.



This large and posh patio is situated directly under the Clinton Presidential Center, and its comfy chairs, gas firepit tables and Arkansas River views always make me wonder why it’s not always packed and why more people aren’t texting me to meet them down there. 1200 President Clinton Ave.

You have to walk through the dry storage area at Vino’s to get to its courtyard-style patio, which makes me feel special and important. The patio has picnic-style tables, stadium seats from Ray Winder Field and a two-story covered gazebo that feels like a clubhouse. It’s a perfect spot for a New York-style slice with a Firehouse Pale Ale. Smoking is allowed. 923 W Seventh St.



Located in the former Juanita’s space, this below-street-level brick patio sits under a bridge connecting President Clinton Avenue to the top level of the building, which is home to weekend tango nights at Club 27. It feels nice and secluded if you’re taking a lengthy lunch break. This patio is dog friendly and smoking is permitted. 614 President Clinton Ave.

Split your porterhouse steak and tamales outside at Doe’s. Fenced in and surrounded by plants and trees, this courtyard-style patio is an ideal spot to act like a wheeler-dealer whether you are or not. 1023 W. Markham St.



This colorful patio that sits alongside President Clinton Avenue has a slatted roof, umbrellas, benches along the wall and a small covered gazebo. Whether you’re eating an order of Sticky Fingerz or having a drink between bands, it would surprise no one if you were to say, “This is a really nice patio.” Dogs and smoking are welcome. 107 River Market Ave.

If someone were to ask which Little Rock restaurants have the best sunset views, Brave New Restaurant would probably sit atop that list. The restaurant is widely known for chef Peter Brave’s cuisine, which has had a lasting impression on Arkansans, having won the best overall restaurant in the Arkansas Times annual Readers Choice Award 14 times. The handful of patio seats overlooking the Arkansas River are highly coveted when the weather is nice and when the sun is setting. 2300 Cottondale Lane.




In addition to its contemporary two-level interior, Cache has a second-floor patio balcony overlooking the River Market and President Clinton Avenue and two ground-floor patios covered by awnings that skirt the north and east sides of the Arcade building. 425 President Clinton Ave.



You haven’t left your house for a year, so don’t blow this one, OK? Strawberry pudding, burrata and sourdough, salsiccia pizza and a “Date Night” salad split between friends on the teeny tiny patio at Raduno’s is your move. People you know may walk by on the sidewalks of Main; pretend you remember how to greet acquaintances, raise whichever of Raduno’s 20-ish tap beers is in your glass and say, “Oh, HEY!” It’s OK if it feels weird; post-pandemic re-emerging is a marathon, not a sprint. 1318 S. Main St.


The Root Cafe, known for its farm-to-table approach and excellent weekend brunch, has a comfy covered patio at the building’s entrance that overlooks South Main. It also has a quirky

Mark Abernathy’s Riverdale neighborhood bistro has a New Orleans-style brick patio shaded by trees, umbrellas and an awning covering the tables that sit directly beside the building. Partially covered, it has a secluded, courtyard feel and is a perfect spot for cocktail hour, lunch or dinner. In my experience, it’s a comforting place to pregame before your 20th high school reunion. 3519 Old Cantrell Road.


During the pandemic, The Fold added a parking lot veranda to the east side of the building in addition to its covered garage patio in front of the restaurant, which used to be a service station. It’s an ideal location for some of the best margaritas in town. Dogs are welcome and make frequent appearances on The Fold’s Instagram page. 3501 Old Cantrell Road.


Buffalo Grill’s covered deck stretches alongside the south side of the building. Enjoy your burger or tortilla flats with relaxing views of Botanica Gardens next door. 1611 Rebsamen Park Road. ARKANSASTIMES.COM

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PATIO PARTIES: (From left) The outdoor spaces at Hill Station, Crush Wine Bar and Brave New Restaurant have been popular hangouts.


Maddie’s Place, chef Brian Deloney’s New Orleans-style restaurant, has a small covered patio in front of the restaurant with about four tables. If dining outside is imperative, you might want to go at a nonpeak time or try to beat the rush. 1615 Rebsamen Park Road.


You can wave at customers sitting on Maddie’s patio and enjoy a soaked salad and shrimp tchoupitoulas on The Faded Rose’s small but cozy patio, which sits in front of the building and is covered by an awning. 1619 Rebsamen Park Road.


Kick back on Pizza Cafe’s deck and enjoy some of the coldest draft beer in town. The restaurant’s patio is the only one in town that I know of that sits directly underneath a beautiful catalpa tree. Three or four times a year, customers either ask: “What kind of tree is this?” or “Is this a catalpa tree?” 1517 Rebsamen Park Road.


About six months ago, Ciao Baci safely upped its outdoor dining capacity by adding four open-air tables to its driveway space adjacent to the building. Owner Blair Wallace said the addition will be a permanent fixture. Ciao Baci also has a cushy covered patio that stretches alongside the south side of the building and is one of my favorite spots in town for cocktails and shared appetizers. Ciao Baci can accommodate smokers on the 70 MAY 2021


front porch area and dogs are welcome on the new driveway patio. 605 Beechwood St.


La Terraza Rum & Lounge, Hillcrest’s fantastic Venezuelan restaurant in the former Acadia space, has a three-tiered wooden deck that overlooks Kavanaugh. It’s partially covered, there are brick columns on the lower level and large dungeon-style double doors — all of which make for a truly unique Little Rock outdoor dining experience. 3000 Kavanaugh Blvd.


I just realized that I’ve never had sushi outside before, which is a problem I can soon remedy at Kemuri, located in the Ice House Revival Building on Kavanaugh. It has a covered patio out front and uncovered tables along the side of the building. 2601 Kavanaugh Blvd.


Leo’s is probably the smallest restaurant in Hillcrest but it’s been around for decades. I tried hummus for the first time on the patio there in the late ’90s. The interior space is minimal and quaint. Remember Phase I when restaurants could only open up to 33% capacity? That’s like telling a place like Leo’s to just stay closed. In addition to the few tables on Leo’s covered patio, there are now a few picnic tables in the parking lot where you can enjoy a delicious gyro or 75-cent PBR and wave at people on Kavanaugh. 2925 Kavanaugh Blvd.


Hill Station has a really nice interior but is known for its spacious courtyard patio that seemed to be filling a need for wide-open outdoor dining in Hillcrest from the time it opened last February until the shutdown in mid-March. Demand for tables at Hill Station seems to only grow as the pandemic lingers on, even as other restaurants open up. Expect lines and crowds. 2712 Kavanaugh Blvd.



When I sit on Cheers’ patio in wintertime, I often pretend that I’m not in Little Rock, but at a ski lodge. With its brick and rock fireplace and wood-paneled ceiling, I can’t help myself. In the warmer days the windows open up and the patio extends outside the building and is covered. During the pandemic, owner Chris Tanner started setting up tables in the parking lot, which provided my first outdoor anxiety-ridden pandemic dining experience last October. 2010 N. Van Buren St.


People don’t talk about Scallions’ patio enough, even though the restaurant has been around for over 30 years. Its patio is below street level, sunken and secluded from all the intense midday Kavanaugh traffic. The space is filled with colorful chairs and umbrellas where you can order classic lunch staples like chicken salad, cheese soup and quiche. 5110 Kavanaugh Blvd.


Petit & Keet’s contemporary patio has a stone waterfall fireplace, heaters, a detachable roof and a service window attached to the bar. Made up of shades of gray and red, it’s a solid choice for happy hour, date night or trying every cocktail on the menu in the name of service journalism. Dogs are allowed and must be on a leash. 1620 Market St.


Capi Peck and partner Brent Peterson opened Trio’s at Pavilion in the Park in 1986. During the pandemic, Peck used her experience in catering to turn it into a premier location for curbside pickup along with patio dining. 8201 Cantrell Road.



Like many things, wine tastes better outdoors. As it turns out, my co-workers just informed me this week in a Google Hangout meeting that Crush Wine Bar has an excellent courtyard patio. This is likely the last patio I’m going to find out about in a Google Hangout meeting; RIP remote work. 318 Main St.


Four Quarter Bar has some of the best bar food in the city. Try the smoked wings, the pork hash or the Cuban sandwich on the patio out back or out front in the dining district. If you’re low on funds, Four Quarter offers 7-ounce Miller High Life

ponies for 75 cents. There’s nothing quite like the flavor of bargain beer on a patio with friends after not seeing them for a year. 415 Main St.


The success of Flyway’s “Tent City,” two parallel rows of tented tables lining its parking lot along West Fourth and Maple streets, was the inspiration for the Argenta Downtown Council to take the idea of an entertainment district — emphasizing the freedom to walk around with a drink in hand — and rebrand it as an outdoor dining district. 314 Maple St.


Brood & Barley, Flyway’s sister restaurant, opened last year when restaurants were operating under Phase 1 directives allowing just 33 percent capacity. A year later, the restaurant’s going strong and just opened its brand new patio behind the restaurant. Partially covered by a roof with string lights, there’s a few four-top tables and a row of booths that line a chic rock wall. 411 Main St.


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Jim Keet’s destination restaurant, Cypress Social, opened last August in the former Cock of the Walk space, and has a tri-level deck that overlooks the lake behind the building. Tables have also been added to the courtyard adjacent to the building. 7103 Cock of the Walk Lane. @BarkBarLR 1201 S. Spring St. Little Rock, AR


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TO MARKET, TO MARKET SHOP ARKANSAS MADE ARKANSAS PROUD MAY 15. BY KATHERINE WYRICK The Arkansas Made Arkansas Proud Locally Made Market returns to War Memorial Stadium from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, May 15, with early-bird entry at 9 a.m. Brought to you by War Memorial and the Arkansas Times, this festival brings together dozens of Arkansas artisans selling products from food to furniture to fashion accessories. “The Arkansas Made Arkansas Proud Locally Made Market is going to be one of the first major craft festivals in the state since COVID-19 hit. War Memorial Stadium’s large, open-air facilities allow us to accommodate plenty of vendors and shoppers safely,” said Ian Beard, War Memorial marketing event manager. The market will be set up in the covered stadium concourse, and shoppers are asked to wear masks and maintain social distance. A new “music garden” set up on the playing field will feature Dizzy 7 and The Salty Dogs. Locally made beer, wine and spirits will be available for purchase. Buy tickets at ahead of time to get early-bird entry for first dibs on treasures. Here is a sampling of the vendors to expect at the event: ANNIE BELL’S MERCANTILE Take home a bit of Arkansas Ozark Mountain hill culture with handmade crafts and specialty food products — homemade jams and jellies made from Arkansas fruits, pickles made from local farmers market cucumbers, and handcrafted “tater bags,” bowl cozies, Ozark jar openers and upcycled angels and snowmen. 72 MAY 2021


BAXTER’S APIARY LLC The Baxter family began their beekeeping journey in 2017 with a dream of providing their children delicious raw honey that hadn’t been treated with harsh chemicals. They quickly fell in love with beekeeping and now take great pride in providing 100% treatment-free honey and bees to their community. CREEK BABY BEAUTY Made in the Ozarks, Creek Baby keeps it simple with multipurpose skincare that’s safe for the whole family. Overwhelmed by eczema? Irritated by adult acne? Bug bites bugging? There’s a product for what ails you. FLYING PIG GUITARS Casey Marshall builds acoustic and electric cigar box guitars and can make a one-string canjo out of just about anything (even a Spam tin). THE HERB SQUARE The Herb Square is all about natural bath and body products free of toxic chemicals. Their shampoo bars, handcrafted artisan soap, herbal rollerballs, lotions, lip balms and salves contain only natural oils, herbs (some homegrown) and essential oils. JUZTAHOBBY NATURAL PRODUCTS If not for her Snorkie Duchess, who started having severe reactions to commercial flea and tick prevention, owner Melissa Ball might never

have taken the holistic path. A nurse for over 20 years, she became so impressed by natural remedies that she went on to expand her product line to include people as well. K KELLY CONFECTIONS “[My mom’s] favorite candy was caramel, and in her last years she could eat very little food. The one thing that lit up her face was handmade caramel. That set me on a quest to create the perfect caramel delicacy,” founder Dawn Kelly said. Confections include sea salt caramels, pistachio ginger salted caramels, salted bourbon caramel sauce and espresso salted caramels. LEATHER AND MORE Leatherwork handcrafted in Bentonville with bison, cow and exotic leathers. Armando Lopez wastes nothing in the creation of belts, purses, chairs, bracelets and wallets. Each item is unique. MARY GARRETT HANDCRAFTED JEWELRY Garrett mixes metals and semiprecious gemstones in a style that’s been called “classic with a modern rustic flare.” Favorite gemstones include labradorite, kynite, pyrite and turquoise. Hand-formed, soldered and hammered shapes made of brass and sterling silver add texture. MCCANN’S STUDIO Copper, sterling silver, stainless steel, gold, natural gemstones and pearls create jewelry

Make Her Smile on Mom’s Day!

This beautifully illustrated book provides 45 years of Symphony Designer House memories with the complete story of the unique homes, professional designs, and volunteers who have made this semi-annual event a big part of Little Rock’s community history. Gift your mom with A Celebration of Symphony Designer House, found at these locations: • Belle & Blush • Fairytale Florals (NLR) • Hillcrest Interiors • Ken Rash’s Arkansas • Phoenix Design • Providence Interiors • Powder and Smoke • Tipton Hurst • Wordsworth Books or purchase online at:



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HILLCREST LIVE SHOP & DINE May 6 / First Thursday Every Month


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that is both fanciful and natural. Copper electroformed hemp earrings?! Yes! NATURAL STATE BODY Soap and skincare products from 100% natural and organic ingredients. Their bars and soaps in the shape of Arkansas are a favorite and make a great gift. RUTHIE MOUNTAIN SMOKED PEPPER Ruthie Mountain Smoked Pepper uses hickory wood and vine-ripened peppers to create the perfect peppery flavor. The cool, hickory smokedried process takes a minimum of 100 hours of continual smoking. Here is the complete list of vendors:

Golden Art Stone’s Throw Brewing GreeneWorks 101 Blue Cottage Candle Company Shady Grove Pecan Orchards JeterArts Gigi B Jewelry Co. Pink House Alchemy Jeanetta Darley ARTIST (DBA Darley Creative) Simple Made Gifts Rusty Tractor Vineyards

Rock Solid Knife and Tool ReadtheLabl Garden Sass Lost Forty Brewing Diamond Bear Brewing Company North Woods Primitives I Can Creations Believe Or Don’t Creative Resin Kyya Chocolate Bespoke Soap Baby Ruth Boutique Co.


McCanns Studio Mary Garrett Jewelry Flying Pig Guitars Annie Bells Mercantile Baxter’s Apiary LLC D&D Designs The Herb Square Ruthie Mountain Smoked Pepper Natural State Body Woodworx Workshop Stone Mountain Creations 3.5” x 2” JuztaHobby Natural Products Monica’s Poured Art Originals JCT Party Mix Silver Phoenix jewels Shaun Greening Purely Essential 4 Life Financial Advisor Cat Room Creations 3.5” x 2” K Kelly Confections 2821 Kavanaugh Suite 1-F Topanga Scents with Kara Kincade Little Rock, AR 72205 She Studios Shaun Greening 501-663-7510Financial Advisor Walnut Valley Honey Company Simply Sooie Suds 2821 Kavanaugh Suite 1-F Little Rock, AR 72205 Pup Eats Dog Treats 501-663-7510 Creek Baby Beauty Stuff I Like by Molly The Resident Chef RELIC M and M “Mike and Mom” e d wa rd j o n e s .co m edwa rdj on S+R Candle Co 501-626-8441 MKT-5894K-A Mosto Creations Leather and More MKT-5894K-A Organized Chaos Collection e d wa rd j o n e s .co m The Reece’s Pieces Shoppe Black Flower Studios Craig’s Uncontrolled Creations MKT-5894K-A Willow+Wallflower Co. Studio A Bluff City Tumblers Richie Clark M’Nell Glass Cross Plains Pottery Gatesway to Baking A Dame’s Creative Touch CrossFeather Designs Pine and Babies Marjorie Lambert Creations Livingston Pottery | 501.603.0283



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MAY 2021 75



Participating restaurants can offer ONE, TWO or THREE burger specials during the month of July. Specials can stay the same, change or whatever! Progress reports on participants will be in May and June and the Arkansas Times July issue will contain full information about the burgers, beer specials, etc.

Attention Restaurants! Want to participate?

Just call Phyllis at 501.258.2985 or send an email to



AMONG THE FIRST TO PROCESS MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Dark Horse Medicinals CEO Casey Flippo’s operation is based in West Little Rock.




wo Arkansas-based medical marijuana processors have been approved to create oils, edibles and other products to be sold at the state’s dispensaries, and another processor could win approval next month. Shake Brands Corp. of Johnson received the state’s first processor license from the Medical Marijuana Commission last month, and Dark Horse Medicinals of Little Rock was awarded its license April 19. The two companies can now make products with marijuana plants grown by the state’s cultivators and dispensaries. Ouachita Partners LLC of Garland County went before the commission on April 19 but was not awarded its license because its application was not complete. The application will be considered again at the commission’s meeting May 4. Processors are not permitted to grow marijuana but can process marijuana grown by cultivators and dispensaries. Cultivators and dispensaries are not required to use processors and can process their marijuana plants themselves if they choose. While the constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana in the state limited the number of cultivators and dispensaries, it did not set a limit on the number of processors. The commission, which accepts processor applications on an ongoing basis, did not set a limit on the number of processors either, according to commission spokesman Scott Hardin. “It really is going to be just driven totally by the market,” Hardin said. Shake Brands, Dark Horse and Ouachita Partners are ARKANSASTIMES.COM

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HOPING TO BRANCH OUT: Ouachita Farms CEO David Owen has extensive experience with CBD products. He hopes the Medical Marijuana Commission this month will approve his application to manufacture cannabis.

the only companies that have applied to be processors. The commission is also accepting applications for transporters who would be licensed to carry marijuana between cultivators, dispensaries and processors, but the commission has received no applications. All three processor applicants have experience processing hemp into a wide variety of products, and similar techniques will be used to process marijuana plants. Hemp-based products, like CBD oils, do not contain any (or only a very small amount) of the psychoactive THC that is found in the marijuana plant, but techniques for processing the two plants are very similar. “It’s nearly identical,” said Dark Horse owner Casey Flippo. *** Founded by Julie Brents, Brittany Phillips and Tig Davoulas, Shake Brands has been processing hemp since 2018 and has produced a line of CBD products called CBD and Me. The company’s products include oils, balms, roller balls and cosmetic face masks. Shake began working with hemp in hopes of working with marijuana plants down the line, and Phillips said the company took advantage of an opportunity it saw in the CBD market. Shake uses chemical-free processes at its USDAcertified organic lab in Johnson (Washington County), Phillips said. Nearly all of Shake’s products are USDA-certified organic. “We really saw a big, empty hole in the local CBD market,” Phillips said. “There was no one bringing the really quality oil that you find in other markets from a sustainability, chemicalfree, organic side.” While Shake has not begun manufacturing marijuana yet, Phillips said the company will bring “new and innovative products” that are 78 MAY 2021


not currently offered at the state’s dispensaries. Shake plans to create concentrates, sublingual drops, pet formulas, topical oils and balms, bath soaps and concentrates, the owners said. Phillips and Brents said they plan to work with both dispensaries and cultivators but the company has not yet announced which ones. Brent said Shake would like to work with some of the cultivators first to create new products that can be distributed to all of the state’s dispensaries. Shake also hopes to work with individual dispensaries to create unique brands for each dispensary. “People are starting to call about proprietary endeavors, things that they only can sell and feature for their customers,” said Phillips, who also owns a Fayetteville graphic design company. “That’s going to be the next point of differentiation, we believe.” *** Dark Horse Medicinals won approval from the commission April 19 and Flippo anticipates the company’s marijuana operation in West Little Rock to be running by the end of June. Dark Horse Medicinals is owned by three college friends from the University of Arkansas who in 2018 created the hemp-focused business Natvana that grew into the state’s largest hemp processor, Flippo said. The company planted 40 acres of hemp in its first year of operation, but has since worked exclusively in processing, which Flippo said is very similar to the company’s upcoming work with marijuana. “It’s literally as close to what we’re going to be doing in the medical marijuana space as you can possibly get without being in the medical marijuana space,” Flippo said. Natvana performs third-party processing for hemp farms and retailers and creates a variety

of CBD products, including tinctures and bath bombs, under the Natvana name. “We’re pretty much going to run a very similar business model to that that we’ve been running for the past two years,” Flippo said. “We’re just going to integrate it into the medical marijuana market.” Dark Horse has a two-pronged approach for working with the state’s marijuana producers. First, the company wants to work with dispensaries that are growing their own plants to help them get the most out of the plants and “capitalize on all of the usable material of the cannabis plant,” Flippo said. Second, Dark Horse hopes to create private label products under the Dark Horse Medicinals name, as well as to create independent product lines of niche specialty products that are unique to individual dispensaries. Flippo said he hopes to work with both dispensaries and cultivators, although he said he has learned that the cultivators might not be open to using third-party processors at this time. “Our intent is to play ball with everybody,” Flippo said. Flippo said both dispensaries and cultivators can benefit from processors. Dispensaries, he said, typically don’t have the infrastructure necessary to process a wide range of products, and cultivators are focused on growing plants, not creating products. “Their primary business is to grow the plant, and I think that’s been reflected in sales thus far,” Flippo said of the cultivators. “We are an extremely underdeveloped marketplace and that shows whenever you review the numbers and you see how much floral material is going out the market and how little products are going off the shelf. I think we are going to be able to show

that, [with] high-quality concentrate products that are affordable for consumers, the market can evolve to that of Colorado and California and these more evolved marketplaces.” *** Ouachita Partners LLC, also known as Ouachita Farms, went before the commission on April 19, but its application was tabled until the meeting on May 4 because of problems with the application. Located outside of Hot Springs Village in Garland County, Ouachita Partners LLC, also known as Ouachita Farms, is owned by brothers David, Marc, Mitchell and Jeff Owen, as well as first cousin Sarah Owen and Caesar Mendoza. In January 2019, Ouachita Farms was among the first in the state licensed to grow, process and label seeds for hemp, CEO David Owen said. Ouachita Farms, which cultivates and processes hemp in Garland County, uses solventless extraction methods that produce a rosin the owners use to create a wide range of products. Solventless extraction uses only heat and pressure to process the hemp. David Owen said he learned about the technique while working in the cannabis market in Colorado during the state’s rollout of recreational marijuana and saw it as a long-term trend in the industry. “That’s 100% the niche that we want to serve on the medical marijuana market,” Owen said. Ouachita Farms’ method produces a rosin or bubble hash that is used to create a variety of products, including drops, oils, capsules, shots, pet drops and salves. Ouachita Farms also sells edible products, including cookies, brownies, chocolates and gummies that are made by food producers in Garland County. David Owen anticipates doing similar work with marijuana plants and selling products under the name Ouachita Farms Medical. Owen also plans to work with dispensaries to process their plants into a variety of products that are unique to each dispensary. Ouachita Farms’ extraction method is strain-specific and creates different flavor profiles for different strains that will appeal to both connoisseurs and the general market, Owen said. “If we’re extracting your material, not only will it be exclusive to them, it will be something that could be a little bit different depending on what they’re growing,” Owen said. Owen said the Arkansas cannabis market has a lot of room for growth. “[In] Arkansas, we’re still a few years away from being what I would consider a developed cannabis market where you just see a wide range of every type of product you can think of,” Owen said. “We want to hasten that process along. We want to provide some of these highend craft extracts to Arkansans. We know they aren’t getting a lot of this yet, but we want to help bring that along.”

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MAY 2021 79


1. SPA TREATMENT AT HOME Pamper Mom this Mother’s Day with this Aromatherapy weighted eye mask and Baby Foot Spa Bundle, which includes foot peel, soak packets and foot scrub! Cynthia East Fabrics, 501-2999199, 2. TAKE A HIKE “Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Wines of Arkansas” is an encyclopedic field guide that’s a must-own resource for anyone who enjoys exploring The Natural State. WordsWorth Books, 501-663-9198, 3. FOR DOG LOVERS “This heartwarming story and clever illustrations provide both entertainment and instruction. Truly a real-life adventure that some dogs experience.” — Pat Becker, author and hostess of 4.GRAND REOPENING IN SoMa Come to our grand reopening May 7-8 (reservations required). We represent fine art by local, national and international artists for the established and emerging collector. Boswell Mourot Fine Art Gallery, 501-664-0030, 5. GIVE MOM FLOWERS THAT LAST THIS MOTHER’S DAY! Pick up one-of-a-kind watercolors from local artist Ashley Saer. Box Turtle, 501661-1167, 6. GIVE HER GOLD Mom would love these gorgeous gold metal bracelets this Mother’s Day. They are easy to adjust and perfect for stacking with other bracelets. Rhea Drug, 501-664-4117. 80 MAY 2021


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MAY 2021 81




he Observer has been a little concerned about all the construction going on in our fair city and beyond of late. Well, “concerned” is a bit much, we guess. How about “miffed”? Miffed is about as hacked off as The Observer can get about anything these days, happy as we are that Yours Truly, Spouse and Junior now all have our two-shot Fauci Ouchie in our arms, and have percolated the required time to get as immune as we’re gonna get. Happiness, tempered with sadness for all who didn’t make it to the shot, reigns supreme around The Observatory. If you haven’t got your second dose or have but haven’t percolated the required time yet, we kinda envy you. There’s no feeling quite like reaching the last day of your final two-week waiting period — your Alive Day, as we’ve heard soldiers leaving combat zones call it — and realizing that the captain has turned off the “You Could Potentially Die Just From Breathing” sign and are now free to move about the cabin, or even outside the cabin if you want. Now that The Observer’s little Nuclear Family has successfully survived a plague intact, all that’s left to do is to decide whether we want to bankrupt ourselves going to the movies three times a week, by going to eat inside every restaurant we’ve missed for the past 14 months or so (we’ll see you soon, live and inperson, Damgoode Pies, Vino’s and Iriana’s!), or through exorbitant travel. We’re staying strictly away from bars, taverns and saloons of all sorts for a bit, even though that’s where a lot of the live music is — another thing we have sorely missed. After the year we’ve had, that’s an idea that would probably go straight to hell, and Lord knows The Observer doesn’t need to be banned from any more drinking establishments in this town. Not when we’re just getting back on our barstool. But we digress. Back to The Miffening. There’s a ton of construction going on in Central Arkansas right now, and we love quite a bit of it. Maybe not the massive Amazon Workhouse being constructed down near the port, where proud Amazon workers will no doubt someday piss in bottles because their robot boss said no emptying of their puny human bladders between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. But a lot of it. 82 MAY 2021


We’re seeing lotsa spiffing up, lotsa building out, lotsa basically getting ready for America to wake up from our coronavirus stupor and figure out who we are now after a long, long national nightmare. This country never wakes unchanged from our bad dreams, from the Civil War to World War II, Watergate to 9/11. When events of that magnitude happen, everything tends to change in the aftermath: art, culture, fashion, literature, the way we live, what we value, everything. We’re just now coming through three or four humdinger catastrophes simultaneously — the pandemic with 570,000 dead and counting, an economic collapse to rival 1929, the Jan. 6 insurrection, and four years of America run by an insane former QVC steak salesman. That’s a hell of a lot. So we’re very interested to see where this all goes from here. Did we just digress again? Sorry. As we’ve said: long year. We’re clearly taking the scenic route. Back to the Miff. What we’re miffed about is all the damn road construction around here. We know it has to happen, but does it all have to happen at once? For example: the Arkansas Highway Department, in its infinite bureaucracy, has decided to tear up not one but both of the major freeway bridges that cross the Arkansas River at Little Rock: the I-430 bridge near Cantrell and the I-30 bridge near downtown. Yeah, Maumellians and Dogtowners can still jaunt way over to the croplands near the airport to the I-440 bridge or drive to Toad Suck to cross the river unimpeded by progress. But we kinda question the wisdom, or even the common sense, of putting up barrels on both bridges at the same time and slowing traffic to a crawl. Not to take it personally, but doesn’t that seem a little punitive to you? The Observer is thinking of buying a barge and an old tugboat and putting in a ferry. Gotta be a better way to cross the river than sitting in traffic. Back to the future! Another thing that has added to our miffening: down on Rebsamen Park Road near Murray Park, they’re putting in some formidable speedbumps. They’ve already got one in, and it looks like, from the striping on the road, they’re going to put in at least two more. We get it. It’s to fight people driving down that road like they’re out to commit vehicular

homicide. We know people do that because we’ve seen it with our own eyes, even though all that road leads to is the dog park, boat ramp and the Big Dam Bridge, a place to bike or walk. The street racer The Observer once was long ago (well beyond the statute of limitations, so better luck next life, LRPD) also understands that the long, secluded, straight stretch on Rebsamen Park Road is probably also a good place for folks to get up to no good in their fast cars. Here’s what we also know: They’d better put in some flashing lights warning people of those speedbumps at night, or even during the day. Because if they don’t, we fear that somebody on a crotch rocket or a Harley is going to be zipping down to the Big Dam Bridge for the first time since those were installed, and that person is gonna hit one of those speedbumps at speed, go flying and probably die. The Observer in the four-wheeled Observatory — going the prescribed speed limit or a tiny bit above, we swear, officer — almost did a “Dukes of Hazzard” finisher our damn self the other day in broad daylight when we came upon the unexpected hump in the middle of the road, forced to quickly reduce thrust to five miles an hour to keep from ramping over Mt. Slowdown. Go try it yourself and see if that hump doesn’t seem a little extreme, no matter what people are getting up to on that road. Not to try to tell the honest and decent folk with the city how to do their jobs, but the speed limit is either 35 or it’s not. Because if a driver of any skill level short of “Freestyle Monster Truck Pilot” hits the first of those bumps at 35 miles per hour or beyond, send white lilies. So we need flashing lights. Let’s hope this column never has to be submitted as Exhibit A in a civil suit, to prove “knew or should have known” on the city’s behalf. That’s The Observer, though: Always looking out for the citizenry, especially so now that anybody reading this has survived a thing half a million Americans didn’t. After all we’ve lived through, it would be kinda dumb to die from a speedbump, don’t you think? Until next time, citizens: Keep it under the speed limit and sunny side up. Oh, and get your shots. The life you save may be The Observer’s, and we’re kinda partial to it right about now.



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84 MAY 2021